6th February 2019
Some years ago while he was still in office, Herr Gerhard Schröder, a former Chancellor of Germany who held the reins between 1998 and 2005b reportedly took an opposition leader to court for inferring that he, Schröder had dyed his hair. On the surface it sounded funny and a complete waste of time – some may have even termed it a distraction from the serious business of governance.
I am sure many African leaders could have responded with a Press Release by their Media Aides but not Schröder who it was reported took exceptions to such indictment on his transparency, integrity and accountability. A man who could dye his hair, could cook the books! A man who couldn’t admit he was aging couldn’t admit to obvious lapses in his administration. So Schröder went to court to prove his innocence and to demand damages.
Fast forward the years and alight in Akwa Ibom State!
Granted the Reigners Church Collapse was an accident, whether it was avoidable or not is a story for another day. So an accident happened and a panel of enquiry was set up. That was a good thing to do. Applaudable even! Usually such bodies are set up to unravel the truth with a view to forestalling a recurrence. But it seems this particular panel was set up with a mandate to obfuscate the truth.
Not only has the White Paper of the panel been kept a secret, vital questions have remained unanswered. For instance, how many people died? Was it more than four hundred or the government’s twenty-three? How many of the dead were hurriedly bagged and disposed in the nearby ravine and how many were given emergency treatments?
The problem is not that the accident happened but the philosophy behind how it was handled. If a government can contrive to hide the details of an open tragedy, what about the ones we are not privy to?
Who has seen copies of budgets presented within the life of this government? What is our IGR? How much did Akwa Ibom get from the Paris Club refund? How many kilometres of road has His Excellency constructed, more than 1,700km? What percentage of local government allocations does he release to them monthly? Does he give the Chairmen 3,000,000 for every 100,000,000 he receives on their behalf?
I could go on and on but that would be restating the obvious – this government lacks transparency and accountability. And that is unacceptable in 2019! We would have had little ground to feel short changed if there were corresponding economic and infrastructural development on ground to answer for the surreptitiousness.
It is not wisdom to reinforce failure or to repeat a process which is not yielding the required outcome. The father of modern Akwa Ibom famously defined the Deacon Udom Emmanuel administration as a mystery. I believe I am speaking the minds of the much maligned civil servants of the State, the neglected students, the traumatised pensioners and suffering army of unemployed youths, when I say that come March 2nd we will not reinforce a government whose performance, transparency, accountability and philosophy of governance are steeped in mystery. Schröder went to court to prove he was running a transparent government, our governor takes delight obfuscation.
Oduonim Isong Inyang
Urue Offong Oruko.