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JUST IN:GOVS/DEPUTY War Cracks: Who will save the embattled second-in-command?

GOVS/DEPUTY War Cracks: Who will save the embattled second-in-command?……CONTINUE READING>>>>>>

As the friction between governors and their supposed second-in-commands rages on across the country, IMOLEAYO OYEDEYI offers the two sides of the deep-seated issue plaguing the Nigerian political system and its serial implication to the country’s democracy, which has seen no fewer than 16 deputy governors booted out of office in the last 23 years.

Since 1999 when the journey to democratic governance restarted in Nigeria, one of the deep-seated issues that have consistently plagued the country’s political system is the tussle that often springs up between state principals and their once trusted second-in-commands. Section 187 (1) of the extant laws of the land (The 1999 constitution) clearly stated that “In any election to which the foregoing provisions of this part of this chapter relate, a candidate for the office of governor of a state shall not be deemed to have been validly nominated for such office unless he nominates another candidate as his associate for the office of a governor, who is to occupy the office of the deputy governor, and that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of deputy governor if the candidate who nominated him is duly elected as governor in accordance with the said provisions.”

16 deputy governors sacked in 23 years

But despite this provision, holders of the deputy governor’s office have continued to suffer what many have described as immeasurable and unjustifiable humiliations from their principals in virtually all the states of the federation. In the last 23 years, investigations by Sunday Tribune showed that no fewer than 16 deputy governors have been booted out of office through impeachment surreptitiously plotted by the governors but brazenly carried out by the state assemblies. In fact, in the present dispensation (Fourth Republic), only two outgoing governors could be said to have ensured their deputies succeeded them. The first was Sani Yerima, who as governor of Zamfara State between 1999 and 2007, endorsed and worked for the emergence of his then deputy, Aliyu Shinkafi, as his successor, while the second remains Rabiu Kwankwaso, who made sure that Abdullahi Ganduje, present national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), having served as his deputy (2007 and 2007/2011 and 2015), succeeded him. But aside from these, no other governor in the last two decades has graciously transferred the baton of leadership to his deputies after the conclusion of his constitutional terms in office, a development, observers believe, drives home the point that most of the outgone governors deliberately left out the supposed right-hand men in their succession plans aside under-utilising them.

Due to the alleged political witch-hunting, some deputy governors in the country were made to resign in the past, even though several others were impeached. Among those who resigned their positions after falling out with their principals (governors) include Kofo Bucknor-Akerele (Lagos, 2002), Ibrahim Kwatalo (Jigawa, 2002), Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia, 2003), Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti, 2006), Aliyu Wamako (Sokoto, 2006), Suleiman Argungu (Kebbi, 2012), Nuhu Gidado (Bauchi, 2015), and Hafiz Abubakar (Kano, 2018).

Between 2000 and now, some of the deputy governors removed through impeachment have been Iyiola Omisore (Osun, 2002), Abiodun Aluko (Ekiti, 2005), Chris Ekpenyong (Akwa-Ibom, 2005), Femi Pedro (Lagos, 2007), Garba Gadi (Bauchi, 2009), Peremobewei Ebebi (Bayelsa, 2010), Jude Agbaso (Imo 2013), Ali Olanusi (Ondo, 2015), Eze Madumere (Imo, 2018), Peremobowei Ebebi (Bayelsa, 2010), Abubakar Danladi (Taraba, 2012), Stanley Onyebuchi (2014), Eze Madumere (Imo, 2018), Mahdi Aliyu Gusau (Zamfara, 2022) and Rauf Olaniyan (Oyo, 2022).

In the eye of the storm

In 2023, two deputy governors have so far been in the eye of the storm: Lucky Aiyedatiwa, Ondo State and phiilip Shaibu, Edo State. Like his two predecessors (Olanusi and Agboola), Aiyedatiwa was on the verge of being axed out of office in September when the state House of Assembly initiated impeachment proceedings against him. In the notice of impeachment letter, dated September 20, 2023, written and signed by 11 lawmakers, including the speaker, Oladiji Olamide Adesanmi, Aiyedatiwa was accused of of “gross misconduct, abuse of office with actions likely to bring down Ondo State Government, financial recklessness, publication in print media by your media aides maligning the credibility of the governor, etc”.

Aiyedatiwa’s impeachment saga was a fallout of a petition read against him on the floor of the assembly in which he was, among other allegations, accused of illegally taking out N300 million from the state palliative funds for the procurement of a bulletproof Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) intended for his personal use. But in a swift response, a close aide of the embattled deputy governor had absolved him of any wrongdoing, describing the allegation as a fabricated lie to smear his image. The aide had anonymously told Nigerian Tribune that, “There was no such SUV in existence and at no time did the deputy governor or anyone for that matter purchase any armoured SUV for the use of his office.

“The acting governor did not purchase any vehicle at any time. As of today, there is no official armoured vehicle in his convoy. In fact, the armoured Mercedes Benz SUV he uses as his official car is his personal vehicle which he has been using since he became deputy governor. Every item in government procurement has a budget head and, therefore, it is not possible to bypass the budget and use palliatives money for the purchase of government vehicles.

“The mention of palliatives in the false media reports is an attempt to turn the good people of Ondo State against the Deputy Governor in order to attract public support for the illegality being planned against him. The people of Ondo Stage are more intelligent than to fall for such cheap lies,” the aide had said.

Speaking in a similar vein, Aiyedatiwa’s counsel, Mr. Ige Asemudara, said his client’s ordeal in the state is not totally unconnected with both the succession and governorship election of the state in 2024. Asemudara, who disclosed this while featuring on Channels TV’s Politics Today programme some weeks ago, said, “One of the severe issues we have in this country is an abuse of legal process. In your introduction, you said maybe the political crisis in Ondo is about the next election. I can tell you this is not unconnected with the permutations of the November governorship election in Ondo State.”

But while the state’s Chief Judge, Olusegun Odusola, initially halted Aiyedatiwa’s impeachment process by refusing to set up a panel to investigate the 14 offences levelled against him by the Ondo lawmakers following a subsisting order of the Federal High Court in Abuja, the national leadership of the APC headed by Ganduje had since risen to douse the political storm in the state by appealing to the warring parties to sheathe their sword.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday after meeting with a delegation of the Ondo House of Assembly lawmakers and the party reconciliation committee chaired by former Katsina State Governor, Bello Masari, in Abuja, Ganduje said by suspending the impeachment proceedings against Aiyedatiwa, the state assembly has created an atmosphere for dialogue to continue.

“I have to thank the state assembly for agreeing to suspend the impeachment process and give room for a political solution to the problem. As the reconciliation chairman has mentioned, they haven’t met the governor and his deputy yet. But they met all the stakeholders. That was what warranted the meeting today.

“We believe that we will reach a political solution. APC, as a political party, is an institution that is indispensable to democracy.

“Therefore, apart from our basic function for recruitment of membership, elected officers, and appointed officers, it is our responsibility to see that all the ethics of democracy are followed and crisis averted in our government, both at the sub-national level and at the international level. It is a political crisis and we are a political institution,” the APC chairman said.

Meanwhile, like Aiyedatiwa, the current deputy governor of Edo State, Mr Philip Shaibu felt similar impeachment heat in August, but the same Abuja High Court also rescued him by issuing an order stopping the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, from impeaching him over their irreconcilable differences. In what some observers see as blatant humiliation, the Edo deputy governor had since been denied access to his old office at the Government House in Benin, the state capital. Instead, the state government has relocated his office to No.7 Dennis Osadebey Avenue, close to the Government House, a structure reportedly abandoned and in dire need of rehabilitation. But both the governor and his deputy have since reached a rapprochement after Shaibu made a public apology. But what happens next, only God can tell.

State assemblies and “imaginary” definition of gross misconduct

As it was for the two men, so also it has been for several other deputy governors that had been elected in the country since 1999. Amid all, one offence the state assemblies have always premised the decision to impeach any deputy governor on is gross misconduct. But to avoid any ambiguity, Section 188 (sub-section 11) clearly defines “gross misconduct” as “a grave violation or breach of the provisions of the constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion in the House of Assembly to gross misconduct.” It is this section of the constitution that members of the various state assemblies usually invoke any time they are directed by governors to remove their deputies. With this, the question on the lips of many observers is whether each of the impeached deputy governors in the past was truly guilty of gross violation of the constitution as accused, and what even makes it possible for governors to discard their deputies with ease in the country? The answer is, many feel, not far to seek. But Section 188 of the constitution states how a governor of a state or deputy governor of a state can be removed from office.

Sub-sections 1 and 2 of the Section state that: “The governor or deputy governor of a state may be removed from office in accordance with the provisions of this section whenever a notice of any allegation in writing, signed by not less than one-third of the members of the House of Assembly stating that the holder of such office is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, detailed particulars of which shall be specified.”

However, even though this section of the constitution clearly spells out in detail, the procedures and steps to be taken to consummate any impeachment process, observers are of the view that some of the past impeachments of deputy governors in the country were plotted through gross political rascality and abuse of process. Those in this school of thought argue that Nigerian governors often times see impeachment as a laconic tool to settle political scores and put off any gallant assistant that may rise to challenge and speak against any of their draconian policies. They said even though some past deputy governors have been fingered in severe financial mismanagement like Aiyedatiwa, what some of the state assemblies have termed as “gross misconduct” to crucify the so-called “spare tyres” has been their defection from their principals’ political parties. But does this provide enough grounds for the serial impeachments?

Meanwhile, even when the deputy governors were exonerated of any wrongdoing by legal panels constituted to investigate the allegations levelled against them, they still faced the axe. A good example is the case of former Kogi State deputy governor, Achuba, who, in October 2019, was impeached by members of the State House of Assembly over a disagreement with the state governor, Yahaya Bello.

Although the seven-member panel set up by the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Nasiru Ajana, and headed by John Baiyeshea, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had investigated and cleared the deputy governor of any wrongdoing, Governor Bello went ahead to replace Achuba with Edward Onoja the same year.

Achuba approached the Kogi State High Court in Lokoja to challenge the impeachment notice served on him and his removal, but the court upheld and nullified his removal. He also went to the National Industrial Court in Abuja, which on October 21, 2019, ordered the payment of the sum of N180million outstanding monthly security votes. The state government did not comply with the orders but further approached the Court of Appeal, which upheld the earlier judgements.

Achuba’s ordeal, some observers believe, clearly portrays some of the bad treatments past deputy governors have faced in the country, despite being democratically elected in a joint ticket with the governor and entitled to remain in office as such and freely exercise their rights and discharge their constitutional duties as deputy governors within the full time allocated to the office by the Nigerian constitution.

However on the flip side, other observers have said that some of the past sacked deputies truly deserved the kinds of treatment they got from their principals. Those in this school of thought argue that some of the axed deputy governors have fraudulently and flagrantly exploited any absence of their principal either on medical ground or regular annual leave from duty.

They said the governors are not constitutional mandated to ensure that their deputies succeed them and that to fosters healthy democracy within their states, the governors are expected to throw open their succession plans and allow the party and its members pick the best, whose emergence will greatly foster even developments and governance of the state.

Effect of well-defined Constitutional Roles for deputy governors

Meanwhile, even though the 1999 Constitution posits that the deputy governor’s duties include assisting the governor and replacing him or her in the case of death, resignation, removal, impeachment, absence, or incapacity due to illness, former President Goodluck Jonathan had argued that lack of well-spelt out constitutional roles for the deputy governors is behind the incessant friction between them and their principals.

Jonathan, who stated this at the public presentation of a book, Deputising and Governance in Nigeria, authored by Ganduje in October 2022, noted that the way governors impeach their deputies whenever they fail to agree on issues often hinders functional democracy for the country at the state levels.

“If you look at the constitution, the general role of a deputy governor is chairman of state boundary committee. The kind of problems we have with deputy governors and governors are not experienced at the National Assembly. Those ones are not pronounced because the deputy has clear responsibilities.

“Everything a deputy governor does depends on instructions from the governor. In some cases, it is so bad that if the governor is out of the state or country, and there are pressing issues to be attended to, the deputy still has to get permission from the governor, who is somewhere enjoying himself, before the issues are addressed.”

Speaking in a similar vein, Ganduje, who authored the book, remarked that the history of the relationship between some governors and their deputies has been that of disloyalty, envy, betrayal, mistrust, and ambition, adding that this has negatively affected the development of the people.

He said: “If you are deputising, you have to develop absolute loyalty at all times to your principal; the deputy practically demonstrates, convincingly, the capacity to support the chief executive in achieving set goals of his administration.

“Also, those deputising should be aware of sycophants and mischief makers, who may set up several traps, which if, triggered, might injure the good relationship with his principal. The deputy should also guard against wrong expectations, unreasonable political and material ambitions; and the need to improve their working relationship.”

Political solutions

But Speaking with Sunday Tribune on how this governor/deputy conflict can be avoided or even resolved when such arise, a professor of Political Economy and Development and Director of Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Studies at the Bayero University, Kano State, Habu Mohammed, said, “I think the deputy governors have the constitutional powers given to them to actually work along with the Chief Executive of any state. But unfortunately, because of the lopsided nature of Nigerian politics, the deputy governors have been used as ‘spare parts’. The governors have simply relegated many of them to the backgrounds. Though there are some governors who have given their deputies well-deserved roles within the confines of the extant laws of the land, a good example is Governor Babagana Umar Zulum of Borno State.”

“For the deputy governors, I think they should simply be told their limit and how not to cross it. I believe every deputy governor should be given certain powers and assigned specific executive functions in line with his or her constitutional rights, but this hasn’t been the case in most states in the country, perhaps the governors are afraid that if the deputy governors are fully left off the hook and given free space to perform key executive duties, they may overshadow them (the governors) by being more popular, which may pose huge threat to the chances of handpicking their successors. As a result, some of the governors greatly deny their deputies any executive role and that is what has been given rise to the many frictions that we have seen so far within the states.”

“But critically speaking, if you have a situation whereby a governor and his running contested for an election and won, it is expected of them to run the government together. But sadly, this is not the reality in Nigeria, such that the governors have been in some kind of political imbroglio with their deputies, which has not augured well for the development of democracy in the country as it has been preventing the executives from delivering effective governance to their people.”

According to Professor Mohammed, “What usually brings about such kinds of frosty relationship is when the deputy governorship candidate is imposed on the governorship by the power brokers in the party, perhaps in a bid to enhance their chances of clinging onto power in the state or fulfill some other ignoble political agenda. What this means is that the governor, when elected, will have to force himself to work with his deputy. At the end of the day, you see the governor having to use two deputy governors in the space of four years. The likes of Ayodele Fayose, Akeredolu, and some others all did this. But it isn’t a healthy trend for our political system.

He said, “What is more compounding in the whole issue is that the Nigerian constitution has not clearly elaborated or specified the powers of the deputy governors and that of the governors. In some states, the deputy governors are given functions meant for the local government chairmen. In some other states, they are given roles meant for a commissioner, but with ceremonial functions, which isn’t the right roles as they are voted into power by the people, just like the governors.”

On the political solution, he said, “For the overall interest of sustaining our democracy and political system, the Nigerian governors need to see their deputies as true vibrant executive office holders, which mean they must assign to them clearly spelt-out roles and always avoid any issue that may create disharmony and bitter rivalry between them and their second-in-commands. The deputies are also expected to demonstrate unalloyed loyalty to the interests and plans of their principals. They shouldn’t engage in any plot to hijack the overriding political structures and powers of the states from their principals.

“More so, since this is a constitutional matter, the National Assembly also has roles to play by ensuring that the lacunas in the constitution are addressed by clearly defining the roles of the deputy governors and what constitutes “gross misconduct” upon which he or she can be impeached by the state assembly.”……CONTINUE READING>>>>>>

 

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