In this piece, JOHN ALECHENU takes a cursory look at the seemingly unending feud between former governors and their successors
“The joy of a dying father is the presence of a worthy successor.” This is a favourite quote of the late Alhaji Maitama Sule, the Danmasanin Kano, who was a Nigerian diplomat and elder statesman.
Since the return to democracy in Nigeria in 1999, the battle for political relevance between state chief executives and their successors has been a regular feature on the ground and in the media. It has become a norm among outgoing governors to handpick, or at least, have a controlling influence on who succeed them. An Abuja-based politician, Mr. Rueben Peter, explained that the bid by outgoing governors to retain political relevance appeared to be the driving force behind the desire to still call the shots long after leaving office.
He said, “The average Nigerian politician considers politics as a business where one invests in and expects to reap bountifully from one’s investments. As such, more often than not, he is prepared to do everything legal or illegal to install a successor who he expects will continue to dance to his tune. On the other hand, the successor, wanting to have a mind of his own, will naturally want to be free and do things his own way hence the conflict.”
Speaking in a similar vein, a member of the House of Representatives during the Second Republic, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said it was a tragedy that the Nigerian system was still bogged down with politicians who are fixated on primitive accumulation of wealth. This, he said, was responsible for most of the conflicts between ex-governors and the people who they either foist on the people by manipulating the system or people they helped one way or the other to become their successors.
He said, “The tragedy of the type of system in operation in Nigeria is that while in other climes, leaders at all levels are interested in who succeed them because they consider the continuation of programmes or projects they believe are good, here, we mostly have selfish individuals who would prefer to have stooges that will continue to steal public funds to support the luxurious lifestyles of the predecessors who have automatically become their godfathers.
“It is only when there is any sign of rebellion that the disagreements between them would become a public issue.”
An Abuja-based politician, Abdullahi Abubakar, observed that disputes over who controlled the machinery of state as well as the ruling party were the common reasons adduced for political disputes between governors and those who succeed them.
He said, “There is even a more sinister motive. Some outgoing governors, who messed up the system, would naturally want to install those they feel owe them allegiance and can keep a lid on their secrets.
“Take the case of Akwa Ibom State for example. When the going was good, Senator Godswill Akpabio frustrated the ambitions of so many of his close associates in his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party, and brought Udom Emmanuel to succeed him. What has become of that choice is now a matter generating discussions in public circles.
“Recall also the case of Zamfara State, where a former governor now Senator, Ahmed Rufai (Sani Yarima) named his then loyal deputy, Aliyu Shinkafi, as his successor but the political disagreement between them became so bitter that each time the former was to visit the state, there would be a breakdown of law and order.”
Some political commentators believed that the current situation in the state was even more revealing. The state Governor, Abdullaziz Yari, whom Rufai installed after ensuring Shinkafi failed in his bid to secure a second term, has decided that it is time to shift away from Rufai’s shadow completely.
Yari has anointed his Commissioner for Finance, Alhaji Mukhtar Shehu Idris as his choice candidate. His choice did not, however, go down well with his political benefactor who has shown a preference for the current Deputy Governor, Ibrahim Wakala.
Interestingly, it was Rufai who installed Yari as governor and Wakala as deputy governor.
Wakala served as Rufai’s Commissioner for Religious Affairs, saddled with the responsibility of implementing the state’s controversial Sharia legal system in the early 2000.
In Kano State, it is on record that a former Kano State Governor, now Senator, Rabiu Kwankwaso, was unable to visit his constituents for two years. This is largely due to the political disagreement between him and his successor, the current state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, who was Kwankwaso’s deputy as governor.
A close associate of the current governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confided in SUNDAY PUNCH that the rift between them was largely due to the fact that the former governor wanted to control his successor.
He said, “The reason for their disagreement is simple. Kwankwaso wants to remain governor long after he had left. It is so bad that the Senator wanted the governor to seek clearance from him before he could make appointments, award contracts, determine which project to complete and who to associate with.
“You know that is not possible. We have a governor who has played politics long before Kwankwaso began.”
The former Kano State governor’s associates, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, however, accused Ganduje of reversing all the gains made by the Kwankwaso administration in a bid to diminish Kwankwaso’s political influence in the state.
He attributed this to the fear of a Kwankwaso Presidency.
In Gombe State, the outgoing governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, who was practically installed by Senator Danjuma Goje, fell out with his benefactor barely months after taking over power.
The political differences between the two of them was said to be the reason behind Goje’s unceremonious exit from the Peoples Democratic Party to join the then opposition All Progressives Congress.
Only recently, the Nasarawa State Governor, Tanko Al-Makura, set up a panel to probe Senator Abdullahi Adamu, who governed the state between 1999 and 2007. The probe is coming almost 11 years after Adamu left office.
It was learnt that Al-Makura’s decision to support one of his commissioners to challenge Adamu for the Nasarawa West Senatorial seat formed the basis of their political dispute.
It is no longer news that the APC has bowed to pressure by its governors to allow state chapters decide the method through which candidates could emerge for the 2019 general elections.
A public affairs analyst, Mr. Edache Oche, is of the opinion that the decision of the leadership of the APC to back down on its earlier populist position that candidates of the party for the 2019 general election should emerge through direct primaries came as a disappointment to a large number of party members as well as sympathisers.
Oche explained that the quotation made popular by the late elder statesman, Maitama Sule, about the presence of a successor, somehow captured what he described as “the tragedy of our leadership recruitment process and the lack of a clearly defined succession plan.”
He said, “Nigerians, especially members of the APC, had heaved a sigh of relief when the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, announced to the world that the party had decided that the direct mode of primary was the way to go after successfully test running it with the Osun governorship primary and the National Assembly primary in Bauchi. What we now hear is that the party has reversed itself. It is unfortunate.”
According to him, it is clear to all that what the party has done is to return to the previous delegate system, which could easily be manipulated by sitting governors to install their loyalists to continue to hold the various states to ransom.
He said, “It has got to a point that every sitting governor now craves a situation where his state will be like either Kwara or Lagos, not in terms of development, but in terms of political structure; which will ensure that they remain politically relevant long after they leave office. If I may ask, how many of Tinubu or Saraki’s colleagues, who were governors between 1999 and 2007, are still calling the shots in their states today?”
Although some analysts were quick to point out that while Saraki had a perfect working relationship with Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, his successor, the same could not be said of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who had running battle with his immediate successor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola. The APC national leader’s relationship with Fashola’s successor, Akinwunmi Ambode, could also not be said to be too cordial considering the heat the second term bid of the latter is generating in the political space of the state.
Tinubu, according to analysts, was however lucky unlike others to have survived the rebellions against him by his successors because he founded the political structure in the state and has been consistently oiling it since 1999.
Also, a former governor of Borno State, Ali-Modu Sheriff, had a major disagreement with his successor Kashim Shettima, shortly after he successfully handed over to the latter.
The disagreement chased away Sheriff to the PDP before his sacking as the national chairman forced him away from the former ruling party
The same thing happened in Abia State after former governor Uzor Kalu handed over to his anointed candidate, Theodore Orji. Orji, who won the 2007 governorship election while in detention, not only abandoned the platform, Progressive Party Alliance, that Kalu employed in getting him elected as governor for the PDP, he also turned after his godfather, making life unbearable for the former governor in the state.
The same scenario is currently playing out in Akwa-Ibom State where the immediate past Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio is currently fighting to retain his relevance after the governor, Udom Emmanuel, had moved against him.
Junaid Mohammed, while explaining the phenomenon, said Nigerians would have to take their destinies in their hands if they hoped to be liberated from the hands of rulers who get elected into public offices and take advantage of their offices to loot the treasury.
“It is common knowledge anywhere in the world that power is not served ala carte,” he said.
The Russian-trained medical doctor turned politician said, “Nigerians have to make a choice to either have a decent leadership and work hard enough to achieve it. We have tried military governments; see the mess they left behind for us. The current crop of politicians, I mean the brand we have had since 1999, have not been any better. This is largely due to the military hang over but I think it is time to stop buck passing for Nigeria to get to work.”
A lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Jos, Joseph Anuga, stated, “For as long as people exist and have political interests, there will always be disagreements.”
Also, a former governor of Borno State, Ali-Modu Sheriff, had a major disagreement with his successor Kashim Shettima, shortly after he successfully handed over to him.
The same thing happened in Abia State after former governor Uzor Kalu handed over to his anointed candidate, Theodore Orji. The fear of Orji forced Kalu to abandon the state for months, for fear of molestation.
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