By Leo Sobechi
State governors stand out as the electoral beacons of Nigeria’s contemporary democratic experience.
They are called the chief executives of their states.
They are very powerful, indeed so powerful that they can and do terrorise presidents.
At the onset of the Fourth Republic, attempts by President Olusegun Obasanjo to wrestle with the state governors led to the institutionalization of garrison political tactics.
Although the governors gave Obasanjo a bloody nose, the former president recovered in his second term to dislocate many of them and even derail their political progression.
In the chequered battles that defined the Obasanjo era, the former President fell back on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as his political hunting dog with which he pushed the state chief executives into submission.
But, while the then President tamed the governors at the centre, they retreated to their respective states and became native tigers and tin gods.
Gradually two parallel lines of authority were established in the polity, one controlled by the president and the other superintended by the governors.
With that scenario, in times of national political transaction the governors collaborated with the president or leader of their party to diminish the inputs other members or even isolate any stakeholder.
Having elected to protect the interest of the president, the governors would feel at home to dictate terms and conditions for his ‘subordinates’, especially state working committee members, local council officials and other elected representatives.
In the evolving organogram, candidates for virtually every elective position depend on the whims and caprices of the governor to ventilate their aspirations.
In a bid to wade through the political mine, astute politicians resort to sycophancy and other less dignifying approaches to win the endorsement of the governor.
The thing about governors
WHAT accounts for the domineering posture of state governors such that they commit impunity, showing disdain to their appointees and members of the same party? It has to do with the humongous amount of money at their disposal.
And no other source of slush exists for these powerful custodians of the state treasury than the almighty security vote.
The security vote has become like ant-infested wood that attracts all manner of rodents and parasites.
The first thing a prospective Commissioner of Police to a state finds out is the amount available to the governor as security vote.
By the time he reports to the state and announces his arrival, he listens to the governor’s remarks about the security situation in the state.
As a trained police chief (no thief) he returns to the police headquarters to receive further insight from the IIC and Bops.
Before long, a simmering inter- or intra-communal strife resurfaces. Or some rival confraternities in the tertiary institution begin a farcical display of insouciance to the constituted authorities.
While that is going on, the commissioner for chieftaincy and rural development stirs up chieftaincy disputes in one or two communities.
Before you could say attention, houses are burnt, heads are broken, police make arrests, peace committee or administrative inquiry, is set up.
From the political side, the governor sets up some good boys to ruffle his political detractors. If it is Senator, money is released to his immediate community to instigate his recall.
In extreme circumstances, some land disputes in certain communities could be traced to political rivalry between the governor’s goons and a party stalwart, all in a bid to distract the bigwig.
A commissioner in one of the southeast states confided in The Guardian that governors constitute nuisance and threats to democracy because they control the security.
“Would you tell a man that has N30m or N50m to play with everyday not to be power drunk?
He knows that his capacity to control the political dynamics in the state is contingent upon his enormous resources housed in the nebulous subhead of security vote,” he explained.
Now, with the novelty of voter inducement, security votes would come handy for sundry political and electoral transactions that could further clutter Nigeria’s democracy.
Why should security vote not be accounted for? What factors determine the amount available to a governor as security vote? Why are expenditures from the security vote not subject to legislative approval?
How are independent are the lawmakers to checkmate abuse of the security vote? Does security vote not constitute special lubricant for political corruption?
Those posers prompted the Politics&Policy Desk to engage stakeholders.