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Funso Doherty: Nigerians Have Low Expectations of Government, They Now See Rights As Privileges

He said the Lagos State government needs to justify contract awards, because from the public’s reaction, it “touched a raw nerve”.

The candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the 2023 Lagos State gubernatorial elections, Funso Doherty, has said that Nigerians now have low expectations of the government as the things that one should see as a right are now viewed as privileges in the country.

In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Monday, Doherty spoke on his recent analysis of the register of public procurement awards by the Lagos government that was published, saying that the transparency of the government in publishing this list is not necessarily one to be commended.

When asked if he believed the Lagos state government should be commended for making this information available to the public, Doherty said, “I would say maybe yes and no. And why do I say that? Yes, you can say well, maybe not all states are doing it and Lagos is doing it, and anybody might commend them. But let’s not forget that this is pursuant to a law actually, the public procurement agency law. And that law actually requires that significant government contracts be published. So, in effect, government is complying with its own law.

“So, should we commend the government for being law abiding? Maybe, but what does that say about our expectations of government? You and I are expected to be law abiding, the people don’t come and commend us for being law abiding every day. So, in that sense, I think part of the issue is that we have come to have very low expectations, and things that are our rights, we are seeing them as privileges. And in that sense, we as the governed are contributing to the problem.”

Speaking on the response of Nigerians to the procurement awards and the costs attached to them, Doherty said, “I would say first is that it touched a raw nerve. So, people are in a very difficult place economically. They are being asked to make all sorts of sacrifices that maybe they have not had to make before, and they are daily being enjoined to, you know, bear with the current circumstances and that things will get better and so on. So, it seems jarring when they are faced with things that look like evidence of non-judicious use of expenditure by the leaders.

“The second thing is that it is very specific. Generally, we talk about non judicious use of funds and it’s like a general thing. But here, people are presented with very specific information about specific contract awards and things that they can relate to and they can touch to, you know, they are relatable. So, it’s interesting that some of the things that have generated the most comments are not even the numbers that are sort of in the big billions, but just numbers that, when you look at the amount, it may just be a few million, but when you look at it in relation to the item, people can easily relate.”

The ADC candidate, when asked his expectations for the government, then said that the government needs to provide explanations to the people and justify the awards, as he said that from the reaction of the people, it was obvious that the government had “touched a nerve” and needed to respond to the people. He also called for continuous improvements in the procurement process.

“Ultimately, what I expect the government to do is to make the right decisions, judicious use of public funds, always in the public interest and to govern in the interest of the people. And in the long run, the fruits of those actions will be revealed in the lives of the people,” he said.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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