Abuja – The aspirations of many deputy governors to succeed their principals are being frustrated in many states across the country as most governors have anointed other aspirants ahead of their parties’ primaries, leaving their deputies behind.
Findings by Sunday PUNCH revealed that in several states where incumbent governors are in their second term and are making frantic moves to produce their successors, no deputy governor has been favoured by either the party machinery or their governors.
In states like Ebonyi, Delta and Benue, the governors have anointed the Speakers of their respective Houses of Assembly in spite of their deputies showing interest in the race.
In Nigeria, incumbents more often than not influence who emerges as their parties’ candidates and oftentimes the winners of elections. It explains why aspirants jostle to be the governors’ choice.
In Delta State, the deputy governor, Mr Kingsley Otuaro, has since joined the race to succeed his boss, but Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is believed to be supporting the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr Sheriff Oborevwori.
One of our correspondents learnt that Okowa had advised his deputy to run for the Senate to replace Senator James Manager, who has also joined the governorship race, but Otuaro was said to be more disposed to the governorship seat.
A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said, “What can be deduced from the governor’s disposition is that he is not supporting his deputy. He seems to prefer the Speaker. Regardless, the deputy governor has the right to contest.
“Don’t forget that the governor also refused to adopt the aspirant of his political godfather, Chief James Ibori, who is said to be rooting for a former finance commissioner, Olorogun David Edevbie.”
In Benue State, the intrigues over who will succeed Governor Samuel Ortom appear to have taken an interesting dimension.
The deputy governor, Benson Abounu, recently emerged as the consensus aspirant of the PDP in the Idoma ethnic group in the Benue South Senatorial District, whereas Ortom had, in conjunction with other stakeholders, chosen the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Titus Uba, as the party’s consensus aspirant for the Tiv ethnic group, which makes up Benue North-West and Benue North-East senatorial districts.
Apart from throwing up the age-long political battle between the Idoma and Tiv ethnic groups, the emergence of the Speaker and the deputy governor also shows clearly that Ortom is not in support of Abounu emerging as his likely successor. The deputy governor had, on the other hand, said at different forums, “My governor understands me and I understand him. He trusts me so much.”
Since the creation of the state in 1976, with five executive governors, the Idoma ethnic group has yet to produce the chief executive as it has been rotating between zones ‘A’ and ‘B’, being the Tiv ethnic group.
The spokesman for the PDP in the state, Bemgba Iortyom, dismissed the perceived political dominance of one ethnic group, saying, “I believe that in the event that we go into the primary, the aspirants will not limit themselves to their localities.”
A resident of the state, Ben Adamgbe, said, “Some deputies have the belief that their principals always short-change them and before you know it, a gully is created between the two. If the governor is a good principal, he will not shove his deputy aside, but the wicked ones will instigate an impeachment process against their subordinate.”
In Ebonyi State, there are clear indications that Governor David Umahi has looked beyond his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, to anoint the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Francis Nwifuru, as his preferred successor.
The National Coordinator of Umahi Fans International, a support group for the governor, Vincent Dike, said Nwifuru’s choice was due to Igwe’s decision to contest the Ebonyi Central Senatorial District election and not because he and his principal were not on good terms.
In Abia State, the deputy governor, Ude Oko Chukwu, has since declared his intention to succeed the governor, Okezie Ikpeazu. Meanwhile, the governor is rumoured to be silently rooting for a former Vice-Chancellor of the Abia State University, Prof Uchenna Ikonne.
The governor has yet to take a position publicly, but there are strong indications that Chukwu, a former member of the state House of Assembly, may not get his principal’s nod.
Following the governor’s silence on the issue, Chukwu dismissed insinuations that there was a rift between both of them, saying he remained loyal to Ikpeazu. He insisted that his decision to join the governorship race had not in any way implied that he was no longer loyal to the governor.
“As the deputy governor of Abia State, I remain loyal, supportive and committed to my boss and governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu. As a man of outstanding and tested integrity, I cannot betray the governor,” he stated.
In Ekiti State, ahead of the June 18 governorship election, a former Secretary to the State Government, Mr Biodun Oyebanji, emerged as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress. His emergence was said to have been made possible by the support of Governor Kayode Fayemi.
Though the deputy governor, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi, is from the Ekiti Central Senatorial District like Oyebanji, he was not in line to succeed his principal.
A chieftain of the APC in the state said, “In the history of Ekiti State, only a sitting deputy governor had emerged as a governorship candidate and that was Prof Kolapo Olusola during the Ayodele Fayose administration in 2018. Even at that, party members contested the ticket with him.
“In the present case, the sitting deputy governor was not known to have shown interest in succeeding Governor Kayode Fayemi. When aspirants started jostling, nobody heard that he was interested in the office, because I believe he knew it was not automatic.
“Besides, the people wanted a younger person as the candidate and eventually the governor, hence the massive support for Oyebanji culminating in his emergence. Again, the credentials and experience of Oyebanji as well as his ability to deliver placed him above any other person interested in the governorship ticket of the party and indeed the state.”
In Niger State, there are speculations that Governor Abubakar Bello is not supporting his deputy, Ahmed Ketso, to emerge as the candidate of the APC or the governor of the state.
There are also speculations that the deputy governor is aware of his boss’ disposition and may consider leaving the party if that works against him at the primary.
Bello and his deputy were said to have had a good working relationship, with the governor handing over the affairs of the state to Ketso anytime he was travelling at the inception of the administration until things began to change.
Musa Abdullahi, a member of the party from Agaie, said he believed the reason deputy governors hardly succeed their principals was the fact that they were seen mostly as a spare and they never really got to perform any state function except the governors were not available.
In Katsina State, the deputy governor, Mannir Yakubu, has declared his intention to contest the governorship primary, but it was not clear if Governor Aminu Masari will support his candidacy.
Yakubu had earlier resigned his appointment as the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, a portfolio he had been handling since 2015.
He was said to have discussed his ambition with the governor, who has yet to speak or give any clue as to his preferred successor. It was learnt that Masari had been encouraging those interested in succeeding him to contest.
Yakubu, however, told journalists in Katsina on Saturday that he was the most qualified to succeed the governor.
In Kano State, there are also indications that the deputy governor, Dr Yusuf Gawuna, may not have the backing of his principal, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, who alongside his wife, Hafsat, may throw their weight behind the immediate past Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Murtala Garo.
Gawuna had resigned his appointment as the Commissioner for Agriculture. His Chief Press Secretary, Musa Fagge, said the relationship between the governor and his principal was cordial, adding that the deputy governor had represented his principal at many functions. “It is mischief-makers who are spreading false stories; the governor has high regards for his deputy,” he added.
In Plateau State, the deputy governor, Prof Sonni Tyoden, has unveiled his plans to succeed Governor Simon Lalong, who has obtained his senatorial forms. The governor has yet to endorse any candidate.
Tyoden had expressed optimism that he would get Lalong’s support, but the governor said a few days ago that he was not considering anointing any aspirant to succeed him. “I have not adopted or anointed any aspirant for the governorship or any other office. I pray to God to guide all of us to make a choice that is in the best interest of the people, our state and nation,” he stated.
In Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Wike has yet to speak on whether or not he will support his deputy, Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, who has expressed interest in contesting the Rivers West Senatorial District election and has been screened already.
Asked why the governor did not anoint his deputy to succeed him, the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state, Sydney Gbara, said Harry-Banigo had preference for the Senate. “She said having served in the executive, she wants to experience the legislature as well and bring her wealth of experience to improve the relationship between the executive and the legislature,” Gbara stated.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Rivers State Civil Society Organisations, Enefaa Georgewill, said governors see their deputies as spare tyres and might not consider them as being good enough to take over when they exit power.
“The intention of those who made our laws was that should anything happen to the President or governor, the deputy should naturally take over. However, it is unfortunate that they are relegated to the background. It is even worse that they don’t even see them as being good enough to even take over from them when they leave,” Georgewill noted.
In Enugu State, the deputy governor, Cecilia Ezeilo, is also not in line to succeed her principal, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. She is said to be contesting the Udi/Ezeagu Federal Constituency seat at the House of Representatives.
Findings also indicate that she has a cordial relationship with the governor, but the zoning arrangement in the state does not favour her zone producing the next governor. She is from Enugu West, while Enugu East is expected to produce the next governor.
In Akwa Ibom State, where the governor and some other party chieftains in the state have settled for one of his commissioners, Pastor Umo Eno, the deputy governor, Mr Moses Ekpo, has said he is not interested in contesting any position after he leaves office.
His Press Secretary, Ekikere Umoh, said, “My boss is not interested in any position, be it political or not. In fact, he said during his 80th birthday that his tenure as deputy governor will be his last for any appointment, be it political or otherwise.”
In Cross River State, the deputy governor, Prof Ivara Esu, does not seem to be nursing any political ambition as he has yet to declare interest in any office even though he has a good relationship with the governor, Prof Ben Ayade, who has not publicly declared support for any candidate.
In Taraba State, the deputy governor, Haruna Manu, is currently not in line to succeed Governor Darius Ishaku, who has yet to indicate any preference for the state’s top job.
Manu has declared his intention to contest the Taraba Central Senatorial District election.
A Special Adviser to the governor, Jermiah Tyolanga, said the relationship between Ishaku and his deputy was very cordial, but that the governor had not openly supported anybody to succeed him.
Why govs don’t support deputies to succeed them – Kaka
Speaking on the possible reasons why governors rarely anoint their deputies as likely successors, a former deputy governor of Ogun State, Senator Gbenga Kaka, said he could only hazard a guess. He, however, noted that the reasons could range from unhealthy rivalry to personal interest and fear of a witch-hunt.
Kaka, who was the deputy to Chief Segun Osoba between 1999 and 2003 said, “They may have their reasons and since I am not a governor yet, I wouldn’t know why. We can only hazard a guess. There could be unhealthy rivalry.
“There could be the possibility of looking over the deputy’s shoulder and in the process breach of trust occurs both ways, and when we have breach of trust, to now say the deputy should succeed the governor may be difficult. In some cases, maltreatment of deputy governors may create fear in a sitting governor.”
He said in his case, Osoba was eyeing a second term, which did not work out, and so he and his former boss had never been in such a situation.
Governors suspect deputies, prefer successors they can control – Aluko
Also, a former deputy governor of Ekiti State, Chief Abiodun Aluko, said governors often suspect their deputies partly because party leaders nominate the running mates.
Aluko, who was deputy to Ayo Fayose during his first term in office, said, “In most cases, the deputy governorship candidates are forced on the governorship candidates by the parties. The candidate already has his class of friends, so by the time he gets into government, he relates with his friends to the exclusion of the deputy governor. In most instances, the deputy governor is not even consulted in most government decisions.
“Since the deputy governor is not his nominee, if the governor wants a successor, he wants somebody he can monitor and control because most of them don’t want to leave governance 100 per cent to their successors. They still want to be part of the government that will come after them.
“Unfortunately, the constitution does not allocate any responsibility to the deputy governor; it only states that there shall be a deputy governor in a state. Also, most of the governors will not want the competence or capabilities of their deputies to be exposed to the public so that in case of any unexpected event, people will not look up to the deputy as an alternative, except in the case of death, which nobody can do anything about.”
Also, a former Head of Political Science Department, Bayero University Kano, Prof Kamilu Fagge, said it could be to avoid a political witch-hunt, since the deputy had all the ‘sins’ of his principal at his fingertips.
“In our constitution, deputy governors do not have clearly defined roles; they are at the whim of the governors. In other words, their responsibilities are determined by the governor and if the governor likes, he can be close to his deputy and assign to him certain responsibilities beyond just being a spare,” he stated.
Fagge noted that in most cases, deputy governors were imposed on governors after primaries, which could impact on their working relationship.
A stakeholder from the Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State, Ezeogo Nkama, said absolute silence from any governor about his deputy’s bid to succeed him suggested no approval. “A governor who wants his deputy to take over from him must sell and campaign for his deputy, and in absence of that, there is disharmony,” he added. (Punch)