It is painful to watch when the state governor takes on the deputy in the unequal and unmatched fight too often playing out in our political landscape. The duo are the highest-ranking officials in the state. Whenever the governor is indisposed or unavailable, the deputy governor steps in to fill the vacuum. It is therefore one of the saddest moments for any state to witness the two staging an open warfare. Today, two such occurrences are playing out in Ondo and Edo states and have reached a crescendo last week.
In Ondo State, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, is unfortunate to be afflicted with an undisclosed ailment since the beginning of his first term that perennially required him to travel abroad for medical attention. For the period of the governor’s absence and as required by the constitution, it became incumbent for the deputy to act as governor. However, this always became a litmus test to judge the loyalty of the deputy governor. Unfortunately, they, for some peculiar reasons, always failed. The first to go was Agboola Ajayi, who failed the loyalty test and was dropped before the end of the first tenure. It seemed to have set the stage for a revolving door of sorts for the next deputy governor to come in and exit.
Now from all indications, Governor Akeredolu is set to dismiss his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa. The governor has just returned from another round of medical odyssey and if everything goes according to plan, the Deputy Governor will be facing impeachment proceedings in the House of Assembly this week. The deputy governor has already lost his media team. If the impeachment exercise succeeds, we shall soon see the end of Lucky Aiyedatiwa’s tenure as deputy governor.
Surprisingly, the same scenario is playing out in the neighbouring Edo State, where the Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu is battling to keep his office. He has had a running battle with Governor Obaseki who is completing his second term next year and would not want to see Shaibu replacing him. He had sensed that he might be impeached before their term ended so he rushed to court to seek protection. This only made matters worse as the governor descended on him with all the might of the state. Shaibu was banished from Government House and was relocated to a nondescript office block that is still under renovation. He also faced some indignities at state functions where he was ignored and barred by security operatives from approaching the governor to greet him.
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All these seemed to have unnerved the deputy governor and forced him to run helter-skelter to seek amends. He had withdrawn the case from the court and had appeared in the media apologizing to the governor. From my perspective, that apology would probably be the lowest point in this unfortunate saga. Philip Shaibu was seen saying in the video making rounds: “I used this medium to appeal to Mr. Governor that if there is any mistake I have made or if there anything that I have done that I don’t know of, he should please forgive me so that we can develop our state together.”
Philip Shaibu’s groveling is deeply humiliating. But that’s the lot of deputy governors in this dispensation. Readers might recall from the very beginning in 1999 when the military pulled out there were discords in some states between governors and their deputies. It first manifested in Abia State where Governor Orji Kalu of Abia State fell out with his deputy, Enyinnaya Abaribe now Senator. In the first year, Deputy Governor Abaribe escaped impeachment twice, yet he soldiered on till the end of their first term in 2003 when he finally threw in the towel.
In Lagos State, Governor Bola Tinubu and his deputy, Kofoworola Bucknor, seemed unmatched from the beginning of their tenure in 1999. They had a frosty relationship ending with Kofoworola leaving the government in a huff. Her successor, Femi Pedro also left both the government and the party due to irreconcilable differences with Governor Tinubu.
During those early years of the millennium, the State House was also embroiled in the same kind of conflict that had affected the other Government Houses in the country. Towards the end of the first term, President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice-President Atiku Abubakar were heading to a fallout but good reasons prevailed. They patched up their differences and won a second term. Their differences continued throughout the second term. The fight was open and messy, both for their staff and the country as well. President Obasanjo did all he could to dismiss the Vice-President, but Atiku was tenacious and fought every attempt in the courts and succeeded.
These are some of the bad cases and should not be the reason for despair. I don’t believe that any constitutional provision to empower the deputy governor will bring succour to the holders of that office. I surmise that it is basically a human problem whereby strong characters are put together with one in the subordinate position. One way or the other they were bound to clash. Those in office now can learn and borrow from the success stories and they are more in number: Niger State Governor Abdulkadir Kure and his deputy Zagbayi Nuhu, Governor Rabi’u Kwankwaso and his deputy Abdullahi Ganduje, President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo, to name a few.