New Governors On Public Attention Radar
AS 29 States across the nation get new helmsmen, the following are some of the governors whose emergence as chief executives of their states would capture public interest and attention. Would they deliver? What would their leadership style be like? What would occupy their immediate and constant focus in the next four years? These are some of the issues that would make the following governors’ mandates sources of constant public curiosity.
Tambuwal: Escaping The Shadow Of Wamakko
UNKNOWN to most people, the journey to the recent victory of All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate at the poll predated the merger of the legacy parties. At the build up to the 2011 election, the idea of an alliance between the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressives Change, (CPC) was mooted. Muhammadu Buhari was said to have asked the former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu to nominate a running mate to pair up with him. However, while Tinubu dithered, the time for submission of candidates was closing, which forced Buhari to continue with Pastor Tunde Bakare. Though the political understanding could not sail through then, Tinubu kept the scheme on. The election of the principal officers of the House of Representatives provided a perfect opportunity to renew the plot against the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP). It is common knowledge that the emergence of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as Speaker was perfected by the ACN collaboration. Due to some differences, Governor Aliyu Wamakko, who was Deputy to Governor Attahiru Bafarawa, went their separate ways in 2006. Wamakko had to win the disputed election in 2007 with the All Nigeria Peoples Party, (ANPP) structure in the state he snatched from Bafarawa, who went on to found the Democratic Peoples Party, (DPP). Ever since that epic political battle between Wamakko and Bafarawa, whose ally, the former Secretary to the State Government, (SSG) Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi lost the governorship, the rivalry continued. It was against that background that Wamakko adopted Tambuwal, with whom he was in ANPP before they crossed over to PDP. It was for this reason that Wamakko saw the support of South West ACN for Tambuwal’s Speakership as a great political favour to his camp. That also accounted for Wamakko’s insistence that the G7 governors must join the opposition APC to reciprocate the gesture.
By supporting Tambuwal to succeed him and maintain their political structure in Sokoto as he goes to Abuja, having been elected, Senator, Magatakarda Wamakko wishes to maintain the political supremacy over Bafarawa. Tambuwal had been contributing quietly to the cause of APC in Sokoto, even while wearing the toga of PDP in Abuja. It is also believed that the former Speaker played central role making all the political heavy weights in the north to cooperate in the task of uprooting PDP from power. And having been elected and sworn-in as Governor of Sokoto State, it is left to be seen how Tambuwal would steer the ship of state and prove loyal to Wamakko. A lot of people in Sokoto believe that Tambuwal’s mandate is actually a continuation of Wamakko’s reign. Would the former Speaker want to leave the shadow of his predecessor and godfather or remain as a surrogate? How far will this disposition augur well or ill for the political rivalry between Wamakko and the other two camps in the State?
Nasir el-Rufai: Propelling ‘Change’ By Action
IN Kaduna State the buzzword is, watch the engine not the body. That is how locals perceive Malam Nasir el-Rufai’s petit build and his capacity to bring about change. Most people who express disgust at the Yero years dismiss the former FCT Minister’s small size by swearing that, “dan tsiriri (the tiny one) can move mountains.” Expectations from the new governor are very high. On his part, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai has indicated that probes and performance will define his administration.
As the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where he came to after a stint in the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), el-Rufai made a name for himself by going the extra mile to restore the Abuja masterplan by demolishing shanties, projectiles and illegal structure in the nation’s capital. There were tears, sorrow and losses, but at the end of the day, Abuja came near to the befitting capital city it was deigned to be. He was also a very visible member of the Obasanjo presidency. In his book, ‘The Accidental Civil Servant,’ Mallam el-Rufai disclosed how at the tail end of Obasanjo’s tenure the idea of adopting and supporting General Muhammadu Buhari to succeed Obasanjo was mooted before the then President made detour to fish out the former Katsina Governor, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
During the talks for the merger of some political parties, el-Rufai, who had been estranged from PDP, worked in the background and sustained his interest to drag Buhari into the presidential contest once again. It is possible that the accidental public servant espied the possibility that with Buhari, his ambition to govern the strategic State of Kaduna would become a fait accompli. That speculation paid off last month as the former FCT minister won the governorship election on the platform of APC.
Being adept with processes, el-Rufai is expected to not only restore the past glory of KAD, but also revive the culture of administrative excellence in the state. The new governor is expected to give roads and other critical infrastructure in Kaduna metropolis a facelift. Other areas his expertise is expected to be seen is education and security. Kaduna is a peculiar state with diverse ethnic and religious groupings, which had been sources of social irritation. Building peace and social harmony is thus some of the major challenges the new governor would tackle. And how far he does those things will determine the success or otherwise of his administration.
When he paid a congratulatory visit on the governor-elect, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi 11 praised the people of Kaduna for electing a “competent and capable” person as their governor. Alluding to the social matrix of the state, the Emir urged the people to overlook their religious, ethnic and political affiliations to “pray and support el-Rufai for peace and even development in the state.” The royal visitor assured that the new governor would “provide strong leadership, good governance and unite the diverse peoples and communities of Kaduna State.”
Perhaps, as part of his mission to put Kaduna on a sounding administrative footing, the new governor has indicated that he “would not let bygones be by-gone as far as running of the state is concerned.” He has also vowed to probe the past administration so as to ensure that “any money stolen from the state’s treasury would be accounted for.” “I have said this and I will say it again; no one will take away the resources of this state without consequences. We are not going to let it happen. There would be full accountability for every penny that accrue to this state and any one that has taken money meant for this state will be asked politely to return it and if he doesn’t, we will take actions that are not necessarily polite,” el-Rufai swore. He said Kaduna State “has gone through trauma; development has suffered. Resources have not been applied efficiently and effectively and we are not going to draw a line and say the past is the past. The past will be the future.”
It would be seen how far the new governor would go in investigating the past and what foundations he would lay for the future. All eyes would be trained in Kaduna to see how Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai matches words with action as he delivers on the mandate given him by Kaduna people. Interestingly the governor has asked the people to judge him by his performance while in office as from May 29, expressing the hope that he will live up to expectations or stand the risk of being voted out in 2019 if he fails.
David Umahi: Shaking Off Doubts
IN 2007, shortly after Governor Martin Elechi was inaugurated as Ebonyi State chief executive, there was a heated debate in Abuja over the deep-seated political wrangling with the leadership of the State chapter of PDP. Governor Elechi had suggested the dissolution of the PDP State Working Committee and the setting up of a caretaker committee to arrest the power tussle between Chief Okeagu Ogada and Chief Joseph Obinna Ogba as to who was the authentic state chairman. When the suggestion was accepted, Elechi was said to have nominated David Umahi on the premise that he was not stained by the wrangling with the party. The agreement was that Umahi and the caretaker committee would organise the state congress for the emergence of an elected SWC. Most of the stakeholders, mostly the loyalists of former governor Sam Egwu, allegedly objected to having Umahi occupy the position of acting chairman, arguing that as a contractor who had never as much as held a position of ward chairman, he could not handle the assignment. In the end, Elechi being the leader of the party was allowed to have his way and went ahead to empanel the caretaker committee.
Umahi went on to contest the chairmanship and became the substantive State Chairman of PDP. After serving in that capacity for four years, Elechi further nominated him to succeed Prof. Chigozie Ogbu, who had exhausted his constitutional term limit of eight years as deputy governor. Perhaps, energized by the promotion and a hint at possibly succeeding Elechi, Umahi mobilized men and resources in a bold and emphatic way to ensure Elechi’s success at the poll for a second term. That outing did much to increase Umahi’s capacity for the rough and tumble Ebonyi politics. And after their inauguration in 2011, the deputy governor began to put structures in place towards eventual contest of the governorship in 2015.
As party chairman, Umahi ensured that some of his loyal colleagues in the SWC moved over to the House of Assembly for strategic reasons. As deputy governor, and perhaps, feeling confident that he has a loyal deputy, Elechi abdicated his political responsibilities and entrusted those considerations to his deputy.
Elechi virtually relied on Umahi in most administrative issues, lamenting that the constitution did not assign specific duties to the deputy governors.
But months before the 2015 election, Elechi started retreating from the promise of entrusting the governorship of the state on Umahi, expressing reservations that his deputy was minded to much primitive accumulation and intolerant to opposing views. However, Umahi had effectively penetrated the PDP National Working Committee, (NWC) sending ‘telegrams’ and ‘kilograms’ to those that matter in support of his ambition to succeed his principal when he serves out his second term in office.
Given the fact of the general reservations about his experience and capacity to deliver the goods and hold the state together in peace and social harmony, the new governor has a lot to prove. He needs to prove the naysayers wrong that he is not given to violence and intolerance. He needs to prove that he knows how to move the state to another level without appropriating the commonwealth to himself.
Already Umahi has promised to assemble a formidable team to deliver good governance to Ebonyians. There are indications, for instance, that the new governor has appointed a professor of social sciences as his Chief Press Secretary. Though this could present as a misappropriation of personnel, it shows how determined the new governor is to shake off every bit of doubt about his capacity to deliver. Umahi says he and his deputy, barrister Kelechi Eric Igwe, are divinely sent to develop Ebonyi State. Nigerians would remain interested in what happens in the state, especially how Umahi delivers his mandate as a deputy governor that became governor. He succeeded in frustrating Elechi’s attempt to source additional funds from the capital market. He has also said that he would probe the immediate past administration, not minding that he was part of it. Whether Umahi would pursue his mission with vendetta or civility would be seen in the days to come!