In our miracle driven economy, which some people also sarcastically refer to as a voodoo economy, it may not strike us that there is something seriously inappropriate for a government official like a state governor or president to divert public resources into private matters that only assuage his personal ego, even if such an action is to the detriment of the commonwealth.
Such unethical developments in the public sphere are sometimes casually explained away in this clime as generosity, but the truth is that you cannot give away what you don’t own. Public assets in the care of public officers are not the same thing as personal property that can be expended at will. It is that misconception about the accounting relationship between public assets and private resources that once led a Nigerian leader to declare to a bemused world that the nation’s problem was not lack of money but how to spend it!
The operative logic in the disbursement of public funds is accountability coupled with due diligence. Anything short of that is either abuse of public trust or misappropriation of the commonwealth both of which carry serious social and political penalties.
To the extent that state officials are, strictly speaking, standing in the same position of trustees with respect to government resources in their custody, it is to that extent expected of them to be prudent in the way and manner they deploy such resources. Probably in monarchical situations in which both the state and its resources are fused into the personal office of the leader, it could be excused if such a leader decides to fritter away the wealth of his kingdom because under such a system, the wealth of the society is synonymous with the wealth of the leader.
Such however would be unacceptable in a representative government and, in particular, under a constitution like ours in which the power to control the public purse is resided in the legislature as a part of the constitutional assignment to safeguard the wealth of the nation. The steward relationship between the government and the people of Nigeria is clearly spelt out by the constitution in the following terms: the state shall…control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.
It follows therefore that a government that is mindful of these weighty constitutional and ethical directives would not be associated with the kind of extravagant gifts that the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, promised to shower on a musician who is getting married in a country where thousands of other citizens marry every week without notice. According to the story, the wedding gifts include two SUVs, and most incredulous of all, a wasteful sponsorship of invited guests to the venue of the wedding in Dubai. That is no small change. The opportunity cost of such frivolity could be the schools that would remained dilapidated or children dying of malnutrition who need official assistance that will not come because it has been diverted to buy luxury SUVs and finance a wedding exodus to a foreign land.
On this score, the governor failed both as a political leader and as an elder, in pata familia, to the would-be couple. It is worrisome that he couldn’t see the nonsense in Nigerians going to perform wedding ceremonies in faraway Dubai. Is it just to show affluence or waywardness or both? How many Arabs have ever found it necessary to come to Nigeria to wed? If the rest of the world racially insults us as monkeys, must we also justify that appellation by our own stupidity? In fact, monkeys aren’t that stupid. If they were, they would have been crashing off branches of trees as they summersault acrobatically. Going to Dubai, an Islamic city, by a Nigerian who is probably a Christian, just to wed, is less than the brain of monkeys.
If Tuface was Akpabio’s son, would he, as a good father, support such a lousy trip, let alone, fund it? I am really surprised about this. Is this the source of the old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely? But the last time I checked, the Nigerian constitution forbids absolute powers and that is why we have the doctrine of separation of powers boldly written into it. I learnt that the groom has already fathered many children from different women. So what is the big deal about such a marriage? What does the governor know about either of the couple that others are ignorant of?
There is no hiding the fact that Gov. Godswill Akpabio is one of the serving governors in the country that I have the greatest admiration for. For many years friends have been telling me about the great developmental strides taking place in Akwa Ibom since the regime of Victor Attah and now being faithfully consolidated under the stewardship of Akpabio. A few months ago I had cause to visit the state and I actually saw for myself the appreciable good job that is being done there.
I took special note of the physical developments in the areas of roads and drainages as well as the cleanliness of the towns that I drove through. I was also impressed about the general layout of the state-owned Hotel L’meridien and in particular, the Golf Course which, I was told, constitute the cornerstone of the inchoate tourism industry that the state is working very hard to develop.
My conclusion was that it took some level of personal commitment to the welfare of the state for the governor to achieve that much even if he had the whole national oil revenue all to himself. Before now there were several governors who also had access to bounteous oil-derived revenue but chose to waste them. For that reason I sincerely hold Gov. Akpabio with the greatest admiration, so much so, that I was prepared to overlook several loud insinuations of his profligacy and undeniable penchant to show off unnecessarily.
My heart was however broken soon after when I saw the story of his extravagant gifts to Tuface who, in all probability, is already well off. We ought to know that government property in the custody of a leader is just like a trust property that must not be expended imprudently and whenever that is the case there is usually a strong verdict: Breach of trust.