By Taoheed Ajao
Human behavioural psychology reveals that man always hankers after the new, the unexplored and the plain exotic in opening up new vistas of developments and conveniences in life. Man is bored stiff in governance as in any other public administration by the usual, the trite and the common place; when therefore, with the effluxion of time in human governance and in the eyes of man, the extraordinary wears the toga of normality and the formerly commendable later stands out as a monument to a forgotten past, it just goes to confirm the inability of man to develop a true comparative measure of the progress made towards making life more livable.
Political Statisticians and chroniclers of historical details have often wondered why approval ratings for political leaders often get progressively lower with the length of time in positions of leadership. Even in the so called bastions of democratic governance like the United States or Britain, evidence abound to show a declining public approval rating for their leaders over time. This has even unofficially been dubbed by commentators as “The Second-term Curse” for those in their second term of office!
Nate Silver, one of the analysts of this trend in the U.S, has observed a tendency towards lower ratings on the average during the second terms of presidents from Harry Truman through to Barack Obama. But because he found a variety of other things – major scandals, policy inertia, inauspicious timing – that contributed to the ratings decline, he concluded that “the idea of the second-term curse is sloppy as an analytic concept”
This human behavioural psychology finds wide expression among the people of many developing nations and is being put to devastating effect in the surprising high turn-over of governments within a short period of time. People, after a few years easily take for granted any new policy or project that has a high impact on their lives; again, their limited understanding of the ingredients of real development let them believe only in projects of immediate relevance but uninterested in those of long gestational periods. Such is the fleeting loyalty of the people to, and their ephemeral bonding with, successive administrations that political leaders are few and far between, who make successful second-term comebacks.
In Nigeria, the class of the second-term governors are finding it difficult to sustain the popularity, initial hurray of exultation and attendant hoopla of publicity that surrounded their first-term years. Incapacitated from embarking on any further poverty alleviating schemes or any palliative measures for the people due to the prevailing cash crunch, and further hobbled to a beggarly status by a skewed federal constitution, the present governors, have had to contend not only with a free-fall in their approval ratings but, a slanderous propaganda indicting them solely for the inability to pay salaries on due dates! The quintet of the Southwest governors comprising Amosun of Ogun, Ajimobi of Oyo, Aregbesola of Osun, Mimiko of Ondo and Fayose of Ekiti have, without prejudice to their political affiliations, received knocks for as many errors of omission or of commission as are conceivable by the imaginative minds of men!
While all of the aforesaid governors except Fayose of Ekiti, are in their second of two consecutive tenures and while these governors individually battle with some kind of waning popularity, the almost eight-year performance trajectory of the Mimiko administration is most emblematic of that which has been taken for granted. Heralded into office by a tumultuous crowd of enthusiastic supporters and coming into power in Ondo State with a bang, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko had emplaced so many transformational and life-enriching projects and programmes as to have virtually turned the state into an unrecognizable enclave to countless people who had visited the state before his tenure!
The more the Ondo State governor introduced these masses-centred programmes and projects, the more some of the electorates thought they were being alienated from his government. Nothing became new and exciting to the people anymore because it was not geared towards individual enrichment. Even when new templates of good governance, codified by multilateral bodies such as UNDP, World Bank, UNESCO, were being put into practice either in the state’s Urban Renewal Initiative or in its 3is-Community Development Programme, people failed to appreciate the deliberateness of the ideological framework that informed the choices.
Then, came the second term and with it, the middle point in 2014, which presaged the accompanying financial drought. Salaries became irregular at first and then later, the obligations became difficult to meet. Fiscal projections were made a mess of as budgetary estimates became mere documents of unfulfilled intentions. Capital projects suffered as there was no money to continue at the earlier pace and recurrent expenditures were cut to keep with the lean times. Since the cause of the financial malady was known to many people and it happened under the full glare of the public, the assumption was that the people would understand the reasons for the economic downturn in the states and get to appreciate the indices of real development.
Alas, the inescapable reality now is that the preponderance of the Nigerian electorates are still wedded to the patron-client type of governance where consideration for the individual trumps the collective well-being; where few oasis of wealth dot a vast desert of poverty; where individual enrichment via the notorious Local Purchase Order, LPO, is being preferred to life-changing programmes of long gestational periods. Again, the Nigerian electorates have been so fickle-minded lately that their tolerance for any administration can rarely be longer than four years: it is as if the electorates believe that no life-changing promises should take longer than one administrative-tenure to fulfill!
The parameters of development everywhere in the world are the same: The Human Development Index (HDI) produced by the Statistics Department of UNESCO, offers a guide to the criteria for measuring relative development of countries using such indices as literacy rate, life expectancy etc.
In the crude simplicity of the reduction of the Ekiti electorates’ disaffection with former Governor Kayode Fayemi to issues of “stomach infrastructure”, lies the tragedy of the average Nigerian’s misconception of the parameters of growth and development. While it is certain that no highfaluting government project or programme can be entertained in the midst of hungry and emasculated people, there must be at least, that desire from the people to free themselves from an endless wallowing in a development-warp and be able to assess the performance of administrations via parameters of good governance; the people should be able to measure developments from perspectives of long-term benefits that guarantee the good things of life. To exhibit bonding-fatigue at the slightest feel of economic discomfort is to consign self to leadership by experiment and to sacrifice steady development and political enlightenment at the altar of impatience.