By Sonde Abbah
The saying that “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” is now playing out itself before our eyes in a number of states of the federation. Reason? Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the governors of these states are “uneasy” over their political fate after completing their respective second terms in two years’ time. Will they slip into political oblivion after leaving Government House in 2019? Or will they aim for higher positions at the national level and, if yes, how will they contend with the formidable opposition arrayed against their bid?
By tradition, state governors who want to aim further after completing their constitutionally- allowed two terms usually target either the Senate or the presidential throne. Small wonder, virtually all the incumbent state chief executives whose second (and final) terms will end in 2019 have reportedly kick-started moves to “stay relevant” after their tenure. This we learnt has stoked suspense and anxiety in the states concerned, particularly Imo, Ekiti, Yobe, Ogun, Osun and Oyo.
Consider Governors Rochas Okorocha and Ayodele Fayose of Imo and Ekiti States respectively. They are both reportedly targeting the presidential slot on the platforms of the governing APC (Okorocha) and the opposition PDP (Fayose). Ironically, Okorocha”s six-year tenure in Imo state has largely been a monumental disaster, to the extent that Imo civil servants, teachers and pensioners haven’t been paid for about 10 months. This is even as the state’s top football club, Heartland, has almost become bankrupt under Okorocha’s watch- yet he is aiming for the presidency.
Fayose, on his part, is most famous for being a relentless verbal attacker of the ruling ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC), federal government in general and President Muhammadu Buhari in particular. This, coupled with his no-love-lost relationship with his immediate predecessor, Fayemi (incumbent Solid Minerals Minister) make his bid truly Herculean. More so as all the Ekiti Abuja- based politicians are said to have sworn to stop Fayose from actualizing his presidential and/ or senatorial bid.
On their part, the trio of Ibrahim Geidam (Yobe), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) and Abiola ajimobi (Oyo) are reportedly targeting the senate. Amosun and Ajimobi have two things in common: under their watch their respective states have become infamous for owing workers a backlog of salaries, thereby leading to constant industrial actions. Secondly, infrastructural decay reins supreme in both states even as the two governors battle implacable political opponents. Amosun, for example, has been involved in constant battle with his predecessor, Gbenga Daniel, and APC strongman, Bola Tinubu.
For Yobe’s Geidam who is also said to be eyeing the senate, the battle ahead is no less tough. Geidam, who on account of having inherited the gubernatorial throne while serving as Deputy Governor (following the death of his then boss) is Nigeria’s longest-serving incumbent governor, faces numerous political heavyweights in his bid to proceed to the senate in 2019. With little or nothing to show for his eight years sojourn on the saddle in terms of people –oriented developmental projects and with multiple allegations of corruption hanging on his neck, analysts are of the view that the Emperor of Yobe ( as he is disdainfully called) won’t find the senatorial hurdle easy to cross.
Osun State’s Rauf Aregbesola is more or less in the same boat with the likes of Geidam, Amosun and Ajimobi. Like a prodigal son, he has been frolicking while Osun bleeds. Aregbesola, for instance, gallivants about with a helicopter bought with hundreds of millions of naira when Osun workers wallow in abject penury on account of their unpaid salaries ( which, by the way, are halved every now and then for inexplicable reasons). This is even as a sizeable portion of Osun’s funds is allegedly funneled into the pockets of his Lagos-based godfather every now and then. Highly unpopular in Osun state and beyond, the opposition PDP as well as chieftains of Aregbesola’s own APC are said to be brainstorming on how to abort his senatorial dream at all costs.
In a nutshell, the omens are not very good for states like Osun, Yobe, Oyo, Ekiti, Ogun and Imo with regard to their chief executives’ bids to run for the presidency or senate come 2019. This is more so as there are strong indications that the governors concerned are allegedly hatching sundry devious means to achieve their goals, including massive looting of the treasuries of their respective states.
It would be recalled, for instance, that Geidam’s re-election in 2015 was characterized by allegations of vote stealing and bribery of INEC officials with tens of millions of naira. Although the Yobe helmsman denied the charges, incontrovertible evidence later emerged on how one of his aides lodged huge sums of money into the personal bank account of an INEC staff. To the astonishment of everybody, however, some technicalities were conjured to let Geidam off the hook. Political watchers are of the view that with Geidam’s unpopularity at an all-time high, he may resort to similar foul means come 2019.
A taste of what looms emerged last month in Osun state when the opposition PDP floored the ruling APC in a senatorial bye-election. Not only did the PDP’s Adeleke beat the APC candidate who was handpicked by both Tinubu and Governor Aregbesola, he did so in a landslide manner, sending shock down the spinners of the Tinubu / Aregbesola camp. Add to this the lingering squabbles within APC at both the national and states levels, and it becomes crystal clear that the Geidams, Okorochas, Ajimobis, Arigbesolas, and Amosuns ( all of APC) face the battle of their lives in their bids to win national elections in 2019.
By Sonde Abbah