How many advisers and special assistants does a governor really need to effectively and efficiently manage a state? This is one question I have been asking since it was reported that Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, appointed 54 senior special assistants and nine special assistants, a few days ago.
I could recall that when he first appointed 25 advisers, I did a piece titled, “Yahaya Bello: A Rookie Governor And His Needless Retinue of Advisers”, calling his attention to why he should not waste Kogi State’s resource on doling out political IOUs that he intends to cash on subsequently.
The reason for my early criticism was to preempt him from further pandering to the giving out of unnecessary political IOUs that would cost the state resource that it does not have.
But, I was wrong.
Since Bello has now appointed about a hundred persons to serve in his government as special advisers or special assistants, maybe he would still carry out more appointments, no one can tell for now.
I understand that Bello has to share the spoils of office with his loyalists and cultivate newer ones, like every other politician does, but in a time of recession as we are in, simply creating jobs for the boys make no economic sense.
The prevailing economic recession demands prudence and cost-cutting measures on the part of governments, at all levels. As such, if need be, appointments should be strictly targeted at the few competent hands necessary to adding value, without further distorting the state’s fiscal imbalance.
It is fair to admit that, for now, Bello’s appointments have not equalled those of his predecessors. However, the fact that those earlier governors appointed hordes of aides and still failed, leaving the state in shambles is pointer to the fact that effective and efficient leadership is not about the number of advisers a governor has.
So, how many advisers and special assistants does Bello really need to be effective, while maintaining political relevance?
Maybe we should consider a few analogies: Kaduna State is larger both in size and population than Kogi. Its Internally Generated Revenue is also almost twice that of Kogi State, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, yet Governor Nasir El-rufai is working with only 12 aides without losing political relevance in his State.
Equally, like Bello, Lagos State’s Akinwumi Ambode also has his eyes on reelection. Yet, he is running the affairs of the richest state in Nigeria with just 14 advisers, apart from the compliment of his cabinet, commanding public acceptance in the politics of Lagos, in consonance with his performance.
Hence, one then wonders: One, if state governors with more resources at their disposal are appointing fewer advisers and still remaining politically relevant, what is the justification for Bello’s appointment of about a hundred persons just to spread his political tentacles?
Two, is it that Bello has no confidence that his performance would sell him to the electorate? Or does he think that appointing more people into his government is a better strategy for reelection?
For me, Bello should be the last person to be desperately strategising for reelection, knowing how God brought him this far. That his predecessor, Capt Idris Wada, made more appointments and still couldn’t secure a second term in office should remind him that his performance in office has a lot to do with his reelection than the number of those in his government.
So, I think Bello’s best strategy for reelection, apart from focusing on infrastructural development, should include: how to create jobs to win the hearts of the unemployed youth; how to get schools that are on strike open to pacify students; how to ensure the prompt payment of salaries and pensions to appease genuine civil servants and pensioners who were starved for several months before getting their pay as a result of the prolonged screening exercise.
Of course, those who are surviving on the remnants from Bello’s table would call me names for my stance, pointing out other governors who had more appointees than Bello to support why he needs an additional hundred advisers and thousands of special ghost assistants to deliver the moon on a stick to Kogites.
Well, that’s fine. I cannot stop them from doing their job. However, if Bello’s advisers fail to tell him that his reelection will be determined by the positive impact of his administration on Kogites and not by the number of his appointments, then it is proper to say that Bello does not need them as advisers.
May Governor Bello not blow his chance to make a strong point that things can work, for good, in Kogi State!
Ahmed Oluwasanjo writes from Abuja.