Democracy is not just a system of government in the normative sense of being “government of the people; by the people; and for the people,” it is also essentially a practical system of government that promotes good governance by improving the life chances of the citizens through the guarantee of basic freedoms and personal liberties.
In 1999 the entire country, Nigeria, returned to civil rule after many years of military rule and a few interregna of democratic experiences. While the attention of the media and civil society has been mainly focused on the performance of the Federal Government from 1999 till date, little focus has been on sub-national governments in terms of monitoring and performance assessment.
This apparent lack of serious focus on the performance of state governments has in part contributed to the lacklustre performance of many state governors, thus depriving the people the good governance and the dividends that inhere in democracy as a system of government.
In no place has this poor performance of state governors become conspicuously evident than the South-East of Nigeria, especially in the past eight years (2015-2023).
The tenure of South-East governors in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo states since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999 has been nothing short of a colossal failure of epic proportions. Despite the fleeting moment of promise, embodied by the austere and visionary leadership of Peter Obi in Anambra (June 2007 – 17 March 2014), it is largely a tale of years lost to the locusts, marked by gross incompetence, brazen mismanagement, and the misappropriation of public funds.
After sixteen years, the excuse of a learning curve can no longer justify the abysmal state of affairs in the South-East region. It is undeniable that the region is falling far short of its potential, burdened by crumbling infrastructure and escalating insecurity, which have prompted numerous businesses to relocate elsewhere. As a result, the region is experiencing a severe economic collapse, leaving a distressing trail of unemployed and underemployed youth wandering the streets, exacerbating the already precarious security challenges. In the face of this grim reality, a pressing question arises: Who is truly leading the South-East? Where are the governors in times of dire need?
In an attempt to provide some answers that will help citizens in the region hold their governments accountable, Ikengaonline conducted a research on the performance of the five governors in the region from 2015 to 2023. The first batch of the Report, which we will publish soon, covers Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu states – whose governors will be exiting office on May 29. The reports for Imo and Anambra states whose governors are not leaving office on May 29, will come at a later date.
The main objective of the state-by-state report is to provide citizens and the government with usable and fact-based information that will improve the quality of governance for the zone in the future. In terms of methodology, data were collected using various processes and methods, which include but not limited to site visits, inspection of documents, review of government records under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, interviews, and testimonials. Where necessary, experts were called upon to shed more light on a subject.
It is crucial to emphasise that comprehensive data were meticulously gathered to evaluate the performance of each governor across various sectors. The following areas were closely examined: Respect for Rule of Law, Implementation of Local Government Council Autonomy, Security, Finance/Budget, Education, Healthcare, Infrastructure, Gender inclusivity in political appointments, and Water & Sanitation.
These sectors were chosen to provide a holistic assessment of the governors’ effectiveness in critical aspects of governance, ensuring that no significant area was overlooked. By scrutinising these key sectors, a comprehensive picture of the governors’ performances were obtained, enabling a thorough analysis and evaluation of their achievements and shortcomings.
The data collected underwent meticulous analyses by a diverse group of stakeholders, including policy experts, seasoned journalists, representatives from civil society organisations, and other relevant bodies. Their goal was to provide an objective and unbiased evaluation of the administration’s overall performance in each sector.
To ensure accuracy, a three-tier scoring system was implemented, adhering to established best practices. This scoring system categorizes the administration’s performance as either Pass, indicating commendable achievement in a specific sector; Fail, indicating significant under-performance in a specific sector; or Indeterminate, denoting situations where the available facts do not sufficiently support a Pass or Fail rating, or when the outcomes fail to align with the level of investments made. The aim is to present the facts in a transparent and impartial manner, without compromising the integrity of sources and methodologies employed.
The reports, when considered collectively, highlight a disheartening reality: the three governors, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, David Umahi of Ebonyi State, and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, punched far below their weights. While some managed to achieve commendable results in certain areas, their overall tenures were marred by personal weaknesses and autocratic tendencies. One governor was known for his ability to bridge divides and foster peace, but unfortunately, these efforts did not translate into tangible benefits for the state. Instead, politics driven by special interests seemed to prevail. Ultimately, the governor at the bottom of the performance ladder, lived up to his name.
We wish to acknowledge the collaboration of Dataphyte on this project and the support of MacArthur Foundation through the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ).