Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The wailing deputy governor of Ogun State

“Deputy gov sends stinker to Amosun” was the banner headline on the front-page of The PUNCH of Wednesday, October 29, 2014. The news story chronicled alleged mistreatment of the Deputy Governor, Prince Segun Adesegun by his boss, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State. The embittered deputy had on October 24 written a 10-paragraph letter to the governor chronicling all manner of ill-treatments being meted to him and his office. Among them are: starving his office of funds and allocation of old vehicles to his office. According to him, his September and October feeding, out-of-pocket and sundry allowances had yet to be paid while during this year’s Eid-el-Kabir and Eid al-Fitr festivals, funds were released to   government functionaries except him and his aides. He also alleged that seven (now eight) months ago, electricity supply to his official residence was cut off because the state government is owing electricity bills. This has necessitated his spending an average of N30,000 daily on diesel to provide electricity for his residence.

The deputy governor   wondered why his lodge was not initially connected to the state mini-power plant even “when it is on record that several government premises, including private residences and organisations enjoy power supply from the plant.’’ He lamented that he is the only deputy governor in Nigeria without a portfolio. The DG equally alleged that while the July 2014 monthly running costs of ministries, departments and agencies in Ogun State were duly paid, that of his office was withheld.

In his epistle, he reminded the governor that the engine of his official car knocked in December 2013 without the governor deeming it fit to replace the car for him. He said and I quote: “I had cause to remind you many times, but nothing was done. I resorted to using my personal car as back-up even when I was aware that you were giving vehicles, including Custom-made bulletproof vehicles to others. It was when a Good Samaritan bought a Tundra Truck for me that you deemed it fit to send a Toyota Prado XL V4 engine to me in late August.” Lastly, the deputy governor observed that his 2014 vacation allowance has not been paid.

The state commissioner for information and the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress both claimed ignorance of the ugly situation in Ogun State when contacted for their reaction. I wish these assertions were not true. This is no good news coming from the camp of the ‘so called’ progressives. If a governor will treat his deputy like a trash or rag, how then would he be treated by other cabinet members and the wider public?

The scenario in Ogun is symptomatic of how useless the office of deputy governor has been in Nigeria. Not too long ago, precisely on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 the deputy governor of Enugu State, Sunday Onyebuchi was impeached by the state house of assembly.  He was accused of running an illegal poultry in his official residence and also refusing to represent Governor Sullivan Chime at official functions. The lawmakers, in the impeachment notice, held that the said actions amounted to gross misconduct on the former DG’s part. However, the true offence of Onyebuchi, other sources claimed, was that he nurses ambition to contest for senatorial seat against the governor’s chief of staff who is the anointed person for the seat.

Such is the very expendable nature of deputy governors that they only hold office at the whims and caprices of their governors. Many of them had suffered cruel fate in the hands of their bosses. Some of the deputy governors who had previously been impeached include: B.B Faruk of Kano, Abdullahi Argungu of Kebbi, John Okpa of Cross River, Kofoworola Bucknor Akerele and Femi Pedro both of Lagos, Sani Abubakar Danladi of Taraba, Garba Gadi of Bauchi, Iyiola Omisore of Osun, Eyinaya Abaribe of Abia, Chris Ekpenyong of Akwa Ibom, Peremobowei Ebebi of Bayelsa, Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia of Jigawa and Jude Agbaso of Imo State.

There is another category of deputy governors who though were not impeached but were given soft-landing of being allowed to 'voluntarily resign'. Three ready examples that come to mind are Akin Omoboriowo of Ondo State during the Second Republic, Aliyu Wammako of Sokoto and Nsima Ekere of Akwa Ibom. Yet, there is another category of deputy governors who though were neither impeached nor forced to resign but were embroiled in a bitter feud with their governors. Among them were Virgy Etiaba of Anambra, Michael Botmang and Pauline Tallen of Plateau.  Segun Adesegun of Ogun State obviously belongs to the latter category.

As I opined in my last commentary on this issue published in my column of Wednesday, April 10, 2013 titled “Deputy Governors and their ‘Oga at the top’” It was former governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife who was credited to have referred to deputy governors as spare tyres. It is indeed very much so as the position of the Secretary to the State Government is weightier and more recognisable than that of the Deputy Governor. For instance, section 193 of the constitution equated the office with those of the commissioners. It says in subsection 1 that “The Governor of a State may, in his discretion, assign to the Deputy Governor or any Commissioner of the Government of the State responsibility for any business of the Government of that State, including the administration of any department of Government.”  Thus, it is not surprising that while some lucky few among the rank of the deputy governors are assigned a ministry to superintend as a commissioner in addition to their role as deputy governor; the not-so-favoured ones like Prince Adesegun are either impeached or rendered redundant in office.

The position of the deputy governor is too shallow and only holds value to the extent that its holders enjoy immunity like the governor and have the prospect of becoming Acting Governors or substantive chief state executives depending on what happens to the elected governor as with the case in Adamawa where Bala James Ngilari, by judicial pronouncement, became the governor of the state after the impeachment of Gov. Murtala Nyako. I have previously suggested that if the deputy governor stands election independent of the governor in which case they are not mere nominee of the governor, perhaps they will cease to be treated as filthy rags or appendages of the governors. Quite unfortunately, there is no amendment to sections of the law which has to do with the office of the deputy governor in the ongoing constitutional amendment. My unsolicited advice to the wailing deputy governor of Ogun State is to either continue to stomach the shabby treatment being meted to him by the governor or honourably resign his position. The body language of the governor is very clear; he no longer wants his deputy, period!

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