Tuesday, 24 March 2015


It is said, "Charity begins at home," and I assure you, so does various other virtues and vices. To drive home my point, my emphasis would be on my state of residence, Benue state, where if not for ethnicity and nepotism I qualify and is entitled to every rights and privileges inherent within–unfortunately not so.

"When I came to this state," my dad would always brag whenever he spoke in retrospect, "water flowed through the taps twenty-four hours! There was no need storing water because you may never get to use them for months."

Though I may not have been born in that era to be able to verify their claim but I grew up in an era water flowed from the tap twice or thrice every month. Gradually, its frequency dipped, once a week, twice a month, and as I write, not a drop of water has dropped from our tap for more than six years now. Our tap has become a monument gazed upon for the knowledge of what tap means.

Isn't it funny that a state that has a major river dissecting it continues to be flooded by water hawkers (popularly called Mai Ruwas) who have become the source of portable water to residential houses in towns (not even nooks and crannies where it would have been pardonable).

What is more confusing is that the rot and inability of the government to provide basic social amenities is coming at the heels of oil boom. Was the excess revenue we get from sale of our local crude not meant to make better the delivery of those amenities? Whose meals continue to degenerate in quantity and quality with increasing income? (The person needs a brain scan for sure!)

Increased revenue in extension resulted in increased federal allocation to states. We all learnt that we should save for the rainy days right? However, most state governors saw that their share of the allocation could cater for the basic yearning of the people (payment of salary), they did justice to that and used the left over for whatever business they deemed fit.

They succeeded in their ventures because of two reasons:
1) Every blame would eventually go back to the federal government.
2) Insensitivity of citizens to demand more from their state governments.
In Nigeria, every problem from any quarter is expected to be tackled by the federal government. Then I ask, 'Where is the place of our state government?' If state governors cannot be held to oversee their states to the satisfaction of her indigenes and residents, then it is high time the system of state government is erased (like state governors succeeded in killing the third tier of government for obvious reasons).

Though I believe the federal government shares the blame for allowing such gross misappropriation of her hard earned funds. A responsible federal government should have made provisions for each state governor to give account of how they utilized previous allocation before they are given another. But no! It is not so. Federal government ditched accountability in disbursing funds for a 'come-take' rule. If a state governor has been robed with shame of not being able to access a month's allocation for under performance, am sure the rest will take a cue.

The indigenes and residents share in their state governor’s recklessness. The only demand they make from their governors is payments of salaries. How many times have people filed out on the streets or went on strike to protest for pipe borne water or electricity or affordable housing or better health care? Never! Money (in all forms, most notorious PMS) is always the spearhead of every protests. Even when other factors come in, they are sublime, voiced in an attempt to mask their monetary demands.
'If I have my salary, I can provide for myself what the government can't provide for me,' will be the response of most Nigerians on this matter.

The proliferation of private schools, borehole terminals for water sales and boom in generator sales is a clear indication that individuals are becoming increasingly aware of government's irresponsibility in carrying out her tasks but instead of screaming out loud, they decided to exploit the loops to their advantage.

With the mentality that federal allocation was enough to run the state (pay worker's salary), Governors let state owned institutions and industries (from once they obtained revenue) to rot. This to a large extent accounted to why most state governors have not a dime as state savings.

Taraku mills was one of the nation's foremost oil producing industry, famous for its pure soya oil, generated from hundred percent soya beans grown in the state; Benue breweries churned out thousands of 33 Export Larger beer bottles daily and absorbed many Nigerians; Bem plastic came out strong, producing enough plastic that could cater for the plastic needs of the state; there was the Benue fruit and juice industry lately.

Taraku mill folded up and the staff thrown out because of government neglect. Benue Breweries was grounded till Indians took over its management who till today dictate what happens and takes millions of naira as revenue back to their country annually. Bemplast was mismanaged to death. I could recall vividly my classmate when we were in secondary school telling me to notify him whenever we needed leather so that he would supply us because according to him, at night, bags of leather and assorted plastics are scaled through the fence into the hands of waiting evacuator. Benue Juice industry was only commissioned and never produced a cup of juice afterwards.

In the current administration, naira running into billions was sunk into the ground to build the so-called 'Greater Benue Waterworks'. We were assured that after its commissioning, water scarcity would be bygone. Yet, months after its commissioning, Benue residents still purchase their water or resort to wells and borehole. Then I wonder the justification of such capital projects if they can’t deliver on their promise.

The agricultural hub the state was known for which also makes its state acronym; "Food Basket of the Nation" is rapidly losing its relevance. Vibrant young men and women now take to smoking, drinking or politicking to make fast money. (Boys no wan work but they wan flex life.) You need to visit popular clubs in Makurdi (Wine Bar) and beer parlours at night to see what I’m saying. Quote me; there is no single street in Makurdi without a drinking joint. Little wonder Benue has for years monopolized the top position for high HIV/AIDS prevalence according to the newly published UN AID report early 2014.

The fall in oil price globally I tend to see as a blessing because the allocation has shrunk and many governors are finding it difficult to pay their workers. Benue citizens suddenly woke from long slumber to see the deplorable condition of their state and began to demand more from their government. The disturbing reality is that private establishments are now levied heavy taxes in a desperate measure by the governor to make up for the dwindling income. I wonder what happened to the excess funds that came in during the time of plenty. As a result, private firms are closing up thereby creating even greater problems because unemployment is on the rise.

The government should realize that taxation alone cannot solve her problem. To ensure a self-sustaining state beyond oil, the government should reawaken those basic services it rendered which her citizens happily paid for such as pipe borne water and schools. Building food processing industries handled by strict and competent hands would go a long way to resuscitate her youths' dying love for agriculture.

Most states haven't moved from their point of creation till date. I tend to believe this is so because federal allocation has put them to sleep. In my opinion, every state should be allowed to use their state resource to develop themselves and pay some percentage to the pocket of the federal government. Federal allocation should either come as interventions (when there is a disaster) or repayable loans to state governors who need financial aid. In such a scenario, states better off can also give loans to other states and benefit from the interest they'll pay in return. Maybe, this strategic governance would bring back the groundnut pyramid of Kano and the cocoa and oil palm plantation of the South which have all almost become extinct.