Shola Oyeyipo writes that with 22 former governors in the Senate, the upper chamber of the National Assembly is fast becoming the retirement succour for erstwhile heads of state executives
Of the 109 lawmakers in the Upper Chamber of the Nigerian National Assembly, 22 are former governors who opted to extend their political relevance by remaining in the Senate. Their prolonged political life comes at a huge to the polity.
Senate President Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Kabiru Gaya (Kano), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Theodore Orji (Abia), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa), Sam Egwu (Ebonyi), Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko (Sokoto), Ahmed Sani Yarima (Zamfara), Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe), Adamu Aliero (Kebbi), George Akume (Benue), are some of the ex-governors in the Senate and they play notable impacts in national politics.
This number is likely to increase as the culture of former governors getting elected into the senate is getting more fashionable. More state executives are already considering the option of moving to the senate after their tenure. For instance, the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun is not hiding his intention to vie for Ogun Central senatorial district ticket in 2019 and return (where he once a stint between 2003 and 2007) to the red chamber where he hopes to become the Senate President.
Likewise, the immediate-past governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, told a coalition of Bomadi Local Government Area elders led by Reverend Gbenekuru England and dozens of youths that nothing will stop his senatorial ambition come 2019.
While some observers have said lawmakers that become governors perform better than governors that become legislators, in some analysis on the growing trend, commentators referred to it as “mad rush to the Senate by former governors,” while others tag it “former governors retiring into the Senate.”
As constituted now, the number of former governors in the National Assembly is a very significant proportion, because they are 21.12 percent of the Senate. As a former Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, it was easy for Saraki to seek the indulgence of his former colleagues in emerging President of the Senate and also holding on to that office, so far. These former governors are in strong control of party structures in their various states and they wield a major influence on other lawmakers from their states. Usually, these other colleagues were assured their place in the senate by the former governor.
One of the most recent references to the powers at the disposal of a former governor-turned senator was when Senators Shaaba Lafiagi (former governor and lawmaker representing Kwara North) and Senator Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara South) who defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a move that complemented Senate President Bukola Saraki’s eventual dumping of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Another case was when barely 24 hours after former Kano State Deputy Governor, Prof Hafiz Abubakar defected to the PDP along with 10 other aides of the state Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, in loyalty to former governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, six ‘Kwankwassiyya’ members in the Kano State House of Assembly also defected to the PDP.
The incidence of former governors retiring to the Senate became a heated debate in the build-up to the 2015 election. The emerging trend often results in a clash of interest between the sitting and aspiring senators who always feel threatened by their governors’ senatorial ambitions
Not many people will forget the scenario in Enugu State in a hurry. Former governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime and the incumbent Deputy President of Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu were at loggerheads before the issue was eventually settled in favour of the latter.
Why is it becoming the new order for governors to go to the Senate after serving out their tenures as the leader of the three other senatorial districts under them as state executives and what are the implications? What attracts to superintend (as a legislator) over one-third of a state they once ruled in an executive capacity?
The pull may not be farther than a fight to retain political relevance. Serving governors in Nigeria have enormous powers at their disposal. They have complete control on the party machinery in their respective states. They determine their successors and the only way to remain relevant is by continuing to play at the national level.
Another factor that can be attributed to the occurrence is that the Senate easily becomes protective shield for some ex-governors who have questions to answer from law enforcement agencies. Indeed, a good number of them are constant visitors to court over allegations of huge financial mismanagement while they were at the helm of affairs in their respective states.
At one point or the other Senate President Saraki, former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, and former Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio who was Akwa Ibom State governor faced corruption charges.
Others like former governors Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State, Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu), Saminu Turaki (Jigawa), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), and Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Ahmed Yerima (Zamfara), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), James Ibori (Delta), Martin Elechi (Ebonyi), Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Ikedi Ohakim (Imo) and Peter Odili (Rivers) also faced corruption allegations.
Despite this assumed influence, Justice Adebukola Banjoko recently sentenced Joshua Dariye (Plateau), a serving senator, to two-year and 14-year jail terms to be served concurrently without an option of fine. Such judgment could not be contemplated some years back because being a former governor and a Senator was enough protection for anyone who could wield the combined influence of the two offices.
The trend became established with 2003 Class of governors who finished their two-term tenure in 2011. Many of the state chief executives who held sway between 1999 and 2007 shied away from taking a shot at a senatorial seat, even when they had everything in their favour.
A THISDAY recent finding revealed that the introduction of the direct primary principle was basically to address the overbearing influence of the governors in the determining who emerges as governorship candidate in their states.
To the architects of the policy, it would curtail the excesses of the governors and ensure that candidates only emerge through the aspiration of majority of party members and not the domineering facade of the governors.
If the direct primary was not introduced by the party, the APC was sure to lose more of members to opposition parties in the sense that in a state like Kogi, Governor Yahya Bello, being in charge of the party structure, would have simply stopped Senator Dino Melaye after his failed attempt to recall him.
No doubt Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State would gladly bury the political dreams of Senator Shehu Sani, who is more or less a thorn in his flesh. But where his people love and support him, the influence of the governor in determining Sani’s political future would be minimised.
Writing in The Atlantic, Julie Beck documents a new studies from the University of Cologne, the University of Groningen and Columbia University, which presents two different conceptions of power—power as influence and power as autonomy. “Power as influence is expressed in having control over others, which could involve responsibility for others.” “In contrast, power as autonomy is a form of power that allows one person to ignore and resist the influence of others and thus to shape one’s own destiny.” Their question: Which of those things, influence or autonomy, would satisfy people’s desire for power?
The researchers on the new study suggest that influence may seem more important to people just because it’s more visible. It’s easier to see how people control others than it is to see them feeling autonomous. The study references real leaders like Napoleon, Caesar, Obama, and Putin, and fictional ones like Darth Vader and Sauron, and says, “The sense of autonomy of these powerful individuals is not as visible: It is reflected in the absence of constraint, plans not being thwarted, and ambitions not being frustrated—an absence which remains unobserved.” So, what kind of power does a Nigerian governor-turned senator seek?