It will be uncharitable to describe Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger state as an ‘autocrat”. But events lately seem to suggest that he is intolerant of “dissent“. Could it be because he is “sandwiched” by two former “dictators”, both retired 4 star generals, in the state curiously christened “power state’’ that he is coming strongly across as an autocrat? Since relations soured between him and his “spare” tyre elegantly garbed in the high sounding sobriquet of “deputy governor” Ahmed Musa Ibeto, an engaging drama has ensued. It is currently playing out in Minna, the capital of the state. I can’t say who scripted this drama. But it’s a drama alright.
Stripped bare, a drama, after all is “an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances”.
An on line news portal reported yesterday that the youthful “spare tyre” has been ejected from his official quarters as deputy governor. With this, it appears that the gloves are off. I expect it will get messier. The estranged deputy fell out with his boss mainly because the former is convinced that the latter contracted the political space that led to the emergence of the PDP gubernatorial flag bearer. In the primary in which Ibeto was a contestant, Umar Nasko, the governor’s anointed, emerged. That incensed Ibeto who charged that the governor of uneven “playing field”.
Ibeto couldn’t be persuaded to accept the outcome. He is firm in his conviction that in a free and fair contest, Nasko was and still, is no match. This is not unfounded. He has a political resume to prove it. He is an ex local government chairman. He is also a former federal legislator in the House of Representatives. Dissatisfied and unhappy with the outcome, he defected to the opposition APC.
From the moment Ibeto crossed-carpet, the drama heightened. First public altercation, Governor Aliyu barred him from attending the state executive council meeting. Next, he handed over to the Speaker when he recently travelled out of the country. In explaining the obvious spite, the Talban Minna, the traditional title of the governor who cherishes the humbling nickname “Chief Servant”. In explaining the spite to a disbelieving majority, he restated his ‘closeness’ with his deputy. Some, expectedly hissed and said “boloney’. Yesterday’s reported eviction of Ibeto from his quarters was the icing on the cake.
Nothing, really unusual about this. A political feud between a no1 and no2 is a familiar plot. Look around you; rarely the “Oga at the top” gets along pretty well with the second in tow. In this clime (Africa), the no1 often conducts affair like a tin-footed god. A poser I often ask is “why is it that men controlling the levers of power find it difficult to share in this part of the world?” In bureaucracies, the chief executive is routinely at loggerheads with the Director of Operations or the next person a step lower in the corporate ladder.
In Military regimes, the difference was even more visible. Recall the unceremonious ouster of Ebitu Ukiwe as the political no2 to the military president, General Babangida. He was kicked out for, among other charges, “irreconcilable differences”. A sharp contrast however, was the charming chemistry between Buhari and late Idiagbon. These two Generals had a bewitching work chemistry that befuddled not a few. They blended so well that their regime was seen as a “tag-team’’.
But our politicians then and now betray a healthy suspicion of their deputies especially those who refused to “see’ through the subjective focal lenses of their principals. Truly deputy governors, in reality, operate at the pleasure of the governor. They are, operationally, not supposed to “think’’. They are more or less “Zombies”. They are disallowed to ask questions or make any brilliant or dumb contributions. An effort to make either is seen as an affront and a demonstration of ‘ independence’ and therefore, angling to upstage the boss. The keys to surviving the acrimonious politics of playing second fiddle in our “executive” democracies is to permanently and convincingly play the fool. President Goodluck Jonathan is a reference point.
Most running mates are so selected to satisfy constitutional requirements. A ready example was how former governor of Bayelsa state, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, chose the “super brilliant” doctorate degree holder, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to be his running mate in 1999.
Jonathan was seen as “safe’ and won’t “think’’ as to rock the boat. The rest is history. Suffice to say the current president is one of the greatest “thinkers” on the African continent. His ascendency to the nation’s plum warrants a rigorous academic inquisition.
One obvious drawback of the “executive” constitution under which our democracy flounders currently, is the “omnipotent’’ powers it confers on the governor or the president. Another is the pointed disregard of the Deputy or vice. Of all the politicians that bestrode the Third Republic, governor of old Anambra state Chukwuemeka Ezeife stood out not by “transforming” the state but by bequeathing the two word phrase of deputy governors being “spare tyres’’ to the political lingo of the nation.
Ibeto travails are not novel. He is lucky even. He should take solace in history. In 1981,late Faruk BB Faruk was impeached as deputy to late Abubakar Rimi, governor of old Kano state. They fell apart following a split in the defunct PRP into faction. BB Faruk got stuck in the faction loyal to party leader late Aminu Kano. In Sokoto, Muktar Shagari who refused flatly to defect with his boss Aliyu Wammakko to APC walks his political turf unmolested. In Nasarawa, Tanko Almakura of APC has so far shown greater tolerance of his deputy who is in the PDP.
In 2006,former governor of Kano state and currently Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau tolerated his deputy Magaji Abdullahi who contested against him in the ANPP gubernatorial primary that ultimately led to Shekarau’s second consecutive victory at the polls.
Governor Aliyu is derisively called “basket mouth” in some circles in his state. He may, blissfully, not be aware of this sobriquet. “Basket mouth’ is a stand-up comedian. He is so nicknamed for obvious reasons. He is a loudmouth. He loves to yak. He talks, most times with gusto. A governor told me in confidence once, in the days of nPDP that each time they wanted to sell a decoy to the federal government, they ask ‘basket mouth’ (not the stand up) to speak to entertain. Such was the ‘seriousness’ they regarded him.