Nigeria Matters

How to be a Deputy Governor

“If not for the constitutional provision of a deputy, I can operate in office without a deputy governor. The position of a deputy governor is like a spare tyre….!
Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State

Why any politician would aspire or accept to be a worthless “spare tyre” deputy governor or any type of second-in-command at all in this warped democracy is one question I have always pondered on having observed with depression the plight of those politicians who have been unfortunate enough to occupy the “lowly” seat since the beginning of this democratic journey. If there is any political position in this democracy whose occupiers have become endangered species and “worthless spare tyres” (not my words), then look no further than the miserable clan of past and present second-command in some 36 states and the presidency whose plights have made the brand of democracy we practice in this clime the most laughable in the world. As we race with anxiety towards the 2011 elections; politicians are beginning to do what they know best, scheming for different positions ranging from the coveted presidency to the lowly ranked counselor.

As the impending 2011 contest races to fever pitch, candidates will be anointed and imposed through zoning and by godfathers because party primaries are mere formalities as far as this democracy is concerned. And of course too, a new round of primaries and elections will throw up new zombies who would occupy the much maligned position of deputy governors. One prominent farce of this democratic journey is the absurdity that can occur when a remote deputy is imposed on a resentful principal without the two having ever met or share the same political beliefs even when they belong to the same party. But politicians are die hard. Well they have also been said to be unprincipled. I tend to agree with those who hold this view because even with the humiliations that have come with the position, the ranks of deputies have continued to swell. Ok, you could say section 186 constitutional provisions makes it mandatory to have these “political handbags” (not my definition), but given recent and past bizarre relationships between these political actors in the states, why would any politician want to be an unused spare tyre?

Now I suspect Theodore Orji has spoken the minds of some of his governors’ colleagues (past and present) who consider the position of a deputy as unnecessary distraction? I also think it will amount to political naivety for any one to isolate Orji’s statement in the whole context of the governor-deputy relationship discourse. But shouldn’t one really excuse these myopic governors for suffocating their deputies thereby contravening the sacred constitutional provision which makes the position of the Deputy critical to that of the Governor? Are the behaviours of these governors not a violation of Section 186? At least they have a role model in this theatre of the absurd playing out in all parts of the federation. Recall that there was no love lost between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Deputy Atiku Abubakar. In Balyesa State, after the humiliation and impeachment of the former Deputy Governor, Perembibowei Ebebi, a new Deputy Governor has been sworn in. The photo ups of the ceremony were embarrassing to say the least. The new Deputy Governor bowed to his principal! Almost fawning! There was also the talk of him being a loyal servant to His Excellency Tinipre Sylva (more like an admonition if you ask me, be loyal or get kicked out seem to convey the message better) Indeed, a new meaning has been coined for the word “loyalty” when defining the relationship between the principal and their deputies in this democracy. But before a new set of deputies are unleashed on us, would it not serve the crop of new deputies well to learn from the woes of growing and miserable clan of deputy governors who have been politically humbled, humiliated and disgraced by Excellencies who brooked no opposition in this winner takes it all democracy? But wait a minute; does any Nigerian remember the names of many of the past or current serving deputy governors? I don’t know many of them if you ask me. And there is only one reason for this. In most of the states where the Governors behave like Lords of the Manor, there seems to be a complete media black out for the Deputies because they are not given any role by their principals. They are mere benchwarmers so no one remembers them long after they have served out their terms. Except perhaps for some states like Lagos where the present Governor is a democrat many exist under the shadows of their master.

Now to our politicians: do you want to be a Deputy Governor? Remember you are (or will be) occupying a position that is fast becoming extinct in our political landscape. Forget the constitutional provision that empowered your “glorified” seat. You will at one point in your career be made to eat the humble pie. My aspiring and serving Deputy Governors, please know that the position you occupy is subject to the whims and caprices of your principal no matter the constitutional provision. You will of course be imposed by the zoning system or the God father in your party. But that will just be the beginning of your problem in office because since you are a product of these political contraptions you are likely not come from the same zone as the Governor which will increase the distrust as you will always be suspected of planning a “democratic coup” against your principal. Do not also attempt to equate your position with the First Lady in your state either. The Madam is of course your superior in the perking order. You may even be required to carry his bag or tie the Excellency (her husband) shoe lace (it can be that bad, but don’t worry sir, you are just being what you are, “an inconsequential deputy).

You will of course face intense pressure to stand up to your principal by sycophants when he turns up the heat on you. But that will be a fatal mistake sir, it may sound your death knell because when the bubble bursts, they will desert you and you can not even trust your State Assembly to save you. You will be locked out of your office, your security details will be withdrawn; don’t expect to get any budgetary allocations when the chase begins. You are just a miserable prey among deadly political predators. If in doubt of the challenges that face you please ask past and present deputy governors (I will currently recommend Comrade Chris Akomas of Abia as a possible mentor). I would also have recommended a book on “How to be a Deputy Governor” for you but I am not sure any past deputies have written an account of their ordeal in office. They are still too traumatized to do so. The disdain for the position you occupy by political players is a clear demonstration of the undemocratic nature of our democracy in which you are only a sad victim. And lastly my serving or aspiring deputy governor, perish the ambition of succeeding the Governor when his term expires. It will never happen. At least the precedent is rare. Do you still want to be a Deputy Governor, the choice is yours?

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