The burden of leadership is one that must be borne with all sense of responsibility and commitment at all times. This is especially true in a country like ours that suffers from deep misgivings, and truer at a time like this when the value of an idea may just surpass that of all the oil buried under our feet. Leaders of today have the onerous task of setting the agenda for success without any expectation for forgiveness if they fail because the consequence of failure is simply inconceivable.
The challenges for leadership in the 21st century is that more people are competing for continuously reducing resources. The margin for error is far slimmer today than ever and followers are less forgiving of fruitless and sterile leadership. They do not care for excuses. You either get the job done or leave the space for someone else. No stories. But, it is never that simple. Resources are not infinite, yet our needs and demands are. Prioritising, emotional balancing and spotting killer ideas are now critical skills every leader must possess. However, even these may still leave anyone short, as the Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, may have come to realise.
That Governor Ajimobi is going to leave his state in a much better shape than he met it is not in doubt. His efforts at fostering enduring peace and progress in the state have been extremely fruitful. His massive investment in building infrastructure has made him the darling of his people. His charisma is infectious and his work ethic is superb. So, why is he facing the heat from a section of his state’s civil service? I respectfully postulate that a lack of understanding of the issues may be responsible here. I’ll explain.
Leaders will be judged on how much value they can draw from the infinite resource called the human mind. Locked in the hearts and brains of his people lie some of the wonderful ideas that will hand the state all the money it needs to thrive. Governor Ajimobi’s lasting legacy may depend on how he finds these ideas and turns the proverbial water into wine. That’s what great leaders do, anyway.
Nigeria’s political and socio-economic system is so convoluted and intertwined. One policy affects the entire chain, sometimes with unwanted and avoidable consequences. The inability of many state governors to meet their obligations to the people is a direct result of the minimum wage signed into law by Former President Goodluck Jonathan. We will all recall how in 2010, following the agitation by the Nigeria Labour Congress, the new National Minimum Wage became N18,000 per month. Mr. Jonathan signed the bill despite the resistance put up by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum led by former Governor Rotimi Ameachi of Rivers State. In fact, only Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State supported the then President in the passage of the act. Today, states have become imprisoned by that act. As revenue from oil has dropped, some states have become hostages to the civil service as the money coming in barely covers their salaries and pensions.
The case of Oyo state is particularly pathetic. Although, the governor has built up the internally generated revenue of the state to about N1.2billion monthly, the state’s wage bill of N5.2billion (a jump of 25 percent from the pre-minimum wage increase levels) dwarfs that considerably. Added to the fact that the state’s monthly allocation from the federal government has dropped by 30 percent for over 10 months, you start to see the picture. There is a minimum of N1billion shortfall every month just to cover wages and the pension of civil servants without considering overheads and capital expenditures. When you consider that the entire workforce is less than 1 percent of the state’s population, you would understand the dilemma the leader of that state is in.
Gratefully, the state is one of those whose debts have been restructured following a deal involving the federal government and the Central Bank of Nigeria, the climax of which saw Oyo getting a loan of N26.6billion. If massive civil service reforms are not implemented and the state continues to get a miserly N3b a month – or less – the debt profile would build up again. A ramp up of the IGR is one way to solve this problem and it would require the total support of the people of Oyo state to achieve this feat.
This is the era of knowledge. Leaders will be judged on how much value they can draw from the infinite resource called the human mind. Locked in the hearts and brains of his people lie some of the wonderful ideas that will hand the state all the money it needs to thrive. Governor Ajimobi’s lasting legacy may depend on how he finds these ideas and turns the proverbial water into wine. That’s what great leaders do, anyway.
Gbenga Olorunpomi writes from Ibadan, Oyo State.