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Yuguda's 1,070 Aides and the Nigerian Malaise

By Adewale Maja-Pearce

The recent revelation that Governor Isa Yuguda has employed 1070 aides
can be looked at in a number of ways. Undoubtedly, high unemployment
(especially among youths) is a problem in the country and any policy that helps
to reduce it is always to be welcomed. The fact that government is the only
game in town in most states across the federation, of which Bauchi is certainly
one, might also mean that state governors actually have a duty to mop up as
many idle hands as possible lest they turn to the kinds of anti-social activities
that we daily read about in the pages of the newspapers. Think about it as a
sort of welfare scheme. The only drawback in the Bauchi case is that the
appointments appear to be skewed in favour of the men folk, with women’s
groups protesting that the fairer sex has been grossly under-represented
which, given that only two scaled through, would seem to be cause for concern.
Apparently, President Goodluck Jonathan’s pledge to increase women’s
representation in federal government to 35 per cent has clearly failed to
permeate down but perhaps Dame Patience Jonathan, who has shown herself
to be something of an activist where her fellow women’s issues are concerned,
will jump into the fray with her usual aplomb.
Quite what these aides are actually going to do remains something of a
mystery. To be sure, much needs to be done in Bauchi. Only recently, for
instance, the governor himself bemoaned the parlous state of the primary and
secondary schools under his watch and has pledged to do something about
them but then carpenters and masons would be more useful here than desk-
bound special advisers, always assuming that so many can be accommodated
inside Government House. More likely is that they are confined to hanging
about the streets of the capital waiting for an audience with the man they are
supposed to be advising.
Given the sheer number involved, even the governor himself must sometimes
be confused by the conflicting advice on this or that issue that must surely be
the result of such rich pickings at his disposal. After all, it will be incumbent on
each of them to ensure that they come up with a fresh angle to the particular
area they specialise in lest they be thought to be simply parroting one another.
So, for instance (and to stay with the problems in the educational sector), one
might suggest reducing class sizes while another seeks to increase them while
yet a third – with one eye, perhaps, on a contract – might even go as far as
recommending that brand new schools be built and he knows just the fellow to
do it.
It’s possible, of course, that the governor himself is unaware of what many of
his advisers even look like, never mind what they are supposed to be doing as
they report for work each morning hoping to get an audience with the exalted
one. More than one state governor has been known to voice bewilderment at
the plethora of hangers-on (in many cases a more accurate description of at
least some of them) he suddenly finds himself surrounded by, invariably at the
insistence of one or other of his commissioners anxious to find jobs for the
boys. And this is surely at the heart of the matter. An unfortunate by-product of
the politics we practice is the phenomenon of young male supporters who need
to be ‘settled’ once their man has triumphed over his opponent. They can
hardly be expected to thereafter return to their former state of joblessness while
the national cake is being distributed from the centre. It would seem to be only
fair after their patriotic exertions in helping to move the country – and
themselves - forward.
Still, it’s a bit tricky trying to defend such an obviously overblown structure given
most people’s concerns over the high cost of government in Nigeria. Yuguda
himself claimed to be merely complying with the provisions of the 1999
Constitution although he failed to specify which particular provisions he had in
mind. Perhaps he was referring to the one concerning federal character.
Bauchi itself is known to have 56 different ethnic groups, which means that
each is presumably represented by twenty advisers. On the other hand, it
doesn’t do to be so public about such numbers and one wonders how the state
government will cope with the reduced standard of living that is bound to come
on the heels of higher fuel prices when the government goes ahead to remove
the subsidy. All state governments complained loudly about having to pay the
new minimum wage. One can only suspect that it is the school children who will
continue to pay the penalty for so many advisers otherwise looking out for their
interests.