Why Our Governors Must Stop Imposing Successors
with Suleiman Uba Gaya
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The first time I came very close to feeling the immense power state governors amass for themselves was in 1992 when Architect Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya included me on his entourage accompanying him to Abuja. Gaya, now a ranking senator, was then the Governor of Kano State, and he was part of the presidential delegation accompanying President Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) on a state visit to Germany.
We took off by road from Government House, Kano, at around 2pm. In just one hour twenty minutes, we were in Kaduna, a journey that takes lesser mortals about two hours, on the average. This was all courtesy of the siren that started blaring from Kano non-stop. I was in my early 20s at that time, and was impressed with the way the road was being opened for us at every turn. On hearing the siren, most vehicles driving ahead of us would beer off the road; some would even park until we passed. I was so thrilled.
After that time, I got many opportunities to come very close to the seat of power both at state and federal levels. As a senior aide to a governor at a time, I have a fair idea of the immense powers possessed by state chief executives, even though my principal, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, was an embodiment t of humility. But then you don’t even need to come close to any governor in Nigeria to have this idea. In this land of possibilities, one governor can make you stinkingly rich overnight. And they can make life very miserable for you, as well. Their opponents are the best persons to give that testimony.
That’s why I am amazed whenever I see a former governor (most especially outgoing governors) engaging in all sorts of shenanigans to ensure the person he prefers succeeds him. Here is why it is all terribly wrong.
First, when you are in power, you hardly know the person who genuinely loves or supports you to his heart. Everybody lines up in desperate bid to shower you with love, most of which is fake. In our clone, the leaders cause this. More often than not, you gain nothing except you are exceptional in showering praises on the demigod.
There are , of course, supporters who could take the bullet for you out of genuine love. But as a governor the tendency is for you to mistakenly pick the person whose style and depth of sychopancy is highest. And since the whole idea is about service to self, chances are that the chosen may well be a sheep in wolves clothing.
A good example of this was in Zanfara State where the deputy to a serving governor was all over him with unprecedented respect, hailing the governor at every slight turn. The then governor was so convinced about the loyalty of his deputy that he wasted no time in anointing him as his successor. But what happened after succeeding the governor? The former deputy soon made his former principal a persona non grata even in the Government House.
There is also the well known story of a governor in the south-east, who was so convinced of the loyalty of his then chief of staff that he did not think twice before anointing him his successor. The then President of Nigeria never wanted the idea, and in the bid to stop it, ensured the anointed was was put in prison just before the election. That, however, did not stop the chief of staff from succeeding his boss as governor. The outgoing governor spared no expense or effort to see to that.
But what happened in the end? As soon as he entrenched himself in power, the same man that owes everything to his principal started picking a fight with his benefactor, so much that months down the line, the same principal was made enemy number one in the state government circle. The new governor spent eight years viciously fighting his former benefactor and denying him every opportunity and privilege. The former governor managed to get elected as senator, and now his former protege is leading the process to ensure he spends at least a decade in prison and have his senate seat declared vacant.
It was (is still the case in some cases) the same story in Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Benue, Nasarawa, Enugu, Anambra, Rivers, etc, though in some cases the benefactors are the very cause of the problem by their overbearing interference.
What is presently playing out in Edo is another example. Adams Oshiomhole did everything to ensure one of his boys took over from him. He worked on the project as if his life depended on it. But owing to a combination of overbearing influence, and of course the human nature of betrayal, the present governor is making life very difficult for Oshiomhole, whose case would have been far worse if were not the National Chairman of the ruling political party in Nigeria. One is not by this resting the entire blame on the incumbent governor of Edo State. Both he and his predecessor have almost equal share of the blame in formeting the raging fire almost consuming the south-south state.
There is the story of a governor in the north-west who reluctantly anointed his deputy to succeed him. Sadly, he kept assuming that the man’s loyalty was real. And the former deputy started showing his true colours when his former principal started overstepping his bounds. The former governor wanted to continue as governor by proxy, and will insist in minutes of the weekly meetings of the state executive council be sent to him for vetting. Whichever contract he found appealing, he would direct his successor to award same to his preferred cronies. And if he didn’t like a project, he would direct for it to be killed. The former deputy was obliging his former boss, until close aides threw spanner in the works. They kept reminding the incumbent that his former boss was trying to completely take away his power as governor. And because he was hearing this same music everyday, he started believing the musicians. Today, one of the biggest political enmities in the history of Nigeria is playing out in that state.
I also know of a former governor that was being paid a hundred million naira as monthly settlement fee by his successor, who he handpicked and helped to power. But the former principal was insatiable. His demands kept increasing, including on areas where he was shortchanging the people. The protege started saying no, and animosity started growing to the level of hatred. Today, both are sworn enemies, ready to tear at each other at the slightest prompting.
Whether a former or outgoing governor or a moneybag, the reality is that you can never be too sure even if the person you install as governor were your own son. The reason is simple: there is nowhere in the whole world where governors exercise as much power as in Nigeria. And there is also nowhere globally where governors have unlimited access to state resources as in Nigeria. In no time, holders of that office start assuming the powers of God, forgetting that four or eight years will come and go quicker than they think.
A state governor in Nigeria is a sole administrator of his state. Except for perhaps one or two cases, there is no state in Nigeria where the legislature is not pocketed by the serving governor. Since 1999, governors in Nigeria have been enjoying and often misusing more power than their previous counterparts that served under the military.
Those in the military, for example, have someone that could call them to order. But except for Lagos where an incumbent was recently denied a shot at second term for not dispensing enough patronage to his benefactors, the present crop of governors have no one to call them to order. In most cases, the legislators are as good as nothing. They become powerless and ineffective because the powerful governor removes and instals the leadership at will.
In a way, it is good for Nigeria that the incumbents don’t owe unlimited loyalty to their predecessors. Barrister Nyesom Wike succeeded in becoming one of the highest achieving governors in the history of Nigeria because of his fight with his former benefactor and predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi. In most cases, governors fighting their predecessors tend to record more achievements because they needed to impress the people, to avoid being shoved aside by all-consuming power brokers.
That’s what Dr. Chris Ngige did when, as governor of Anambra State, he fell out with his benefactor, Chris Uba. He simply forgot about his powerful sponsor and ingratiate himself with the people. That way, you save massive resources with which you can serve the people and keep your covenant with them.
It is so surprising that inspite of very bitter lessons all over the place, some governors and godfathers still feel they can play God by forcing their selfish choice of successors on the very people that gave them the privilege to serve them. It always backfires because there is hardly a godfather who imposes a successor for the good of the people. It is always for reasons that border on service to self and nothing or little else.
THE NEED TO SUPPORT SECURITY AGENCIES IN NIGERIA (Radio Nigeria News Commentary aired yesterday, written by Umunna Alfred, a Security Analyst resident in Abuja)
Security agencies, all over the world, are tasked with the job of ensuring law and order, peace and unity within their jurisdictions. Irrespective of the climes in which they operate, they are required to deploy every legal means necessary to ensure the protection of lives and property.
As spelt out in the Nigerian Constitution, the primary responsibility of government is to ensure the welfare and security of all citizens. In order to achieve this, various security organs are set up and charged to perform certain responsibilities.
For instance, in Nigeria, the Police, the Army, Navy, Air Force, DSS, Customs, Immigration, Civil Defence are established to perform varying national security roles, ranging from maintenance of civil law and order, detection and prevention of crimes to defence of the borders. The agencies commit themselves to the service of the nation.
In Nigeria, the Army and Air Force have particularly been at the forefront of counter insurgency quelling the insurgency in the North-East. They are engaged in other similar operations across the nation. Ditto for the Police which daily toils to enforce the law.
Similarly, the DSS which is both an intelligence and security organization charged with maintaining the internal security of Nigeria has continued to avail these agencies the necessary intelligence input to execute their responsibilities.
The constitution provides that Nigeria’s unity is indissoluble and indivisible. The security agencies are assiduously working to ensure that this provision is upheld.
It is a sad reality however, that these security agencies are misunderstood and not given the deserved support while discharging their mandates. They are often blamed when something goes wrong in society and more often than not, become the butt of bad jokes and slur campaigns.
They are neither respected nor accorded due recognition for their work. They are understandably the unsung heroes. They, at the slightest opportunity, called unpalatable names and blamed roundly. Some have even gone further to call for their disbandment if not the sack of their leadership.
It is even more heart breaking that the leadership of the agencies are not spared. A case in point is that of the DSS which has been in the eye of the storm in recent times over the misunderstanding of its operations by sections of the public.
It is unarguable that the DG of the DSS, Alhaji Yusuf Magaji Bichi, fwc is a refined gentleman and an astute administrator. He had a meritorious service that spanned unblemished 35 years. He won several accolades during the period and is known as an accomplisher and a builder of men.
Anyone who knows him will attest to this. However, he has become a victim of the misguided attacks of the citizens whose interests he seeks to protect. Despite these, he is committed to excellence, rule of law and due process.
It is indeed easy to apportion blames, but has anyone ever wondered how many sacrifices these agencies and their personnel have made for national development. Without sounding immodest, it should be noted that they have performed excellently when juxtaposed against their unfriendly environment.
Members of the public should take more than a passing interest in the work they do and appreciate them for that. Let us therefore join hands and give the required support to them. They are made up of men and women, who as great patriots, live among us and constantly put their lives on the line of danger.
They are people who have sacrificed all for love of country. They keep awake when others sleep. But for their sacrifices and sense of duty, the country could have been worse off. They should be celebrated and commended. What better rewards can the public offer them than encouragement and support?
We should not jump on the band wagon of condemnation or amplify the voices of hostile elements (local and international) against them. The task of securing the nation is an onerous one for which all hands must be on deck. This is a clarion call on all citizens to support our security agencies, their leadership and personnel.