by Olusegun Adeniyi
We have come to the season when Nigerian politicians and their spouses seek spiritual validation from Christian and Muslim clerics, renowned marabouts and all manner of fortune-tellers. Unfortunately, such enterprise is most often an unpredictable slippery slope as we have seen from the aftermath of a recent pilgrimage to the Enugu “Adoration Ground” by the First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan.
Barely seven weeks after she knelt before Father Ejike Mbaka for a special prayer, at a church service in which she took the scriptural reading from Genesis chapter 12; verses 2 and 3 (a telling Biblical passage that must have delighted Aso Rock), the president is now being “baptized” by the Catholic Father with a new name.
It is therefore understandable, given the season that we are in, that opponents of the president would be celebrating Father Mbaka for what is no more than his political position woven in the cloak of prophesy. It is also understandable that the focus of the coming elections is on the presidency. But while we will deal with the issue of political prophesies and the presidential race another day, the essence of this intervention is to look at the gubernatorial contests in some of the states and what they portend for the people.
In all, there will be gubernatorial elections in 30 states and 20 of them are open-seat contests in which case the incumbents will not be on the ballot. Aside Taraba and Adamawa states where the incumbents would not be seeking re-election (not their will!), the 18 other governors have completed their constitutionally stipulated two-terms in office, even though in the case of Kano (Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso), there is a gap of eight years between the first term and the second. However, there will be no gubernatorial election in Ondo, Edo, Bayelsa, Osun, Ekiti and Anambra states because the tenures of the governors will not end on May 29 this year.
More than at any period in our history, who the people elect as their governors will matter, essentially because with oil prices going down, there will be less money to share from the Federation Account. Therefore, any governor that is not creative will find it increasingly difficult to manage the affairs of his/her state. As I pointed out last week, the years of plenty are behind us but in trying to explain the waste, we should also look at the contributions of the states to the decay in our system today.
In the convocation address delivered By Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at Babcock University in June last year titled “Transforming the Nigerian Economy: Opportunities and Challenges”, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy asked some salient questions that have escaped many Nigerians: “Do the (36) states have the resources to deliver services? And why do some states happen to do more and better than others? How can we hold our states and local governments more to account, just as we hold the federal government to account? In terms of the resources, I can confidently say based on the available data that our states are reasonably well-resourced. But of course, I know all of them would want more revenue as we all do even at the federal level.”
Okonjo-Iweala, who explained that about half of Nigeria’s total government expenditures occur at the sub-national level (i.e. the 36 states and 774 local governments), then broke some of the figures down: “If you look at allocations to states and local governments, there are some interesting trends. In 2013, the top 10 allocations went to the following states: Akwa Ibom (N260b or $1.7b); Rivers (N230b or $1.5b); Delta (N209b or $1.3b); Bayelsa (N173b or $1.1b); Lagos (N168b or $1.1b); Kano (N140b or $0.9b); Katsina (N103b or $0.7b); Oyo (N100b or $0.6b); Kaduna (N97b or $0.6b) and Borno (N94b or $0.6b). (Note that all this data does not include internally generated revenues (IGR) of these states, which are significant in some instances such as Lagos State, and very commendable.)…”
After this breakdown, Okonjo-Iweala now made her point with what her analysis reveals about the quantum of resources that have been available to some of the states: “Many Nigerian states receive revenue allocations which are larger than the budgets of neighbouring countries such as: Liberia ($433 million), or Gambia ($210 million) or Benin Republic ($1.47 billion). The top two recipients of state allocations –Akwa Ibom and Rivers –receive $3.1 billion, which is about half of the entire budget of Ghana (about $6.4 billion). On a per capita basis (i.e. revenues/population), the top three recipients of FAAC allocations are: Bayelsa (N84,500 or $545), Akwa Ibom (N55,600 or $360) and Delta States (N42,000 or $270). On this per capita basis, many Nigerian states receive more than neighbouring countries such as: Ghana ($255), Benin Republic ($146), Liberia ($103), and Gambia ($117)…”
While we may argue that the fundamental questions posed by Okonjo-Iweala do not excuse some of the glaring mismanagement of scarce resources we see at the centre, the fact remains that there are issues of governance (or lack of one) in many of the states. However, the real issue is that with the current global realities vis-à-vis the price of oil, many of the states will begin to face hard times as their FAAC allocations dwindle. That then explains why the people must “shine their eyes” before they elect their governors. It is indeed for that reason that beginning from this week, I will be looking at the gubernatorial contests in some selected states as well as what the identified contenders offer for the people.
While Nigerians may not be paying much attention because of the obsession with Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, a lot of interesting permutations has been going on in some states. In one, the outgoing governor was clever enough to plant his men as candidates for both the APC and the PDP. Head or tail, he remains the winner. It is a pointer to the fact that the parties, notwithstanding all the posturing, represent the same things and what matters is actually the personalities involved. In another state that is under emergency rule as a result of Boko Haram insurgency, some smart gods are scheming to have the election as stand-alone, using the pretext of security, so they could use maximum force to muscle their way and the people’s will.
In a milieu where the emergence of a strong national opposition party now makes democratic contest keener and the choices in many of the states more pointed, several factors will impinge on the gubernatorial elections. From the track record of the outgoing governors to the overbearing influence of some political godfathers to demographic alterations and the impact of religion, ethnicity and other extraneous factors like “charters of equity”, many reasons will inform the way voters make their choices. While I will be looking at only a few of these variables that could impact the gubernatorial election in the states, my charity will begin at home.
KWARA: Only a couple of months ago, the general feeling was that many Kwarans, including members of his own party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), did not want the incumbent Governor AbdulFatah Ahmed to get a second term. For that reason, everyone was expecting the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to field a credible candidate to challenge the status quo. At some point, hope was buoyed with Mr. Dele Belgore (SAN), who in 2011 contested on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) crossing over to the PDP where Senator Makanjuola Ajadi, currently a special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan was also a strong contender. Either of these two would have presented a serious alternative and so would have Senator Gbemisola Rukayyat Saraki, a brilliant and respected grassroots politician in her own right. But at the end of the day, in one of those drawbacks of delegate election, it was the little-known Senator Simeon Ajibola who won the PDP ticket by a simple majority in an all-comers race.
Polling 144 votes, representing just about 22 percent of total votes cast, Ajibola defeated other aspirants like Belgore (130 votes), Gbemisola Saraki (113 votes), Ajadi (107), Professor Oba Abdulraheem (58 votes), Hon. Bio Ibrahim (45 votes), Engineer Jani Ibrahim (27 votes), Alhaji Hakeem Lawal (13), Deacon John Dara (four), Sunday Babalola (three votes) and Kale Belgore (one vote). However, it is one thing to win party primaries where the size of your purse dictates the tune, it is another thing to win in a state-wide gubernatorial election.
I was in Kwara State during the Christmas holiday and the feeling of most of the people I spoke to is that Governor Ahmed can begin planning for his second term inauguration and I was not surprised. Given my understanding of Kwara politics, I do not see how Senator Ajibola can defeat the incumbent when you consider all the variables at play which may include religion, ethnicity and geo-political alliances. What compounds the problem for the PDP candidate (who is spending his 8th year as a senator) is that he does not command name-recognition in the state he wants to govern and that in itself is very telling of his contributions as a lawmaker in Abuja.
However, I must admit that as a Kwaran, I feel very concerned about the direction of politics in my state. This is an issue I will come back to another day. But as far as the coming gubernatorial election is concerned, I am not expecting any miracle.
LAGOS: Interestingly, unlike it happened in Kwara, the leadership of the Lagos State PDP was able to “nudge fate in the right direction”. Apparently in the bid to challenge the political dominance of one man in the state, the PDP conducted its primaries in such a manner as to produce a popular outcome. Against most permutations that Senator Musiliu Obanikoro would pick the party’s ticket on the strength of his support base within the PDP in the state, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, who recently decamped to the party and a respected member of the Yoruba/Lagos establishment, won and he now carries the PDP flag in the state.
To be sure, Lagos is perhaps the best run state in the country today and the outgoing Governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, will bow out in May with a loud ovation for his commendable stewardship. For instance, the National Bureau of Statistics recently released figures of the 2013 Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for 14 states with Lagos State topping the list with N384.25 billion which means the state rakes in an average of N31 billion every month. Instructively, Lagos alone accounts for about 65 percent of the total IGR generated by the entire 14 states. More significantly, the 2013 revenue figure for Lagos State is N165bn higher than the 219.2bn which the state generated in 2012.
By running a modern government that depends on taxation from the people, Lagos is gradually building critical institutions and is well prepared for the days without oil money. Yet the foundation for all that was built by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who brought in tested professionals–most of them with little or no electoral value–into governance and was able to deploy their talents for the development of the state. The problem, however, has to do with how absolute political power tends to corrupt absolutely and that could be the focal point of the campaign in Lagos State in the days ahead.
I have never met Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, the APC gubernatorial candidate for the state, so I cannot speak about his preparedness for the office of governor. But to the extent that Tinubu is a man who never settles for the mediocre when it comes to picking people for serious jobs, the former Lagos State Accountant General must have something to offer to be so anointed. However, I have at different times had interactions with Agbaje and I am persuaded he is a methodical person who understands the problems of Lagos, has taken time to think about possible solutions and is ready to give his best for the state if elected.
KADUNA:Headquarters of the old Northern region and the state from where Vice President Namadi Sambo hails (and has governed), Kaduna is one state where the election will be keenly contested. The incumbent Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero of the PDP faces former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, who has a record of performance in public service.
“We take seriously our duty to work for a harmonious society where our people and their talents will thrive in peace, confident in the equality of their treatment as citizens by a government committed to social justice. We are ready to make Kaduna State great again. We have pondered how our dear state came to this dire condition. We have sweated on rescue options, discussed symptoms, diagnosis and solutions with various constituencies across the state. Based on these engagements, the APC Kaduna Team has already presented a draft manifesto. That document is by no means the end of the conversation; rather it helps to further structure the conversation around the most optimal policies and programme… the challenge is huge but we are making the mental and political effort to be ready to effect coherent governance from the very first day in office”, said El-Rufai after his nomination as APC gubernatorial candidate for Kaduna last month.
While nobody can doubt El-Rufai’s competence and the breath of ideas he will bring to governance in Kaduna State should the people elect him as their governor, the real challenge is how he would manage the delicate ethno-religious politics of the state, given his temperament and that could be the issue in the campaign. Unfortunately, Kaduna is more segregated and ethnically/religiously divided now than it has ever been. Combustible tensions lie just beneath the surface in nearly every community from Kafanchan to Funtua, almost to the degree that led to the Zangon Kataf riots of the early nineties which I covered as a reporter. There are deep mutual distrust and suspicions as well as a strong we-versus-them calculation on every level.
If El-Rufai is able to grasp and be sensitive to how deeply hurt, betrayed and suspicious people have become across the Kaduna divide, then he would be on his way to gaining the confidence of all the critical stakeholders in the state. Indeed, if the former FCT Minister can successfully navigate that, then he would be a sure bet for the Kashim Ibrahim House where he will most definitely make a difference in the lives of the people and set a benchmark of purposeful leadership for other governors in the country.
RIVERS: According to the 2013 NBS statistics, Rivers state, with a total IGR of N87.91bn followed Lagos on the revenue chart and that represents an increase of N21.64bn over the N66.27bn generated in 2012. The dramatic increase in the tax revenues depicts an improvement in the productive capacity of the people essentially because the Rotimi Amaechi administration has demonstrated what committed leadership can achieve when it is focused. That perhaps explains why most of the achievements of the governor were recorded before he got distracted (in the course of his second term) with the politics of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) which ultimately put him at collision course with a meddlesome presidency.
However, the APC, the political party to which Amaechi now belongs, has been able to manage its primaries without the acrimony that has attended that of the PDP by picking Hon Dakuku Peterside, a young and brilliant member of the House of Representatives whose temperament gives him an edge over his main rival, former Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike of the PDP. Interestingly, both Peterside and Wike were together in the Amaechi camp before things fell apart, with the former as commissioner and the latter as chief of staff.
Without any doubt, Rivers is a much coveted state by both parties and several of the political gladiators and understandably so too. It is the political headquarters of the South-south region. It is also a resource-rich state and the most populous within the zone. However, in a state where there has been a clamour for power-shift, Peterside has the advantage of coming from the Riverine area while Wike is from upland like Amaechi and his mentor and predecessor, Dr. Peter Odili. It will be interesting to see how this impacts the election but the real issue is the inordinate interest being shown by some external forces.
Having had the privilege of close interactions with both Wike and Peterside, I am sure either will make a good governor because they know the state and its people. They are also passionate men. The difference between the two is that while Peterside is focused on the future, Wike is being driven by a mission to avenge “the past” for some other forces. That perhaps explains why in recent weeks, more attention has been beamed on Amaechi’s loud disagreements with the presidency yet the fact remains that for most of his tenure as governor, he has posited a different paradigm that is in direct opposition to the more conservative tradition of the past.
At the end of the day, the election may be both a referendum on Amaechi’s record and a test of the popularity of his radical slant in national and Rivers politics. It may also be a test of will with Abuja. Incidentally, Wike has drawn most of his support from the ‘big men’ of the old Rivers politics and a powerful ‘big woman’ in Abuja while Peterside is campaigning on the platform of Amaechi’s new politics which appeals directly to the young and ordinary people. The outcome of the election is likely to reflect this divergence.
ADAMAWA: When former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu recently defected from the APC to the PDP, the general feeling was that he did considerable disservice to himself and all that he stood for. Unfortunately, Ribadu missed the message. The issue for most people is not that he left APC for PDP, which he practically described as two sides of the same coin, but rather that the decision was spurred by sheer opportunism. Because of the respect I have for Ribadu, I refrained from making any public comment on the issue but he knew where I stood. But time has since passed and the former EFCC chairman is today the PDP gubernatorial candidate for the state.
In explaining why it chose Adamawa as one of the intervention states under the sixth Cycle of Assistance to the Government of Nigeria, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said “not only is the state predominantly rural, it is further characterised by acute infrastructural challenges coupled with a poor industrial and revenue base.” When you add the issue of a mismanaged economy to the security challenge posed by the Boko Haram insurgents who are daily carving out territories for themselves in that state and killing several people almost at will, you have an idea of a state in serious crisis. As a retired police officer, Ribadu would be able to deal better with the security situation and given his record for probity and accountability, he would judiciously utilize the state’s scarce resources for the advancement of the people of Adamawa.
Can Ribadu win? The question is important against the background that Adamawa is the home state of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar while the APC gubernatorial candidate, Jibrilla Bindow, a serving senator, is also believed to be very popular. In fact, at the primaries last month, Bindow polled 1,880 votes to defeat Yayaji Mijinyawa, a close ally of the former vice president who scored 1,183 votes to place second. There is also the issue of zoning and geo-politics within the state though how they affect the election remains to be seen. But perhaps the biggest determining factor would be on whose side the Governor, Mr Bala Ngilari, (who was edged out of the PDP race) stands. However, all factors considered, I have no doubt that if elected as the governor next month, Ribadu will give Adamawa State a new lease of life.
IMO: The incumbent governor of Imo State who contested and lost the APC presidential primaries, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, is a formidable politician. But he has an equally formidable challenger in Emeka Ihedioha, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives who has had a glittering political career. Before I continue, I believe that full disclosure may be necessary here: of all the electoral contests in the country, this is one in which I have direct personal interest. Ihedioha is a close friend of more than two decades and not only did he take me into confidence before embarking on the journey, I have been with him all the way. So to that extent, I admit to any charge of bias.
However, when I look at Imo and its potentials against the state of affairs today, I have no doubt that Ihedioha will offer better leadership and make more difference to the lives of the people. I have sat with Ihedioha several times as he ponders over sundry problems plaguing Imo and I can attest to the passion and commitment he will bring to bear in providing solutions for those critical issues should he be elected the Governor of the state. But first, he has to overcome the internal distraction from Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, the man he narrowly defeated at the PDP primaries.
In an open contest which was witnessed by several critical stakeholders, including Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials, Ihedioha polled 346 votes to beat Ararume who scored 336 votes while former governor Ikedi Ohakim came third with 213 votes. With a difference of just ten votes, it is not always easy to take an electoral loss when the margin is that close but Ararume should be gracious enough to accept the fact that the Imo State PDP members have made their choice and that there is a need for him to rally behind his younger brother.
With Imo divided into three geo-political zones, there are other nuances that make the election really very competitive while the emergence of Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho as the candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) has added more dynamics to the equations. But the incumbent Okorocha, a very colourful politician, still remains the man to beat in a race in which I have pitched my tent with Ihedioha as the best man for the job.
To be continued….
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Olusegun Adeniyi/Thisday