By Innocent Okon
The growing presence and interest of academics in politics may soon warrant a case study.
They have become as constant as the Northern star in the political firmament of Nigeria, be it civil or military.
Apart from holding strategic public offices, they also provide a pool of kitchen cabinet for high profile public officers.
During the Ibrahim Babangida military Presidency, academics held sway in the kitchen, corridor and living room of power! The roll call included Idika Kalu, Tunji Olagunju, Babs Fafunwa, Beko Ransome-Kuti and Jubril Aminu, et al.
The return of Olusegun Obasanjo to national governance in 1999 also witnessed the involvement of many egg heads in government. They included Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Fabian Osuji, Iyorcha Ayu, Jerry Gana, among others.
The Ivory Tower in Nigeria has always provided ready human capital for any national leader to drive governance. What is absent and begging for attention is a verifiable performance data on their service delivery capacities. How much and how far do they walk the talk when given opportunity to serve? How do they translate concepts and theories they propounded in lecture rooms and public lectures to reality? How much respect do they show to public funds under their watch?
These questions are not only apt but demand more than perfunctory answers. Some samplers here can help the direction of this discourse. In 1979, what’s now Edo and Delta States were in one geo-political bloc called Bendel State. Prof Ambrose Ali was the Governor elected on the platform of UPN. His academic interest must have informed his decision to establish what’s now called Ambrose Ali University. Apart from this academic edifice, I don’t think Prof Ali matched the service delivery records of his colleagues like Lateef Jakande of Lagos and Bola Ige of Oyo states! When Samuel Ogbemudia took over in1983, virtually every critical public infrastructure and utilities had collapsed!I
In 1979, Prof Ishaya Audu refused to resign his appointment as External Affairs Minister when his Party’s (NPP) accord with NPN broke down. He was reported as saying that he could not afford to suffer more misfortune after leaving his job in the university to contest a gubernatorial election which he lost his deposit. Talk of politics of “stomach infrastructure”!
President Obasanjo in his second term had to sack Prof Fabian Osuji for inappropriate budgetary under table dealings with the National Assembly.
The performance of academics in public office should and must start to attract more than a passing comment because of what they profess and propound while in the academia, and what they offer while in public office.
The man in the news now is the newly elected Governor of Anambra State known and addressed as Prof Charles Chukwuma Soludo. A brilliant academic and unarguably a merchant of ideas.
Age is on his side as well as the goodwill of his people. He has rolled out a 50 year economic blueprint. It’s now time to walk the talk. But he started fumbling and stumbling last week when he publicly lamented that he inherited a heavy debt burden from his predecessor, Obiano.
He further disclosed that he met about N300 million only in the treasury. This is the usual song Nigerians are always treated to when there’s “power change over”
Like a broken record, Nigerians are still being reminded that the national economy is on life support since 2015 because PDP government looted every available petro-dollar at CBN!
Governor Ayade of Cross River State is lamenting low allocations from national coffers because of the alleged debts two of his predecessors (Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke) incurred.
Interestingly, none of these governors would have refused to run for the office if they were told that the office they were gunning for was debt-ridden and the treasury near empty!
Governor Soludo was there when Obiano deployed his political structure to deliver his gubernatorial ambition.
APGA is a one state political party and it follows that the funding and welfare of all the chieftains must rest with the state governor. Why should Soludo pretend so early not to know and appreciate this reality?
Truth remains that it would have been near impossible for Soludo to make it to Government House in Awka without the resources made available by his predecessor.
Obiano has kissed the canvas, but I think the least he deserves from Soludo should not be a kick on his ass!
Okon, a legal practitioner, lives in Uyo