By Muiz-Banire, SAN
A few years ago, a novelist played a critical role in my appreciation of powerplay among leaders of society with his cast of child characters lost on an island after a shipwreck. It is the novel titled Lord of the Flies by William Golding, a British novelist and playwright. The beginning is somewhat impressive with childish innocence and adherence to democratic principles with an election conducted to choose the leader of the pack. The intellectual but purblind character that emerges from the election is able to lead the group of little children with some progress recorded.
Over time, over-vaulting ambition takes over with a bullish and forceful character taking over the leadership of the group by force. The consequence is the destruction of their symbol of authority, bloodshed and recession to barbarism. The final phase of it is the rescue of the children when a rescue ship is able to locate them on the said island. Cries of losses and agony of destruction take over. The society has become damaged beyond repair as human lives have been sacrificed. This scenario has been playing out in Nigeria for quite some time particularly since the emergence of the nascent democracy in 1999 and in all cases, the mace, the symbol of authority of the House of Assembly of the theatre of the absurd, would have been broken. The collective innocence damaged. The past few days have been an enactment of free for all fights between the past Governor of Rivers State of Nigeria, now the Minister for the Federal Capital Territory, Chief Nyesom Wike and his successor-protégé, Siminalaye Fubara.
It has been a terrible show of shame where people in high offices are being dragged recklessly in the mud by their combating supporters and the police and other law enforcement officers, apparently influenced to take sides, have made it more disturbing. In the melee, the usual attempt at removing the Governor from office cropped up. This is in pretending to be acting in line with Section 188 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). The usual resistance on the part of the Governor also rose to the occasion. Probably in order to prevent the House of Assembly from being able to carry out the removal proceedings, arsonists set the House of Assembly building where Laws of the State are enacted, on fire and what remains of the former Rivers State House of Assembly Complex is now mere ashes and charcoal.
Nothing was rescued. Nothing was saved. The only luck we have recorded so far is that no one seemed to have died in the inferno. We do not know probably the negative might be the case when full accounts would have been taken of the actual number of casualties. In the course of the fights, the Governor was tear-gassed and drenched in water. An official casualty was shortly thereafter recorded as the Speaker of the House was reported to have lost his seat with some members of the Parliament having removed him in a process shrouded in secrecy. Another immediate Speaker emerged with the minority being in charge. Later we learnt that 24 members of the House had removed that new Speaker and reinstated the previous Speaker. One of the two Speakers ordered the removal of the Chief Judge.
An unbelievable abomination! Thank God for the immediate intervention by Mr. President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who seems to have calmed the situation. We hope it does not degenerate any further. It is at this point that I feel it is imperative to look at the frequent rancorous relationships between the past Governors and the incumbents, which are fast becoming an emerging pattern. The vanity of life and unpredictability of human efforts and outcome are proving themselves to the establishment the limitations in human wisdom. Although the former or outgoing Governors often desire and actually actualize the imposition of their successors under the guise of continuity but the emerging truth is that they only want to continue in office behind this façade.
Certainly, it is not to ensure good governance but to have continuous control of the incumbent, State power and its finances. Some go to the extent of making their successors swear to secret and fetish oaths while others install the members of the Assembly to checkmate the incumbent. While the Constitution of Nigeria only recognizes two terms of four years each for any Governor, these delinquent individuals want to have the third, if not the fourth term through the successor they would have installed. In some cases, it might not be an outgoing Governor imposing his own successor, it might be the case of a strongman in violent politics trying to dictate who governs the State. This unfortunate situation can be dug out of the archive of Oyo State in the 2005 imbroglio that almost consumed the State when Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, a semi-illiterate strongman of Ibadan politics, engineered the removal from office of Governor Rashidi Ladoja, who was said to have risen to the office through the political brigandage of Alhaji Adedibu.
Ibadan, the stormy cauldron of western Nigerian politics went up in blood, flames and deaths. Adedibu’s boys had taken over and the House of Assembly, with a minority number of members, sat in D’Rovans Hotel and claimed to have conducted the proceedings leading to the removal from office of Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja. The same day, the Deputy Governor of Ladoja, the Late Alao-Akala became the Governor through the ‘appointing instrument’ of Pa Adedibu. It took the Supreme Court to reinstate Governor Ladoja.
Edo State was almost reduced to mere history during the crisis between the garrulous and boisterous former Governor Adams Oshiomole and his successor, the seemingly meek Godwin Obaseki. This unfortunate pattern of developments has played out in many States of the Federation the latest before the Rivers’ case being the Osun case between the former Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, later the Minister of Interior under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and his successor, Alhaji Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola, now the Minister for Marine and Blue Economy under the current administration. The outcome of the divided house led to the loss of the State to the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party in the last July, 2022 governorship election in the State. Of course, it is usually a case of accusations and counter-accusations. Before the Osun case was the purported removal of Governor Chris Ngige as the Governor of Anambra State in the south-eastern part of the country under the strong arm of his erstwhile benefactor, Chief Chris Uba, in 2003.
This kind of situation also played out more recently in Kano State under Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and his benefactor and former Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso. I must not forget the case between the Senate President, Godwin Akpabio, as former Governor of Akwa Ibom State , and the immediate past Governor of the State, Udom Emmanuel. I am sure we recall also that of Peter Obi as the then Governor of Anambra State and the immediate past Governor of the State, Willy Obiano. I am sure also you will be wondering why I have avoided mentioning my Lagos.The response is simple. I was part of the confusion then and the story is best avoided than told. The list of these unfortunate crises can be endless. In so many cases that we have seen how relationships between the incumbent and their benefactor went south within a short time after the emergence of the new administration, so many accounts have been given of what normally leads to such misunderstanding which often tends to be from the childish to the ridiculous.
In most instances, the cause of the crisis has always been personal interests of continuing to control the finances of the State as well as the administration of the State structure by the former Governor. The former wants to control the present as a mere appointee who ought not to be able to do anything behind him except with his permission. The incumbent, wanting to exercise full powers of government, will definitely protest and resist.
The next you see is reckless display of violence and abandonment of State functions and responsibilities. No one has suggested that the cause of such crisis has ever been the need to govern the State appropriately and afford the masses a good taste of good governance. No one has ever suggested that the cause of the crisis is the need to bring unhindered development to the State and take care of the interest of the masses. No one has ever looked at the direction of the out-of-school children in the melee. No one has ever considered the interest of the masses to good and adequate health facilities in engineering these senseless fights. What we have always heard is that the former wants a chunk of the State’s monthly financial allocation to be appropriated to him without any reflection in the State budgetary approvals, or that the former Governor wanted to dictate the spate of things in the State.
I understand that Kwara State was saved this horror of violence and gnashing of teeth under Abdulfattah Ahmed as he was completely submissive to the dictates of his former Governor and benefactor, former Senate President Bukola Saraki. Another State where there is no such crisis now is Borno where the former Governor and now Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, left government for his preferred successor without having interest in controlling the new administration. Shettima was reported to have vowed never to come back to the Government House to ask for favours from the incumbent Governor. He faced his senatorial representation responsibilities without demanding undue compensation for sponsoring and supporting the current Governor. What we have seen is rapid development and enviable good governance under Governor Babagana Zulum despite the boko haram insurgency that nearly reduced the State to rubbles. Jigawa will appear equally to enjoy so far the same privilege.
Why is it that our leaders are completely insensitive to commonsense? Why is it that our leaders do not realize that what they accumulate in terms of humongous personal wealth cannot be a good legacy except what they leave behind to the development of the State and the betterment of the lives of the people? I read a report of then Governor Nyesom Wike tutoring his colleagues to resist any attempt by any unfortunate Godfather to impose on them. The same liberationist champion of a few years ago would seem now to have become the latest dictator and tyrant. While many have blamed Sim Fubara for removing too soon his sim card from the now sim-less phone of Nyesom Wike, we have not counted the losses of the State and the people in this blame game. It is the opinion of many that Fubara is guilty as charged for being ungrateful and biting the finger that fed him.
Now there is the saying that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. A pungent question of the critic is when two elephants romantically make love, does the grass derive any benefit? Have the masses actually derived any benefit from watching the porn video of the senseless romance of our leaders when they collaborate and loot our commonwealth? Have the masses savoured the sizzling and tantalizing aroma from the kitchen of the wealthy to enjoy their own tasteless hunger that is devoid of soup? Again, most times the outgoing Governors often forget that human behaviour and character is often complex. The intricacy, most times, makes the choice of a completely submissive character to succeed them impossible. That is best captured in the saying of the Yoruba’s that, ‘ti eniyan o ba i tii de ipo, iwa o niwa ni maa n ya lo’ which literally means that until a man is enthroned, he displays a character alien to his inner self.
My advice therefore is that the potential godfathers should just surrender to fate in choosing the most competent person in the interest of the people and only hope for some measure of loyalty if it happens at all. They must stop playing God. The question is who will sanitize this vice? How do we bring this lunacy under control? When are we transiting into a democracy that is devoid of massive corruption that only dictates the conscience of erstwhile good men into debauchery? How and when would the people be truly liberated and this macabre dance would finally stop? It is better we stop behaving like William Golding’s lost children of the Lord of the Flies, the Arabian rendition of Baalzebub