Integrity and accountability in leadership: Plateau Jos East LGC example
By Muhammad Isa Bilal
It is no longer a news to state that the aspiration and jostling for political office by most of our politicians have virtually become a sort of business enterprise where the gladiators invest all their energy and resources in order to occupy one of the numerous political offices in the country.
Unfortunately, the mostly unsuspecting and innocent masses are ever ready to vote them into office; with as little as N500, most of our people will join the queue to vote these politicians into office.
As soon as the oath of office has been administered and this class of politicians, the usual rhetoric of carefully written oratorical but deceitful speeches that are mainly lip-service, it becomes a norm and the next thing will be the pilfering of our common patrimony to reimburse whatever they might have spent during the campaigns.
The second stage would be the unveiling of fictitious and inflated contracts, money laundering and racketeering of available resources in collaboration with their cronies within and outside the shores of the country, just to sustain their rapacious, flamboyant and ostentatious life style, while at the same time their children are being educated at the best IVY League of foreign universities among which are Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge and John Hopkins Universities.
At the end of each year (if possible), one borehole will be dug and constructed at a particular community to hoodwink the largely unsuspecting population and the looting continues.
On the other hand, the poor masses are too overwhelmed by hunger, least of all to demand for accountability from these leaders, because as it is, the primary thought of the masses remains where will the next meal come from?
It has continued to be seen that most of our political leaders at all levels are so concerned to maintain their grip on power and ensure that the vast majority of the people of the country are continually and deliberately alienated and excluded from having a fair share of state resources. The poor masses are never in the books of these political classes.
After 20 years of uninterrupted democracy, the prominent feature of our democracy remains the sad tale of corrupt practices. Just recently, the leadership of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) announced that the commission has recovered over N1 trillion of stolen public fund; and the only excuse given to Nigerians by the obvious greedy and unappreciative political establishment was that; the country is still a nascent democracy, our democracy is still young, we are still learning the ropes, but for how long?
While the nation’s common wealth is being ravaged to maintain the exotic life style and the highly exorbitant remunerations and privileges of those in power; to maintain the status quo our teachers, our workers and health professionals have to sacrifice most of their rights and privileges to oil the funding of the humungous allowances of such political leaders.
Recruitment and appointments into the many ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) is being run on which politician I know and not based on merit. Because of corrupt and kleptomaniac tendencies of most of our government establishments, our health and educational institutions and facilities have become moribund and totally inefficient to serve their purposes.
The poor cannot educate his or her children or enjoy quality health services, the only alternative are to patronize the private ones owned by the same elite class. It is unfortunate to state that the elites and those in power have directly or indirectly made education and health services to be a commodity to be purchased only by the rich.
It is appalling and annoying that all the pattern of social investment originally designed to benefit the poor have been eroded. The pursuits of self interest and aggrandizement have virtually become the driving force of most Nigerian politicians to the detriment of the masses. As stated earlier, all the glaring misconduct perpetrated by most of those privileged to be at the corridors of power are no longer news.
However, what is news at the moment, is the recent survey and research conducted by the Center for the Promotion of Good Governance and Accountability (CPGA).across the 19 Northern states of the nation, the results of which have turned out to be unusual, encouraging and exemplary. The results have shown that out of the 347 local government areas visited by the civil society groups (CPGA), they found out, through sampling and collection of data as well as interviewing staff and inhabitants of those localities up to the second week of June 2020, out of the 347 local government chairmen of the areas, which the research focused on, it was only the chairman of Jos East Local Government Area of Plateau State, Hon. Ibrahim Agwom who came out to be the outstanding in terms of accountability, transparency and good governance.
For instance, out of the 347 areas covered by CPGA, Hon. Agwom remains the only who owned no personal house, except his village family home, where he lives before becoming the chairman of the said local council.
He has been a subsistence farmer all his life before venturing into politics after many persuasions by the locals who felt he will do better by virtue of his close affinity with the grassroots. It was also discovered that he remains the only chairman who has no personal car except the official one assigned to him when he became the substantive elected chairman of the area.
It was also revealed that since the creation of the council in 1996, that is, 24 years ago, the official residence allocated to the chairman of the council had remained under lock and key because all the successive chairmen of the council had wittingly or unwittingly declined to live in the building which is situated just few meters from the council’s secretariat at the periphery of the rural community of Angware which is the headquarters of the council.
Most of the people interviewed within the locality as to why they think no chairman had ever occupied the building, they all pointed to the usual show of class stratification and display of flamboyancy that is rightly or wrongly associated with those in power. It is obvious all the past chairmen felt their statuses were above living in the rural environment nearer to the poor masses.
However, it is interesting to note that immediately Agwom was sworn into office by Governor Simon Lalong 17 months ago, alongside other chairmen, on that faithful day, he relocated to the apparently deserted and dilapidated apartment and thus becoming the first chairman to occupy the official residence.
It is on record that since 24 years ago, the other former chairmen were living in the state capital from where they reported to work on daily basis at the expense of tax payers, but Agwom preferred to be closer to his people perhaps to listen to their requests, advices and complaints. It is also interesting to note that Agwom remains one of the few council chairmen who do not attach much importance to strict adherence to visiting days, He has since assuming the mantle of leadership in the area maintained an open door policy. In his office, every day is a visiting day.
The chairman’s personal assistant had informed that it is a directive from the chairman to allow all those who may wish to have audience with him at any given time without restriction.
The centre has also found out the fact that at every end of the month, depending on the reception of the council’s financial allocation; the chairman would immediately summon a meeting with the relevant departmental directors to fashion out modalities on how to judiciously disburse the funds, including prompt payment of salaries and other contractual liabilities incurred by the council, the chairman would then summon another meeting with all the elected councilors for their inputs on how to judiciously and prudently apply available resources to provide social amenities across the communities under the jurisdiction of the local authority.
According to all the council staff that were interviewed, they all agreed that since the beginning of the chairman’s tenure 17 months ago, no staff is being owed any of his entitlement till date, while the chairman of the Forum of Councilors in the area has testified that, all their initiated developmental projects are being given priority and financed by the chairman on monthly basis.
What is more? The chairman is lucky to be working with an equally honest Director of Personnel Management (DPM) and a reliable deputy, while all the District Heads and the paramount traditional ruler of the area are also taken along for the purpose of guiding administrative policies for the good of the people.
Hon. Agwom remains the first chairman to purchase befitting vehicles and distribute to the District Heads and the paramount ruler. Highlander Jeeps were provided for their convenience befitting their status.
He is also the first to construct a modern vegetable market, as it was one of the critical needs of the largely agrarian communities in the area. At present, the chairman was able to provide a good number of boreholes in many of the communities, a functional primary health care facility (PHC) as well as taking electricity to many of them.
To this end, at the heat of the Covid-19 pandemic, Hon. Agwom purchased and distributed 100 bags of maize, 50 bags of rice and 20 bags of beans which have since been distributed to the poor within the locality, while ensuring the items were equitably distributed to all those who deserved them.
It is hoped that other politicians will toe this line of integrity, transparency and accountability for the good of the people who voted them into offices.
Bilal is Managing Director Royal Publicity Publishing Company No. 10 Shendam Street, Jos, Plateau State and can be reached via: 08167989085.