State governors at war with their predecessors
• Feud transcends APC, PDP’s political rivalry
But for the altercations between some state governors and their predecessors, most Nigerians would have remained in the dark about certain toxic goings on in most Government Houses across the country. Precisely between May 29, 2019 and now, the following state chief executives have been in the news over some irreconcilable differences with their predecessors: Governor Seyi Makinde versus Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu versus Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, Governor Matawelle versus Alhaji Abdullaziz Yari, Governor Bala Mohammed versus Mohammed Abubakar, and Governor Emeka Ihedioha versus Senator Rochas Okorocha (Iberiberi proponent).
The hostility between Makinde and Ajimobi is about budget performance, especially contract awards and project conception and implementation, just as Lagos State House of Assembly acts as Governor Sanwo-Olu’s proxy in the tiff with the Ambode administration over procedural breaches in the procurement of buses for the state’s mass transit initiative. Also, the point of disagreement between the incumbent and past Bauchi State governor is about administrative styles, which culminated in the setting up of an investigative panel to probe the preceding administration.
Being a throwback to the hotly contested governorship election, which involved multiple litigations before the completion of the electoral process, the report of the probe panel has also become a subject of further litigation, especially given former Governor Abubakar’s claim that he was not afforded the opportunity for a fair hearing. While the incumbent governors’ spat with their immediate successors on the basis of policy contradictions, the battles in Imo and Zamfara States stand out as fundamental and far reaching.
THE showdown between Governor Bello Mohammad Matawalle and former Governor Abdullaziz Yari exposed a lot of contradictions, which ended up throwing up national discourse on the issue of pensions and other self-serving legislations at virtually all the states of the federation. Although the misunderstanding between the two leaders cut across preservation of security in the state and personal perks, the political differences also helped to heighten them. Yari’s problem with his All Progressives Congress (APC) party, which started from his failure to impose his preferred successor, gave the unusual opportunity for Matawalle of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to become the governor of Zamfara State.
Becoming governor at a period when citizens of the state are frustrated over the unremitting socio-economic crisis bordering on banditry, illegal mining and cattle rustling, Matawalle was forced to bear Yari’s burden. It could be recalled that some youth and women, including a broadcast journalist, Kadaria Ahmed, protested to Abuja complaining about Yari’s alleged inability to deliver good governance in the once buoyant state. The fight between the two men therefore happens to be on two major issues, namely security and pension.
Yari’s letter demanding the payment of his monthly pension opened a new frontier, when he declared that it was a legitimate perk covered by a subsisting legislation. In the letter dated October 17, 2019, the former governor asked for his outstanding allowance and pension, detailing that the N10 million monthly stipulated in the law as his “upkeep allowance” has been in arrears since August 2019.
Part of the letter read: “I wish to humbly draw your attention to the provision of the law on the above subject matter which was amended and assented to on the 23 March 2019. The law provides, among other entitlements of the Former Governor, a monthly upkeep allowance of Ten Million Naira (N10, 000,000) only and a pension equivalent to the salary he was receiving while in office.
“Accordingly, you may wish to be informed that since the expiration of my tenure on the 29 May 2019. I was only paid the upkeep allowance twice, i.e for the month of June and July while my pension for the month of June has not been paid.“As the law provides, the pension and upkeep allowance are not in the category of privileges that can be truncated without any justifiable reason, hence, the need to request you to kindly direct the settlement of the total backlog of the pension and upkeep as provided by the law.”
But while the letter elicited national outrage, Governor Matawalle disclosed to a stunned citizenry how his predecessor paid himself N360 million from the state’s pension funds days before he vacated office as governor. Governor Matawalle disclosed how he invited his deputy, the Speaker and Deputy of Speaker of the state Assembly and asked them whether they needed such mind-boggling allowances, stressing that when they all responded in the negative, he resolved to repeal the law.
Speaking while assenting to the bill, the governor stated: “Our successors will not find it easy to come up with such obnoxious law to pillage the little resources of the state in the future. There is no reason whatsoever the state could afford to pay the past leaders a whopping sum of N702 million annually to the detriment of dying pensioners in the state.
“It is on the record that the backlog of pension and gratuity for local government workers and primary school teachers left behind by Abdulaziz Yari’s administration stands at N3 billion while that of the state government’s retired civil servants also stands at N3 billion.
“What moral justification could be offered for such a jumbo package for a select few when the social index has consistently indicated that the majority of our population lives in abject poverty?”It could be for reason of sustaining the implementation of the public officers’ jumbo package that Yari defied Senator Kabiru Marafa and the group of eight (G8) gubernatorial aspirants to insist on his former finance commissioner, Alhaji Muktar Idris. With the current revelations and public outcry over the jumbo reward, Idris must be thanking his stars by now, because prevailing circumstances show that he would have definitely fallen out of favour with Yari had his poll victory been upheld.
To show that the stand by Governor Matawalle and the House of Assembly over the repealed pension law enjoys popular support, Vice Chairman of APC in Zamfara Central Senatorial District, Alhaji Sani Gwamna, praised the lawmakers and the governor, even as he pleaded that the proceeds be dedicated to rural development programmes.
AT the height of the rising insecurity in the state, Governor Matawalle also threatened to order and lead the arrest of his predecessor, adding that Yari should be invited by the security agencies to explain the whereabout of about 1,000 AK-47 rifles he, (the former governor) allegedly purchased with the state’s funds in 2013.
While speaking through his Director General, Press Affairs, Mr. Yusuf Idris Gusau, the incumbent lamented that members of the outlawed Yansakai group being sponsored by some very influential Zamfara politicians were causing the attacks. Linking the intermittent banditry to the purchase of 1,000 AK-47 riffles, Governor Matawalle regretted that his predecessor recruited more than 8,500 members of the outlawed Yansakai group even when he (Yari) knew the security implication of engaging “these dangerous elements terrorizing the state.”
According the governor’s aide, “the arms deal was struck a day after the unfortunate incidence of Yar’galadima village, when over two hundred innocent people were massacred by the armed bandits operating in the state.”As the crossfire continued, Governor Matawalle declared that since Yari failed as a governor to secure the lives and property of Zamfara people, he was now bent no ensuring that his (Matawalle’s) administration also fails.He stated: “My victory as the incumbent governor and my success in bringing peace to Zamfara are ordained by God. I will not allow the former governor and his cronies to rubbish our hard-earned peace in the state anymore.
“Henceforth, I will show him that power is now in my hands, not in his hands anymore. And we shall appropriately employ it for the benefit and protection of millions of our citizens in the state.”However, on the score of fueling insecurity in the state, the state’s APC denied that Yari was supporting bandits, stressing that the former governor never engaged the bandits or organized a series of meetings.Zamara State’s APC Publicity Secretary, Ibrahim Gidangoga, said in Gusau that as a man of proven integrity, highly respected and responsible leader, Yari’s “mission was always to improve the well-being of his people.”
Gidangoga picked holes in Governor Matawalle’s claims that Yari was plotting his administration’s failure, saying that apart from his hometown, Talata Mafara, the former governor had not visited any other village or town in Zamfara State, including Gusau, the state capital, since he left office on May 29, 2019.
Clearing Imo of Iberibe initiatives
TAKING up the hot air spewed by the keenly contested governorship election, Governor Emeka Ihedioha of PDP lamented that the state was in an epileptic shape, alleging that his predecessor ran the state like a personal estate. Ihedioha said the level of institutional and infrastructural dilapidation he met in the state was incomprehensible, assuring that he was determined to “rebuild the state.” He disclosed that he had continued to operate from his private residence, because his predecessor left the Government House in ruins. Ihedioha said things were “worse than what I imagined when we were campaigning,” adding: “The Chief Judge of the state has no official quarters. The Speaker of the House of Assembly has no official quarters. I am operating from my official residence.”
The incumbent explained that his predecessor was in a hurry to vandalize Government House “before running to the Senate,” pointing out that things were so bad that even the state secretariat was being energized by makeshift and toy-like electricity generating sets.
But what appeared to be the gravest of the incumbent’s complaints against his predecessor was the accusation of self-enrichment and aggrandizement, where he stated: “There had been no public power supply at the state secretariat for eight years. Everywhere was leaking, but my predecessor was always on AIT and ChannelsTV, saying he was performing. It is the height of wickedness. He had sold state assets to himself, family and cronies during his 8-year stint as Imo governor. He concessioned state assets to himself.”
Ihedioha also alleged that the former governor opened a multiplicity of bank accounts, numbering more than 250 in commercial banks, through which monies meant for the development of the state grew wings. Ihedioha, who was Deputy Speaker of the Seventh House of Representatives, disclosed that it was in a bid to stop the years of the locust when the state’s funds were purloined without let that he decided to introduce the Single Treasury Account (TSA) in Imo State.His words: “The past administration operated the state revenue with over 250 bank accounts. The report from the Imo State Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) revealed that Ministries, Departments and Agencies maintained and operated different revenue accounts, some in pseudo names.
“Also, payments to contractors and statutory bodies were made in cash. It is against this background that the FAC urgently worked on streamlining revenue processes.“Today’s take-off of TSA in Imo State is in compliance with the provisions of the Nigerian constitution, requiring all accruable revenues to be paid into a consolidated revenue account.
“The essence of the executive order is to apply the TSA as an instrument of transformation and ease of doing business. Imo State, by the World Bank 2018 Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria report, is ranked 34 out of 36 states of the federation. A very poor standing indeed.”The governor described the introduction of TSA as a sign of the transformation planned by his administration as well as a major turning point in the commitment to provide a new Imo State defined by strong economy and “characterised by excellence, equality, meritocracy, integrity, incorruptibility and compliance with the rule of law.”
Like Zamfara State governor, Ihedioha also threatened to order the arrest of his predecessor, accusing him of disturbing the social harmony in Imo State out of regrets for his failed plot to impose his son-in-law, Mr. Uche Nwosu, on the state as his successor.But piqued by the unrelenting attacks on his score card and style as Imo State governor, Okorocha, who got elected into the Senate to represent Imo West Senatorial District, pleaded with his successor to leave him alone and focus on rendering good governance to the people.
In statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, Okorocha said Ihedioha’s insults had become nauseating to him, even as he accused the incumbent of governing Imo State with a stolen mandate. Okorocha stated: “He (Ihedioha) has remained haunted by that electoral mishap and his major achievement in the past seven months has been the constant abuse, because he is cowed or intimidated by Okorocha’s existing achievements. He can’t cope and has no other option than to resort to abuses.”
As these states’ chief executives battle their predecessors, many Nigerians are beginning to release that what goes in the states do not impact on the citizens, because the governors have constituted themselves into enemies of real democracy and good governance. And unless both the states’ citizenry and opposition parties brace up to challenge these governors and help them refocus, democracy will continue to elude the generality of Nigerians, who are quick to look up to the presidency whereas their concerns should be directed at those who govern them at the state level.