Yobe youths and the rise of political sycophancy, by Saleh Babayo

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Engineer Saleh Babayo.
Engineer Saleh Babayo.

The Governor Mai Mala Buni administration has “partly” lived to its expectation of youth inclusion in governance. I intentionally used the word partly because none of the youth made it to the coveted state Executive Council.

I’m not naive to the notion that the governor must have been resisting a lot of pressure from the powers that be for entrusting Yobe youth to hold very sensitive positions in his administration.

Although the level of youth participation in governance in Yobe is by far more than ever before, yet less than expected. Nonetheless, this audacious move by Governor Buni helped set a good precedent for future administrations. He sincerely deserves some accolades.

Unfortunately, this good news came with a huge and avoidable price: The rise of political sycophancy. We are now fast losing a very important cardinal principle of our democracy: holding leaders accountable and helping them deliver on their mandates through constructive criticism. But here we are, anyone that pinpoints any wrongdoing in the way we are governed is labelled ungrateful and naysayer.

Well, this is actually unhealthy for our democracy. By so doing, the paradox is that we are not helping the leaders. Because of power intoxication, if we desist from telling our leaders the uncomfortable truth, we’ll surely end up doing more harm to them than good in the long run.

For example, the Buni administration abandoned the whole of Yobe state and chose a hotel in faraway Kano state for a retreat for its commissioners designate, coming at a time when just about a month earlier the governor of our next-door neighboring state held a retreat for his commissioners designate in a remote town of Damasak haunted by Boko Haram.

Similarly, we all know that the newly selected cabinet members did meet our expectations, not just because of the absence of youth, but also because of the limited number of technocrats to turn things around.

To be candid, I am optimistic that the involvement of youth in other strategic positions will go a long way in bringing fresh ideas to the table.

Lest you forget, though, Governor Buni has appointed youth with tested and trusted capacities like Dr. Mohammed Goje as the Executive Secretary, State Emergency and Management Agency (SEMA); Dr. Ali Ibrahim Abbas as the Yobe State Focal Person, North East Development Commission (NEDC); and Dr. Abubakar Bukar Kagu as the Executive Secretary, Yobe State Scholarship Board (YBSSB).

Others include Dr. Babagana Kundi Machina as the Executive Secretary, Yobe State Primary Health Care Board; Comrade Dauda Muhammad Gombe as the Yobe State Representative Regional Stabilization Facility of the North East, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Faruk Abdullahi Chiromari as the Yobe State Focal Person, North East Recovery and Stability Programme (NERSP); and still counting.

I firmly believe that most of these intelligent youth are capable hands and equal to the tasks assigned to them. But, sincerely speaking, going by the way political “supporters” are always trooping to them in search of political favors, I pity them. I am much concerned, some of them may not be able to have enough time to face the daunting tasks hung on their necks, rather they might spend the whole time trying to appease these “supporters.”

There was a time I had an appointment with one of these youth in his office concerning Damaturu Children’s Motivation (DCM). That was my first time of one-on-one meeting with him since his appointment.

However, I was moved with the concern expressed by one of the securities at the main entrance of the complex leading to his office.

He said, “The number of people coming to see Mr. X (name withheld) far exceed those coming to see the whole Secretary to the State Government (SSG) himself. Just because everybody has his number, hence easily secures appointment to see him.”

He further added, “There was a time he had to abandon his office and close before the end of the official closing hour because of the number of visitors. They don’t allow him to work.”

The biggest problem isn’t even the number of visitors but that most of them go there in search of political favors, hence adding to the burden of these public servants as opposed to helping them with genuine advice and prayers to best deliver on their assignments.

Alhaji Zanna Ahmed couldn’t have put it better when he remarked amidst the much-celebrated 52nd birthday of Governor Mai Mala Buni, “This race to identify with the governor is symptomatic of a culture of sycophancy which has become a booming industry in not only Yobe state but the nation at large.”

He further added, “This goes to suggest that the lot is falling over themselves to appear to be seen to be more aware of the governor’s date of birth, fully knowing that he is a social-media-friendly person and therefore more likely to read the messages and be aware of their presence and perhaps reciprocate (in) one way or the other.

It therefore implies that those who did not toe this path are likely to be (labelled) non-conformists, disinterested parties or outright opposition elements.”

He finally admonished the governor, “The governor should be wary of these elements and differentiate between true friends and loyalists, genuine well-wishers, and converts on (the) one hand, and fifth columnists on the other.” I believe this candid piece of advice goes to all public servants and sundry.

Finally, it is my hope that the Yobe youth will re-examine how we relate with public servants and correct these anomalies so that we can present a better version of ourselves that will help other youths in power deliver on the responsibilities vested on them.

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