The Sad Political Fate Of Nigerian Deputy Governors By: Amir Abdulazeez

It is now time for us to ask Nigerian Governors on why they do not want their deputies to succeed them. Alternatively, we may ask the Deputy Governors as to what are their sins which are so dreadful that their bosses wouldn’t want them to succeed them. A Deputy Governor should naturally be the person with the best chance to succeed an outgoing Governor, going by the fact that he is constitutionally mandated to take over from him in the event of any unforeseen circumstance like death, impeachment or incapacitation.  Furthermore, a Deputy is seen as the closest working ally of his principal and probably that’s why the constitution gave an exclusive right to the Governor to determine his running mate. However, this is not the case here in Nigeria, particularly in this dispensation.

Since the beginning of this 4th republic, after the return of democracy in 1999 up to today, only one Deputy Governor has been able to succeed his boss with the consent of that boss. That man is the former Governor and former Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi, who succeeded Senator Ahmad Sani Yariman Bakura. Meanwhile, midway through Shinkafi’s tenure, he fell out with Senator Ahmad Sani and the Governor had to decamp to PDP from ANPP where he eventually lost out to the Senator’s candidate in 2011.

There are a handful of other Deputy Governors that were able to succeed their Governors whose seats were made vacant by divine occurrences like death and by controversial circumstances like impeachments or through some one form of political crises or the other. For example Dr. Goodluck Jonathan succeeded Chief Diepreye Alamasiegha (one of only two Governors in Nigeria that were successfully impeached without staging a come-back through the courts, the other is Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and probably Murtala Nyako of Adamawa if he loses his case in court) as Governor of Bayelsa State after the Bayelsa State House of Assembly impeached the latter on the grounds of corruption and money laundering.  Mukhtar Ramalan Yero of Kaduna State and Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State, hitherto Deputy Governors, became Governors after the deaths of Sir Patrick Yakowa (plane crash) and Senator Mamman Ali (illness) respectively. Adebayo Alao Akala of Oyo State became Governor for a brief spell after Governor Rashidi Ladoja was controversially impeached before the courts restored him to power. Late Michael Botmang of Plateau State became Governor briefly after the Plateau State House of Assembly were allegedly forced to controversially impeach Chief Joshua Dariye but was later restored to power by the courts, few weeks before the end of his tenure. Mr. Peter Gregory Obi of Anambra State was impeached in similar circumstances and Madam Virgin Etiaba became Governor briefly before the courts reinstated him. Recently, former Adamawa State Deputy Governor, Barrister Bala James Ngilari became Governor after a political drama involving him, his boss and the State House of Assembly unfolded. Up till now, Ngilari’s former boss Murtala Nyako is still contesting his impeachment in court, making it likely for him to return and relegate Ngilari to his former position.

Away from impeachments, political crises and battles brought some Deputy Governors to power. Aliyu Wammako, the current Governor of Sokoto State became Governor after one of the fiercest political battles with his former boss, Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa. Wammako resigned, left the ANPP to the PDP and with the Federal Government’s backing, defeated Bafarawa’s candidate who contested under DPP.

All the above Deputy Governors became Governors without a slight proof indicating that they will be supported by their bosses to succeed them without the occurrence of the various circumstances that brought them to power.

Currently, in Taraba, it is not of the wish of Governor Danbaba Suntai’s closest men and loyalists that the Deputy Governor and Acting Governor, Garba Umar (who has been acting since Suntai was away for 25 months) who is currently governing the state, despite the fact that they should be more concerned with helping Suntai to fully regain his health. It is interesting to note that Suntai was alleged to have masterminded the ouster of his former Deputy and have him replaced with the current Acting Governor some few weeks before his tragic plane crash. The former Deputy Governor has been challenging his removal and it was only after a recent court ruling against him that prevented us from seeing more drama in Taraba. One would naturally assume that Suntai’s men would be comfortable with the Acting Governor since he was the most recent recruit of Suntai.

Apart from all these, we have seen how Governors and their deputies have lived with bad blood and misunderstanding between them, in some cases just because the deputies have shown interest in succeeding them.  May be it is the fault of the Deputy Governors because it seems all of them have only one ambition, that of succeeding their bosses. Probably, if they pursue other ambitions, they might have succeeded. However, a particular Deputy Governor, having known so well that his boss will not support him if he decides to succeed him, went for a senatorial ticket under the PDP. Incidentally, his boss was also eyeing a senatorial seat of a different constituency. The Governor was alleged to have denied his Deputy the senatorial ticket on the ground that he cannot sit on equal terms in the same chamber with his former Deputy.

Some Governors have forced their deputies out of office through politically motivated impeachments and or consistent persecutions and denial of responsibilities as we witnessed recently in Imo and Enugu States. Some bizarre excuses as trivial as running poultry in Government House were relied upon in impeaching some Deputy Governors.

In Jigawa State, former Governor Ibrahim Saminu Turaki served his 8 years with three deputies and in Bauchi, Governor Yuguda had to part with Garba Gadi in controversial circumstances. In other states like Kano, we have seen how former Governor Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau did not end well with the two Deputy Governors that served him, both tried to succeed him.

The refusal of some Deputy Governors to defect with their Governors and the counter defections of some Deputy Governors to different political parties from their bosses also indicate a sign of silent internal conflicts between most Nigerian Governors and their deputies.

Sometimes, it looks as if the fault is from the Deputy Governors, but we have seen cases where some deputies have been very loyal and obedient to their bosses for 8 years, some of them seem like worshiping the Governors and this often makes them too inferior, humiliating and very unpopular especially if the Governor is also not popular with the people, but more often than not, this loyalty counts for nothing at the end. Instead of the Governors to reward with their support, they end up supporting their SSGs, commissioners or even party stalwarts outside their cabinets. In other cases, they will support a complete outsider. For example Late Yakowa (Makarfi’s Deputy) was there and willing to serve, when Governor Ahmed Makarfi anointed Namadi Sambo, a complete outsider (Sambo had not even been a PDP member six months earlier, and after his victory had to be prompted to remember the party slogan) and still asked Yakowa to serve as Sambo’s Deputy which Yakowa patiently did. Former Kano Deputy Governor, Abdullahi Gwarzo was there and interested, when Shekarau anointed his commissioner (although he was also his personal friend). This happened with Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara who was Bukola Saraki’s Commissioner; Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno was Ali Modu Sheriff’s Commissioner; Godswill Akpabio of Akwa-Ibom State was Obong Victor Attah’s former Commissioner; Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue, who was a House of Representatives Member was preferred by George Akume to his Deputy; Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross Rivers, a former senator was preferred by Donald Duke to his Deputy. The list can go on and on, but you will not hear the name of a single Deputy Governor. Any other person is better in the eyes of a Governor than his Deputy. This is inspite of the fact that most deputies possess the relevant and pre-requisite experience to continue from where the Governor stops.

Apart from President Jonathan and some few Deputy Governors in the Senate Chamber and some very few others that became Ministers, almost all the people who became deputy governors from 1999 to date have had their political careers brought to an abrupt end, simply because their Governors only see them as mere spare tyres that doesn’t deserve anything better. Even Jonathan probably wouldn’t have become what he is today, if his boss wasn’t impeached or if his fate had depended on the boss and not on the events that unfolded.

Section 187 of the 1999 constitution has identified a Deputy Governor as someone whom the office of the Governor cannot come into existence and operation without. This officially shows that, no one is close to the Governor and deserves the Governor’s trust like his Deputy; after all he was the one who chose him in the first place. But why is it that, the Governors do not want to support their deputies? Some people accept to serve as Deputy Governors in the first place with the hope that after the boss completes his tenure; he will be supported by him to continue. Our assumption is that anyone whom you work with as your second in command for four or eight years would be the best man to succeed you.

Is it that these deputies are so unpopular that they cannot win elections on their own, that’s why the Governors don’t support them? Or is it that they were accidently chosen by the Governors in the first place or they were imposed on them by consensus or circumstance and they were never their choices? Are the Governors afraid of betrayal from their deputies if they succeed them? The loyalty and obedience we see from the Deputy Governors are just done in the open but that’s not the real case meaning they may be hypocrites? Are the Governors jealous and wicked or are they afraid that they cannot control the deputies when they hand over power to them?

I cannot provide a satisfying answer to any of the questions above. Only the Governors and the deputies can do that. But, I once heard from a reliable source, when a Deputy Governor was handing over to another Deputy Governor in a state in his office, here was what he told him: ‘my brother, the Deputy Governorship is the most difficult political office in Nigeria because, when the Governor performs well, he takes the credit alone and when he performs woefully, you share the blame’. True or false, this statement reflects some form of reality.

There are some Governors who are fair enough by deliberately recruiting politically weak, old and unambitious Deputy Governors who would be more than happy to serve only as deputies and would not trouble them with any succession bid. It is alleged that some even tell their potential running mates point blank that they are not going to succeed them; others even make it a condition. It is really confusing as to why someone would mistrust a very loyal number two with power.

As 2015 election draws near, it appears, with the exception of probably Kano State, there is no single state in Nigeria where a serving Deputy Governor is seen as a frontline contestant or a powerful candidate. Even if there exist, there is no strong indication that such deputies would be supported by their Governors. This is the sad political fate of Nigerian Deputy Governors.

We now wait to see whether there would be an unlikely change to this phenomenon in 2015. If that doesn’t change, I would personally advice any person who has the ambition of becoming Governor in Nigeria, never to accept the position of Deputy Governor, because it is a minus rather than a plus to his ambition. Governors are very powerful in Nigeria and they don’t give a damn on the ambition of their deputies.

However, despite all these, we should remember that power comes from God alone and maybe He hasn’t decided to give it to the deputy Governors!


Articles on are solely authors opinion

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