“Wealth and power aren’t the most important things in life. What is truly important is to have a clear conscience.”
By Omoniyi Salaudeen
By hook or crook, Zamfara State Deputy Governor, Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, must be ready to fight a tough battle lying ahead of him to retain his job as number two citizen in the state now that his boss, Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle, has finally ditched the Peoples Democratic Party for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Even in the best of times, there is always a mutual suspicion between the occupants of the two offices. In the eyes of the law, they are like Siamese twins. Whatever fortune or misfortune that befalls one directly affects the other in the same proportion.
The recent ruling of the Supreme Court that nullified the election of Bayelsa State governor-elect, David lyon, a few hours to his inauguration on the grounds that his running mate, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, submitted forged certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is a good case in point.
The governorship candidate of the PDP, Douye Diri and his running mate, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, had alleged that documents of academic qualifications submitted by Degi-Eremienyo had about nine variations of names different from the name that appeared on his Form CF001 submitted to the electoral commission.
Ruling on the appealed judgment on the matter, a five-man panel of the apex court, led by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, ordered the INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to the All Progressives Congress’ candidates who had been declared winners of the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state and fresh certificates issued to the candidates of the party with the next highest votes and with the required constitutional spread of votes in the results of the election.
According to the panel, the action of Degi-Eremienyo infected the joint ticket with which Lyon contested the election and emerged victorious. Consequently, Diri and Ewhrudjakpo were sworn-in.
However, since the framers of the 1999 constitution did not envisage the reckless manner of carpet-crossing now the in-thing in the polity, there is no compelling court declaration yet to say that a deputy governor must defect with his boss.
It is, therefore, safe to say that what Gusau has done by staying put in the PDP is in order until decided otherwise by a competent court of jurisdiction.
The concern in most quarters, however, is the implication of the new development on the stability of politics in Zamafara State, particularly as the working relationship between Gasau and his boss is not looking good at all. It is like putting a mouse with a cat. One must definitely bow to the other. A tough battle lies ahead indeed.
So far as the current democratic experience in Nigeria is concerned, governors are too powerful to accommodate such a dissenting view on a critical matter as this. As individual and collectivity, they control enormous power and arrogantly flaunt it.
Back in the days of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and the power play intrigues that ensued between him and his vice, Atiku Abubakar, they brought their influence to bear on the political scene. But for the last minute settlement, Obasanjo would have lost his second term bid to Atiku. What eventually transpired behind the scene to arrive at a compromise is a well known story.
In the same manner, former President Goodluck Jonathan lost the lever of power the day he fell out of favour with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, an amorphous body unknown to the constitution.
In the end, a few recalcitrant ones within the Forum rebelled against the leadership of the PDP and teamed up with the new emerging alliance forces to form the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Up till now, the Forum is seen by many as a threat to the growth of genuine democratic culture in Nigeria. Under the indulgence of the constitution, they treat their deputies as spare tyres, who must be ready to take their commands without a delay. They are authoritarian autocrats masquerading as democrats.
For the current political scenario in Zamfara State, Gasau must be ready to accept the consequences of his audacious decision to remain in the opposition. Fundamentally, constitution permits the right of association. But this is Nigeria, where impunity reigns supreme in place of the rule of law. To cultivate a sustainable relationship built on trust, to keep his peace with Governor Matawalle, the embattled deputy governor may need to renew his pledge of loyalty 100 per cent. That has been the rule of engagement since Obasanjo introduced the doctrine of absolute subservience into the Nigerian political culture.
It is an unwritten rule, but you can only float it at your own peril. Atiku did it with Obasanjo, he had a sour story to tell.
It is a make or mar situation for Gasau. With the slightest provocation, chances are there that the governor may be tempted to manipulate the state assembly lawmakers to push for an impeachment. One day, he can wake up from the wrong side of the bed and give a final whistle. That is the tragedy of the Nigerian politics.
But then posterity would be there to judge who ultimately falls on the right side of history. For obvious reasons, it is politically expedient for Governor Matawalle to move to the APC to actualise his second term ambition. But for Gasau, his conscience wouldn’t permit him to break the oath of allegiance they pledged to the PDP when they took the gubernatorial ticket of the party for the 2019 governorship election. That is morality right, but politically suicidal.
To be sure, the governorship, state and National Assembly elections were won by the candidates of the APC. But by a twist of faith, the Supreme Court voided the votes of all the candidates and directed the INEC to declare the candidates of the PDP the winners of the polls on the grounds that the primaries of the former was not properly conducted. INEC had disqualified the APC candidates for failure to conduct its primaries within the stipulated time. Subsequently, various interested parties, including the APC itself, approached the court over the decision of the Commission. In the final analysis, the Supreme Court declared that the votes cast for the party in all the elections in question were ‘wasted’ and ordered the Commission to recognize the runners-up as the winners. The judgment affected the positions of Governor and Deputy-Governor, three Senatorial, seven Federal and 24 State Assembly Constituencies. In his moment of desperation for the ticket of the PDP, Mattawelle was quoted to have said: “If I ever betray PDP, may I not live in peace for the rest of my life, I swear by Allah.” That is the covenant Gasau did not want to break. If he loses, he is already a winner for standing firm on the principle of moral conscientiousness.
Born on June 12, 1988, Mahdi Aliyu Gusau is so far the youngest deputy governor under the current dispensation. He is a son of a former Minister of Defence, General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau. With proper tutelage, he has a bright political future lying ahead of him.