Need To Revisit The Position Of Deputy Governor In Nigeria

Need To Revisit The Position Of Deputy Governor In Nigeria
  • PublishedOctober 13, 2023

By Murtala Agboola

ONE of the constitutional requirements for a political party putting forward a candidate for gubernatorial election is for such to be accompanied with a running mate. It is a constitutional provision. The choice of such a candidate may be informed by popularity, extensive connections, or deep pocket.

Better still, it could be because the person lost in a bid to take the coveted prize. In some cases too, the interest of the leaders may prevail to serve parochial interest or to reflect goegraphical balance.

The overall interest of the party is victory at the poll and the overall advancement of the party.

In theory, it is a joint ticket, which means they must work together, however, in practice most of them work at cross-purposes.

The current crises in Edo and Ondo states are testimonies of what happen between governors and their deputies. This has got some of us thinking how this can be brought to an end.

The Ondo State parliament has set up a committee to probe the Deputy Governor, Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa on allegation of gross misconduct.

If past experience is anything to go by, it would be miraculous for Aiyedatiwa to escape impeachment, even though a Federal High Court in Abuja has restrained the House of Assembly from carrying out the impeachment.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu just returned from a three-month medical leave in Germany. On his return while convalescing in Ibadan, the governor caused to be redeployed all media aides of his deputy who acted for him in his absence.

What is playing out in Ondo State is not different from what is happening in Edo where the chummy relationship between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Phillip Shuaib, has gone awry. His media aides have been redeployed and his office relocated to an abandoned building in GRA, in Benin City. Mr Shuaib has openly apologized and pledged his loyalty to his boss but it is yet to be ascertained if the boss has forgiven him, genuinely. Has Shuaib dropped his ambition to govern Edo state which is the condition precedent to his being forgiven? To the followers of the governor, Shuaib is over ambitious.

In Ondo State, the seeming war of attrition between Akeredolu and Aiyedatiwa, some say, has to do with the politics of 2024 gubernatorial election. Supporters of the deputy posit that rather than being concerned with his health, Akeredolu is more disposed to power calculus next year. On the otherhand, Akeredolu supporters see his deputy as being too ambitious to succeed or even supplant his boss, thereby wishing him dead. Aiyedatiwa followers counter by saying that Akeredolu is intolerant having attempted, albeit, unsuccessfully to use the parliament to impeach Ajayi Agboola in his first term and now Aiyedatiwa. Incidentally, both of them are from the south senatorial district.

If Akeredolu succeeds, will he be the first to impeach his deputy/ies? Certainly not. President Bola Tinubu, then governor of Lagos State, worked with two deputies, Mrs Kofoworola Bucknor- Akerele and Femi Pedro. Some of the governors who had issues with their deputies include, Orji Kalu and Eyinaya Abaribe; Chief Bisi Akande and Otunba Iyiola Omisore; RochasOkorocha and his two deputies, Jude Agbaso and Eze Madumere; Abdulai Ganduje and Prof Hafiz Abubakar; and Obong Victor Attah and Chris Ekpeyong. Others were Ayo Fayose and Abiodun Aluko; Segun Mimiko & Ali Olanusi; Yahya Bello and Simon Achuba, among others.

Except in Kano, where Abubakar resigned, all others were impeached by their respective state assemblies.

In some cases, after the review of the cases by the respective courts, the parliaments were found to have erred but the damage had already been done.

What Are The Causes And The Remedies To Them?

There have been divergent opinions to the causes. Some analysts are of the view that some deputies are over ambitious, wanting to supplant their bosses or succeed them at all cost. This school of thought posit that the deputies should be constitutionally empowered to make them busy.

On the other hand, some experts are of the view that governors have become tin- gods, making their deputies redundant. Indeed, the constitution and its practice make governors very powerful. In virtually all the states, the governors have total control of the state cabinets and the parliaments. They are also consulted in the appointments of federal ministers from their states, ambassadors and federal board members. 

The relationship between the duo in most cases has been bedeviled with distrust and akin to that of the cat and mouse relationship.

Chief Bisi Akande’s description of deputy governors as “spare tyres” has become a timeless expression of how deputies are viewed. It has become a reference point in the country.

Some analysts have advocated for specific powers for deputies in the constitution. Plausible as this may seem, I do not think it is the solution.

However, my view is that the position should be reserved for a senior civil servant, a retired jurist or a senior academic who would be told ab initio that he/she cannot aspire to elective position of his boss while occupying the seat.

This position is informed by the fact that two attempts to draw people outside politics to the position of deputy failed woefully.

In Lagos, Tinubu went to the private sector to draw out Mr Femi Pedro when he had issues with Mrs Bucknor-Akerele. Events unfolded later to show that Pedro was even more desperate than his predecessor. When he could not get the consent of his boss to pick the ticket of the party, he defected, joined the Labour  Party contested but lost. 

Fayose went to the ivory tower to draw Dr Kolapo Olusola, an academic from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, to be his deputy for his second term. By the time he completed that assignment, Olusola picked up the party’s ticket, contested but failed. 

From my perspective, the alternative is to abolish the position and allow the speaker, the SSG or the Attorney General to act in the absence of the Governor. 

These skirmishes is not limited to the fourth republic. In fact in the second republic, there were issues between Chief Michael Ajasin and his deputy, Akin Omoboriowo in former Ondo State, Chief Ajibola Ige and Chief Sunday Afolabi. The two deputies defected to a rival political party, the National Party of Nigeria, which was the ruling party at the national level.

Two states witnessed near perfect relationship. In Lagos, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, a hardworking governor was paired with Alhaji Rafiu Jafojo who was more interested in chieftaincy crises settlement. In the former Ogun state, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, with the pen-name, Aiyekooto had a retired teacher, Chief Sesan Soluade as his deputy.

And the biggest of all crises between two leaders occurred in the Western Nigeria in the first republic. This was between Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the party leader of Action Group and his deputy, Chief Ladoke Akintola. The imbrioglo started from the party, transcended the government and engulfed the whole region. This was the time when the western region, the pacesetter attained the sobriquet Wild, Wild West.

I strongly believe the country can do something tangible about the skirmishes before it is too late. This is my humble opinion.

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not represent the opinions or views of OSUN DEFENDER.

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