The crowd of grieving family members, State Executive Council Members and other VIPs including former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon must have cried “oh my God!” when the newly-installed Governor of Kaduna State went off-track throwing punches at imaginary enemies at the valedictory meeting of the government to honour his boss, the late Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa.
In my mind’s eye, he was like that foreman who removed his hat, wiped the sweat from his forehead, removed his globes to launch a rain of punches on unsuspecting co-workers. It was unwarranted.
Speaking last week at that valediction, Governor Yero complained that some commissioners almost succeeded in getting the late Yakowa to sack him and that this plot had indeed thickened just a few days to Yakowa’s death.
This is not so much in opposition to the new Governor’s choice of forum or occasion. But surely, a grieving moment that the state was in did not warrant a flagrant display of triumphalism. If commissioners under Governor Yakowa did not treat him with respect as deputy governor, what is new in that? This is something that is common to deputy governors and even Vice Presidents a,ll over Nigeria. One governor, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, then of Anambra State dismissed them as spare tyres. A deputy governor under a then Governor Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of Katsina State, Tukur Jikamshi, had the courage of his conviction to resign from the position. He addressed a press conference thereafter at which he said the office should be abolished because it had become useless. In Akwa Ibom Sate, Nsima Ekere, the deputy governor until a few months ago, threw in the towel saying there were better things to do with his time.
Editors on a mission to Enugu State then under Chimaroke Nnamani were shocked to see the governor ordering his deputy around, asking him to fetch this or that thing. What happened in Kaduna is no news. That deputy governors and Vice Presidents are not respected is a fact. Not only that, they are despised and looked down upon in all but a few State Houses. Governors do this deliberately because they are building a cult around their personality and sometimes family. Don’t blame the commissioners who are merely used as pawns. The governor must be seen to be haughty, even imperious. He is authoritative, even authoritarian; decisive, even ruthless and strong, even invincible. These are the ingredients of cult personality. Some governors, as you move around the country, are manifesting a form of endowment with muscular virtues. Didn’t Governor Ohakim beat a journalist and at another time a priest inside the State House?
The single-mindedness with which some project themselves as supreme leader does not give room for a commissioner to divide his loyalty between Governor and his Deputy. In the period he was Governor, Patrick Yakowa singly wore the crown. It was not on shared heads. Ibn Khaldun, the Maghreb philosopher addressed this very well nearly a thousand years ago. The crowd, all of the people follow the crown, not the man. If the crown moves from one head to another, they will follow it wherever it goes. Given that Nigerian democracy is cultured in a single political leader, there is nothing unique in what happened to Ramalan Yero as deputy governor.
Late Yakowa rode to power three years ago amidst an avowedly anti Hausa-Muslim mantra among his people in the South, as well as deep fear and suspicions of him by the Hausa in the North and the Central senatorial districts. Yakowa walked a tight rope. He won in 2011 chanting a soothing, development mantra although the anti-Hausa Muslim tirade in the south was muted but not altogether absent. This was the background to the post-election violence which tasked the late Governor and it took his kind of humility, hard work, experience and sincerity of purpose to earn the trust and confidence of Muslims and Christians alike. The new governor’s challenge is to match that record even if he does not surpass it.
The new governor appears to manifest a subtle triumphalism and vengeance and a sense that he has outwitted all his rivals and the “seat is now mine”. Should be the case, it will be reckless and insensitive of the him. It is the wrong way to go about it. Governor Yero didn’t make himself governor. No, it is Providence that made him so. To that degree, he should not think that he has won against anyone. He must not seek vengeance but rather lower his head and be humble.
Any attempt to suggest that he won after outwitting his rivals or that he would seek vengeance will be a grave mistake. That would suggest trouble for the cabinet members and the ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in that volatile state. It could also be an eye-opener for those who play tribal, religious and regional or sectional cards to survive in politics. I don’t know the new governor’s brand of politics. But it would be graceful of Governor Yero to embrace all of the commissioners and advisers the former governor left behind, the ones who loved him and the ones who despised him. He should then strain every nerve of his to impose himself on the whole state and ensure that all the cabinet falls in line. This may be easier said than done but don’t forget that Kaduna is on a slippery slope. Nobody should play games here. If he fails to get the government behind him, he will face a bigger hurdle of uniting the divided state, which Yakowa did not fully succeed in doing and this, in spite of his track record as administrator par excellence. A failure to unite the government could also spell doom to the tenuous hold of the PDP in that and many other states.
When he took power from the late Shehu Kangiwa in the Second Republic in Sokoto State, the new Governor at that time, Garba Nadama faced a somewhat similar situation to Yero’s in his relationship with other cabinet members. Nadama as deputy Governor suffered years of denigration in silence. He was mostly ignored and despised under Kangiwa. Death came and it took away the dashingly youthful, ambitious and well-educated Governor. Nadama thought exactly as Yero did from day one. He felt he had to sack the entire cabinet to replace them with loyalists of his own. The party, the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, which also governed at the centre warned him to desist from doing so or else the state risked being lost to the opposition. Governor Nadama took this advice. He carried all commissioners along and led the party to another round of victory in 1983. When he reconstituted the cabinet after the election, nearly all the commissioners made it back to office, reason being that each of them had a chance to prove their loyalty and capability to the new governor. Yero should avoid hasty and vindictive decisions.