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Labaran Maku and his generous marks

Critics of the National Good Governance Tour team led by the information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku, have tried to make an issue out of what they say is his tendency to award a ‘’pass mark’’ to virtually all the governors whose states the team visit. Never for once has he told the nation that a particular governor or local government chairman has done very badly in certain areas or overall and therefore needs to improve, his critics have charged. And yet many Nigerians are aware of governors that have not done so well that their incompetence cries to high heavens, they add.

Those who have levelled this accusation against Maku do not know the philosophy behind the tour and secondly they are not aware of Maku’s ‘marking scheme’ to use the analogy of teaching and learning that we have started with. The tour is a sort of peer review mechanism agreed upon by the governors themselves and other stakeholders in the Nigerian Project. It is not meant to be an unhealthy, cut throat competition in which some have to be ‘’marked down’’ to show that they are ‘’worse than useless’’, the type of assessment which many Nigerians would seem to cherish because as a people nothing pleases us more than saying the worse of our neighbours. And if that neighbour happens to be a political leader, the better if he is portrayed in the most unflattering of terms.
But that is not the principal idea that informed the conception of the National Good Governance Tour.  It was meant to encourage ourselves with the system of rule (democracy) we have adopted since 1999 as opposed to arbitrary rule. In the eyes of some of us, this our preferred system appears too slow in delivering dividends and many were beginning to wonder whether we made a good choice at all.
Some wishfully say that they prefer the ‘action oriented’ nature of military rule which may be full of bravado but very short on substance. Maku’s mandate is therefore to show that democracy may appear slow; democracy may look like a circus show, pre-occupied as it may look with endless debates and shadow boxing and democracy may appear expensive, but it is nevertheless producing results that are far better than anything achieved under military rule. Those who are criticising the idea of the tour itself and the rather generous ‘marks’ which Maku awards each ‘pupil’ assessed must bear this objective in mind if they want to be fair to him and what he is doing.
What is more, the Good Governance Tour is some sort of a progress report of what democracy is doing for Nigeria. It is not a situation report. For those who understand the nuances of language, there is a world of difference between a progress report and a situation report. A progress report tells about the positive change that has taken place. It may say it is minimal or substantial depending on what is on ground while a situation report may say that the situation is grim or dire. The truth about our situation is that it is bad. But the greater truth, which Maku seeks to unveil, is that contrary to some sentiments, something is being done to remedy the bad situation.
 Citizens may complain that not much may have been done or is being done by the political actors in a particular domain but no one can deny that nothing is being done. Maku and his team set out with the objective of disproving the cynical assertion by some despondent Nigerians that nothing is being done by actors in this democratic dispensation.
Some of those who accuse Maku of being too generous with his marks do not know his background. He was once a damn good primary school teacher and later headmaster of a primary school so he is very well aware of the psychology of students and pupils. The aim of a good teacher is not to mark a learner down, thereby discouraging the weak ones. His responsibility is to commend the good to high heavens and to encourage the weak with commending words so that they can improve. A good teacher, which as I said Maku once was, and still is, does not take steps that will discourage the weak and swell the head of the strong. His duty is to create a harmonious learning environment where his set of students will make progress according to their respective abilities.
That is why Maku concerns himself with seeing what has been done and commends it no matter how unimpressive it may appear. Small efforts are better than none at all. We may feel that we are not progressing at the speed we all want but nothing will be achieved by cynicism and bad mouthing the system or its operators. Each state is doing well according to the resources available to it; according to the peculiar development challenges facing it and according to the personal competence of the political actors freely chosen by the people. Beyond this, by physically visiting these states and seeing the situation on ground, Maku is on a better pedestal to correctly assess the challenges facing each of the students and the efforts deployed to address them.
Nigerians must accept that development is in actual fact a learning process. No one man has all the answers nor is there anyone who is absolutely good without blemish or absolutely bad without redeeming features. Each must try to copy the good from one another and try to forsake the bad done by another.
Besides, nothing is ever really gained by dressing down any pupil. Doing so will make the weak to do even more poorly. There is something about human psychology which makes every man whether intelligent or dull, whether hard working or lazy to do better and that thing is that he should be commended. Once a person is commended for even a negligible good, he will exude a glow that will set him afire to do more and even greater good. Failure to do so will make some to become resentful and unco-operative.
Nigerians should also be fair enough to agree that Maku did not elect the governors or the local government chairmen. It is the voters in each of the states who did. It is their responsibility to grade those they have elected through the use of the ballot papers during the next round of election or take steps to recall those who are so bad that the people cannot afford to wait for the next election.
But even as Maku appears over generous in the marks he awards to each governor, many of his critics do not appear to hear the very diplomatic and inoffensive manner he draws the attention of some of the governors to identifiable areas of their weaknesses. He complained to a particular governor of a South-East State whose state capital seriously lacks environmental sanitation. He also told the governor of a South-South state the need for him as a matter of urgency and for the sake of aesthetics and healthy living, to plant trees in his state capital that was beginning to look like a desert. He told another South-East governor who seems to have a penchant for patronising foreign companies and foreign things that can be easily done at home to patronise the indigenes of a neighbouring state who have the expertise to do what he was getting from foreigners.
Mr Alibi is an Abuja-based journalist and can be reached on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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