Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Time to abolish the office of deputy governor

We are masters at thwarting processes and systems. Where else but in Nigeria will a group of legislators suspend all their colleagues that hold a contrary view on an issue for the purposes of achieving the required two-thirds majority, and then go ahead in a hotel room or under a tree, with a carpenter’s hammer as gavel, to impeach a governor or deputy governor or pass a law? It is only in Nigeria that a country will adopt federalism as a system of government and then twist it to become pseudo-unitarianism, with the President as powerful as a monarch, and all the federating units always running to the centre, cap in hand, to collect one hand-out or the other.

Where else in the world but in Nigeria can an unconstitutional body like the Nigerian Governors Forum become the bloc that determines who rules the nation and the policies that get implemented? It is only in Nigeria that legislators will fix their salaries and allowances and pass such into law. It is only in Nigeria that legislators will change the President’s budget by re-directing the projects to be executed in other parts of the country to their constituencies, and refuse to pass the budget unless the President accepts the budget the way they have altered it. It is only in Nigeria that a law is made for oil theft to carry a death sentence, while looters of the treasury get a fine of N250, 000.00 or a presidential pardon.
It is only in Nigeria that a governor, after leaving office, will get a law court to grant a perpetual injunction that he must never be tried for any aspect of his tenure. It is only in Nigeria that an elected public official will defect to as many parties as he wants and still retain his position. It is only in Nigeria that since the local government election was handed over to the governors to conduct in their respective states, no opposition party member has won a local government chairmanship seat in the 36 states of the federation. Even though a governor and his party will complain that the national electoral body is not fair and transparent in its elections, the same governor and his party will ensure that all the local government chairmanship seats in their states are won by their party, by hook or by crook. Those who complain about electoral fraud are promptly advised, with an air of arrogance, to go to court, since the chances of the state-owned courts upturning the elections are slim, if not non-existent.
My point is that we live in a nation where systems and processes are manipulated, thwarted and twisted to achieve some selfish aims. We live in a nation where people take advantage of systems and processes to achieve ridiculous results, calling such acts ingenuity, political sagacity or political engineering, when in other countries such people should be in jail or politically tainted for life. It is the same spirit that drives the young boys who engage in internet fraud: they see a loophole in a system and decide to take advantage of it to deceive others and take their money.
The office of the deputy governor is very important, just like the office of the vice-president. The deputy governor is elected jointly with the governor. The deputy governor is there to assist the governor in running the affairs of the state. He/she is meant to stand in for the governor in his/her absence. And in the event of death, impeachment, resignation, or incapacitation of the governor, he/she is promptly sworn in as the governor, to ensure that there is no break or lacuna in governance.
Each governorship candidate in every state, with the consent or knowledge of his party, chooses his running mate, and campaigns with that running mate for the office of governor. The governorship candidate usually chooses his running mate from a part of the state different from his, with the aim of getting the kinsmen and supporters of his running mate to vote for their ticket and make the chances of victory higher. But once the election is won, rather than become partners in governance, the governor becomes the master while the deputy governor becomes his servant or yes-man. The deputy governor is not allowed to have an opinion on any matter. It is a crime for him/her to disagree with the governor even in secret, or advise the governor against a policy. He/she must sing the praises of the governor at every opportunity and call him/her “Your Excellency” regularly in private and in public, and acknowledge them always as “the oga at the top”. The deputy governor must make it abundantly clear that they are 100 per cent loyal to “His/Her Excellency”. Most importantly – and most ridiculously – the deputy governor must not show in any form that he/she has any plan or ambition to become the governor at the expiration of the term of the boss. So, why have a deputy governor who cannot take over when the governor’s tenure is over?
Because the Constitution does not assign any specific role to the deputy governor, most governors make their deputies idle and redundant. Some governors completely sideline their deputies and make them less important than their appointed aides.
But the ultimate tool the governors use to deal with their deputies is impeachment. Another twist to political life is that each state House of Assembly, which ideally should be independent and serve as a check on the governor, willingly and unashamedly allows the governor to put them completely into his pocket. Whatever the governor wants done gets done expressly. So, whenever the governor wants the deputy impeached, he sends word to the state assembly. Once a deputy governor is marked for impeachment by a governor, he is a goner.
And because the Constitution does not ask for an election to be conducted to fill the vacant post of a deputy governor, impeachment has become a route to a governor getting a deputy that would be loyal to him like a lapdog, because the deputy owes his exaltation to the new office without an election to mercies of “His Excellency”. Once an elected deputy governor is impeached, the governor sends a letter to the state House of Assembly, submitting a name of the person he wants be his newly appointed deputy. In a matter of minutes, the lawmakers approve the name for the governor. Case closed!
Since it has become clear that the governors have made the office of the Deputy Governor useless, unnecessary, redundant and derogatory, the onus is on the National Assembly to start the amendment of the Constitution to expunge that office from our Constitution. The commissioner of special duties or any other person should hold brief for the governor when he/she is ill, out of the country, on leave, and the like. And in the event of death, resignation, impeachment, incapacitation of the governor, the speaker of the House of Assembly should be the acting governor for three months before an election is held to choose a new governor.
Our governors have rubbished the office of the Deputy Governor. There is no need to keep such an unnecessary office anymore and continue to waste national resources on it.
by Azuka Onwuka (azuka.brand@augustconsulting.biz