The High Cost Of Presidential Visit

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Recently, the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information, Orientation and Strategy, Mr. Asara Asara, told reporters in his office that the state government spent over N456 million on the recently cancelled two-day “working visit” of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua to Bayelsa. According to him, the initial budget for the visit was N1.2 billion, but when the Due Process and e-Governance Bureau reviewed it, it found reasons to abridge it to N456 million. And the State Governor, Mr. Timipere Sylva, who was eager to have the president in the state, wasted no time in approving the sum.

President Yar'Adua: Too Many, Meaningless, Expensive Trips

President Yar’Adua: Too Many, Meaningless, Expensive Trips

Now, according to reports, the president was coming to Bayelsa solely to commission some projects completed by the Sylva regime and perform the foundation laying ceremony for the Bayelsa International Cargo Airport in Zarama-Epie, Yenogoa Local Council Area. Nothing more, nothing less, dear readers! Yet, some fellows thought that this simple activity provided sufficient reason for Bayelsa State to fritter away N1.7 billion just like that! If this does not amount to obscene profligacy and prodigality, somebody should tell me the right words to describe the very outrageous decision.

Toiling Under The Sun Daily To Subsidize The Profligacy Of Their Leaders

Toiling Under The Sun Daily To Subsidize The Profligacy Of Their Leaders

Okay, the money was eventually reduced to N456 million. Indeed, to the fat cats at the corridors of power, this may be just be some “little change,” which may even be insufficient to host one night of riotous party for a couple of public officers with university girls and state prostitutes, but pardon me for insisting that N456 million is indeed, a big sum – too big for such a simple activity. And I fail to see how the mere act of the president flying into Yenogoa to commission some projects and lay the foundation for an airport project should gulp such a huge sum. It is just wasteful, to put it mildly. Indeed, such a sum can easily give numerous boreholes to some communities and make the people there happy drinkers of potable water in a region where virtually every stream has been horribly contaminated in the course of oil exploitations. Why do our public officers find it so easy and natural to callously squander public funds without any restraints while masses of deprived people in their domains yearn each day for very essential amenities that may never be provided? Sadly, every insignificant event provides excellent opportunity for wallowing in profligacy and self-enrichment.

And at the end of the day, it may turn out that only an insignificant fraction of the budgeted sum was spent on the event, while the larger part found its way into private pockets. Now, let’s return to Yar’Adua’s botched visit. Apart from the Central Working Committee headed by the Bayelsa Deputy Governor, Mr. Peremobowei Ebebi, there were also more than 16 sub-committees, all put in place to ensure a successful presidential “owambe.” Six masters of ceremony were hired to feature at the event. No doubt, all these committees, sub-committees or sub-sub-committees have their huge budgets to play around with, to give the impression that a really big event is taking place, to justify the huge sums of money being squandered with unpardonable recklessness. There is also the publicity committee headed by the Information Commissioner himself, whose job may just be to organize media coverage for the programme, hire the six MCs and place adverts in the media welcoming president – a job just one man can successfully execute within two days. In fact, what some of the committees and sub-committees might undertake with excessive fussiness and fanfare, to justify the huge funds allocated to them, could be perfectly carried out by just one person with only a telephone.

Gov Sylva of Bayelsa: Chief Host Of The Expensive, Meaningless Trip

Gov Sylva of Bayelsa: Chief Host Of The Expensive, Meaningless Trip

The commissioner said that since the trip had been cancelled, unspent funds would be returned, as the various officers and committee heads render accounts. It also means that those who had overshot their budgets would also seek reimbursement. The trip, according to my brother, Doifie Ola, the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, was cancelled so the governor can attend to some “pressing state matters.” But the story out there is that Yar’Adua was scared stiff by some benumbing security reports, and had to cancel the outrageously expensive and wasteful trip. There is also the joke that if Yar’Adua was kidnapped in Yenogoa, the ransom would not be anything less than N500 billion. It is high time we spurned all these wasteful activities that contribute nothing to the lives of the citizenry, like useless presidential visits to “commission projects” and carry out “foundation-laying ceremonies.” Such side attractions only provide momentary excitement and nothing else. They contribute nothing to progress and development. Yar’Adua should sit back in Abuja and face the mounting national problems staring him the face.

Indeed, governance should be a more serious business than some governors and presidents are showing it is.


An Ever Unserious House?

Recently, it was reported that the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives deemed it appropriate to adjourn plenary to have lunch with President Yar’Adua’s Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Mr. Abba Aji.

Speaker Dimeji Bankole: Heading A Visionless House

Speaker Dimeji Bankole: Heading A Visionless House

The motion for this dishonourable act was moved by the House Leader, Tunde Akogun. Before they rushed out to have the lunch, only one out of the seven items listed in the Order Paper for that day had been treated.

And, on this particular day, the House had commenced its sitting scandalously too late, about three o’clock. Yet, they had the effrontery to look Nigerians in the face and abandon such very important national assignment committed in their hands to go and do “longer throat”.

Nigeria's House of Representatives: Idling Away In Abuja At Huge Costs

Nigeria’s House of Representatives: Idling Away In Abuja At Huge Costs

We must be worried by the quality of minds that periodically show up at our National and State Assemblies to make laws for us. Readers of this column know that in several essays published here, I have been unable to contain my sorrow and deep pain over the quality of lawmakers we end up with each time, and how such a misfortune continues to sabotage our best expectations for progress and development, since all it does is to extend generous incentive to the Executive to celebrate its insufferable ineptitude and directionlessness with indecent fanfare.

As our decadent politics continue to inflict the nation with grossly underweight and light-minded fellows as lawmakers, that is, individuals who neither have any acquaintance with sound ideas nor the capacity to appreciate the gravity of the assignment they are supposed to be performing in Abuja, what the nation gets in return can only be retrogression and unchecked decay. What has remained sadly true is that for most of the lawmakers who had diminished our legislative chambers with their uninspiring presence these past few years, their real reason for showing up in Abuja has been to just scramble over dirty naira notes like wanton street boys over balls of akra suddenly falling off the tray of an indiscreet hawker.

Indeed, these were mostly down-and-out fellows dusted off from here and there, easily excited by such little things as a sumptuous lunch with presidential aides, and they would emerge each time from such feasts feeling so high that they would forget their very important brief in Abuja. So sad.                                                                                


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