Home Opinion Nigerian governors and their Lilliputian deputies 

Nigerian governors and their Lilliputian deputies 

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Nigeria’s imperial Governors are very powerful; they can do and undo. Almost all of them always go far beyond their constitutional remit in the exercise of their authority because they have made themselves as the untouchables. Many extend this reckless use of power, position, and state funds to muscle their deputies into submissive, subservient, even subhuman deputies.

In many cases, the deputies are deputies only in name. In some cases, Governors’ Chiefs of Staff (an unrecognised position in the constitution) and Secretaries to State Governments are made more powerful and popular than deputy governors. Some Chiefs of Staff, even lesser government officials, decide if and when deputy governors can have access to their governors or not. It is so ridiculous that some spineless deputies allow themselves to be thoroughly ridiculed by aides to the governors.

For crying out loud, the position and office of the deputy governor is a creation of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. Deputy governors are no aides to the governors. No person can stand for election for the office of the governor without having a deputy governorship candidate. It is a joint ticket. To buttress this point, it is trite to mention that the incumbent governor of Bayelsa State, Douye Diri became the governor because the All Progressives Congress candidate who won the election by a moonslide, David Lyon, was disallowed from savoring his victory simply because the man who was going to serve as his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi, was disqualified a day before their swearing in by the Supreme Court for submitting fake certificates to the independent national electoral commission.

Though the same 1999 constitution has minimal role for the office of the deputy governor, the governors have all but vitiated and rubbished that office. Nigerian governors since 1999!are the worst offenders in attempts to ensure that the so-called democracy in Nigeria does not take root. Like torrential rains, they literally tsunamis everything they see in their wake. Let’s go: Local governments exist only on paper; funds of and for the local governments are in the pockets of governors; local government elections are a charade; state houses of assembly are independent only in name; supposedly elected house of assembly members quake to relate with governors; House of Representatives members and senators are either subservient to their governors or are at loggerheads with them; traditional institutions and rulers are not spared the wrath of their governors (ask the immediate past Emir of Kano!); state funds are dispensed with by the governors as if it were their personal funds; no human, not even the gods can dare ask them to account. Name it.

Worse, majority of Nigerians are more than happy to put up with these illegalities to the extent that they literally worship the governors so long as soiled crumbs fall off their hands. Sad. Which explains why poverty is multiplying very rapidly everywhere. To be sure, the federal government is responsible for the poverty in the nation only by a quarter due to their macroeconomic policies or lack thereof. It is the lack of vision, avarice and unnecessary politicking at the state level that account for the rest.

The goings on between the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu is a thing of shame, to say the least. Here was a deputy who took bullets for the governor from the camp of Adams Oshiohmole and ensured that he returned a second term. Today, the governor does not see his deputy as any being he should set his holy eyes upon. He has banished him from government house, booted him out of his office and given him literally a boy’s quarter somewhere at Dennis Osadebe Road in GRA as a discarded rag. At a church function, attempts by the deputy to have audience with the governor was prevented by small boys to the governor. That was in the church where supposedly everyone went to have access to God Almighty, but the almighty Obaseki ensured the next to him in power would not have access to him because he is the governor today.

What is the deputy governor’s sin? The deputy had the temerity to want to succeed his principal when the governor is backing (more than that) another person in the November 2023 governorship election. The deputy’s ambition must be treated as high treason for daring to challenge his eminence, the governor. The poor deputy governor comrade Shaibu has been foxed into submission. The other time, he had to withdraw the law suit he filed against the governor and state house of assembly from impeaching him. With his last pillars now effectively bulldozed, his days in that BQ may just be numbered.

Nor is the development in Edo State an isolated case. The plane that flew back the old man of Ondo State had hardly landed after his more than three months in Germany on medical tourism when he started to treat his deputy with disdain. A man rescued from the jaws of death by grace and mercy could be so baleful that his second state action in a quarter of a year was to disband the media aides to his deputy. Rather than commend his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, for holding the state together for over three months that he was unavailable, he is rewarding the man with something next to a sack letter. In a terse press release titled “Government House Media Team Rejigged”, the press secretary to the governor said all media aides appointed by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, and seconded to the office of the deputy Governor, have been relieved of their appointments with immediate effect. This includes even the photographer! To make a point, their names were mentioned, and were asked to submit all government properties in their possession. To leave no one in doubt that the party between the two personalities had ended, the press crew seconded from the ministries and attached to the office of the deputy governor has also been disbanded and the ministry of Information directed to provide coverage for the deputy governor’s activities. Those to be posted there will have nearly nothing meaningful to do.

Those close to Akeredolu accuse the deputy of disloyalty and for being ambitious, whatever that means. The little known Aiyedatiwa has been left in the cold to sing that he was never disloyal to his principal. Tomorrow, you will not be surprised to read that the deputy’s home and office have been relocated to Okitipupa, a riverine part of the state, and that he should not leave the waterlogged area without a written permission of the governor!

On the surface, it is the individual deputy governors that are bearing the full brunt of the governors’ abuse of office. But fundamentally, Nigeria is the worst for it. These actions of the governors are symptomatic of the underlying political problem in Nigeria: that we’re ignorant of what the tenets of democracy are; that we are intolerant of opposition; that we do not understand what good governance means; that we are still light years away from democracy; that in this clime, it’s a winner takes all mentality; that…

Nor does this now common friction between the governors and their deputies start today. Very few two term governors start and finish their terms with the same deputies on a happy note, especially the governors south of Nigeria.

The current president Bola Ahmed Tinubu was one of those kicked started this act. His first deputy governor, Kofowora Bucknor-Akerele was replaced by a banker, Femi Pedro.

In my home state of Akwa Ibom, Obong Victor Attah ditched his deputy, Chris Ekpenyong for a retired civil servant, Michael Udofia, who stayed over subservient. His successor, and incumbent senate President Godswill Akpabio could not withstand an “over ambitious” Nsima Ekere. He then went for Valerie Ebe, who ended up as an almost nonexistent deputy.

The current minister of state for defence, and immediate past governor of Zamfara State whose exit from power last May brought relief to the state, forced his deputy, Mahadi Ali, out of office through a contrived impeachment because he refused to join him in decamping from PDP, the party that brought them to power. To be sure, he didn’t get 15 percent of the votes but was installed by the court following the disqualification of the APC candidate. Thankfully, the deputy’s impeachment was later dismissed by the court.

Briefly, Chapter 6, Part 2, Sections 191 and 193 of the Constitution states the roles and functions of deputy governors. Among others, deputy governors’ duties include assisting the governor and replacing him or her in the case of death, resignation, removal, impeachment, absence or incapacity due to illness. The Governor of a state may, in his discretion, assign to the Deputy Governor of the State responsibility for any business of the government of that State, including the administration of any department of government. The Governor of a state shall hold regular meetings with the Deputy Governor of the State for the purposes of –
(a) determining the general direction of the policies of the Government of the State;
(b) co-ordinating the activities of the Governor, the Deputy Governor of the State in the discharge of their executive responsibilities; and
(c) advising the Governor generally in the discharge of his executive functions, other than those functions with respect to which he is required by this Constitution to seek the advice or act on the recommendation of any other person or body.

We can go on and on with the unwarranted distractions that governors have made promoting quarrels with their deputies as state policy thus pushing statecraft to the backbench.

For the hapless deputies, pity is the word. I cannot but concur with whosoever coined them Spare Tyres.

Esiere is a former journalist

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