Almost a month after coming into office, some governors are still playing the politics of succession rather than the politics of inclusive governance, which should refocus the people from the poverty, apathy and indifference of the indecisive last eight years at all levels of government.
In some states, the matter is historical. In others, it is about dominance. Yet, there is a third where vengeance drives the fight, according to THEWILL’s investigation.
In the first category, Akwa Ibom takes the lead, while Plateau state fits the second category and Kano, the third. In all, the governors are on a warpath with their predecessors and would deploy state power, influence and cash to ward off harm.
HISTORY IN AKWA IBOM
First governor of the state under the new democratic dispensation since 1999 was Victor Attah.
Few months after leaving office and on the day he assumed the leadership of the Ibibio ethnic nationality group, Akwa Esop Imaisong Ibibio, Attah told his audience at a reception about “one painful regret” he had since leaving office in 2007.
“The one regret I have is that, though I left with a successor, I left without succession.”
The jibe was directed at Godswill Akpabio, his successor. Akpabio is the current President of the Senate.
Both men fell apart in the run-up to the 2007 election after outgoing Attah attempted to make his son-in-law succeed him and failed and Akpabio, who had been Commissioner under him, snatched the party ticket and won the election instead.
After serving his two-term tenure in office, Akpabio was to complain bitterly to his close associates about his successor, Udom Emmanuel, accusing him of betrayal and sending DSS and EFCC operatives after him over alleged corrupt practices while he was governor.
Akpabio however managed to secure a senatorial ticket and like his predecessor, Attah did, had to apologise before a crowd at Ikot Ekpene Plaza at the verge of the 2019 election, saying he made a mistake in choosing Udom Emmanuel as his successor. He begged for forgiveness and swore to work against Emmanuel’s second term ambition
“Udom (Emmanuel) is a mistake that must be corrected in 2019. All hands must be on deck to ensure that the mistake is corrected for a people-oriented leadership under the ruling All Progressives Congress at the centre,” Akpabio told the crowd.
History appears to be repeating itself in the state with the renewed fight between Governor Umo Eno and the immediate past governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel.
Less than a month after he was sworn into office, Mr. Eno has moved to break away from the strings of his godfather and predecessor, Emmanuel. THEWILL learnt that the chummy relationship has unfortunately broken down irretrievably.
Eno, who felt stifled by Udom’s domineering and dictatorial attitude has forcefully broken loose from the apron strings of his former boss and now operates on his own terms, only answering to himself.
It was all rosy in the beginning with Eno worming his way into Emmanuel’s life in the early days of his first term in office, through a religious-political organisation known as Fathers of Faith. He was also projected by the former governor’s friend, clergyman, Apostle Lawrence Achudume, founder of Victory Life Bible Church International.
This subsequently earned him an appointment in Emmanuel’s cabinet during his second term in office as the Commissioner for Lands and Housing. Although he played big in the hospitality business for many years, building hotels and eateries, Eno had his sights set on bigger things. He played his subservient and loyal role perfectly and this endeared him to Emmanuel, who decided to make him his successor.
Naturally, successors in Nigeria’s political space are without being told, expected to remain loyal to their predecessors and pander to their requests. While some have maintained this gentleman agreement, either for fear of the unknown or simply out of reverence, not a few have had to break free from the influence of their godfathers to become their own man. And this Eno has done without wasting time, barely before the fanfare of his inauguration died down.
Problems began between the two when Emmanuel decided he wanted to be solely responsible for determining who occupies key political positions in the state. Besides wanting his cronies to be appointed into Eno’s cabinet, he wanted to also be the one to determine who becomes Speaker of the State House of Assembly as well as Secretary to the State Government. He wanted to impose a member of the House, Ukpong Akpabio, as the Assembly’s speaker.
Ukpong is a nephew of Godswill Akpabio, who has been Emmanuel’s arrowhead in his onslaught against the new Senate President.
It is common knowledge in the state that Emmanuel and his predecessor do not see eye to eye despite the fact that it was Akpabio’s wife, Unoma, who allegedly recommended him to her husband as his successor.
Ukpong past caring, chose to take sides with an outsider against the family. Unfortunately, he didn’t emerge as the Speaker as Eno vowed not to let that happen. He had confided in a source close to THEWIILL saying about Emmanuel, “He thinks I’m a baby and wants to impose people on me.”
Eno’s preferred candidate, Udeme Otong, eventually emerged Speaker, leaving Emmanuel dazed by the blow dealt to him by his political godson. To make matters worse, Eno now openly aligns with the senior Akpabio, who he joined his predecessor in solidarity to vilify while he was in office. He was seen at Akpabio’s Abuja home on the morning of the day principal officers were elected in the National Assembly to pay homage to him, thus technically lending his support to his Senate presidency ambition.
Contacted, a media aide to the ex-governor, Essien Ndueso, said the relationship between his boss and Governor Eno was cordial, adding that if the ex-governor had cause to nominate someone for appointment, “It is incumbent on the governor to respect his predecessor.”
DOMINANCE IN PLATEAU STATE
Unlike Akwa Ibom state where the past has been repeating itself, the game of dominance is in full flight in Plateau state.
The governor’s recent sacking of all 17 Local Government Chairmen through the agency of the House of Assembly is seen as a proxy war between Governor Caleb Mutfwang and his predecessor, Simon Lalong. When the All Progressives Congress, APC, administration under Lalong unceremoniously dissolved the Local Government Councils in 2015, the governor not only ensured that his party won all the seats in a new poll but the two Local Government won by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, commandeered by the APC administration.
Basking in the wave of a landslide victory, Governor Mutfwang, who was Chairman of Mangu Local Government in 2015 when Lalong sacked the Chairman of LGA, struck but this time round through the agency of the legislature which brushed aside the protest of the Chairmen who challenged the seeming illegality of the gesture.
Protests by the 17 LGA Chairmen through their spokesperson that the government’s action violated Section 37 of local government council law and Section 7 of the Constitution, were brushed aside by the government.
According to Hon Alex Naantum, Chairman of Shendam LGA, Section 37 of the local government council law states that just like the Governor, who cannot be suspended from office because he is the chief executive of the state, so it is with the chairmen of local government councils. Section 7 of the constitution, states that, “the system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is guaranteed under this Constitution guaranteed.”
Faced with the resistance of the LGA Chairman, the government was said to have got the support of the immediate past Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba Alkali, who ordered the Commissioner of Police in the state to seal the council’s Chairmen offices, a move the local APC publicity Secretary, Sylvanus Namang, described as “illegality and assault on the rule of law.”
Justice Ishaku Kunda of the Plateau State High Court had adjourned to September 22, 2023 to resume hearing on the pending motions and substantive suit filed by the 17 Chairmen challenging their illegal removal and the truncation of three years’ tenure in office.
After securing an order from Justice Ishaku Kunda of the State High Court of Plateau state fort stay of execution served on the governor not to dissolve the LGAs, the state chapter of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, paid a courtesy visit to the Commissioner of Police in the State, Bartholomew Onyeka, to express their concern on the matter.
Speaking on the development on Friday, Chairman of Shendam LGA, Hon. Alex Miskoom Naantum, said, “I want us to put our energy together to fight our common enemy’s, not to continue to engage ourselves in what we could best describe as political fight , which is not going to be in the interest of our political setting which we have grown beyond.”
In fact, it got so bad that the citizens of Jos South LGA had to chase the Chairman, Gideon Dandarin, out of office.
Lalong is said to be sad about the development but chose to be quiet over the issue because he too is battling for political survival. Having lost the race for the position of Secretary to Government of the Federation to Senator George Akume, he is said to be unwilling to rock the boat which may generate a controversy to his disadvantage in the scheme of things in the politics of his party.
A source close to him confided in this newspaper that the former government is lying low in order not to jeopardise chances in his party, where the position of National Chairman of the party is still open for Lalong’s North Central geo-political zone.
VENGEANCE IN KANO
The ongoing supremacy battle between Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf of Kano and ex-Governor Abdullahi Ganduje is already in the public domain in its particulars except that the context stretches back to 2019 when the incumbent was saved through a controversial supplementary poll that followed and attack on local governments collation centres by thugs believed to have been supervised by Deputy Governor Nasiru Gawuna, after exit poll showed that Yusuf led Ganduje by 26,000.
In the 2023 poll which he eventually won on the platform of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP led by Ganduje’s political foe, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso who had also supported his 2019 contest on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Yusuf, was said to be vowed to exact his pound of flesh from Ganduje, particularly when the ex-governor was alleged to have pumped money into the April 15, 2023 supplementary elections for the inconclusive National Assembly polls in 2023, all in a bid to checkmate NNPP as the new power bloc in Kano.
Thus, once he assumed power, Yusuf moved against Ganduje. In the course of the confrontation, many perceived innocent corporate and professional groups were caught in the fight as seen in the demolition of structures believed to have been acquired by Ganduje through proxies but which actually belonged to developers, communities, and corporate organisations.
It took the intervention of President Bola Tinubu to halt the demolition, which the governor claimed had defaced the metropolis.
In his reaction, a chieftain of the APC who appealed to President Tinubu to intervene, Alhaji Alhassan Yarya, said “If the government likes, let it demolish flyovers Ganduje built or the uncompleted projects he (Ganduje) inherited from Kwankwaso and completed them. We can’t continue to waste public funds by demolishing places built with billions of naira just because the new government is not on good terms with the former”
In some states like Abia, Governor Alex Oti of the Labour Party and his predecessor of the PDP, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, are still engaged in a war of words which may blossom into a full -scale fight if nothing concrete happens. A state where workers’ salaries have remained unpaid for several months and pension payment has stagnated, a popular government like Otti’s may do the unthinkable. The main issue is the health of the finances of the state.
Only two days ago, both men renewed their war of the finances: Otti maintained that records show Ikpeazu left N191 billion debt in addition to an alleged N50 billion in unpaid salaries, gratuities and pensions and local and foreign debt in the region of N200 billion owed contractors.
Media aide to Ikpeazu claimed that the preceding administration perfected a $50 million World Bank loan and another $200 million African Development Bank loan, which, he said, are now available for the new administration, adding that the new administration received N24 billion on 9 June, which he (Ikpeazu) processed.
Otti said the claim and figures are “fictitious.”
NO DIFFERENCE IN ZAMFARA
The case in Zamfara State is not different as the new governor, Dauda Lawal, has taken on his predecessor, Bello Matawalle, saying he (Lawal) is on a ”rescue mission” in the state. A fortnight ago, the governor embarked on the recovery of over 40 vehicles from his predecessor, an action that has been widely condemned by Matawalle’s supporters, who are accusing Lawal of witch-hunting and victimisation.
The vehicles, including three bulletproof cars and eight Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), were recovered during a raid carried out by the Police on the properties of the former governor in the state capital, Gusau, and his hometown, Maradun, as well as other locations in the state.
Moving against a backlash of criticisms and allegations trailing the seizures, Governor Lawal, who is from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, could not help but ”celebrate” the recovery of the loot.
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity), Suleiman Idris, the governor provided a background to his actions as he confirmed that the state government’s stolen property had been recovered during the operation.
“The Zamfara State Government has cleared the air on the operation of the Nigeria Police Force that led to the recovery of vehicles looted by the former State Governor, Bello Mohammaed Matawalle. In the early hours of Friday, The Nigeria Police Force stormed the residence of the former Governor, where over 40 vehicles were impounded.
“The Police acted on a court order and a search warrant was obtained for the operation. Recall that the Zamfara State Government communicated officially to former Governor Bello Matawalle and his Deputy to return all the missing vehicles within five (5) working days. We also lodged an official complaint with the Police on overriding public interest on wasteful looting of valuables, including official vehicles.
“Consequently, the Police sought a search warrant, which was duly given by the court and hence raided Matawalle’s residence in Gusau, Maradun Local Government, and another unidentified hideout. Over 40 vehicles were recovered including three bulletproof vehicles and eight SUVs.
“We want to reaffirm our commitment to recover all that belongs to the people. Our common resolve is to rescue and rebuild Zamfara. Recovering the proceeds of crime and public assets is a critical part of our rescue mission. We want to call on the people of Zamfara to remain calm as we continue to record massive improvements in the areas of security and the lingering water scarcity in the state,” the governor said in the statement.
Matawalle is however fighting back, saying most of the cars seized were personal gifts to him as well as the ones he bought for his car dealership business before becoming governor in 2019. He also claimed that the personal property of his family members were forcefully taken away during the raids, adding that some items already bought for his daughter’s upcoming wedding were not spared during the raids he described as barbaric.
With new administrations just kicking off in several states across the federation, THEWILL expects more clashes between some governors and their overbearing predecessors in the coming months as we keep a close tab on developments in Delta, Kaduna, Rivers and Cross River States.