The perennial face-off between governors and their deputies has become a constant feature in our democratic experience. The lack of a constitutional role for the deputy governors leaves them at the mercy of the almighty governors.
On the part of the deputy governors, too, perhaps, because of their idleness, they are mostly preoccupied with thoughts of how to unseat or succeed their principals. Since most of the governors also have different ideas about who to succeed them, conflict arises and both would hardly see eye-to-eye.
Therefore, the question that becomes pertinent is: What is the need for a deputy governor when for all intents and purposes his principal does not see him as sharing a joint ticket? Can the resources spent in maintaining and running that office be channelled somewhere else?
In the case of the vice president, perhaps because of the enormity of the task before the president, we might just let the office exist but in reality, the vice presidents themselves are hardly occupied or given enough leeway to operate even though they both share a joint ticket.
Whereas the vice president’s office may have some measure of dignity, the deputy governors are glorified aides to the governors. And if you know a typical Nigerian governor and his mannerisms and nuances you cannot but pity the hapless deputy governors.
Deputy governors do not have any say in their states. The overbearing governors hardly recognise them. As it is, some of these deputies only pray for the worst for them, especially when they see from the governors’ body language that they are out of favour.
So, why continue to keep two offices that work at cross-purposes? Why waste hard-to-come-by resources on two persons who barely wait for their swearing-in before they fall apart?
The latest in the very long list of feuding governors and their deputies is the case between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu. For any casual on-looker, the union of Obaseki and Shaibu could have been a match made in heaven. To think that Shaibu not only sided with Obaseki during his long altercations with his godfather, former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, also makes their bitter feud come as a surprise to many.
In 2020 when Oshiomhole, insistent on preventing Obaseki from his bid for a second term, Shaibu had gleefully told the world that Obaseki is positively transforming the state through his people-oriented policies that have birthed programmes like Edo State Basic Education Transformation (EdoBEST), Edo State Healthcare Improvement Programme (Edo-HIP), and the Edo Oil Palm programme in the agricultural sector.
In his words, “He has made giant strides, which now positions our state as an investment destination. The governor is doing well and needs our support physically and our prayers spiritually.”
However, the friction between both of them came to a head when Shaibu took Obaseki to court and the latter’s eventual eviction of the former from the state secretariat.
However, Governor Obaseki on his part accused Shaibu of desperately seeking to succeed him and is ready to undermine him to achieve his ambition.
Obaseki also recently accused Shaibu of planning a “coup” against him while the deputy governor denied all the allegations and later withdrew his case against Obaseki in court. And if we know Obaseki very well, their union is irredeemable.
Similarly, in Ondo State, a similar scenario is also brewing with Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s sack of all the media aides attached to the office of the Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa.
Akeredolu on his return from medical treatment abroad appears determined to put the alleged ambition of Aiyedatiwa in check. While Akeredolu was away, a lot of water went under the proverbial bridge.
What is instructive in all of this is that these regular feuds will remain as long as we retain this mode of democracy where the deputy governors are idle. After all, an idle mind is said to be the devil’s workshop.
Since 1999 when the nation returned to democracy, most governors and deputies have barely tolerated themselves. Some governors have orchestrated the impeachment of their deputies, while others have cowed them to total submission.
The then governor of Lagos State and now President Bola Tinubu and his deputy Femi Pedro were at daggers-drawn over the former’s succession plan.
Pedro was said to have got on the wrong side of his principal over Tinubu’s choice to back his Chief of Staff, Babatunde Raji Fashola, as his successor.
The animosity between both men forced the deputy governor to defect to the Labour Party and contest against his boss’ anointed heir, Fashola.
After the election, which he lost, Pedro got an impeachment notice from the House of Assembly. He promptly sent in his resignation letter, but the lawmakers were said to have rejected the letter leading to his eventual impeachment.
The list is endless: Abdullahi Ganduje and Hafiz Abubakar; Rochas Okorocha and Jude Agbaso & Eze Madumere; Orji Kalu and Enyinnaya Abaribe; Obong Victor Attah and Chris Ekpenyong; Ayodele Fayose vs Abiodun Aluko; Isa Yuguda vs Garba Gadi; Olusegun Mimiko and Ali Olanusi. The list is endless.
Shouldn’t a constitutional provision be made for deputy governors to keep them busy and share in some responsibility rather than leave them idle and praying for the demise of their principal? The gulf between the governors and their deputies in terms of relevance and authority is such that the only practical relationship that can exist between them can only be that of master and apprentice. Why can’t a deputy governor employ even his own aides, for instance?