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If Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York Were a Nigerian Governor

By Phil Tam-Al Alalibo, NNP, March 12, 2008 – At moments like this, I am certain that Governor Elliot Spitzer of New York would have wished to be a Nigerian governor to enable him wiggle out rather easily from his sexual escapades and continue his stay in the Governor’s mansion. For those not aware, the governor has been alleged to have an interstate tryst with a ‘costly’ 22-year-old prostitute named “Kristen” (real name Ashley Dupre) on numerous occasions; a venture that has gulped more than $80,000 of the governor’s money over a period of time or perhaps, of New York taxpayer’s money, though I hasten to add this has not been proven. As the embattled governor today tendered his resignation in utter disgrace with his emotionally battered wife, Silda, a Harvard educated lawyer like her transgressed husband, at his checkered side, I cannot help but ponder if he were indeed a Nigerian governor his sexual activities with a prostitute would be a non issue if not outright glorified; and this underscores the glaring disparity between the two societies.

The salient issues often lost in the argument are the dearth of probity, responsibility and leadership in the Nigerian political arena. Let no one be fooled, Nigerian governors are engaging aplenty in their own tryst with prostitutes; but the fact that it does not even make the news is evidence of the moral morass and abject decadence our society is embroiled in. So immune are our politicians to the needs of the people that when their actions are inimical to the greater good oftheir constituencies, they feign ignorance and proffer an inordinate amount of reason to remain in office. In Nigeria, in particular, and Africa, in general, our leaders do not know when to assuage the wishes of their constituencies and resign for the good of the nation even in the face of massive failings of personal and professional variety.

Just look at the examples – President Paul Biya of Cameroon has been in office since 1982, Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya was in office for twenty-five years, Robert Mugabe, at 83, an age he ought to be preparing to meet his maker, is not only basking in power, but continues to commit all manner of atrocities against his people. And Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has been in office since 1986 and this, after he noted at the onset that no one should be in office for more than two-terms. With the reckless abandon with which our leaders rule (not govern) and with the political debts they have to pay that facilitated their ascension to the throne, it is inconceivable that any of them would resign even when their countries are heading for the abyss of hell in a hand basket.

And at home, the Mrs. Patricia Etteh’s saga presents a clear example of this malady that is afflicting our incorrigible tribe of politicians most of whom have ascended the throne on self-serving agendas. We should note the contrast here – that Spitzer resigned in forty-eight hours after he alluded to his personal failings, insisting that his shortcomings must not interfere with the peoples’ business. But it took almost four months for Etteh to resign and that only after it was made abundantly clear that the Integrity Group in the House would stop at nothing to ensure the integrity of the House. In the case of Etteh, not even the death of a colleague, Dr. Safana of Kastina, provided the impetus for resignation and certainly not the fact that the nation was held hostage as they dabbled back and forth, boxing themselves in ways that would make Mike Tyson green with envy.

Most of us still remember the cases of Mr. Joshua Dariye and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Plateau and Bayelsa, respectively, both of whom were arrested by the London Metropolitan Police on money-laundering charges. We also remember that both escaped the long arm of the law to their respective states to continue governing. In the case of Alamieyeseigha, it was no surprise that he was even given a most enchanting welcome by his people complimented by well calibrated police salutes, all proffered to an ugly-looking cross-dressing ‘female’ fugitive that escaped from London under the cover of darkness.

As noted already, one of the reasons for their obstinate disposition in office is the fact that they must remain in power to repay their political debts. Thus, money bag politics become an albatross, an utter aberration to the true democratic inklings of the people. I am yet to see a Nigerian governor or high public official resign out of honor for a scandal that has plagued him/her while in office; and this noble act may very well not occur during my generation. They have all either been sacked or impeached out of office – the list is endless – Adolphus Wabara, Evan Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Salisu Buhari (of Univ. of Toronto fame), Prof. Fabian Osuji and many more, all dragged out of office in the face of daunting corruption, instead of tendering their resignation and taking the path of honor.

In the case of the New York Governor, we saw his wife standing dejectedly behind him as he made his public confession of guilt.  Just out of curiosity, if it were a Nigerian governor admitting to sexual failings, how many women would stand behind him in the moment of public confession, that is, if there is one? Will all his wives stand behind him or will he elect one out of the pack of wives to be so disgraced at the podium?

And recently, the Health Minister, Prof. Adenike Grange, was alleged to have been arrested by the EFCC for embezzlement of N40 million un-used ministry budget and award of contracts without adhering to due process.  In any civilized society, such an arrest or even the allegation itself will be the catalyst for immediate resignation. But rather, what we had in this case was the employment of the services of spin doctors, trouble shooters, interpreters, soothsayers, native doctors, mind-changers all trying to distort the facts of the case and calling red, blue. Only in Nigeria would a public official be arrested and accused of a serious crime and the next day, he is offered a national award.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s ill-luck is edged in the fact that he was the governor of the wrong state, in the wrong country and wrong continent. If he were a Nigerian governor, he would by now, in the midst of the public knowledge of his tryst, be meeting with the president to discuss important matters of governance and planning for his re-election, certainly not his resignation. If Nigerian governors were to resign based on their sexual indiscretions and entanglement with prostitutes and all manner of mistresses and small girls that loiter government house, there would be no governors left in any of the thirty-six states, maybe, not even a president – remember Abacha and the two Indian prostitutes?

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