Governors as political godfathers - By: Gambo Dori | Dailytrust

Governors as political godfathers

The People Democratic Party’s (PDP) convention that was held in Abuja last week erased any more doubts that, for now and probably the nearest future, the governors are the new godfathers in the Nigeria’s political space. Gone are the days when we had a Mr-fix-it in every party. At the beginning of these political dispensations even when the PDP had a truly an all-powerful leader in the person of President Olusegun Obasanjo, there were still personalities in the party that could do and undo. Party stalwarts, or just anyone else, seeking for a position or contract in government could reach out to these personalities and solicit for their intercession and with luck got whatever they wanted.

Within the PDP there were influential party chiefs alongside an all-powerful president. Nevertheless, party members recognised  the omnipotence of the president. And no doubt, President Obasanjo acted that part with considerable panache. He bestrode the party like a colossus. He could make and unmake careers, not only in his government, but also in the PDP, the party that brought him to power. He deposed state governors and party chiefs with ease. Many governors who fell short of his standards found themselves out of office, though sometimes in manner that was not quiet in tune with the law. In his eight-year rule President Obasanjo saw off at least five governors, that of Anambra (Chris Ngige), Bayelsa (Diepreye Alamieyeseigha), Ekiti (Ayo Fayose), Oyo (Rashidi Ladoja) and Plateau (Joshua Dariye), though due to the tardiness in the impeachment processes, Oyo and Plateau State governors reclaimed their seats in court and were able to complete their terms.

President Obasanjo also dominated the party completely and in similar fashion disagreed with three party chairmen, (Solomon Lar, Barnabas Gemade and Audu Ogbeh) and got them relieved of the post. In the case of Audu Ogbeh, it was reported that he was called to the Presidential Villa and was made to sign an instant letter of resignation. Even out of office President Obasanjo kept his hands firmly on the driving seat of the PDP as its Chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT) and ensured that his successor, President Umaru Yar’Adua was kept on a tight leash. When President Yar’Adua died in office, Obasanjo was at hand to give support to Vice-President Jonathan to succeed him. Obasanjo remained relevant in the party up till the controversy allowing Jonathan to run in the presidential race of 2011.

Somehow, loss of power in 2015 and the depression that came over PDP created vacuums in their power structure. The all-powerful BOT became a shadow of itself with Obasanjo standing askance from party affairs. The governors readily filled up the vacuum with one them, Rivers State Governor, Nyeson Wike, assuming the role of Primus inter pares, first among equals. It was Wike that kept up the game of musical chairs playing out in the appointment of a series of chairmen and their removal, starting with former Governors Ali Sherriff, Ahmed Makarfi and lastly Uche Secondus.

At the convention grounds last week, the powers of the governors over the party clearly became manifest in the elections into the party hierarchy. Iyorchia Ayu appointed party chairman by consensus was the candidate of the Northern PDP Governors sponsored particularly by Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, and supported by all the other governors. Similarly, the manner the candidacy of David Mark contesting for the post of chairman and Olagunsoye Oyinlola for party secretary were dispensed with, clearly point at the governors as the new power brokers. It also points to the fact that an influential power block in the PDP represented by the retired army generals, is now being outflanked.

The same scenario has openly been playing out in the APC. The president, the leader of the party has shown by his dispositions that he would rather concentrate on staid state affairs rather than soil his hands in volatile party affairs. The vacuum was quickly filled up by the governors when they put one of their own, former Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole as party chairman. When he proved recalcitrant the party eased him out and decided to go a notch up by giving a sitting Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State the seat as interim Chairman.

There are allegations that a coterie of governors have taken control of the party. Nonetheless, Governor Buni has proved to be a steady hand as Chairman, building consensus here and there, yet there were mixed fortunes in the recently held party congresses across the country. In states where the congresses met with rancour you can bet that it was mainly between the wishes of a sitting governor clashing with what a former governor wanted, leading to parallel congresses. This was the scenario in Kano, Osun and Ogun States.

But these are all skirmishes. The battle lies ahead, next year, when party primaries will be held to elect candidates for the 2023 elections. Already to downplay the influence of the governors, the new electoral bill has provisions for direct elections at the primary elections. I am sure that part of the bill is being scrutinised intensely in the inner recesses of many Government Houses. I guess the president might sign the bill and the governors would have to find ways and means to deal with it.

We wait and see.

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