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Why does Buhari want to weaken governors?

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By Ochereome Nnanna

One thing many Nigerians do not know about Muhammadu Buhari is that he is very ideologically-driven. There are not many things he does out of mere whims. Before he proposes an idea, signs a document or refuses to sign, he carefully considers how it falls into the scope of his mission in power.

When he ignores Section 14(3) of the Constitution and appoints mostly Northern Muslims (especially Fulani) into high offices rather than equitably sharing them among all the stakeholders, it is part of a grand agenda.

Moderates of this ideology are ready to accommodate other Nigerians knowing it is a hopeful way of maintaining control for as long as possible. But the extremists want Nigeria to become the property of their tribe (not just region), including those among them who are not even Nigerians. And they want to take it by force.

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This group sees Buhari’s ascent to power for the second time as a once in a lifetime opportunity to nail home this agenda. The high uptick of armed herdsmen’s occupation and marauding of the forests, farmlands and highways of the Middle Belt and South of Nigeria became pronounced under Buhari.

In view of the foregoing, let us ask ourselves what President Buhari really wants to achieve with his recent Executive Orders seeking the direct allocation of funds to the local government councils, LGCs; the State Houses of Assembly, SHAs and Judiciaries. Many of us, including eminent lawyers and sectional leaders of thought have applauded these measures. I had started applauding until I thought twice.

There is no doubt about it: the power the governors have been exerting over their LGCs, SHAs and Judiciaries is unconstitutional, undemocratic and corruption-enhancing. The governors thus continue to operate like emperors and military administrators in spite of our return to constitutional rule in 1999. They are so powerful that nobody can hold them to account while in power. The SHAs cannot impeach a governor unless there is a Federal hand in it.

Democracy is impossible at the grassroots because those in power at the LGCs are the governors’ agents. On the other hand, some of the governors (such as Orji Kalu, Bola Tinubu, Chibuike Amaechi, Samuel Ortom, Nyesom Wike, and others) have capitalised on their powers to assert the boldness of the state as a federating unit. Take away these powers and the Federal Government (which is under the control of a sectional and ethnic establishment) will neutralise any governor no matter how brave.

Could Tinubu have survived President Olusegun Obasanjo’s onslaughts when the former was the governor of Lagos without being in full grasp of the LGCs/LCDAs, Judiciary and LSHA? Could Wike have succeeded in his second term bid in Rivers amid the massive military and police might mounted against him if he had been similarly stripped?

Before we continue to clap for the “independence” of these state arms of governance, let’s consider this. With these “freedoms” the LG chairmen, speakers and members of the SHAs and state chief judges will acquire some level of independence. They will begin to resist their governors and fall out with some of them.

If these governors are in the bad books of Abuja, the heads of these governmental arms could be wooed by Abuja with money and police/military support to ruffle their governors. They could be tools in rendering governors incapable of holding their grounds against Abuja’s intentions which go against the interests of the people. Abuja will more easily get governors impeached, some chief judges playing along.

If Abuja comes back with the Ruga or Cattle Colony demands it will find compromised leaking points to get its way.

Buhari’s interest in promoting the independence of the LGCs, SHAs and State Judiciaries is a double-edged sword. With autonomy, good officers will be more able to rapidly develop the grassroots and hold the governors to account. Quislings can be empowered to sell out collective group interests and make the capture of states for the interest of an “empire building” ethnic group easier. That was what created crisis in the Western Region in the First Republic.

These sudden benevolences by an ultra-statist centralist are simply packaged to weaken the state governors for purposes that are neither altruistic nor compatriotic. If Buhari were such a democrat, he would have started the crusade from Abuja itself. He would have been promoting the independence of the National Assembly and Federal Judiciary. Why is he pocketing them and “freeing” state governance arms? It stinks.

If the President wants to promote true federalism and democracy, he should push for the six geopolitical zones to become the nation’s federating units with power drastically devolved to them. The Federal Government should have no business with the LGCs. The regions should create and legislate on all local government affairs. The respective regions should determine the paces of their development.

Abuja must give power back to the people and stop using Federal might, resources and institutions to drive the expansionist designs of an ethnic group or section. These Executive Orders are Greek gifts!


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