Dr Tony Felix Nwaka
I honestly do not envy the position many Nigerian governors find themselves in, especially as they approach the terminal point of their exit from power. I mean, let’s be honest with ourselves, who would, after working so hard to create applaudable legacies, not want a successor that would protect and consolidate those achievements?
Sadly, in recent history, the efforts of virtually all the governors to impose a successor singularly (or in collusion with a cabal) have either been a woeful failure, with calamitous consequences for the outgoing governor or, where such governor succeeds in installing his preferred candidate, the result has always been a disastrous repudiation of his expectations.
In Lagos State, where we have arguably the most enduring political dynasty in the country today, Governor Raji Fashola’s relationship with his benefactor was so tumultuous that the route through which he escaped the hammer of Jagaban was narrower than a rabbit’s hole. Ambode wasn’t so lucky. Sanwo-Olu’s fate remains uncertain as he is still in his days of honeymoon.
In Akwa Ibom State, Governor Godswill Akpabio had won the hearts of the people with his astonishing infrastructural achievements, among which was perhaps the finest stadium in West Africa.
And in choosing a successor to protect those legacies, he picked his loyal secretary to state government, Udom Emmanuel. But what is the story today? The two men have so fallen out that they now at daggers drawn in opposing political parties.
In Edo State, Governor Adams Oshiomole probably felt that the traditional politicians who brought him to power could not be trusted. The vision of a technocrat would be more aligned to his professional perspectives.
So he chose his beloved Godwin Obaseki, the Chairman of his Economic and Strategy Team. I guess we do not need to rehash the recent experiences in Edo State and what today has become of that Oshiomole-Obaseki relationship.
In Anambra State, Governor Peter Obi calculated that no one could be more trusted than a man with whom he managed billions of money in local and foreign currencies. I mean, if pecuniary interests could not injure their many years of friendship, what else would?
So he chose a director in his bank, Willy Obiano, to succeed him as governor. And what happened? Less than six months in office Willy Obiano could hardly allow Peter Obi to step into the government house in Awka.
Their relationship degenerated so irretrievably that Obi worked vigorously to prevent Obiano from returning for a second term in office. But Obiano prevailed.
The most pathetic of them all was what played out in Abia State. Theodore Orji was in detention when Governor Orji Kalu withstood all odds to campaign and install him as his successor.
Yea, Theodore Orji was ensconced in prison whilst the battle of his election raged. Orji Kalu took all the bullets to ensure the election of a man that had served him as chief of staff. Theodore Orji emerged from detention to be sworn in as governor. Yet, in less than six months, he went for the jugular of Orji Kalu. The rest, as they say, is history.
But the tale is not ended. There was another mind-boggling experience. This time, it involved a veteran of Nigerian politics. He needed no tutorials on the shifty character of many politicians. He wasn’t going to fall victim to it.
So he rather picked his son as a successor to his earlier choice, whom he felt had let him down. After all, blood is thicker than water. His son cannot fail him or betray the family. And to make assurance doubly sure, he had raised his son as a shining specimen of his personality, including training him to become a medical doctor like himself.
So, he installed his son to succeed the renegade that had served for just one term. What happened? Father and son so fell out that when the son was running for a second term in office as governor, the father was in another political party campaigning for a stranger to dethrone his son. Ludicrous, you’ll say? Well, that is the story of Olushola Saraki and Bukola Saraki in Kwara State.
Now, when one thinks of the extraordinary lengths those outgoing governors and godfathers went to install their preferred successors, the humongous resources expended, the enemies they made and friends they lost in the process, and the eventual betrayal by those same successors, one begins to wonder if plotting to install a successor is worth all the trouble (Given that it’s all happening within the confines of same political party).
Having learnt from history that, no matter the pretences or assurances from prospective successors, they will always chart their course when they find themselves in power, is it not better for a governor to focus on building enduring legacies and not bother himself about who is coming after him or what will be the policies of who comes after him?
I believe that even if his successor decides to denigrate his achievements or demonize and ostracize him and his inner circle of followers, his achievements would always speak for him in the public consciousness (That is if they are true accomplishments in the strict sense of the word). This, in my view, appears a better option than wasting time and resources on a futile chase for the ideal successor.
•Dr Tony Felix Nwaka is author of ‘Mountain of Yesterday’