What About Governorship And Other Aspirants?
By Lateef Adewole
In the next one month, “ceteris paribus”, we shall know who the candidates of the various political parties are, especially the “big two”; APC and PDP. And by this time next year, we will already be waiting to swear in another set of elected political office holders, be they returning ones for another term or first timers. We pray everything goes well as planned.
In all of these, it is obvious that the major attention is paid only to the presidency. When commentaries and analysis are seen all over the media, the focus of large percentage of them is on who becomes the next president of Nigeria. It is as if there are no other elective political offices to be filled with aspirants. Our scrutiny has been on the presidential aspirants majorly, while neglecting many other critical positions, especially those of the state governors. Why?
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Apart from that too, there are national assembly membership that is made up of the senators and house of representatives members from each state across the country and FCT. There are state houses of assembly positions in the 36 states of the federation. These are also to be filled. And with their sheer number, they form a critical mass. There are 30 state governors apart from the six stand alone elections, 109 senators, 360 house of Representatives, 774 state lawmakers. These totalling 1,273 offices to be filled. How come such a number is not driving the narratives and be the more of concern to Nigerians?
Such situation is caused by some factors. Our kind of democracy. We practise presidential democracy which we copied from the United States of America (USA). A president is the all-powerful head of government, with enormous powers and responsibilities. Sadly, unlike in the USA, where same is practised, we have a constitution that many believed is fraught with anomalies. Being one given to the country by the military as we were about to begin the democratic journey of the 4th Republic in 1999, though, disguised as “people’s constitution” since some people (civilians) were gathered to coordinate what was believed to be its drafting.
This constitution, versioned after military rule and practices, made the president like a military head of state. He or she has the power of life and death (literally). Nearly every important thing must be deferred to him. All major decisions must be made by him. Hiring, firing, creating and destroying, are all in his hands. He or she is nearly unquestionable in his actions. He can bulldoze his way through other arms of government, which though, independent on paper but have really never exercise such autonomy, oftentimes.
Most times, legislative arm and the judiciary pander to the executive for their survival and effectiveness. Same as other levels of government; state and local. A Nigerian president has enormous power and influence as to determine what happens at these levels at times, if he chooses to. We all can recall the years of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo as the president and his political brigandage, muscling his ways through the national assembly, changing senate presidents and speakers of the house of representatives, like he was changing his pants.
He was removing and replacing governors by instigating their impeachments and (s)electing another through kangaroo elections. Thankfully, all that era has passed with more democratic presidents who succeeded him. The point is, the constitution has so empowered a president of Nigeria that an irascible person could wreck enormous havocs without anyone able to control or stop him.
Another factor is our weak institutions. From the above, judiciary and national assembly are national institutions which are expected to be strong. That would have enabled them exercise their powers independently and serve as checks to any irrational executive. We saw what happened in the USA during the presidency of Donald Trump. But for strong and independent institutions, their democracy, which serves as the baston of hope and democratic example to the rest of the world, could have collapsed with his bullish behaviours and actions.
Other institutions like the electoral body, police, military, courts, and so on, which are very weak in Nigeria, give the president more derived powers since they all quiver when the president sneezes. As all these institutions depend on the president for their existence, how would he not have overriding powers over them? The president appoints and sacks the heads of these institutions, he approves their fundings and all. How can they be truly independent in the real sense of it? As the saying goes, “he who pays the piper, dictates the tune”.
It is the cumulation of all these that makes the position of the president of Nigeria so attractive. This explains the desperation with which individuals, ethnic groups, religious sects and different interest groups, vigorously pursue the position so that they can get there or have their own person there. This is exemplified in what is going on in the country today, with unprecedented number of aspirants from different parties, especially the two major ones, jostling for only one seat. At the last count, 30 were from APC while 15 from PDP. There are many others from all other parties. For what? To be the president!
All these take all our attention away while we neglect the all important states. In reality, the governments closer to the people are the state and local governments. Unfortunately, we take our eyes of the ball as far as they are concerned. Many of us do not even know who are the aspirants for the governorship in our states beyond few, especially where the incumbent is contesting.
We hardly scrutinise them and ask questions about their aspirations, programmes and plans for the state, their qualifications and competence. Their characters and suitability to lead our states. We are all carried away by the charade going on at the federal. This is an advantage to the governors as they are hardly on hot seats because, even after the elections, we do not put pressure on them, demand performance and accountability from them, as much as we do for the president.
Every of our trouble is dumped at the foot of the president while our governors frolic away. Poor schools, poor healthcare, lack of power, bad roads, poor transportation, lack of portable water, insecurities, hunger, unemployment and so on, are all blamed entirely on the president and the federal government, when in actual fact, many of these are the responsibilities of our state governors. Some even belong local governments. Why is this so?
As the submission of forms have closed in the major parties with aspirants waiting for screenings and the primaries, many incumbent governors are likely to get their party tickets, as they have no challengers within their party. This is not usually because of their exceptional performances but because governors are like emperors in their states, in almost all the states, except Lagos. They highjack the party machineries and political structures in their states, and determine what happens there and who gets what.
Otherwise, what would have informed Governor Wike of Rivers, buying up all the forms in his party PDP, for all positions coming out of his state? He has technically determined who will be the candidates and knocked out all contenders against them within that party. That is the example of the unbridled use of power by state governors.
The case with Lagos is peculiar but not far fetched. It just happened that a previous occupier of the government’s house never released the lever of power to succeeding governors. He had so designed it that all his successors never had the powers of their own. They could not build independent political structures, they could not take over the party machineries in the state, they could not be truly independent, without consequences.
The bobby traps and other checks are already set for any maybe-erring governor. So, any governor of Lagos is at the mercy, beck and call of their “master”. All that for self-serving. Not for any altruism. Same for all other persons occupying elective political offices in the state and from the state; the lawmakers at the state and federal. Even at local government levels. It permeates down. Same is applicable to appointive political positions also.
The most spectacular and inspiring of all the aspirants for the governorship today is Professor Zulum of Borno state. It was reported that he does not have anyone contesting against him in his party APC because of his enviable achievements. This is a governor of a seriously troubled state. He inherited terrorism and insecurities, and has been battling them till now. Yet, people could see how wonderful he is doing as a leader.
I recall when he newly got to office, all his actions and dispositions were at variance with what we usually see with other governors. He acted so ordinarily. Some of us simply said that they were gimmicks to win peoples’ hearts. However, after three years, he seemed to remain true to his ways and have been better, even. This is an example of true leadership. Some few others got automatic tickets too, like Lagos, Kwara, and few others.
Interestingly, every time there is speculation as to who best fits to be the vice president from the north, to a southern president in 2023, his name always pops up, whether to Osinbajo or Tinubu or any other aspirant in their party. This is an enviable achievement that other sitting governors or aspirants should emulate. He does not have to force himself on the party or the people. He is on high demand. This was before the north started scheming to shift the goal post in the middle of the game, by declaring interest to contest for the presidency, after eight years of President Buhari, another northerner. Isn’t that ludicrous? That is unacceptable!
As Nigerians, it is important we focus our attention on those who are coming to lead us from our various states too, and not just who becomes the next president. Who are the aspirants that want to represent us at the state assemblies and national assembly? Do we even know them? Are they actually going there to represent us or themselves or the interest of some cabals or godfathers?
We know that in the real sense of it, the citizens have been rigged out of truly determining who leads them at different levels since they are constrained to choose, only from whoever the parties present as their candidates eventually at the general elections. This is a snag. That is why it is important that there should be mass participation and mass involvement of the citizens in political parties. To make the desired positive change can only be done from the inside of the parties. It is from there that the people can make direct impact through their membership of these parties and better things from within.
The primaries are coming soon, where delegates, who can only be party members, will choose who become the party candidates. Party executives are automatic delegates. And they were elected by party members or delegates as well. These underscore the importance of party participation by the citizens.
Let me end this piece by quoting Bertolt Brecht, who said that; “The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies”.
May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.
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