It is not only about former governors’ unholy pensions all the time, sometimes, some earn money delivering telling value to leadership and politics around the world.’
In 2011, President Bill Clinton earned $700,000.00 to appear at an awards’ event organised by a major Nigerian newspaper. The former American President got the same amount, from the same organisation in 2012. Within a period of about 12 months, Clinton made $1.4million for making speaking appearances in Nigeria. That was his biggest payday according to his financial report filed with the United States’ authorities. Clinton earned an average of $195,000 for each of the 544 events he delivered speeches in his first 12 years after leaving office. That is just $4,700 short of his yearly taxable lifetime income as a former US president. “I never had any money until I got out of the White House, you know, but I’ve done reasonably well since then,” said Clinton at one of such events in Cape Town, South Africa. And hasn’t he done well for himself after the White House? He earned a whopping $17m in 2012 alone!
So then, the question is, what is the attraction for President Clinton? Is it because he used to be a US president or because of his successes as a president? The answer is pretty obvious; Clinton remains very much in demand, yet he is not the only former president alive and he is not the latest former president either. What this essentially says is that a leader needs not set him/herself up with state resources to survive life after office. All s/he needs do is get the job done as a public officer, do the right thing, set a bar that future leaders will aspire to and do it so well you’d be in demand from home and abroad for those who want to hear and learn, “how did you do it?”
A former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is not a poor man. Even if he didn’t convert public money into private use as governor, he certainly would still not be a poor man after serving as governor. The reason is not farfetched; the former governor is entitled to certain benefits from the people and taxpayers of Lagos State. The former governor is entitled to an average of two cars every year and a house in Lagos and Abuja. When you read “car,” be careful not to read the value of your poor car into this and when you read “house in Lagos and Abuja”, be mindful to value these properties according to what obtains in the posh parts of these cities.
The former governor, his wife and children (married or not) are entitled to free medical care; the law does not cap the cost of this. The former governor also has access to pensionable domestic staff members. There are other benefits that accrue to him. These are rewards for serving Lagos for eight years, what then should be the rewards of those civil servants in Lagos who serve the state for 35 years? If this is what being progressive is, what then would we call being unprogressive?
Asked why he sent a bill that established a pension scheme for former governors in Rivers State, Governor Chibuike Amaechi, claimed it was necessary because his wife and children would not let him rest. He stated that they were concerned about the fact that he had no house but I could not even hear the rest of his excuses. It sounded lame and very unconvincing. The first paragraph of this already showed that a leader needs not set him/herself up for life with public resources if s/he performs well enough to attract continental if not global attention. As we speak, one is aware of at least three ministers who served under President Olusegun Obasanjo who have held consultancy positions with some top governments in Africa and beyond. Take Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, for instance; he would not be short of consultancy and speaking opportunities after his term as the Governor of Lagos State. His only hindrance would be if he continues in other capacities as a public official. If not, all he’d need to do to cash in on his strides as the Governor of Lagos after what would be eight years of outstanding service would be to set up a company to handle such engagements or get a reputable globally renowned agency to represent him. He will be very big on the speaking circuit. Tinubu gave the people of Lagos the much-celebrated Fashola, he certainly will not be lacking in opportunities to speak on the essence of grooming a worthy successor. This becomes even more essential seeing as we know people who have had two opportunities to choose a leader for Nigeria since 2007 and have failed woefully on each occasion.
It is not only about former governors’ unholy pensions all the time, sometimes, some earn money delivering telling value to leadership and politics around the world.
One must thank Governor Godswill Akpabio for bringing this issue to the fore. The Governor of Akwa Ibom State wants to be celebrated as a man getting results, and there is nothing wrong with such a desire. The problem here is that, Akwa Ibom should be doing better. We cannot speak of success if we ignore the cost of achieving the same. How much does Akwa Ibom State receive from the Federation Account per month? Having said that, if the governor believes he has done really well as governor, why set himself up for life with the state’s resources? Why not work out a plan to put his experience to good use as a consultant and public speaker? We have Nigerians who have not had opportunities to be governors running the speaking circuit not just on the continent but around the world. Being a former governor with a history of performance is all the CV you need as a future consultant earning top dollar and/or as a renowned speaker on socio-economic and political issues.
This unfortunate reality is not limited to Lagos, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states as there are reports some other states have such laws for former governors in place. It is one of the biggest failures of our democracy; rewarding former governors for the privilege to serve our people, whether or not they performed well. The only reward should be the governor’s performance in office. Obviously, failing in office would put you in the place of most of these ex-governors who have since gone into oblivion since they left Government House. Some others, out of desperation not to be out of the system, decide to work their way into the Senate. Unfortunately, being in the Senate does not guarantee relevance.
Nigerian leaders can do better, they can dream bigger. Nigeria is not the world and there are opportunities out there to stamp our names and ideas on the world, if we have such ideas. It is a shame on our country to see our leaders continue to obsess with being local champions when the world continually offers a turf for them to be great. Africa would be a good place to start; to teach the art of leadership, the essence of public service and the joy that comes with knowing one served the people with all of one’s mind, ability and strength, in spirit and in truth. But how can you teach what you never were? You can’t fake greatness. Great people do not use public office to set up pensions for themselves. Governors Amaechi, Akpabio and the likes can still be great.
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