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The unending rifts between governors and their deputies

The ongoing saga in the bouts of rifts between the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, and his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, on one hand, and…

The ongoing saga in the bouts of rifts between the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, and his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, on one hand, and between the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, and the deputy, Philip Shaibu, on the other, is gripping the attention of the nation to no end. As of September, one could swear that both deputy governors were on their way out of office. On the last Monday of September, my weekly column was titled, ‘When the governor takes on the deputy’, at a time when the tension between the same dramatis personae was at its height. However, some deft interventions made matters simmer for a while.

The case of the sad happenings in Ondo State is, from my perspective, very unfortunate. It relates to the fundamentals of the role the deputy governor plays whenever the governor is away. Even though we have operated this constitution for over twenty years now, governors have been finding it difficult to relinquish power to their deputies whenever they are out of their station for the operative periods. Governor Akeredolu has been seriously ill for some time and was out of the country for treatment abroad for months without making any attempt to hand over the governor’s office to his deputy.

When the governor had to return, he disembarked in Ibadan and decided to remain there for whatever reasons. Now safely ensconced in Ibadan, Governor Akeredolu has become only accessible to his relations and a coterie of officials and has refused to show up in his office in Akure. All this while, he had left his deputy idle and wistfully kicking his feet up. To make matters worse for the deputy governor, the State House of Assembly decided to join the fray by attempting to impeach him. Only a court order obtained from the High Court put paid to the attempt.

Fortune further smiled on Lucky Aiyedatiwa when President Bola Tinubu decided to intervene. All the warring parties were called to Abuja where President Tinubu appealed to them to allow peace to reign in Ondo. As a result of this intervention, all cases in the courts were withdrawn, and the deputy governor had even the opportunity to preside over an executive council meeting last week in Akure. But it looks like the victory for Aiyedatiwa will not last long as his traducers are asking for an undated letter of resignation from him to allow him to continue to operate as acting governor.

The travails facing the deputy governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu, are less complicated to understand. Governor Godwin Obaseki is completing his second term of office next year and does not have Philip Shaibu as his planned successor. When the deputy governor expressed interest in contesting in the primaries to become the party candidate, Governor Obaseki objected and descended on him with all the might of the state including transferring the Office of the Deputy Governor to a location outside the Government House. Shaibu, feigned being intimidated, relented and gave a grovelling public apology to the governor. The governor believed him and allowed Shaibu some breathing space. However, as the Edo State gubernatorial election draws nearer, Shaibu recanted and is back in the trenches vowing that nobody can stop his ambition.

The tribulations of both deputy governors, Aiyedatiwa and Shaibu, look unending for the moment. This is despite suggestions, here and there, to redeem the position of the deputy governor in the scheme of things in the country. Maybe that’s why former deputy governors have organised themselves into an advocacy forum for such pursuits. Recently during a meeting of the Deputy Governors Forum, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, the APC chairman, who had once served as a deputy governor and a governor, advocated assigning constitutional roles to deputy governors to keep them busy and further minimise clashes with the governors.

I don’t believe that keeping the deputy governors busy would keep them away from trouble. In any case, that’s one part of the story. The other part would be how to align the political ambition of the deputy governor to that of his principal. The deputy governor replacing the governor has always been a herculean task rarely accomplished and only in a few states. To attain that feat would probably call for personal chemistry between the governor and his deputy. I refer to the kind of chemistry Governor Rabi’u Kwankwaso had with his deputy, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, in the halcyon days of their relationship and what Governor Ganduje is enjoying now with his erstwhile deputy, Nasir Yusuf Gawuna.

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