The burden of deputies (2)

Ogunsakin Mustapha
13 Min Read
Ebun Olu Adegboruwa SAN

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

The Supreme Court decision in the Taraba Deputy Governor’s case is a lesson in leadership and the transient nature of power. Concluding, the apex court held thus:

Per NGWUTA J.S.C. at page 168-169, paras. G-B:

“Impeachment of elected politicians is a very serious matter and should not be conducted as a matter of course. The purpose is to set aside the will of the electorate as expressed at the polls. It has implications for the impeached as to the electorate who bestowed the mandate on him. Whether it takes one day or three months prescribed by law, the rules of due process must be strictly followed. If the matter is left at the whims and caprices of politicians and their panels, a state or even the entire Country could be reduced to the status of a banana republic. The procedure for impeachment and removal must be guarded jealously by the court.” (Emphasis Supplied).

Per NGWUTA, J.S.C. at page 169, paras. C-F:

“In conclusion, based on the undisputed facts in the affidavits of the appellant, I am of the considered view that the court below ought to have resolved the issue of denial of fair hearing against the respondents and in favour of the appellant. In consequence, I allow the appeal and vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeal. I hereby order that the entire proceedings of the panel that purported at the instance of the Taraba State House of Assembly, to investigate the allegation of gross misconduct made by the House against the appellant, the Deputy Governor of Taraba State, up to and including the incomplete and edited report relied on in removing the appellant by the House, be and is hereby declared null and void and of no legal or factual consequence whatsoever. In effect, at all material times, the appellant, Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi remained and is still remains the Deputy Governor of Taraba State and he is to resume his interrupted duties of his office forthwith.”

The cases of Edo and Ondo States are very intriguing, going by their peculiar facts and circumstances. In Edo State, the Deputy Governor, Hon Phillip Shuaibu, wants to succeed his boss, Governor Godwin Obaseki. They were the best of Siamese twins when the going was good but things suddenly fell apart and Shuaibu had to go to court to protect his office. Since then, he has been denied access to government house and sidelined to a remote office, with no official car or the compliments of his office. His profuse apology was flatly rejected by the Governor but they have both resolved to complete their tenure in peace, which is okay. The case of Ondo State is somewhat different. Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has had a health challenge for a long time but God has been faithful to keep him alive. In many posts on his verified Facebook page, the Governor would make open confessions of his faith in God, seeking prayers while expressing his absolute confidence in God for his healing. Of course that is vintage Akeredolu, very firm and fearless in his resolve. This has been one of his many admirable characteristics. I met him closely when we both appeared before the Federal High Court, Osogbo many years ago. He represented the university while I represented the lecturers. He was so brilliant and ebullient on that occasion and indeed as always. But if anything, Akeredolu would later emerge the President of the Nigerian Bar Association where he proved his mettle. He spoke the truth to power and gave Nigeria a good report of the Bar. The scenario playing out in Ondo State presently was the case when Alhaji Musa Umar Yar’adua held sway as President of Nigeria. Akeredolu spoke the minds of Nigerians to President Yar’adua then. Listen to him.

“The prayer of the Association is that the President should recover fast, return to his office, and resign. No matter how much you love your country, it should not be at the detriment of your health. It is not your party or your wife that will decide whether you are capable of handling state matters; it is only your doctors that can decide that. The Bar is not asking the President not to come back and take his seat, but the right thing must be done.”

When Akeredolu joined the race and was eventually elected as the governor of Ondo State, it was such a joyous moment for me to have such rare talent traducing public office. And Akeredolu never disappointed me or indeed Nigerians. He rose in defence of his people courageously, with the formation and support for the Amotekun Corps, the demand for true federalism and as the Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum, he courageously rallied his colleagues for the famous Asaba Declarations. So you imagine the pain of the people when terrorists took the battle to his home town in Owo to massacre innocent worshippers of the St. Francis Anglican Church. I was myself moved to tears when the governor wept openly in church, telling the people that he knew what to do but he had no power to do so under the contraption of the laws of Nigeria.

Akeredolu initiated the industrial revolution in Ondo State, committing himself to the alternative road to Lagos through the ocean side of Araromi, built kilometres of roads and moved into the hinterlands to develop the rural communities. He identified himself with the struggles of the people. Once when the people of the oil producing communities protested the composition of the Niger-Delta Development Commission, Akeredolu issued a press statement rejecting the nominee of the federal government for the NDDC Board, even though the said nominee came from his home town of Owo. That is vintage Akeredolu. So, when I look back into his personality and what is presently playing out in Ondo State, I then go into my closet to pray for Akeredolu because this is surely not the Aketi that we all know. What would be the reason for throwing the Sunshine State into such a state of confusion and stagnation? When he was traveling abroad to seek medical care, Akeredolu duly informed the people of the State through the House of Assembly and he handed over power to his Deputy as prescribed by law. But since his return in September, Ondo State has more or less become a theatre of the absurd. And I know that this is not Aketi at all.

What is the issue? That the Deputy Governor has an ambition to succeed him? And this is the reason why the entire state should be held down to this terrible state of anomie? Or that the aides of the Deputy Governor published an obituary concerning the Governor? Is the Deputy Governor God? Who can say a thing concerning anyone and expect it to come to pass when God has not commanded or approved it? How many times were such ‘obituaries’ published of and concerning President Muhammadu Buhari, who not only survived them all but proceeded to finish his tenure? In fact, we were told of persons who wished Buhari dead but died before Buhari left office. I read an article alleging falsely that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo attended a prayer session where it was whispered that Buhari’s health had deteriorated and prayers were then offered for Osinbajo to succeed him to which the latter said Amen. Was that enough reason for Buhari to throw Nigeria into crisis to initiate impeachment against Osinbajo who demonstrated rare courage in going into the creeks to meet militants in Buhari’s absence? Whatever the ‘offences’ of his Deputy, once there is humility to plead, there has to be magnanimity to pardon. In the same way that those who wished Aketi dead cannot determine his life here on earth, so too will no man but God determine the fate of his Deputy in the succession race. No one can play God.

A government of cabals cannot be the legacy of Governor Akeredolu for the people of Ondo State. Two people were elected to run the affairs of the State and if for any reason one of them is not available surely the people must be entitled to the benefit of their choice. There is no other way to say this. Once the Governor for any reason at all is not available physically, power must go to his Deputy. It is as simple as that. We all trust God that given his faith and transparency, Aketi will surely and certainly survive his health travails. But he cannot and should not allow this ugly scenario to fester. Presently there is no one in charge of affairs in Ondo State. The Governor is not available and his Deputy is not allowed to govern in his stead. Executive Council meetings are not being held, the State is not being represented in crucial places all over the federation and huge allocations to the state treasury are being spent daily. The tenure of the local government administrations has expired and they have already been dissolved such that there is no governance in that crucial sector. What this means is that the people of Ondo State sleep and wake up every day listening to hearsays as the only mode of governance. It is not right at all.

I do not seek to exonerate the Deputy Governor in any way, for humility is always the hallmark of true leadership. So that if for any reason a leader chose to trust someone as his running mate, then there has to be demonstrable loyalty to the cause of that leader, when the time calls for it. In this regard, if issues are raised concerning the style of administration in the absence of the leader, sufficient explanations must be offered. That said, it is very important to review the situation in Ondo State so that governance can resume. Given the stand of the APC leadership and the state of the law, any talk of impeachment of the Deputy Governor in the present reality of Ondo State can only be a strategy to sustain the cabal. For me to write on the state of affairs of Ondo State given the very high esteem in which I hold Governor Akeredolu even up till this moment shows that all is not well.

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