…also published in Daily Trust
Since the beginning of President Buhari administration, the underlying dynamics of power politics between the president on the one hand, and the state governors on the other have been quietly and steadily changing. Until recently, successive Nigerian presidents and state governors have maintained a mutually serving relationship that has kept their respective political interests quite interdependent.
Usually, for instance, a president serving his first term in office while looking forward to getting reelected to serve his second term in due course, state governors in a similar situation and with a similar ambition, and also outgoing governors serving their second terms and pursuing senatorial ambitions or simply looking forward to remaining politically relevant enough to secure ministerial or ambassadorial appointments, would always maintain such a mutually serving relationship, of course at the expense of the people.
Being closer to the people, state governors who are also effectively the leaders of their respective political parties in their respective states, which enables them to control and manipulate the parties at the national level, have hitherto collectively maintained a huge influence on the president taking advantage of his irresistible ambition to get reelected (when he is serving his first term) or, (when he is already serving his second term) equally taking advantage of his obsession with post-presidency political influence strong enough to keep him politically indispensable in the country’s politics hence effectively immune from any probe or judicial prosecution for the rest of his life. They would manipulate and, in fact, even blackmail him into doing their collective bidding so as to maintain their support for his reelection bid. Likewise, in the event of irreconcilably conflicting interests between him and some of them, he would equally employ the vast instruments of political and/or financial enticements under his disposal as president, or use blackmail tactics, threat or persecution to get his way. Yet, their collective interests, which after all wouldn’t turn out to be that different from his, would in most cases prevail.
However, this situation has been apparently changing since the start of this administration thanks to president Buhari’s different approach. The relationship between the president and the state governors appears to be gradually becoming more transparent; a development that of course doesn’t go well with most of the state governors.
Contrary to the situation in the past, Nigerians now have a president who despite being constitutionally constrained from intervening in the states’ administrative affairs, feels morally obliged to publicly lament the failure of state governors to do the right things in their respective states. He has done this in both direct and tacit ways. Recently, for instance, he received some state governors who represented their colleagues, and lambasted those of them owing workers’ salaries wondering “how can anyone go to bed and sleep soundly when workers have not been paid their salaries for months”. During the meeting also, he rightly, albeit quite tacitly, attributed their failure to pay salaries to the lack of transparency in the management of public funds in their respective states, by emphasizing that “he had instructed all government agencies to comply with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) in order to ensure more transparency and prudence in accounting for the revenues of the government and the sharing of entitlements with states.” Obviously, by this particular remark, he was rightly urging them to follow suit in this regard.
Besides, on different occasions, he has urged them to complement relevant federal government’s economic reform policies and economic recovery measures at their various states to facilitate people’s access to the economic benefits they provide.
Though, President Buhari is already certainly aware of the possible political implications of this approach on his expected reelection bid in 2019 considering the sheer influence of state governors on political parties including his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), yet his personal integrity appears to have outweighed his personal political interests anyway. This isn’t surprising for a person who has over the decades consistently maintained a track record of proven integrity, which has earned him his unique reputation that even his critics can only pretend to deny as they simply can’t cheat their conscience.
On a lighter note, this explains why despite his simple appearance, one can’t fail to observe that, whenever he is attending to some top government officials including governors and ministers, the self-confidence he effortlessly exudes unnerves most of them. This is what happens when a leader proves too honest to be approached with an inducement in return of facilitating thievery of public funds or turning a blind eye to it. This, however, does not dismiss his shortcomings, being a human being. Yet, many of what are being peddled as his shortcomings are quite excusable if only they would be objectively examined in the grand scheme of things in the country.
Now, while President Buhari should continue to publicly lament the failures of state governors in their respective states, Nigerians must not allow the governors to sabotage his expected reelection bid in 2019. This can be achieved when the electorate grow wise and responsible enough to vote according to their conscience at all levels in the country.