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Ranking Nigerian Governors: 2023 Elections— The People’s Verdict on State Chief Executives (Pt 2)



Ranking Nigerian Governors, a special monthly publication of Ripples Nigeria, is focused on the review, on a monthly basis, of the performance of state chief executive officers in the country.

At the core of the publication is the quality policy statements and concrete actions or otherwise of state governors in the course of the month, using the Top 5 and Bottom 5 ranking system. This has been the case since August 2019 when the publication made its debut.

However, with the decline in governance at all levels in the country, a new approach was adopted, albeit temporarily, in assessing them. This approach focuses on identifying those worth mentioning either positively or negatively, while giving a verdict on the general state of governance by the governors.

It is however important to note that in carrying out this self-imposed duty in the interest of Nigerians and lovers of good governance, we are mindful of the several challenges facing governance in this part of the world. These challenges range from paucity of funds occasioned by dwindling allocation from the centre and lack of commonsense initiatives in revenue generation, to insecurity and social strife, among others.

The above challenges, however, do not take away the fact that if those at the helm of affairs in the states were proactive enough and willing to think out of the box, Nigeria and Nigerian states are more than well endowed to be stuck in the current sorry state they are in.

It remains a fact that Nigeria, given its God-given natural resources, and huge intimidating human assets, should be on a steady path to greatness with visionary and forward-looking leaders at the helm.

It is however disappointing that the reality on ground is a near-total disconnect from the expectations of the people, leading to widespread mistrust, largely because those saddled with governance at the state level have been unable to prudently manage the meagre resources available, and are bereft of creative and future-looking approach in their planning and policy formulation.

This current publication of Ranking Nigerian Governors is a continuation of our special edition, with the first part published two weeks ago. Its focus is on the verdict of the people in the just-concluded 2023 general elections. The governorship election, in our estimation, was a direct verdict on the performance or otherwise of state governors in many instances.

As it has been observed, the outcome of the 2023 general elections witnessed some of the greatest upsets in the history of elections in the country— sitting governors lost reelection bids, lost their bids for the Senate, and even had their preferred candidates for governor defeated.

Simon Lalong- Plateau State

Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong is by no means a small fry in the outgoing administration of the All Progressives Congress (APC), serving as the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, an inter-party group of Nigerian governors from the northern states. He also served as the Director General of the Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council of the APC.

However, just like Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Lalong lost all three important elections; the presidential, his Senate bid and the governorship election, which was won by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)

Opposition parties in the state, who were beneficiaries of Lalong’s monumental failure at the polls, have blamed it on his “very low performance” as governor of the state.

The PDP, especially, accused Lalong of financial recklessness and bad governance, saying that Lalong’s administration received over N97 billion as revenue in the past one year with nothing on ground to show for it.

We also reckon that, beyond Lalong’s not too impressive showing in the area of infrastructure and good governance, the intractable security situation in the state, that has seen suspected Fulani militia attacking communities in the state at will, killing, maiming and destroying property, including farm lands, contributed to mistrust in Lalong and his party by the people on the Plateau.

We also recall that kidnapping of traditional rulers in Plateau State assumed a dangerous dimension under the outgoing governor, without much done to curb its frequent occurrence. Also, the state government under Lalong largely appeared incapacitated, lacking in strategy or any concrete action to arrest the ugly situation in the state.

In our reckoning, Lalong’s triple failure at the polls was long expected, as the people of the state were obviously tired of the security challenges and the less than impressive performance of the outgoing governor in the last eight years.

Darius Ishaku- Taraba State

Darius Ishaku, the outgoing governor of Taraba State, fell into the group of governors that lost their bid to move to the senate after an 8-year stint as governor.

Ishaku lost his bid to the candidate of the APC, David Jimkuta, getting just half of the 85,415 votes that gave Jimkuta the Senate seat.

The governor has over the years been criticised for poor performance, failure to deliver on campaign promises, withholding funds meant for the local government areas in the state, poor healthcare for residents, and generally performing below par.

We note that Taraba State under Ishaku has hardly featured among states in the country noted for infrastructural development or any meaningful positive news.


We also note that the state has been bedevilled by ethnic wars between the Tiv, the Jukun and the Fulani under Ishaku, with nothing concrete done by the governor to stem the tide, leading to loss of lives and destruction of property. The state became grossly divided along ethnic lines under the governor.

Aside ethnic wars, there are those who are of the opinion that Governor Ishaku divided the state along religious lines and is also responsible for the reduction of the tenure of local government elected officials from three years to two years, fuelling more of the resentment against him at the grassroots.

We also recall that Ishaku, a former minister under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, practically made Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, his home, when the people of the state continued to bear the brunt of his maladministration and insecurity. When criticised for his prolonged absence from the state on different occasions, Ishaku, to the chagrin of residents of the state, said he could govern the state from anywhere.

Ben Ayade – Cross River State

Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade joined the league of outgoing governors who lost their bid to move to the Senate after completing their tenure.

For Ayade, he had hoped to return to the Senate, where he was between 2011 and 2015 before becoming governor in 2015. However, his people in Cross River North, who were disappointed with his performance for the past eight years and particularly his preference for his native Obudu, ensured that he did not win.

Ayade was defeated by the incumbent, Jarigbe Agom-Jarigbe of the PDP, who got 76,145 votes while the governor polled 56,595.

We note that there had been a disconnect between Ayade and his Cross River North people, who still feel he abandoned them when he became governor.

Others however blamed him for dumping the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to join the All Progressives Congress (APC).

We however note that the governor’s failure to fulfill his promises to the people of Cross River North and alleged selfishness cost him his senatorial bid, making them to vote against him and his brother, Frank, whom he had christened, “co-governor”.

According to majority of his people, everything about Ayade’s eight years in office was just about his family and friends, whom they accused of operating like demigods.

A businessman from Cross River North, who spoke about Ayade’s failed senatorial bid, said: “The cargo airport under construction is sited on people’s land forcefully taken, without adequate compensation. He promised to complete the airport, yet the project is a far cry from completion. Our people are hungry, it is not airport we need. As you can see the project was done for selfish interest, forcing local councils in the state to pay out so much.

“I am a contractor, but in eight years of Ayade, I did not get any contract and I don’t know anyone who got, except his people. I stopped renewing my business papers because I did not get any contract. Same with my colleagues.”

We reckon that Ayade’s election loss was a reaction against him and his brother for not meeting the expectations of the people, as it was alleged that the Air Force needed a Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) for a land to site a base in Yala, but Ayade’s government insisted it must be sited at Obudu and the state lost out.

We also take note of the fact that despite Ayade’s loss of his senatorial bid, loss of the presidential election to the Labour Party, Senator Bassey Otu of the APC won the governorship, which many said was only on the strength of the peoples’ belief in his ability to do the right thing.

Abdullahi Ganduje- Kano State

Abdullahi Ganduje, the outgoing governor of Kano State, is one of the governors that suffered the most humiliating defeats in the just concluded general elections, losing the presidential, National Assembly and governorship elections in the state to the opposition.

What makes Ganduje’s situation even more humiliating is the fact that he lost all the elections to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), a party led by his arch-rival and former boss, Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso.

For many, Kwankwaso, through the NNPP, succeeded in showing the people of Kano State that Ganduje was more of a paper weight politician in the state and not in charge as many had believed.

From losing the presidential election in the state to Kwankwaso, most of Ganduje’s other candidates for the National Assembly elections also lost out to NNPP, while his deputy, Nasir Yusuf Gawuna, who was governorship candidate of the APC, lost to that of the NNPP.

It is our belief that Ganduje’s losses at the elections may not necessarily be connected to lack of performance, but an unending supremacy war between him and his former boss, Kwankwaso, a situation we believe provides a valuable lesson for other political players in the country.

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