In 1979, with only a few days to the inauguration of the newly-elected President and nineteen state governors, Daily Times newspaper published a cartoon by its ace cartoonist, Josy Ajiboye. In it, a governor-elect was fast asleep on his bed and he was sweetly dreaming of himself in a long black Mercedes car, preceded by a siren car and surrounded on both sides by police outriders.
Cars are no longer what they used to be as status symbols so the twelve men across the country who are impatiently waiting to become the chief occupants of their state Government Houses for the first time are probably not thinking of Mercedes cars. These days, some Nigerians have personal cars more exotic than those of governors or even the President. Besides, it is said that some businessmen in parts of Nigeria hire siren escorts when they go home for the weekend, so even siren is no longer a tall ambition.
There are however many things that must be occupying the minds of every one of the 12 governors-elect, as well as the 17 re-elected governors who are about to commence their second terms in office. Of the new governors-elect, Babagana Umara Zullum in Borno, Mai Mala Buni in Yobe and Abdullahi Sule in Nasarawa are having an easy time transiting because they were the anointed candidates of their predecessors. There is therefore little upheaval in their march to the throne.
Things are more complicated for Muhammed Inuwa Yahaya in Gombe, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq in Kwara, Bala Mohammed in Bauchi, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri in Adamawa, Dapo Abiodun in Ogun, Seyi Makinde in Oyo, Babajide Sanwo-Olu in Lagos and Emeka Ihedioha in Imo. These men are the political equivalent of corporate raiders who are about to undertake a hostile takeover of their state governments. They should therefore expect much upheaval, including sketchy handover notes, uncooperative transition committees, shoddy protocol arrangements, missing project files, vanishing vouchers and, as in Bauchi, a hastily repealed anti-corruption law. Six out of these persons are taking over the governorship across party lines so the upheaval is understandable. In Lagos and in Ogun however, the governors-elect are taking over from men of the same party but the hostility is nevertheless palpable.
The most anxious governor-elect in Nigeria is Mukhtar Shehu Idris of Zamfara. Ordinarily, he should have a smooth transition as the anointed candidate of Governor Abdul Azeez Yari. Idris is however paying the price for the messiest party primaries in Nigeria, one which resulted in a virtual shouting match between INEC and APC and which pitched state against federal high courts. The Supreme Court is set to deliver a final ruling on the matter on May 24. The ruling could either pave the way for Idris’ swearing-in five days later, propel the PDP candidate Bello Mutawalle to the governorship, or pave the way for new elections.
This third option is fraught with its own dangers. If a new election date is set after May 29, the State Assembly Speaker could act as governor because Yari’s term would have expired. But then, on June 6, the Speaker’s tenure also expires. Zamfara could be the first state in Nigeria since 1983 to go for days without a governor; that year Anambra State went without a governor for a week while the Supreme Court mulled on the case between NPP’s Jim Nwobodo and NPN’s C.C. Onoh.
Many other governors-elect as well as re-elected governors are also glancing over their shoulders at the special election tribunals. Although it is rare for election tribunals to overturn governorship elections, those governors that were elected with narrow margins, or where violence accompanied the polls, have the most to worry about.
Many governors-elect would also be thinking about their godfathers. How much loyalty should a governor accord to a man without whose goodwill he would probably never have become one? Sanwo-Olu in Lagos and Dapo Abiodun in Ogun come to mind because they have the most ambitious godfather. Next to them is Fintiri, also with an ambitious godfather. Since 1999, only a few governors remained loyal to the men who anointed them. Most of the men who were anointed to become governors ended up repudiating their godfathers, some fairly quickly, others after some years. It is not the best, but political jobbers often ignite the rebellion for their own ends.
A governor-elect must be preoccupied right now with his cabinet selections. Nothing defines an administration better than cabinet selections, and nothing contributes more to its success or failure. Trouble is, the process often veers out of the governor-elect’s control. As far as politicians are concerned, all selection should be based on a person’s contribution to the campaign. Governors however find out that technocrats with little political contribution are needed to man key ministries. This often causes tension, sniping and accusations that the governor abandoned those who put him in office.
A serious governor-elect should also be thinking of his policy priorities. It helps if he already has a lot of management and political experience because as he will shortly find out, local and international NGOs, lobbyists, his commissioners and the newspapers will project every sector as priority. A governor must make the minimum investment in every sector, but if he does not have priority areas, he will veer from one concern to another and end up achieving nothing.
Time is something that a Nigerian governor does not have. A governor-elect’s house is already bristling with politicians, kinsmen, lobbyists, consultants, contractors, civil servants, traditional rulers, clerics, classmates, school mates, colleagues at former places of work, clerics, security agents, journalists and long-lost mistresses. Everyone wants his attention and there aren’t enough hours in the day to attend to all them. Some governors go on holding meetings until early morning hours, which is detrimental to personal health, proper attention, policy focus and good thinking.
A governor-elect would be fretting about the state of the treasury, the most important tool in his governance arsenal. Is it empty, as is often the case? Is the treasury up to date in paying the state’s workers their salaries? Is it owing pensioners for many years, as is often the case? Would contractors and consultants rush to him with vouchers for unpaid work, some of it forged? Is there enough money to complete ongoing projects? And most worrisome of all, is the state treasury indebted to banks and international creditors? Did it issue Irrevocable Standing Payment Orders to some people?
Apart from money, a governor-elect’s chief concern is his state assembly. Once he has finished with INEC and election tribunal, this is the only institution that can remove him from office before his term expires. Luckily, state assemblies are the least aggressive institutions in Nigeria. Far from it, they are in most cases pawns in the hands of a governor, provided he caters well to their unquenchable thirst for money. In some states, a governor-elect also worries about powerful traditional rulers. Even though a governor holds the aces in his relationship with royal fathers, some are powerful enough to destabilise his administration. No wonder that dealing with a recalcitrant royal father is the top priority of the reelected governor in Kano.
Relationship with the Federal Government and its powerful officials is also uppermost in a governor-elect’s mind. All the state assemblies that impeached their governors in this Republic did so at the behest of the Presidency, often using the EFCC. The latter could make a governor’s tenure quite uncomfortable by hounding his officials. An opposition governor-elect has the most to worry about; one is already being speedily prosecuted ahead of his swearing-in.
A governor-elect frets about the news media, in particular the dangerously uncontrollable social media. Every human being, except some really hardened criminals, wants other people to see him in good light and the media holds the key to some public regard. Finally, incredibly, some governors-elect are already thinking about their reelection in four years’ time.