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Governor's Ranking

Ranking Nigerian Governors… 2023 in Review: Costing politics of desperation and survival by any means



Ranking Nigerian Governors is a special monthly publication of Ripples Nigeria reviewing the performance of Nigerian governors.

We take more than a passing look at the policy statements, actions or inactions of state governors, and their impact on citizens resident in their states by using a ranking system that groups them into Top 5 and Bottom 5. This we did consistently in the early days of the publication from its inception in August 2019.

The ranking system, however, changed with the decline in governance at all levels in the country. To bridge the gap, a new approach was adopted 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.

While we acknowledge the challenges associated with governance in this part of the world, especially the dwindling resources at the disposal of state governors and the ever-rising wage bills and other needs calling for attention, it is our belief that leaders who are smart and creative would not find it too difficult making things work given the abundant natural and human resources available all over the country.

In the last months of the year 2023, we focused on the response of state governors to the challenges facing Nigerians in the wake of the removal of fuel subsidy by the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, assessing how their pronouncements and actions taken impacted on the challenges.

We also identified the efforts made by Taraba State Governor, Dr Agbu Kefas, in the area of education in the state compared to uninspiring efforts by others, especially in the Northern part of the country.

We also focused attention on what we called “the dangerous gamble with bandits” by Governor Hyacinth Alia of Benue State, drawing attention to how such weak treatment by others backfired, leading to more deaths and destruction.

In this current publication, we are attempting a summary of major happenings in some states, particularly as they relate to the political upheavals that involved state chief executives and how they impacted negatively on governance.

The year 2023, especially towards the end, no doubt witnessed a number of absurdities in some states, especially Edo, Ondo and Rivers states. Nigerians will readily agree that the political crises in these states threw up the many imperfections in the country’s democratic practice, especially when it comes to succession scheming and the hydra-headed monster called godfatherism.

Edo State: Obaseki’s pettiness

Governor Godwin Obaseki entered the arena gloves-in-hand against his deputy, Philip Shaibu, over the latter’s ambition to contest in the gubernatorial election slated for later this year.

While we recognise Obaseki’s right to have a preferred person in mind to succeed him, we also concur that it is the inalienable right, guaranteed by the Constitution, for Shaibu to also aspire to occupy the office of Governor of Edo State. The exercise of these rights, in a truly democratic society, is not expected to lead to the level of bickering witnessed in Edo State, to the point of impacting negatively on governance.

We dare say that Obaseki’s response, in words and actions, to Shaibu’s ambition, was least expected in a democratic setting, and outright petty, dictatorial and an unusual low for an acclaimed democrat.

Shutting out his deputy from governance, relocating his office out of the Government House, and diverting the allocation of money due to his office, as claimed by Shaibu, because of a governorship ambition in an election Obaseki himself cannot be candidate, are actions only expected of dictators and overlords.

Though we recognise that there is a semblance of peace in the state, with Shaibu working actively on his ambition, all is yet to be well between the governor and his deputy, as it is expected that more troubles lie ahead in the state, especially as the parties go about electing their candidates for the election.

Ondo State: Late Akeredolu’s unfortunate betrayal of democracy

What transpired in Ondo State, though similar to that of Edo at the onset, ending only through a presidential intervention after much damage had even done.

The once cozy relationship between Akeredolu and his erstwhile deputy, now governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, got ruptured with the rumoured governorship ambition of Aiyedatiwa, which obviously did not sit well with those around Akeredolu, who was then already terminally ill.

READ ALSO:Ranking Nigerian Governors April/May 2022: Governance relegated as politics of 2023 takes centre stage

To clip his wings and put him where they thought he belonged, the state House of Assembly contrived impeachable offences against Aiyedatiwa, branding them gross misconduct. It took Aiyedatiwa’s doggedness as a fighter to thwart the impeachment process through the courts, hanging on what then looked like a straw, before the intervention of President Tinubu.

Though Akeredolu is late, we are still of the belief that if he had done the right things by recognising the right of his deputy to seek higher office, transferring power to him when it was obvious he could not continue, and purging himself of handlers who were only causing bad blood to feather their own selfish interests, the state would have been spared the crisis it was plunged into with the attendant halt in governance.

We recognise how difficult it is for politicians to let go of power but those who know that the power they wield is only being held in trust for the people will not have much problem doing the right thing at the right time. Akeredolu may be gone today but echoes of what the people of the state went through during the period the crisis lasted, especially at a time Nigerians were literally passing through hell with the economic and security challenges in the country, will continue to reverberate in their memories.

Akeredolu, a senior lawyer of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), a former President of Nigeria Bar Association (SAN), no doubt started well as governor, bold and courageous, outspoken and fearless in speaking his mind, but either directly or through his handlers and hangers-on, he unfortunately allowed these sterling qualities to be almost rubbished. It was no doubt a near-unfortunate end to an activist-governor. Thankfully, following much pressure and the president’s intervention, he relinquished power to his deputy before his death.

Rivers State: Fubara’s crude survival instincts

Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State was the major item in the news in the dying weeks of 2023 as he squared up against his godfather and former Governor, Nyesom Wike, the current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

Though the faceoff between Fubara and Wike, according to those in the know, had been on for a whole, things blew up in the open when, on a Sunday, an explosion, believed to be the handwork of arsonists many have traced to those loyal to Fubara, rocked the state House of Assembly Complex. The explosion came just a night before lawmakers loyal to Wike planned to consider and issue an impeachment notice on the governor.

From the Monday that followed the explosion, it became evident that the godfather and godson relationship between Wike and Fubara had irreconcilably broken down, at least as it then appeared.

Images and news stories from Port Harcourt, the state capital, showed that Governor Fubara enjoyed massive support immediately the crisis came to the open, and that was expected, as many people in the state felt Wike should leave the new governor alone and allow him face governance the way he best knew how to. Youths, civil society organisations and even organised labour came out in large numbers in rallies and solidarity walks in support of the governor.

While this lasted, Fubara maintained his trademark cool mien, always smiling, a strategy that endeared him to many, as he cut the pitiable picture of an unduly victimised underdog.

The governor, while trying to meander his way out of the seeming tight corner he was boxed into, took the wrong steps that showed him as a no different a specie from the normal desperate Nigerian politician.

Though we admit that desperate times require desperate measures, as it is commonly said in this clime, we, nevertheless, frown at how desperate Fubara became in surviving the crisis in order to hang on as governor with the demolition of the state House of Assembly Complex.

We also frown at the presentation of the state’s 2024 budget to, and passage of the same by a four-man House of Assembly, an action reversed by the resolution agreement facilitated by President Tinubu.

The House of Assembly Complex is a symbol of the people of the state, and should not, under any circumstance, be made to suffer from the political survival instincts and strategies of the governor. As Fubara allegedly pulled down the complex for his own personal survival and determination to remain in office, scarce funds that should have gone to other pressing needs of the people of the state will be used in rebuilding it.

We contend that Fubara’s action is a major low that casts him in bad light as just another politician who would go to any length to remain in office, even if it requires foul means.

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