24 YEARS OF DEMOCRACY: GOVERNORS, PREDECESSORS CONTINUE TO CLASH
The faceoff between governor of Rivers State, Siminalayi Fubara, and his immediate-predecessor and benefactor, Nyesom Wike, adds to a seeming political culture of intense friction between hitherto godfather and their sons in Nigeria since 1999.
This trend, which has transcended almost all the geo-political regions of the country, has remained constant in every constitutionally-mandated power transition season since the return to democracy.
While the Rivers scenario, reputed as the first and fastest falling out between successor and predecessor, indications have emerged that some other states are on the verge of having similar political friction.
Recall that stakeholders had strongly urged President Bola Tinubu to intervene in the Fubara/Wike rift spite of the intra-party nature of the tussle. While Wike, a serving minister, and Fubara are of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) extraction, Tinubu is of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
However, the intervention of the president, by way of eight directives signed by Fubara and Wike, has been criticised as being void in light of the legal and constitutional implications, one of which is the status of the 27 lawmakers who defected from the PDP to the APC.
Nevertheless, checks reveal that in most of the major frictions (with few exceptions), which border on control of political structure in the state serving governors prevailed, in spite of interventions by the presidency, party and other stakeholders.
While incumbents cite the overbearing influence of their predecessors, the godfathers cite disloyalty of their godsons.
In 2015, former governor, Aliyu Wamakko, now senator, supported then House of Representatives speaker, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, to be governor of Sokoto State. They had both dumped the ruling PDP for the new formed APC which was sweeping through the polity.
However, after a bit of a battle with his predecessor, the former speaker returned to the PDP. While Tambuwal won the 2019 election by a slim margin to serve a second term, his party, the PDP lost the governorship election in 2023, allowing Wamakko to retain control of the state.
Interestingly, Wamakko had also fought his predecessor, Attahiru Bafarawa for the political structure of the state.
Akpabio vs Udom (Akwa Ibom)
Also in 2015, then governor and now senate president, Godswill Akpabio, solely picked Udom Emmanuel, his then commissioner, as his successor in Akwa Ibom State. But the political romance collapsed a little over a year later, forcing Akpabio to leave the PDP for the APC.
Udom won his re-election in 2019 and successfully transferred power to his preferred successor in 2023.
While Akpabio continued to enjoy national positions, as minister and senate president, he has not been able to regain control of the state.
Obi vs Obiano (Anambra)
Former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi also had a falling out with his successor, Willie Obiano, whom he supported to win office in 2014. They were both in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
However, their political alliance soon failed. Obi left APGA and joined the PDP.
During the 2017 election, Obi produced the PDP candidate, Oseloka Obaze, who could not stop Obiano’s quest for a second term in office.
The battle of the Orjis (Abia)
In 2007, then governor, Orji Uzor Kalu ensured that Theodore Orji succeeded him even though the latter was detained in prison over alleged financial crimes. That was a first in Nigeria’s political history.
But it showed how powerful Kalu was at the time, being the presidential candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), which he formed at the time.
Theodore Orji was Chief of Staff to Kalu. But the arrangement eventually collapsed as Orji left the PPA for the PDP in 2010. He contested and won a second term.
Nnamani vs Chime (Enugu)
Just like in Abia, the 2007 governorship election produced Barr Sullivan Chime, who was backed by then governor, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani, the influential leader of the Ebeano political dynasty.
Chime was the attorney-general and commissioner for Justice in Enugu State at the time.
Against most speculations, Nnamani settled for a quiet and unassuming Chime. However, months after he became governor, he banned the Ebeano group, starting off a political battle which saw his predecessor failing to retain his senatorial mandate and almost being sent on exile from the state.
Chime secured his second term and installed Rt Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as his successor in 2015 who also handed over power to the incumbent Emeka Mbah. Interestingly, Nnamani had also fought off his political godfather, Senator Jim Nwobodo in the state.
Kwankwaso vs Ganduje (Kano)
Perhaps the most intense of such battles was between Rabiu Kwankwaso and Umar Ganduje. They were a team so formidable that it seemed one could win the governorship election without the other. It was such that after they, as governor (Kwankwaso) and deputy (Ganduje), could not secure a second term in 2003 cycle, Kwankwaso, upon being appointed as the minister of Defence by Olusegun Obasanjo, took Ganduje along to Abuja.
In 2011, Kwankwaso sought a second term with Ganduje as his deputy and won. By 2015, after they had dumped the PDP for the APC, it seemed convenient for Kwankwaso to hand over power to Ganduje. But months after Ganduje, the romance broke down, leading to immense political casualties, especially, the former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido, a Kwankwaso ally, losing his throne.
The battle was so fierce that not even the intervention of former President Muhammadu Buhari could reconcile them. Ganduje narrowly won his reelection bid in 2019, but was unable to ensure his party retained power in 2023. Kwankwaso, having consolidated in the NNPP, got his pound of flesh by ensuring his party won the governorship poll, even though the election outcome is in dispute at the court.
The rivalry between Kwankwaso and Ganduje has since spilled into Tinubu’s villa as the latter, sensing the former’s renewed political romance with the president, pulled a masterstroke to emerge the APC national chairman, hence sealing any hopes of a Tinubu/Kwankwaso political deal. However, Kwankwaso is one of the 1999 set of governors to produce his successor in two election cycles.
Oshiomhole vs Obaseki (Edo)
Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, in 2018, campaigned and fought a tough battle for the incumbent, Godwin Obaseki, to succeed him.
Obaseki was Oshiomhole’s ace, having served as the chairman of the Edo State Economic Team.
But after the relationship broke down, the battle between the two was fierce, consuming members of the State House of Assembly.
The peak of the battle was when Oshiomhole, as APC national chairman, leveraged his influence to disqualify Obaseki during the APC primaries. Obaseki fired back by initiating Oshiomhole’s suspension at the ward level. Obaseki however moved to the PDP and won re-election.
Imoke vs Ayade (Cross River)
In 2015, former Governor Liyel Imoke supported then Senator Ben Ayade to emerge governor. Not long after, Ayade, in trying to push his influence within the party, was resisted by forces loyal to Imoke.
Ayade eventually left the PDP and joined the APC. It is worthy to note that Imoke had also fought his predecessor, Donald Duke shortly after he took over, forcing the latter to abandon politics in the state for a long while.
Akume, Suswan, Ortom saga (Benue)
The serving secretary to the government of the federation, Senator George Akume, ensured that Senator Gabriel Suswam became his successor in 2007.
As the pattern goes, they both clashed, ultimately leading to Akume’s exit from the PDP to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Although Suswam secured his second term in 2011, Akume prevailed in 2015 when he supported Samuel Ortom to emerge governor on the platform of the APC.
Like in the case of Suswam, Ortom, months after, fell out with Akume and later dumped the APC for the PDP where he had served as a national officer before moving to the APC.
Akume, however, made another rebound in 2023 by yet again helping to produce the incumbent governor, Hyacinth Alia. Hence, he is one of the few governors of the 1999 set that has produced three governors and stopped incumbents from producing their successors.
Sheriff vs Shettima (Borno)
Former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff supported current vice president, Senator Kashim Shettima to become governor in 2011.
Shettima had served as commissioner for local government and later as finance commissioner in the Sheriff’s administration. But not long after the latter became governor he fell out with his predecessor. The rivalry was so intense that Sheriff left the APC and joined the PDP. But Shettima was able to serve out his constitutionally guaranteed two terms and produced his successor, incumbent governor, Babagana Zulum.
Egwu v Elechi (Ebonyi)
At the end of his tenure as governor, Senator Sam Egwu picked Martins Elechi as his successor and he followed through with it. But the political arrangement was not to last long as a cold war soon emerged between them which saw the shrinking of Egwu’s influence to just his senatorial district where he was able to win elections. Egwu however got his pound of flesh in 2015 when he teamed up with other stakeholders to stop Elechi from producing his successor. The current minister of Works, Senator Dave Umahi, who became the beneficiary of the tussle, would later clash with Egwu and produce his successor and incumbent governor, Francis Nwifuru.
Selfish Politics Behind Governors, Predecessors’ Fight – CSOs
Meanwhile, civil society organisations (CSOs) have attributed selfish politics as being the motivating factor behind the culture of crisis between governors and their predecessors.
According to the CSOs, the impact of the crisis between the governors and their predecessors have been so vicious to the states and the society at large adding that such crises impede development.
To this end, CSOs have called on Nigerians to rise up against such politics adding that they must take over the polity and decide who governs them.
The CSOs who spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday are Transparency International (TI), the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG).
Speaking through their leader, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, the CSOs said if the politicians understand and appreciate the fact that democracy is about the people, good governance and transparent leadership they will not support candidates while having an ulterior motive.
“If Nigerians begin to work against any politician that supports candidates with ulterior motives, Nigeria will move forward.
“These crises are happening because of commercialisation of politics. The governors who dictate the people that come to power think they can still control how the resources of the states are spent,” the CSOs said, adding that the desperation to loot the state resources is the reason the governors and their predecessors are fighting.
“The outgoing governors feel it must continue the way they were doing it before. Once the new person comes, they want to continue.
“Also, they are fighting because of the political arrangement they made in the past, not based on a political manifesto. These agreements are not always for the interest of the people,” Rafsanjani said.
According to him, there is no way someone will run the government rather than the person elected, adding that such differences always bring fight.
“If we understand that democracy is about the people, they will be fighting because they will know that in another election, they will all be voted out.“The outgoing governors did not allow a transparent process but they put the people they will manipulate. This is the reason for the continued fight,” the CSOs added.