Governors As Dictators! By Ozodinukwe Okenwa

The Nigerian national constitution gives ‘dictatorial’ powers to not only the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic but generously to the executive Governors of the 36 states that make up the dysfuntional federation. While the President remains the most ‘powerful’ man in the world given the constitutional extra-ordinary powers he wields (abusively) the Governors are imbued legally with powers that allow them unfettered access to state treasuries; power to do whatever pleases them with the abused security votes and local governments’ funds. A Governor in Nigeria can kill anyone and go away with it since he is covered with immunity!

He could dissolve the State House of Assembly or refuse to swear-in opposition legislators not ready to do his bidding. He could instigate a ‘rofo-rofo’ fight in plenary aimed at toppling the leadership of the house perceived as ambitious or recalcitrant. He could ‘float’ companies with whose accounts he defrauds the state and do ‘business’. He could appoint his mistress or concubine as an assistant with no portfolio whatsoever!

States’ governors in Nigeria could arrest anyone on trump-up charges of treason or cyber-heckling; they could order the physical elimination of opponents deemed critical of their abuse of office. They could steal as much money as they want, launder some abroad and play god or father Christmas with the public funds at their disposal. 

They can make laws no matter how draconian and force the House of Assembly members to rubber-stamp them. They can take medical leave for weeks or months outside their states without handing over power to the deputies. They can hire and fire at their discretion and convenience with little or no regard for equity and merit. They can form a well-funded ‘militia’ to do their sinister biddings.

Many Nigerian Governors see looting of the treasury as their primary objective of seeking gubernatorial power. When one considers the number of ex-Governors docked for mind-boggling fiscal heists (Jolly Nyame, Orji Uzor Kalu, Theodore Orji, Timipre Sylva, Godswill Akpabio, Jonah Jang etc) then the conclusion could be reached that rather than service to their states and peoples these executive thieves went into politics to feather their nests corruptibly.

At the end of their tenures they simply ‘migrate’ to upper or lower federal legislatures with a sure guarantee of ‘immunity’ from any prosecution. Few examples would suffice here.

Comrade Adams Oshiomhole governed Edo State for eight eventful years. He did his best to infrastructurally improve the state but tales of embezzlement of funds had surfaced as his successor, Godwin Obaseki, sought to be his own man. Both of them are currently locked in a mortal battle of supremacy in Edo State. The Comrade upon being ‘indicted’ by a probe panel in Benin city had sought and obtained a legal cover from prosecution. As controversial Chairman of the misruling APC party ‘Oshio-Baba’ enjoys certain immunity which Governor Obaseki wanted to break.

Thus far Comrade Oshiomhole does not appear as one troubled by any negative news from Benin city. He is preoccupied with the politics of bringing Gov. Obaseki down from his guber perch. And so far, given the recent development in Abuja where the sitting Governor has been disqualified from taking part in the state APC primaries due to ‘discrepancies’ in his submitted academic certificate, the Comrade is having the last laugh.

Former Governor Rochas Okorocha had ‘graduated’ to the Senate as Senator leaving behind a financial mess in Imo State. While his major ‘achievements’ included building monuments and statues for criminals and corrupt politicians like him he had been accused by the former Governor Emeka Ihedioha of looting of state funds. Yet Senator Okorocha cannot be arrested or tried for economic crimes because he has a senatorial immunity! 

Ditto Senator Theodore Orji of Abia State. The latter and his son, now a Speaker of Abia state House of Assembly, were known to have embezzled state funds to the tune of billions of Naira! When Senator Orji was in power in Umuahia Chinedum Orji lived like a Prince. Today he has used the stolen filthy lucre to move further up the political ladder. Who says corruption does not pay?

Lately there is this disturbing trend in the states’ capitals where Governors have had to oppress journalists and social media activists (bloggers) for reporting or investigating their mounting corruption and abuse of power and privileges. Whenever these victims of oppression were apprehended and detained illegally they were usually labelled ‘purveyors’ of fake news online or offline!

Last May in Asaba, Delta State capital, some Department of State Sevices (DSS) agents commandeered by the Governor of the State, Ifeanyi Okowa, had arrested and detained the Publisher of an online newspaper, SecretReporters, Tega Oghenedoro, popularly known by his pen name Fejiro Oliver. His newspaper had exclusively reported the dare-devil robbery inside the Government House in Asaba! Gov. Okowa must have been angered that Fejiro had alleged that despite the huge funds expended on security armed robbers could easily gain access to the Governor’s residence and mug him.

In Akwa Ibom State a blogger identified as Paul Umoh, had been reportedly arrested over an alleged blackmail of Ndianaabasi Nana, a Senior Special Assistant to the State Governor on Multilateral and Donor Agencies. He was said to have defamed the SSA on a Facebook post wherein he described Nana as a “serial abominist” and also alleged that his lurid “affairs are targeted at women both single and other married ladies”. So telling a randy Assistant to a Chief Executive the truth about his philandering lifestyle now constitutes a crime?

Governor Udom Emmanuel seems to be an enemy of free speech and press freedom.   Following series of “malicious publications” he made on social media against the Governor Michael Itok was arrested last year December by the DSS and detained for weeks. 

Agba Jalingo, the Publisher of CrossRiverWatch, an online newspaper, was arrested in his residence in Lagos at wee hours of the night by the Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (FSARS) of the Nigerian police on August 22, 2019. The next day he was transfered to Calabar by the police. On July 17, Jalingo had written a critical story about an alleged diversion of 500 million naira (about $1.4 million) meant for the establishment of Cross River state Micro-Finance Bank by Governor Ben Ayade.

In the final analysis the truth of the matter is that aside the glorified dictator “Jubril” in Aso Rock our Governors have become dictators, doing corruption and gathering scandals around and about themselves. This democracy stinks; it is sick! It has transformed itself into ‘demo-crazy’ — demonstration of ‘craziness’ — apology to the late Abami Eda, Fela Kuti.

SOC Okenwa
[email protected]

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