Easily, Dr Chuba Wilberforce Okadigbo, the ex Senate President, was a political philosopher in his own right. Witty, colourful and grandiloquent, he was an astute political scientist and a politician of astounding polemics. Okadigbo, the Oyi of Oyi, had echoed the difference between power and authority, as well as being in power and in office, after his impeachment. Largely, deputy governors are in office but lack power and authority in Nigeria. To boot, they are in the corridors of power but far away from the levers of power. Clearly, this seeming oxymoron captures the ‘powerlessness’, in a manner of speaking, of deputy governors in the nation’s political calculus. Indeed, this anomaly has spilt bad blood, terminated ambitions and created rivalries across the political aisle.
Perhaps, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a former political adviser, put it in more practical terms and bolder relief. In 2001, the Shehu Shagari World Institute, a Non Profit Organisation, had organised a seminar on the role of deputy governors in a presidential system. Ezeife, at that event, had described deputy governors as ‘spare tyres’ who exist at the pleasure of the state Chief Executives. Significantly, the constitution recognises governors as Chief Executives of their states. However, the document didn’t define their deputies as deputy Chief Executives. Consequently, it is not mandatory for governors, according to him, to hand over to their deputies in their absence. Brutally frank, Ezeife caught the flak for his postulation and a welter of reactions followed suit, praising and condemning him in equal measure. However, between 2001 and now, very little has changed since Ezeife’s famous quip. In fact, most deputy governors are still clutching at straws, trying to stay afloat in the tidal waves of power struggle.
Significantly, Chief Iyiola Ajani Otunba Omisore, as deputy governor of Osun state, was the first to be impeached in 1999. Earlier, Omisore had sued the state government, according to reports, over a $1.5 million contract and the legislature was livid with rage over the litigation. Swiftly, members commenced impeachment process against him, especially for conflict of interest, divulging government secrets and breaching his oath of office. Thereafter, he was removed from office and Omisore’s ouster, in a manner of speaking, broke the ice of impeachments or forced resignations. most deputy governors have either been impeached or hounded out of office. In 19 years, 16 deputy governors have been impeached or hounded out of office and the list is still counting.
Specifically, Senator Kofoworola Buknor-Akerele, deputy governor of Lagos state, was shown the way out of Alausa. The lady, from the outset, had a running battle with Governor Bola Tinubu between 1999 and 2002. The feud, according to her, started when Tinubu wanted to hijack the Alliance for Democracy(AD), the platform on which they were elected, from the elders of the party. Thereafter, their relationship deteriorated and in the end, they parted ways. Tinubu, before then, had kept Buknor-Akerele out of decision making, running of the government and party activities. The governor, on several occasions, had handed over to anyone but the deputy governor to act in his absence. Virtually, Mr Henry Dele Alake, the Information Commissioner, was the de facto deputy governor at that time. With time, things came to a head and Buknor-Akerele, following family advice, resigned from her position.
Afterwards, Mr Olufemi Pedro, an ex banker, succeeded her and for a long time, he got along with Governor Tinubu. In fact, he was generally seen as Asiwaju’s successor and the governor, by his body language, seemed comfortable with the idea. However, Tinubu dumped him for Babatunde Fashola, the current Minister of Works and Housing. Expectedly, Pedro lost out in the primaries and on December 13, 2006, he defected to Labour Party(LP), leaving the Action Congress(AC). On May 10, 2007, he was impeached as deputy governor of Lagos state in spite of protests. Significantly, Lagos state House of Assembly had accused him of gross misconduct, an omnibus and nebulous allegation, to justify Pedro’s removal. However, eight years later, the 8th Assembly has invalidated the impeachment in 2015.
Similarly, Dr Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe, as deputy governor, had a running battle with Governor Urji Uzo Kalu of Abia state. Abaribe, as deft as ever, proved to be a cat with nine lives as the Assembly, on two occasions, had failed to impeach him in the year 2000. However, on the third attempt, the embattled deputy governor sent in his resignation letter but the legislators still ‘’impeached’’ him. Right now, both Abaribe and Kalu are in the senate, representing Abia South and Abia North respectively.
Last year, Professor Hafiz Abubakar resigned as deputy governor of Kano state, citing disrespect, persecution and injustice, as well as ‘’immeasurable and unjustifiable humiliation’’. However, in a swift reaction, Governor Ganduje had denied the allegations in a press statement. Abubakar, according to him, hurriedly resigned for fear of impeachment as 30 out of the 40 legislators had mobilised against him. Last Friday, Chief Simon Achuba was removed as Kogi deputy governor in controversial circumstances. Earlier, Chief Judge Nadir Ajana had set up a committee to investigate Achuba, especially against gross misconduct on August 23. The committee, 48 days later, had submitted its report and the House of Assembly, within a few hours, had impeached Achuba as deputy governor, after ‘’studying and deliberating on the report.’’
Significantly, deputy governors are not sitting pretty in most states as governors, some powerful commissioners and even aides, run roughshod over them. However, in Kaduna state, the case is different as Governor Nasir El Rufai and his deputy, Dr Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe, are working hand-in-glove. As deputy Governor-elect, she was made a Senior Adviser-Counsellor and in that capacity, she was advising El Rufai on Human Capital Development. Similarly, she attended State Executive and Security Councils meetings from get go. Balarabe, in that regard, had helped to drive policy and governance during the transition period. Thereafter, she chaired the Transition Committee which fashioned out the blueprint of the present administration’s second term.
Similarly, upon assuming office, the medical doctor-turned politician has been deputizing and acting on behalf of El Rufai. Last June, she represented El the governor at the Ramadan Lecture of the Federation of Muslim Women’s Association of Nigeria(FOMWAN). Likewise, she represented Kaduna state at a symposium organised by the Federal Capital Territory Archives and History Bureau, when it marked the Archival Day. Last month, Dr Balarabe represented Kaduna state at the meeting of Northern Governors’ Forum. In addition, she represented her principal at the Kaduna Book and Arts Festival(KABAFEST).
Similarly, Dr Balarabe chairs the State Executive Council, the highest decision-making body, when El Rufai is outside the state. Last Saturday, the deputy governor had presented the 2020 draft budget at a Town Hall meeting, where stakeholders made inputs. Similarly, three days later, she submitted the document to the House of Assembly as acting governor of Kaduna state. Cool, calm and collected, Dr Balarabe addressed the legislature with good diction and velvety delivery. Indeed, her choice as running mate and ultimate election as deputy governor has been worth the political risk. So far, she has proven to be a ‘head-tie among turbans,’ the Hausa metaphor for breaking the glass ceiling. In fact, she is in lockstep with El Rufai in taking Kaduna state to the Next Level.