Nigeria Deputy Governors As Endangered ‘Spare Tyres’, By Olusegun Adeniyi

imageA few days to the end of their administration in May 2007, then Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Olufemi Pedro, resigned his appointment. But Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu refused to accept the letter. The goal was to ensure that the impeachment proceedings then already commenced against Pedro by the State House of Assembly ran its full course.

Pedro’s ‘sin’ was that, against the dictates of his boss, he decided to seek the post of Governor of Lagos State, first in the defunct Action Congress (AC) and when that door was closed, through the Labour Party. At the election, Pedro predictably failed woefully. But Tinubu felt his “disloyal” deputy should be punished. That was how the state House of Assembly came in.

Within a matter of days, a panel was inaugurated by then State Chief Judge, Justice Ade Alabi, a verdict of guilt was reached and the state lawmakers completed the rest by impeaching a man who had resigned from office!

Pedro’s case is not too different from that of Alhaji Ali Olanusi who was until Monday the deputy governor of Ondo State. Because Olanusi decamped to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the eve of the presidential election, Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s men in the State House of Assembly met and passed a resolution asking the State Chief Judge to set up an impeachment panel.

Before anybody knew what was happening, the “panel” had been constituted, it had sat, found Olanusi guilty and had submitted its report to the lawmakers. All within 48 hours!

On Monday, the lawmakers impeached Olanusi and almost immediately, a letter arrived the assembly from Mimiko nominating Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo as replacement. The letter was approved and the man (who almost prostrated before Mimiko while being sworn in) is now the Ondo State Deputy Governor!

Unfortunately, this is a familiar story across the country where governors dispense with their deputies as casually as most people dismiss their drivers and the charge always is that of “disloyalty”, not to the system but to their persons. And it is so easy to do because members of the states’ Houses of Assembly are no better than errand boys for governors.

At the last count, no fewer than 18 deputy governors have lost their jobs under the current dispensation because of differences with their governors.

Never in the history of our country, not even during the worst of military rule, has public conversation been more in need of dissent. Yet, what we witness in the states are tyrants who govern more or less as sole administrators and who see their deputies as mere appendages.

Against the background that the right to disagree follows directly from the right to hold independent opinions, tolerance for dissent is an important sign of political maturity. It therefore also follows that rewriting the rules to ensure subservience to one key figure is not only disgraceful, it is antithetical to the promotion of rule of law.

The truth must be told: our democracy is imperiled if we continue with a situation in which lawmakers in the states merely rubberstamp the whims of governors and where any deputy governor who disagrees with his boss is removed from office without following due process.

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