The old saying admonishing against pride remains as true as ever. At least, the 2019 Nigerian general elections have ensured that. More remarkably, even though garbed in biblical language, the admonition is meant to serve entire traditional worshippers, even atheists and of course public figures.
Otherwise, only inability or unwillingness to abide by that caution or even deliberate disregard of that self-discipline could account for the electoral setbacks of the state governors humiliated by voters in the 2019 elections. Ironically, their disgrace was avoidable. In any genuinely democratic setting, the arrangement is such for incumbents to serve their tenure as guaranteed, in fact, limited by the Constitution, and allow voters to choose whoever is preferred next. Somehow, the illegality of violating that same arrangement has, over the years, been institutionalised by state governors. It is tempting to absolve these political culprits (state governors) of any blame. But such view will be nothing less than unnecessary pampering. A criminal cannot escape punishment or at least guilt, even though origin of crime(s) dates back to the creation of human beings.
If only the state governors humiliated by voters in the 2019 elections had not been power-drunk, theirs, today, would have been such glory and public acclamation of enviable proportions. Instead, the governors concerned opted for the discredited pattern. That legacy was a carry-over from former President Olusegun Obasanjo who, in 2007, in an act of petulance for woefully failing in the attempt to perpetuate himself in office, deliberately blocked all willing contestants and, instead, unlawfully chose his successor, all aimed at subtle continuation of his authority in governance.
Within a short time, that subtlety became too overbearing for late President Umaru Yar’Adua who had to put a stop to Obasanjo’s insatiable demand for his cohorts, apart from trying to run the government for Yar’Adua, who unfortunately died in office, from causes totally unrelated to his disagreement with Obasanjo. No matter how erstwhile Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan might be happy that Obasanjo virtually catapulted him to office as a successor to Yar’Adua, the same Jonathan was soon to taste of Obasanjo’s indirect command of anybody in Aso Rock.
It was also with that idea that Obasanjo cleverly threw his weight behind candidate Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 against “rebellious and ungrateful” Jonathan. And when Buhari won (in 2015) on the combined merit of his person and his party, the APC, Obasanjo resorted to type by sending two of his cohorts to deliver to Buhari some kind of policy directive. This would have been followed by a list of his potential appointees into government jobs. Buhari’s outright rebuff of Obasanjo’s attempt to commandeer his (Buhari’s) administration was the only cause of Obasanjo’s political hostility, which led to his call on Buhari to quit after one term. It was a gamble, which (has now) exposed the hollowness of Obasanjo’s widely presumed electoral influence anywhere in Nigeria.
The damage done to Nigerian politics by Obasanjo is not only trying to choose his successors or trying to run administrations for them as they came, was not lost on state governors who, since 2007, similarly imposed their individual successors to ensure their (outgone governors’) continued dominance on their imposed successors. Mostly, it never worked out. From one state to another, the newly imposed governor eventually alienated his benefactor of yesterday by, among others in extreme cases, exposing the financial infractions of their predecessors.
Whatever might, therefore, be the intention of some state governors humiliated in the 2019 elections, the situation in Imo State was grotesque. It is, by the way, arguable if any Nigerian can occupy a political office for eight consecutive years without getting controversial. Even then, Imo’s outgoing governor Rochas Okorocha did not help himself. Indeed, no matter how well he might have performed, Okorocha’s actions and utterances in the past six months were not complimentary. And nobody around him bothered to draw his attention to such self-deprecating conduct? In the build-up to the primaries for APC governorship ticket in Imo State, media reported Okorocha as saying he would never allow one of the aspirants (Ararume) to succeed him. That was wrong. It is not within the law or the power of a state governor to refuse a fellow citizen to succeed him. Only law courts or the electorate can exercise such veto against an aspirant, no matter his misdeeds.
To worsen matters, again according to unrelated media reports, outgoing governor Okorocha was to head for the Senate while his wife was set for the House of Representatives.
Except that Okorocha’s son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, eventually turned out to be an aspirant as a successor to Okorocha himself, such an arrangement sounded incredible. Okorocha himself should have known that South-East is too republican for such emerging monarchical hierarchy. In any case, when his party then intervened and organised open primary election to select his successor, Okorocha should have accepted the result, no matter how distasteful. Instead, Okorocha’s son-in-law stood on the platform of a rival party. Thereafter, Okorocha lost everything. Even his Senate election result now stands doubtful, courtesy INEC. All because of the pride of a state governor hell-bent on pursuing the future outside the control or outside the regulations of his party. What would it have mattered if APC won Imo governorship with the party’s candidate instead of Okorocha’s son-in-law? In view of APC’s defeat in the Imo governorship race, what are the prospects of Okorocha’s reconciliation with the party at national level or even state level? Sudden end to otherwise promising political career? In this row, Okorocha is so outmatched that only he can save himself. First, by lying low.
As speculated in this column, APC split its votes in Imo State while PDP fully consolidated their votes for the governor-elect, Emeka Ihedioha.
Outgoing Oyo State governor Abiola Ajimobi is particularly disappointing for how his political career has ended. He should have done better since, at least, he is educated, which does not mean others are illiterates. There is more to education than not being an illiterate. The value of education is the reasonableness it imparts on the recipient. Ajimobi is too exposed and urbane to have attracted, over the years, the vitriol and verbal venom unleashed at him by critics after his (Ajimobi’s) defeat in the senatorial election. Yet, there couldn’t have been two governor Ajimobis, except the one widely known.
The criticisms are too wounding and incredible. For public office holders, perhaps unconsciously, over the years, isolation sets in either because he is averse to advice/criticisms or those around him are too subservient to criticise unpopular decisions. Yes, inside government such criticisms are more effective, more instant and more preemptory. If Ajimobi did not avail himself of such checks, he is today paying for it. Political power or even ordinary authority is so ephemeral that only God is omnipotent. Human beings? He is a failure who does not create room for critical observations by subordinates.
Governor Ajimobi’s handling of the Olubadan/new kings crisis was very tactless as well advised in this column at the time. Centuries-old ethnic culture cannot be dismantled in total disregard of the concern of those to be affected. As minor as that might be, all such issues on traditional rulers in Yorubaland always left traces of bitterness such vindictively expressed against Ajimobi, leading to his defeat in the senatorial race and that of his nominee Adebayo Adelabu in the governorship battle.
Still needlessly, if days could roll back, Ajimobi would not have chanced himself to contest the senatorial race in 2019. What would Ajimobi have lost if he did not contest? Nothing, as it turned out. What would he have gained? Glory and statesmanship. Indeed, he would have earned public respect by allowing willing others to contest for the Senate, instead of even imposing a candidate. Ajimobi rather contested and lost. What humiliation. Now, he is sober and derelict. Ajimobi’s education should have saved him that pity. From the Senate, Ajimobi came, served as governor for eight years consecutively and was still determined to return to the Senate. This was not to be, except that he never believed. Now, he believes.
The least said about outgoing Ogun State governor Ibikunle Amosun, the better. That is merely on the surface. Otherwise, much must be said although briefly. Unlike many governors, Amosun has the advantage of being close to President Muhammadu Buhari since decades. Unfortunately, Amosun misused that edge even to embarrass Buhari himself.
As the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria elected on the platform of a political party, it was only normal for Buhari to be part of APC’s decision of open primaries in the selection of candidates for the 2019 elections. Instead, Amosun defied that decision and chose his own candidates for all the posts. He was particularly insistent, in strict adherence to Obasanjo theory, on single-handedly choosing his (Amosun’s) successor as governor.
To rub it in, Amosun openly declared that not only was he opposed to the party’s candidate as governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, but also that he (Amosun) would campaign against Dapo Abiodun. What was Buhari to do? To refuse Amosun entry to Aso Rock?
Taking undue advantage of unlimited access to the place, Amosun took his personal candidate on the platform of a rival party to Buhari at Aso Rock. To ridicule Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, an indigene of Ogun State supporting the party’s candidate, Dapo Abiodun.
Amidst his braggings and threats to campaign against Dapo Abiodun, the outgoing Ogun State governor (Amosun) was advised in this column that nobody dares Ijebu. Amosun did and suffered electoral humiliation as his candidate was defeated. God neither brags nor threatens as has been happening in Ogun State for the past four months.
Rather, God indulges the shortsighted and immodest to grope in the dark. Not even the declaration of spiritual war by an ex-gubernatorial aspirant could work. Dapo Abiodun won and nothing would happen to him except success and, imperatively, modesty.