Nigeria Today

September 1, 2019

Nigerian Governors in Blame-game and Dogfight

By Tonnie Iredia

Many Nigerians who have always accused President Buhari’s government of undue involvement in blame-game, need to look a little away from the federal space to see that in virtually every state of the federation, governance is essentially by blame-game and dogfighting. It is in fact not hard to find that rancorous primaries and battle infested political campaigns do not end with elections. Instead, they often extended to the post-election era especially, the transition period. This happens more in places where the combatants belong to opposing political parties, although in recent years, the battles within have become more vociferous. In some cases, such battles are vicious enough for the blind to see. Watching events in Lagos, for instance, one gets the picture of a fight to finish which can leave one of the fighters breathless. The poser, where did Ambode really go wrong is what analysts ponder over these days concerning Lagos politics. Everyone including the legislature seems determined to sniff life out of the immediate past governor of the state.

The trend is not new. In Kano, there was a time when former governor Kwankwaso could not enter a state he had governed twice. In Nasarawa state, the government of Al-Makura in its days in office suddenly began a probe of former governor Abdullahi Adamu. It didn’t matter that the latter had left government for as long as 11 years. What mattered was that there was a disagreement at that point in time which reminded Al Makura that government was a continuum. In Kogi, Yahaya Belo amidst an aggressive reelection plan is currently on an all-front battle with his deputy- a fight in which the state legislators are generally believed to have been materially well mobilized.

The most common fight which is usually between a governor and his immediate predecessor is attributable mainly to greed. It manifests, firstly, in the form of intense last-minute activities by an out-going governor to either siphon whatever fund is on ground or to set a booby trap for his successor. In Imo State, former governor Rochas Okorocha waited till the last weeks of his tenure to set up 4 new universities, of course with one in his village. Okorocha was to later expound his optimism ‘that the universities would provide great opportunity for thousands of Imo children, who are desirous of university education but could not secure admission due to shortage of space in the existing universities.’ Is it possible that the former governor did not see this obvious vacuum for more than 7 of his 8 years in office? Latest reports of assault and threat to arrest the former governor are fallouts of the dogfight in Imo. In Oyo state, governor Makinde was shocked to find that his predecessor during the transition period had allegedly approved contracts to the tune of N30 billion within a day. Makinde’s aides also reportedly uncovered “plans to mischievously increase the wages of Tertiary Institutions staff without actually paying them before May 29, thereby leaving the new administration to grapple with the burden.”

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Interestingly, wherever such plans were uncovered, the outgoing governor quickly covered up. In Bauchi, governor Bala Mohammed, learnt of secret plans by his predecessor to recruit teachers and other civil servants with the aim of making the successive administration lose focus. But this was vehemently denied by Alhaji Ibrahim Sade the then Commissioner for Information, in the state. Are the allegations always unfounded? The situation else where does not seem to suggest so. In Adamawa state, former governor Jibrilla, in the last few weeks of his tenure was said to have embarked on massive recruitment exercise of teachers and civil servants, which was vehemently denied by his officials. But when some media correspondents visited the state’s Secretariat and the state’s Education Board, they met a convergence of hundreds of applicants, especially youths, who gathered at various ministries either to be enlisted or interviewed for employment into ministries and parastatals just before the inauguration of a new administration.

Whereas the revelations appear good for the fight against corruption, the trend in reality is mere dogfighting and the recycling of accusations where yesterday’s accuser often ended up as today’s accused. During the tenure of Adams Oshiomhole in Edo state, he occasionally brandished several files at press conferences which allegedly contained wrong doings of Lucky Igbinedion’s government. At each conference, he never forgot to announce the impending imprisonment of his predecessor as he was always on his way to Abuja to submit the files to the EFCC. The files which many believed contained nothing never left Benin throughout the 8 years of the former governor.  When governor Isa Yuguda left office as Bauchi state governor, his successor Mohammed Abubakar told the nation that Yuguda engaged himself in embezzlement of public funds and last-minute allocation of lands, vehicles etc. Now that Abubakar is out, his successor says the former accuser, spent N2.3 billion to buy materials for burying dead bodies in the state. Dr. Ladan Salihu, who spoke for government said the funds were spent between January and May 2019.

Unfortunately, the fights are usually employed to deride traditional rulers many of whom often became pawns as they hardly played the role of impartial fathers. No one really saw the rationale for the installation of an Olubadan in almost every street of Ibadan by former governor Ajimobi of Oyo state. What he succeeded in doing was to present an opportunity for the traditional institutions to be ridiculed. In Ogun state, we hear the immediate past administration similarly created 75 Obas. Only last week, over 100 monarchs in Imo state openly called on the state governor, Emeka Ihedioha, to without further delay, dissolve the traditional ruler’s council headed by Eze Samuel Ohiri. Their argument was that the previous council headed by Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, was illegally dissolved by former governor Okorocha whom they also want probed for sundry misdemeanours. Unknown to the monarchs and other citizens who are dancing to the dogfight music, the main victim is the development of their state.

Considering that no Nigerian can benefit from the blame-game and unnecessary politicization of governance, it is time, since elections are over, to insist that our leaders should face societal development squarely.  While there is nothing wrong in making former governors account for their stewardship, that should be left to the relevant agencies without making it the main goal of governance. In this regard, we agree with those who think the main task Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State should be concerned with at this point in time, is the emergence of Lagos as Africa’s “own Dubai.” The economy and status of Lagos can make that happen. An end to floods in some states such as Edo should be tackled just as governors in states like Gombe that have never had water should make that a priority to improve the living standards of the people.