By Adebayo Abubakar
Nigeria is a Federal State. A Federal system of government, entails a constitutional arrangement that shares power into the Exclusive, Concurrent and Residual lists, among the different tiers of governments: the Federal, State and Local.
Each of the tiers, in a federal setting, is empowered according to the constitution with a degree of autonomy, that allows them to function optimally.
With the benefit of hindsight, and as a student of Nigeria’s contemporary history, the federal government has allowed the State government that latitude.
Remember when, under the Jonathan Administration, the Nigerian Governors sued the federal government over “not giving them the chance to determine what they do with their shares of excess Crude earnings that was deposited in the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Governors of the 36 states had gone to court to seek an order compelling the Federal Government to pay into the Federation Account ₦5.51 Trillion being the balance of the money that accrued to the central purse between 2004 and 2007 from the proceeds of crude oil sales, petroleum profits tax and oil royalties; instead of paying into a proposed Sovereign Wealth Fund, as announced by the then-Finance Minister, Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.
They went to court and in a nutshell, got their way, against the federal government.
That underscores the degree of autonomy the constitution affords the State Governments in their interaction with the federal government, in accordance with the principles of federalism.
But same cannot be said of how some State Governors (Governments) relate with local government under their suzerainty. They have rendered them, politically effeminate, and have emasculated them, politically. They have pocketed the Local Government authorities so much do that, one would be pardoned to ask, if the local government authorities still exist in Nigeria, despite the fact that, the constitution, per 1976 local government reform, recognising the local government as the 3rd tier of the government.
In 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari even made a feeble attempt by issuing an executive order, preventing the State Governors from having unfettered access to local governments’ share of the federal allocation. He said, it is only an elected chairman, who is the “Accounting Officer” of the local government who should have such access.
It would be recalled that, some State Governors have always mistaken the local government treasury for a pocket of their “Bàbà’n’riga”.
When Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq was sworn-in in 2019, he vowed to give the local government the room to function in accordance with the dictate of non-interference; a pronouncement that was applauded by many, including yours sincerely.
But to the chagrin of many, the first step he took, all in the name of investigating the finances of the 16 local governments in the State, was to suspended all the sixteen local government chairmen, and the elected councillors, who were elected in November 2017, for a tenure of 3 year. So by that calculation, another election would be due, by November 2020, that even if he suspends the ones elected in 2017, in about a year’s time, another (local government) election will be due (in November 2020).
Rather, in their places, he appointed caretaker chairmen, in the colours of DPMs, who lacked the executive power of an elected local government chairman.
Up until now, nothing has been heard about the report of the investigation.
None of the chairmen has been indicted or prosecuted for any offence relating to allegation of financial misappropriation, that was the basis for their suspension; so also, has election not been conducted to recruit another set to replace them.
Nobody is even talking about constituting the State Independent Electoral Commission, (KWASIEC) that is constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of conducting such an election.
The 36 State Governors are guilty of this, as they tend to use it to settle political IOU.
Also, at the level of the State Executive Council, after running the first 6 months of his current term without Commissioners in 2019; Governor Abdulrazaq, disbanded his cabinet early this year and, he is yet, to make appointments to replace them;
Meanwhile, section 192. Subsection (1)of the 1999 constitution states that;
“There shall be such offices of Commissioners of the Government of a State as may be established by the Governor of the State.”
And section 193 subsections (1) states that: “The Governor of a State may, in his discretion, assign to the Deputy Governor or any Commissioner of the Government of the State responsibility for any business of the Government of that State, including the administration of any department of Government.
(2) The Governor of a State shall hold regular meetings with the Deputy Governor and all Commissioners of the Government of the State for the purposes of –
(a) determining the general direction of the policies of the Government of the State;
(b) co-ordinating the activities of the Governor, the Deputy Governor and the Commissioners of the Government of the State in the discharge of their executive responsibilities; and
(c) advising the Governor generally in the discharge of his executive functions, other than those functions with respect to which he is required by this Constitution to seek the advice or act on the recommendation of any other person or body.”
So the above provisions presupposes the constitutional necessity of the appointment of commissioners by a State Governor, as soon as he is sworn-in.
While the Governors refusal to appoint commissioners at any point in time is an assault on the constitution, it must be noted that, Kwara State Governor is not the only one, among the 36 of them in Nigeria, doing it.
The immediate past Governor of Osun State, and now, Minister for Internal Affairs, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola ran almost the first 3 years of his first-term, without appointing a commissioner.
These Governors who practise this unconstitutional act always have refuge in the fact that, the constitution did not stipulate a time frame within which they must constitute their cabinet.
But the above provisions are very unambiguous as to the spirit and letter of the law.
It would be recalled that, weeks before his inauguration as the 46th American President, Joe Biden had announced key cabinet appointments that would enable him hit the ground running, as soon as it was January 20, 2021.
If President Buhari could do it; wasted six “national months”, before announcing his cabinet, in 2015, who would, the likes of Aregbesola and Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq do not have a already-made alibi in the precedence?
And funny enough, majority of the names on that list were people who have occupied the nation’s political landscape for more that 2 decades.
So, the State Governors, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq inclusive, should be pardoned, for following suit. After all, it is the leading horse that dictates the pace of the ones following it.
Let’s talk about some strategic office to the smooth efficient running of the Governor’s office. The office of the Chief of Staff to the Governor.
The office of the Late Chief of Staff, Alhaji Adisa Lógún, who who succumb to the cold hand of death, last year, is still vacant.
What this means is that, even when there were commissioners, the office through which they were to reach the Governor was not opened, as a result of the Governor’s refusal to appoint a replacement.
This leaves observers of governance in Kwara State with the poser; “Do we have a Governor or a Sole Administrator, in the State?”
At this moment of high political temperature in the State, when stakeholders who feel used, during electioneering, and dumped, afterward are expression grievances, the Governor would do well by giving room for the recruitment of personnel to fill these vacant positions, with the need to compensate to pacify the aggrieved, uppermost in his mind, if only to douse the political tension in the State of Harmony.
Adebayo Abubakar writes from Ilorin.