By the extant provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the 2010 Electoral Act, a governor cannot be elected without a deputy. For a governorship candidate to be deemed qualified to stand for an election, he/she must have a running mate, who automatically becomes his/her deputy if they win and assume offices. The post of a running mate or deputy is not officially contested for during party primaries. It is not a post an aspirant vies for. Most of the time, political parties are involved in the selection of running mates for gubernatorial candidates after party primaries.
On rare occasions, gubernatorial candidates are given the total liberty or prerogative to choose their running mates. The involvement of party apparatchik in the selection of running mates for gubernatorial candidates often creates the political marriage of two strange bedfellows to fly the tickets of their parties. Most gubernatorial candidates, more often than not, do not know their running mates and their antecedents until they are paired together.
Some meet their running mates for the first time during electioneering campaigns or on the convention ground. This often led to incompatible adults working together for political exigency. Since the advent of the Fourth Republic democracy in 1999, many governors and their deputy governors had fallen apart, quarreled bitterly and some governors influencing the impeachment of their deputies even before the end of their first term in office for those governors who had or completed maximum of two terms of eight years in office. Few governors were able to manage or tolerate their deputies for eight years of their stay in office without influencing their impeachment.
Against this backdrop, only two former governors had willingly supported, sponsored and worked for their deputies to succeed them in office after their tenure since 1999. These two former governors were; Alhaji Sani Yerima of Zamfara State, who willingly supported his then deputy, Alhaji Aliyu Shinkafi to succeed him. The other was Alhaji Rabiu Musa kwankwaso of Kano State who also supported his then deputy and now Governor Abdullahi Ganduje to succeed him. Former Governor Sani Yerima, who has been a senator since 2007, supported his then deputy, Ahaji Shinkafi to succeed him without compulsion even though both of them later parted ways which led to Alhaji Shinkafi governing Zamfara State for only one term of four years, having been pushed out by the same Sani Yerima who installed another person as governor.
The third former deputy governor who became governor, defying his then boss to become governor against the choice of his then boss is the incumbent Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State. When former Governor Martin Elechi finished his eight years tenure in 2015, he was defiantly averse to his then deputy taking over from him. He preferred the candidature of former Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, to take over from him.
However, then Deputy Governor David Umahi had supporters who were there for him to battle former Governor Elechi. Governor Umahi, as deputy governor, was able to battle his then boss, Governor Elechi to a standstill. Betrayal is not synonymous with deputy governors. The problem is always with the former governors trying to still assert their influence after leaving office on their successors.
In Imo State, Governor Rochas Okorocha had made known his preferred choice of successor outside his Deputy Governor Eze Madumere. His deputy has been feeling betrayed for obvious reasons. He is the longest serving Okorocha’s lieutenant for over twenty years. He was his business manager for years before others were recruited on board. He was his Chief of Staff at the various times his boss had political appointments before becoming Imo governor in 2011. He is unlike other deputy governors in Nigeria who were chosen on the basis of political expediency for election. Governor Okorocha knew Eze Madumere for years before choosing him as his deputy in 2013 and running mate in 2015.
He was tear-gassed and incarcerated during the electioneering campaigns for the sake of the governor. He has shown absolute loyalty and humility to his boss since 2011 when they assumed office. He was first appointed as Chief of Staff to the governor which he discharged creditably well culminating to his ascension to the office of the Deputy Governor of Imo State in 2013 when the former deputy governor, Sir Jude Agbaso, was impeached.
If he was found wanting as Chief of staff, he wouldn’t have been chosen as the deputy governor when the seat became vacant. He represents the governor in most official assignments outside the State such as; Southeast Governors Forum meeting which the governor rarely attends and the National Economic Council meeting which comprises the Vice President as Chairman with 36 state governors as members.
His loyalty is even extended to trivial issue like adorning the muffler around his neck wherever he goes unlike most top government functionaries who are now the preferred choices of the governor. He has not been found to be corruptly enriching himself while in office, he couldn’t have been doing so as his office gets subvention which is at the discretion of the governor. I learned that some junior political appointees get bigger allocations than the office of the deputy governor. Some people assume the deputy governor to be weak and docile. This is an erroneous impression.
There cannot be two captains in a ship. A ‘strong’ or cantankerous deputy or vice president does not last in office. Any deputy governor who tries to outshine or rub shoulders with his/her boss does not complete even one term in office.
Maduako writes from Owerri, Imo State.