On Wednesday, May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari and 29 governors took the oath of office as required by the Constitution. With this, they are constitutionally empowered to act in the offices they have been elected. They officially constitute a component of the executive arm of government at the federal level (in the case of President Buhari) and state level (as it concerns the governors). They would, therefore, exercise executive power.
Indeed, as President Buhari and the governors affirmed the oath of office, in Abuja and 29 state capitals, I, once again, took interest in the content of the “Oath of Office,” which is a commitment the officers have made as elected government functionaries. They swore to the oath and appended their signatures to make it binding on them. The content of the oath of office, whether for President or governor, is instructive. It is a bond. Whether those who take the oath also take the bond seriously is another thing.
The oath of office said: “I … do solemnly swear/affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria: that as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (governor), I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability, faithfully and in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will abide by the Code of Conduct contained in the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that, in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will; that I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person any matter which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as President; and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Nigeria.”
In the oath of office, one thing that strikes me most is this: “I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability.” Those who swear to the oath are, therefore, promising that what they would do in office would be according to their ability. This means that ability is important in leadership. It follows that anybody in office whose ability is low would not do much, while those who have great ability are expected to do well in office. With this in mind, we should know that the ability of those we put in office is important. Therefore, voters should go for people with high ability, who would deliver the goods.
I belong to the school of thought that believes that we as a nation have to look at our leadership recruitment pattern or process. We should devise a way whereby only people with great ability, capacity or capability could make it to elective office, for the good of the people and the country. A system that allows mediocrities to assume whatever office has a deficiency. There must be emphasis on ability to perform in office based on antecedent. To ensure this, some organisations have provisions in their rules that, for someone to assume certain positions, he must have occupied some other positions, lower on the ladder, previously.
To make Nigerians realise the importance of ability to perform in elective office, we need voter education so that the electorate would be discerning enough in making choices during elections. The voters should know that, irrespective of the fact that election is, more or less, a popularity contest, ability and capacity to perform should be a priority. Voters should be knowledgeable enough to know that the ultimate is not for them to be swayed by primordial sentiment, but the quality of those we choose for various elective offices. The ultimate assignment for government is to cater to the needs of the people, to meet their aspirations and to ensure the common good. Therefore, picking people simply because we like their face, when they do not have the commensurate capability to occupy the office, would not do anybody any good.
One the part of those elected to office, they should know their enormous responsibilities and discharge their duties conscientiously and faithfully. These people should know that power is transient. It expires at the end of the day. Men in power yesterday are out of power today. Those in power today will, in future, be out of power. Therefore, those privileged to be in power should know how to use it, mindful of the fact that one day it will end. Power is intoxicating but there should be control. Power without control has no meaning. Those who do not understand this principle discover, when they leave office, that they are absolutely nothing. They become pariahs and suffer indignation.
On Wednesday, when governors were inaugurated in 29 states, the transiency of power manifested. Former governors who called the shots for eight years maximum and those who could not get their mandate renewed bowed out. They have joined the league of former governors. It is now that their conduct while in office would shape their future, both in politics and in society. Some of them with bad human relations, mostly, will now know what they have done to themselves. Such people would likely be isolated, loathed and avoided by the majority. Those who used their office to touch lives would certainly remain in the good books of the majority.
The story of former governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar, and Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, will serve as a lesson to students of power. Abubakar, in Bauchi, was so unpopular for his conduct in office for four years that people across political divides worked for a change of government. The outcome of the governorship election, which saw Abubakar failing in his reelection bid, was an indication of the people’s feelings. It was a case of “anybody but Abubakar.” Bala Mohammed, who could not get the PDP governorship ticket even when he was Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in 2015, became the beneficiary of Abubakar’s political misfortunes. He is now governor of Bauchi State.
In Imo, not many people speak well of Okorocha. In the state, the groundswell of anti-Okorocha sentiments is pervading and thick. Members of the opposition and his All Progressives Congress (APC) alike tell stories about his conduct in office. Many say his government did not inspire hope and confidence. Others say his human relationship was atrocious. A tiny few, however, believe he did his best. Out of office, Okorocha’s friends will depend on how he is perceived, in the final analysis.
New governors and those who are serving their second term should learn a lesson from this. They should know that there is life after office. What life after office would be is in their hands. They should, therefore, be conscious of what they do and how they do it. They have a choice between achievements and failure, sincerity or deceit, actions and inactions, good name and bad name, good and evil. They are writing their history now.