OPINION: Zamfara: A Ship Without a Compass! By Fauzuddeen Mahmoud

OPINION: Zamfara: A Ship Without a Compass! By Fauzuddeen Mahmoud

Editor's note: Fauzuddeen Mahmoud, a postgraduate student at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and a transparency and accountability advocate under the platform of ZAM-TRACKA in Zamfara state in this write-up, laments that the current Zamfara state government is a rudderless ship.

Over the last few months, I have been keenly attuned to the realities of the administration of Governor Bello Matawalle because it is my belief that midterm analysis is a very fair starting point. During this period in view, I have engaged those within the corridors of power in series of dialogues just so as to arrive at a logical conclusion that is devoid of the slightest form of bias. Fortunately enough, I was able to exorcise political sentiments from their submissions through the presentation of unalienable empirical data about the overall midterm performance of their boss, our governor.

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To begin this submission, I asked myself, what is the political agenda of this government? What is the blueprint? Is it health? Education? Social empowerment or what? The singular fact that this fundamental question is begging for an answer smacks of the big strategic flaw of this government.

Governor Matawalle has been subjected to intense criticisms in the last few weeks by several Zamfara state indigenes. Photo credit: Zamfara state government
Source: Facebook

Truth be told, the centre cannot hold and thus, things are falling apart! Since the 2-year anniversary celebrations of mostly "air projects," Zamfara has been on overdrive, free-falling headfirst, from the very top of a critically flawed system of governance to an abyss!

Since May when the executive council was dissolved, the state has been running inefficiently due to the lack of cabinet. Critical ministries like those of health, education, works, and disaster management were left for good 5 months without heads to steer their respective affairs for no tenable reasons. I went through the budget performance report for 6 months of the year in view and the figures are nothing but a prelude to gloomy dawn.

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Mostly all critical MDAs that play vital roles in our socioeconomic trajectory recorded 0% capital release in 6 months. Yet, in this quagmire, the renovation of the Government House gulped in excess of 3 billion naira! What logical explanation can be tendered in favour of this act of fiscal indiscipline? To cap it all, our overall capital expenditure performance for the year in view is an abysmal 10.5%, with the fiscal year only 2 months to end.

Zamfara is rock bottom in almost every socioeconomic statistic: Literacy index; Malnutrition; Maternal mortality; Economic viability..., you name it. Yet, we had funds to service the egos and luxuries of the few elites by purchasing high-end vehicles for them. In fact, this administration went as far as building 19 flats for all northern governors! What absurdity!

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Another disease this administration is suffering from is the political gratification syndrome! If one takes a clinical analysis of top appointees, one would easily discern that most of them are there as kickbacks, not as diplomats or technocrats that could meaningfully contribute to the development discourse.

Lastly, governments the world over are reducing the cost of governance in order to attain some degree of fiscal sustainability. Priorities are set based on revenues and capital demands. But in Zamfara, the opposite is the norm. Just yesterday, the Executive Governor announced the creation of more ministries, pegging the total number of ministries in the state at 26! No state in the entire northwest subregion, bar Sokoto, has such high number of ministries. Our IGR alone cannot offset our recurrent burden (salaries, overheads...), let alone take on capital.

Take Kaduna for example, its IGR alone is four times higher than that of Zamfara and it has more opportunities for revenue generation. Yet, it has just 18 ministries. Kebbi has got 19, Kano 20 and Sokoto, 26. Why do we need additional ministries? What bearing has the new ministries got on the socioeconomic dispensation of the state? Why should we have a ministry for hotels management when the state owns none? Moreover, how does this administration plan to shoulder the additional fiscal stress? Where do we get more money? The only option is for the state to borrow more and that's risky because our current debt stock is already in the excess of N110bn, a 65% increase since 2016. Another might be to stifle the capital release and effectively become a "recurrent budget government" only.

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The problem with our dear state is that it was created on a foundation that served the structures of the past and now that things have changed, successive administrations are only keenly interested in maintaining the status quo, so as not to disrupt the system and overheat the polity. Thus, they exchange batons in servicing a failed system! Change will continue to prove elusive to us until we disrupt the system and with all these, it is now obvious that this administration is another preserver of a failed system.

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