Changing the Criteria for Deputies

19 Dec 2012

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A deputy at whatever capacity must be as reliable as his principal, writes Olawale Olaleye

Perhaps, the time has come for the old practice of power balancing- using politics, zoning, religion and ethnic considerations as the basis for choice of deputy to a standard bearer in any capacity- to begin to give way to eligibility informed by competence, capacity, experience, exposure and academic aptitude of the individual.

This, from all indications, is the new thinking on the horizon. It is informed by no other factors than some of the recent developments in the body polity. From Taraba to Enugu, Cross River and lately, Kaduna States, affairs of these states are now solely the shows of the deputy governors whose principals are either temporarily or permanently unavailable to personally steer the ship of state.

As you read this, former Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, is now the substantive governor of the state following the death of his boss, Patrick Yakowa, on Saturday in a Helicopter crash at Nembe-Okoroba, Bayelsa State. Yero was sworn in on Sunday by the Kaduna State Chief Judge, Justice Rahila Cudjo.

The late Yakowa who was onboard a naval aircraft with five others including former National Security Adviser, Andrew Azazi; their aides, Dauda Tsohol, Muhammed Kamal and two pilots, Commander Muritala Muhammed Daba and Lt. Adeyemi Sowole, was said to be returning from the burial ceremony of Pa Douglas, father of Oronto Douglas, an aide of President Goodluck Jonathan on Research and Documentation, before he met his untimely death.

But from Yero’s brief profile, observers believe he might not hit the ground running even though he would learn on the job.
In what seems close to Yakowa’s misfortune, the Taraba State Governor, Suntai Danbaba, personally flew Cessna 208 5N-BMJ, which crashed about 38 miles to landing in Yola, the Adamawa State capital some five weeks ago. The case of Suntai who was onboard the aircraft with five of his aides, had also raised a number of issues, one of which questioned the sense in a sitting governor flying an aircraft as hobby when he should have been bogged down by state duties.

Today, it is over a month since Suntai had been admitted at a German hospital; reports on his state of health have been contradictory. Some say he is stable, others say he is not. But his deputy, Alhaji Garba Umar, who unfortunately assumed office less than a week before the incident, had since taken over.

That Umar barely understood even the briefs of his own office as deputy governor is obvious much less that of the governor. Umar had just succeeded the former deputy, Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi, who was impeached by the state House of Assembly over allegations

ranging from incompetence to financial crimes when he assumed office as acting governor. He is probably still finding his feet in the state.
In Enugu, it is exactly four months today that the governor, Sullivan Chime, left the state on the grounds of consolidated vacation. Chime who left the country on September 19 had transmitted a letter to the State House of Assembly, empowering his deputy, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, to act in his stead for the period he would be away.

Unfortunately, the rumoured death of Chime has gone on for days now without any official position from the government on the state of his health. Government considers Chime’s health classified and as such, no one can tell for certain where he is or what is happening to him. He is though still in government, however no longer in power, technically.

While lawyers have described his case as that of a missing person because of the secrecy surrounding his whereabouts, Onyebuchi has carried on with the impression that “all is well”.

Indeed, some of the acting governor’s spin doctors have also come out to throw light on his achievements, short of saying he is even doing it better than the man originally elected into that office.

In nearby Cross River State, the South-south region of the country, there are fears about the health of Governor Liyel Imoke, who was also said to have since left the country on grounds of an accumulated leave which supposedly will run for two months. In doing this, Imoke as was in the case of his colleague in Enugu, had also transmitted a letter through the state assembly, empowering his deputy, Efiok Cobham.

Although, Cobham may have been learning the ropes fast and in a matter of weeks, proclaimed an excellent manager of man and resources, it is not certain if he had been put in line for the assignment that suddenly dawned on him.

The few instances above, according to observers, underscore the tragedy of the leadership question in the country. While in many instances, the office of the deputy governor is usually a political slot at the mercy of party leaders, the process of which usually throws “just anybody” as merely representative to serve as conduit for patronage; there are cases where the governors also decide their choice of deputies but with individuals who constitute no threat whatsoever.

However, in cases where a deputy governor or vice-president is said to constitute threat to his principal, perhaps, in terms of influence, mobilization, experience, education and contacts, intellectual sycophants would step forward and create as much gulf until they see his back from the office.

Yet, some of the recent experiences have shown that the office of the deputy governor or vice-president has gone beyond one meant for anyone as mere spare tyres. Although, a joint ticket, it is bringing two fantastic heads together for one show.

Observers, therefore, believe that the time is nigh for electorate to not get carried away by the name, face, colour or political razzmatazz of a party’s standard bearer in an election, but insist on the choice of the deputy and x-ray his profile. A perfect match, observers added, is what is required to move the state forward and groom leadership for development purposes.

The last few elections held in the country, starting with the 2011 exercise are a pointer to these misgivings. Debates held for the deputy governors preparatory to the elections exposed the inanity of the candidates and the selfishness of political leadership to stoop so low to embracing mediocrity at the expense of competence and capability.

In practically all the political parties apart from a few exceptions with no relevance, characters chosen as deputies were nothing to write about. But the time, observers contend, might have come for the nation to begin to pay for such deliberate attempt at gravitating towards mediocrity.

In his keynote address at the 2012 Achebe Colloquium on Africa, held at Brown University, Providence in Rhode Island, the United States of America, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, emphasized what should underscore the essence leadership at this age and time.

“A leader in the 21st century must be a repository of knowledge; it must interest him to know many things such that whatever he chooses not to know must be clearly unimportant.

“In a technologically driven world, where the primary objective of statecraft centres round the human civilisation, data possession, processing, understanding and management are a sine qua non to successful statecraft in the 21st century,” he said, adding that: “In the last 5 and half years that I have spent in office, I have paid unrelenting attention to data.”

Fashola noted further that: “I have argued, debates during campaigns become most critical tools for assisting the electorate to have at least an insight as to the competence of the prospective leaders, their knowledge of their society, their present and previous positions on social, economic and religious issues which will one way or the other be indicative of how well they will act or conduct the affairs of State.”

On his part, his Rivers State counterpart and chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, gave fillip to this position recently in an interview with THISDAY. When asked what constituted his greatest challenge as governor, Amaechi, without thinking twice retorted: “Personnel”.

Coming from a governor, it speaks more to the amount of pressure he must have been going through in the onerous task of delivering on electoral promises. But more importantly, can he entrust sensitive assignments to this incompetent lot? The ready-made answer is no! So, what does that connote? It simply speaks to the need to address the issue of competence in public office, especially at that level without disregard to the personality of the person in the “number two” office.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the larger chunks of the crème of deputy governors in the country today have no business being in office. Ironically, the governors who do not know what tomorrow holds for them are comfortable because such deputies do not constitute threats whatsoever and their fate is at the mercy of the governors but at the expense of the people and good governance.

But the time has come for a change in this direction. Political leadership, observers maintained must rethink their disposition in the interest of the state and people and see to the fact that eligibility based on competence, experience, capability, exposure and resounding educational background are the factors other than sheer political considerations, that inform the choice of the number two at whatever capacity.

While factors like religion, zoning and even gender might be critical to virtual balancing of the equation, other factors including competence and capability must assume the front row. They should no longer be negotiable!

Political observers are of the view that if President Jonathan could rise from the office of deputy governor to be governor, vice-president and now president, utmost attention must therefore be paid to the character and qualification of persons being propped up as either a deputy governor or vice-president because you never can tell, a time might come when he would graduate from that rear office to the front office.
It is then his inadequacy or competence would come to the glare and expose the quality of leadership.

Tags: Changing the Criteria, Deputies, Featured, Nigeria, Politics

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