The National Economic Council meeting for August was held inside the Council Chamber of the Villa penultimate Thursday with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo presiding. The council has all state governors as members.
At a time when many state governments cannot meet their financial obligations, especially as it concerns payment of salaries and wages, it is normal to expect that the issue of bailouts approved by the Federal Government should take the centre stage at the meeting. At the end of the marathon meeting, the lot fell on four governors -Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun); Willie Obiano (Anambra); Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Muhammed Badaru (Jigawa)- to brief reporters of its outcome.
Ahmed had told the reporters that the council was informed that Federal Government bonds had been issued to 11 states as part of the palliatives approved for state governments to enable them meet their financial obligations. He said the benefitting states were among the 22 states who had applied for their commercial loans to be converted to bonds as of August 19.
The truth is that there are some state governors whose citizens have kicked against the bonds. Those opposed to the arrangement are of the view that with more prudence from the state governors, they should be able to meet their states’ financial needs without any stress. With Ahmed’s submission, a reporter therefore asked the governor to name the states that had applied and those that had benefited from the Federal Government’s gesture to convert their commercial loans into bonds.
I guess what went through the governors’ mind was the “name and shame debtors” strategy recently adopted by the Central Bank of Nigeria for individuals, groups and firms who are indebted to banks in the country. The governors obviously did not want to mention names of any state in order not to incur the wrath of their affected colleagues.
But two of the governors wanted to prove a point that their states are not included in the list. They know that if names were not mentioned, journalists would be curious. So it was Obiano of Anambra that quickly said, “What I know is that Anambra State is not part of them.” There was a sign of pride on his face as he looked round the hall with pride to ensure that the reporters took note of his submission and thereafter pass same to the people of his state. Badaru also took a cue from that and quickly said, “I can also tell you that Jigawa is not part of them.” He also paused for the message to sink and generate the required effect on the reporters.
I expected the remaining two governors to say the same or similar thing but that did not come. I saw Amosun with his unique long traditional cap smiling as the two governors took turns to dissociate their states from the bond while Ahmed did not even utter a word. I did not read anything into their silence which naturally was pregnant with meaning.
Meanwhile, what is special about a governor’s birthday? That was the question that came to my mind when I heard the discussion that ensued between Obiano and Amosun before the commencement of the press briefing. The Ogun State governor had asked his Anambra counterpart if he saw the congratulatory letter he sent to him on his recent birthday to which he answered in the negative.
Obiano actually started the conversation when he asked Amosun on his arrival at the Briefing Room of the Council Chamber whether to refer to him as “egbon abi aburo” meaning elder brother or younger brother. As common with big men who always blame the press for everything, Obiano added, “The press just blew the birthday out of proportion. Whoever told them about it, I don’t know.” The governor claimed he did not know who told journalists and yet he attended a special birthday service in a church in his hometown among other public activities. There is God o.
A time to take a rest
This column will be going on a short break as I embark on my annual vacation. While I take my well deserved rest, I will be, as usual, observing activities at the seat of power from the sidelines during this period. By the time I return, I expect that some Nigerians who might have passed the President’s integrity test would have emerged ministers or at best nominees since President Muhammadu Buhari has promised the nation that his ministers would emerge in September.
I am also hopeful that a lot of grounds would have been covered by the President in his desire to retrieve part of our common patrimony stolen by individuals by the time I will be resuming for duties.
Where I will be spending the break? Remember, this administration promotes austerity measures please. I hope to come your way again very soon. Stay away from trouble.