It has always been argued that the presidential system of government being practiced in Nigeria is very costly, amid calls from several quarters for the reduction in cost of governance in the country.
Whenever this argument is made, the major focus has always being the National Assembly, which people believe is very bogus and costs the country a fortune to maintain.
Although the salary and allowances of a federal lawmaker is unknown to most Nigerians, the perception is that they bleed the nation’s economy by their huge salaries and emoluments.
Calls are often being made for either the collapse of the bicameral legislature into a unicameral arrangement, or making the legislative assignment a part time affair.
Most times, searchlight is never beamed on what state governors do with the enormous wealth at their disposal. Despite obvious underdevelopment and poor governance in most states, first term governors always win re-election in Nigeria, except those who have problems with their godfathers.
The survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in 2016 provided the reason governors are re-elected despite poor showing in their first term.
The survey revealed that governors in each state of the federation have an average of 100 political appointees, including commissioners, totalling 3,600 aides for all the governors, at the average.
Some state governors have as many as 400 to 600 aides. These aides go with various designations and in many cases; they are just hangers-on as their assignments are not spelt out.
The appointment of a retinue of aides as soon as a governor is sworn into office, signals a fresh start of a new round of campaign for re-election.
It has been observed that governors doing their last term are usually not in a haste to appoint aides. This is because there is nothing at stake.
These aides are registered with the governor’s party preparatory for primary election.
The thinking behind it is that such a retinue of aides would influence their family members to get some huge votes.
BusinessDay Sunday gathered that in some states, governors do not even know some of their so-called aides as such persons were recruited by other aides and given identification cards.
Their names are included in the state pay roll. While some are paid as high as N1million every month, some earn as low as N50,000.
Most of the aides do not operate from government houses. Some have other businesses or employment, but they are called governor’s aides for their role as attack dogs for governors.
Wherever and whenever the work of the state government is being criticised, they attack the critic, no matter how objective such criticism is.
Some of these aides live in states far away from their own states, but they receive their monthly pay regularly even without them knowing what goes on in their state of origin.
Their payment is usually the governor’s priority even when state civil servants do not receive their legitimate wages.
When elections approach, they become foot soldiers singing the praise of the politician, who in actual sense has no business going back to office.
They come handy during primaries, particularly in direct primaries (a system of choosing political office holders in which the voters directly cast ballots for the persons or political party they desire to see elected).
These aides also see to the recruitment of hoodlums as thugs to terrorise voters and opponents. The motivation is to rig the politician back to office to guarantee the supply of free money that comes to them on monthly basis.
After setting the tone for re-election victory by hook or crook, electoral process is likely to be compromised.
There is the likelihood of vote-buying, ballot-stuffing, missing ballots and brigandage at polling booths perpetrated by youths recruited as thugs by the desperate politicians.
This practice cuts across party lines. All politicians in Nigeria, irrespective of political party leaning engage in this method of skewing the process in their favour.
A political analyst, who spoke to BusinessDay Sunday on condition of anonymity, said: “I watched a debate sometime ago on governors and numerous aides, I felt very irritated at the way one commissioner was busy defending the indefensible. Come to think of it, many of these governors cannot even pay minimum wage in their states. What they are simply doing is to gather young people and teach them how to be lazy because these youths are doing nothing but to sing the praise of the governors and they are getting free money while the civil servants that keep the states going are being starved. We must end this hypocrisy.”
According to the analyst, “What this has succeeded in doing in Nigeria is that it has entrenched a faulty selection process. These governors upon exiting the office at the end of their tenure, choose one of such aides to succeed them, not on the basis that such an individual has been well-groomed for such a responsibility, but a willing tool to be manipulated by the outgoing governor. That is one of the reasons things move from bad to worse here. So, why would people not challenge election in court with such faulty process?”
He noted that when Goodluck Jonathan, a former president of Nigeria, recently advised that the role of the courts in the nation’s electoral process should be reduced, he did not factor in the role of politicians; that it is the politicians that make the court to be relevant in electoral matters.
Utim Eteng, a former member of Presidential Committee on Constitutional and Electoral Review, believed that politicians are to blame for that. He said that it was issues that arise from electoral or voting process that usually necessitate the invitation of courts.
According to him, “If a political party fielded a candidate that is not qualified, it has set up a judicial process. If the party conceals information while fielding a candidate, if that candidate wins, the other parties, particularly those whose chances are brighter, could challenge the victory based on that wrong information that was submitted to the INEC even before the election. The reason being that, such a candidate never participated in the election, because he/she was not qualified in the first place.”