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A reminder to retiring Nigerian governors

Nigeria GovernorsI have watched the disengagement antics of retiring governors with interest over the past six months, and I feel impelled to pen them this open advisory about the vanity of political greed and godfatherism. The retiring governors are those who have occupied the exalted seats for the maximum two terms and will be handing over to fresh hands by May 29, 2015.

Some of them do not actually plan to retire. They are plotting to dig in deeper and attempt to graft their children, brothers, in-laws or “trusted” friends and associates either as governors or principal figures in the coming legislatures at the state or federal levels. Many of them have served notice that they will be going to the Senate.

This seems very popular among governors of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. We know, for instance, that the governors of Abia, Chief Theodore Orji (Ochendo Global); Delta, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan; Enugu, Sullivan Chime; Benue, Gabriel Suswam; Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio and others, are in this charmed circle. It is still a mystery why Governor Sule Lamido, who was a member of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic over 30 years ago, has resisted the temptation to go to the Senate, even after he stepped down his presidential ambition.

I do not know why the trend is not quite the same in the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC. Perhaps it is because most of their retiring governors are eyeing the presidential or running mate ticket. We are aware that Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers; Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of Edo and Babatunde Fashola of Lagos, are being named for Vice President. Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano is running for president. Majority of APC governors are first-termers, anyway.

The politics of anointment of successors has become very popular among retiring governors. Most of them say it is because they want their laudable programmes to be continued. But the main reason for the overwhelming instinct to produce a favoured successor is self-preservation. After eight years in power, spending the resources of the state the way they want without let or hindrance from any quarters (including the House of Assembly that is supposed to check executive excesses) out-going governors need closure or individuals who will protect their interests.

In the past, the motive was more insidious. Departing governors wanted to install stooges who were assumed to be so docile that they would allow the departed governors or godfathers to run the government house from the comfort of their private homes. Such a flight of fancy has usually come unstuck in the end, resulting in very bruising experiences for the departed governors. We saw it in Abia, Rivers, Enugu, Anambra, Zamfara, Borno, Gombe and others. The new men simply took over and later on, put their sponsors in the political doghouse sooner or later.

Right now, most of the governors are doing it to at least be allowed to live in peace. One of them said in an interview recently: “You have to make sure that the person who takes over from you is someone you know very well. You cannot leave it open, otherwise one mad man will come here and ensure you don’t have a moment’s peace in your house”.

In the quest for that candidate who will suit the needs of the retiring governor, matters are often taken to ridiculous ends. The concept of zoning is often skewed to ensure it favours a carefully preconceived choice. Once that is done, the retiring governor then brings out his entire weight, structure and of course, the treasury of the state, to support such a chosen one. The usual upshot is that many legitimate aspirants for that office, some of them with sounder track records of achievement that would raise the level of leadership in the state, will be shut out.

Newcomers requiring to inject new values are forced out. Old hands who are not the preferred choices of the governor are left in the cold. Some of these chaps are quite popular within the party and the populace.

The just-concluded ward congresses of the PDP witnessed a lot of this phenomenon, whereby large numbers of aspirants who are not favoured by the retiring governors or higher-level stakeholders were not allowed to position their people as party’s delegates to the forth-coming governorship primaries. They were not even allowed to see the electoral materials, let alone failing to win as a result of the popularity of the governors’ preferred candidates. Most of the retiring governors are using politics of exclusion to plant their successors while those not favoured will either fall in line or “do their worst”.

The consequences of this trend will be terrible in the various political parties where this is taking place. It is difficult to maintain a united political party after excluding people from their legitimate aspirations.

Governors who shut out people’s legitimate aspirations love themselves above their political parties. In these days of a strong two-party system, the strongest opposition party will enjoy a bonanza.Most candidates will remain loyal to the party if they fought and lost on a level ground. But if they are shut out ab initio, the impulse to fight the party is usually overwhelming.

Finally, it must be borne in mind that in politics, the man you pushed everyone out to implant as your successor governor is very likely to be the first to bite you. Even if he wants to remain loyal, the people who will surround him (including the hangers-on he inherited from you) will pressure him to shut you out and “be his own man”. Every small, innocuous move from you will be read as an attempt to “rule from his house”.

Give everybody a level ground. Whoever emerges will respect you, even protect you because you were fair. Your party will be stronger, and you will eventually be happier for it. A word is enough for the wise.

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