Of Gov Emmanuel Udom and Godswill Akpabio; the role of former governors in our democracy

I have been following recent development in Akwa-Ibom State. It all started less than 2 weeks ago with news of Gov. Udom sacking Hon. Udo Ekpeyong, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. Then 2 days ago, the governor sacked the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Etekamba Umoren.

It must be noted that these two officials are core loyalist of former Gov. Godswill Akpabio. Many people have for some time now been speculating a rift between Udom and his predecessor. But this recent sacks further gives flesh to the argument that all isn’t well between Udom and his former boss. It will be recalled that two weeks ago, Akpabio at an event in Abak, accused Udom of marginalising his Ikot Ekpene Senatorial district. Although many in the State have tried to play down any friction between the two, it is worth noting that all isn’t well in both men’s camps.

We in the commonsense secretariat observed a long time ago that it will be a matter of time before both men fall out. As a student of history, I always argue that even if you help a man to power, once that man gets to power, it is that man that is now in power not you anymore who helped him. Most politicians in Nigeria love to live in self-deceit and call themselves godfathers because they assisted someone to get to an office.

A man who you helped to an office can still revere you out of courtesy and not compulsion. When OBJ helped Yar’Adua to power, the first thing Yar’Adua did on the same May 29th he took power from OBJ was to reverse all the refineries that OBJ sold to Adenuga, Dangote and Otedola. It was even much worse as Yar’Adua refused to pick OBJ’s calls. Each time OBJ called, he was told Yar’Adua was busy. OBJ will famously write in his new book “My watch” and described Yar’Adua as “an incompetent ingrate”. The same thing happened with GEJ who took over, he didn’t give OBJ that free role to boss around as an emperor and OBJ quickly withdrew his support for GEJ and called him incompetent.

We can point to numerous examples: former Gov. Chimaroke Nnamani helped his secondary school best friend Sullivan Chime to become Gov. The first thing Chime did as Gov was to pursue Nnamani out of Enugu. The same Chime who Nnamani brought into government as Special Adviser on Legal matters and later Attorney General of the State. Or what about the lion of Ubima, Rotimi Amaechi, the man who was house boy to Dr. Peter Odili, was later his Special Assistant when Odili was Deputy Governor and Odili made him a legislator and Speaker. Have we forgotten the first task Amaechi did as Governor was to set up a truth and reconciliation committee to look at Odili’s tenure as Governor? Odili lived in Abuja as his former houseboy pursued him away.

Have you forgotten about former Gov. Orji Uzor Kalu who single-handedly made his Chief of Staff Theodore Orji the Gov of Abia State? He even took Theordore to a shrine to take an oath of loyalty and took pictures of the events as an insurance incase Theodore defaults. But have you forgotten, the first thing Theodore did as Gov? He broke loose from his benefactor and chased him out of Government House Umuahia. Orji Uzor released the pictures from the shrine to defame him but it didn’t produce any effect. Theodore was free for good.

Should I talk about Willie Obiano, who former Gov. Peter Obi brought into government as SSG and then made him Governor? Today, Obiano denies that Obi left him a kobo in State coffers. Have you also forgotten how Imoke once detained Donald Duke when he visited for a function in Calabar? Although, many later downplayed the events as a security breach on the part of the Police. But Imoke always decried the huge debt burden his predecessor left for him to bear. But one must commend the urbane and leadership skills of Duke. He truly understood the laws of powers. Once he stepped out of Govt House; Calabar, he stepped out for good and didn’t interfere with the Govt of his successor.

The only two former Govs that remain in that privileged position of holding down their successors in office is Tinubu and Bukola Saraki. How they manage to do it is a discussion for another day.

So I want to retrace an event that happened in Uyo in December 2016 and on several occasions not just once. Akpabio was always fun of breaking protocols and arriving State functions late when the Chief Executive was already seated, forcing Udom to stand up and welcome him. For me, this was very reckless and irresponsible on the part of Akpabio. No matter how much he helped Udom to that seat, it is irresponsible to belittle a Governor who has powers in public. I don’t think Akpabio would have taken such when he was in office. So why dish out what you can’t swallow? I did observe in private that Udom will soon teach Akpabio a bitter lesson, but I didn’t know it will be this soon.

I don’t know why men don’t understand the rules of power. Once you are “former” you are history. The man in charge has all the powers irrespective of how he got there. He can only tolerate your excesses out of courtesy. And I must commend Udom for tolerating Akpabio this long. In many instances which I listed above, the successors drove out their benefactors the very same day.

But again, history always repeats itself …it is only men who refuse to learn from history. Many won’t forget in a hurry that although Attah did change his mind at the last minute for his son-in-law to be Governor, he had always anointed Akpabio to be his successor. And irrespective of what later happened, Akpabio never treated Attah well. So I hope if truly Udom had broken free from him, then he shouldn’t complain much. What goes around comes around.

And finally, from an economic point of view, I think it is a good thing for our democracy for Udom to retain his independence in executing the mandate given to him by the people. There can always be one captain at a time in a ship, if not confusion sets in. Akpabio should allow Udom work. Those States that the predecessors still hold their successors’ hostage do have some premium to pay. We recently learnt of how much of Kwara State’s money that Saraki still collects from his boy Ahmed. And for Lagos, Tinubu remains the biggest landlord in town. And we in the commonsense secretariat believe this is not healthy for the progress of the State. Fashola did try to break free once but wasn’t successful. He did rhetorically mention what he passed through under Tinubu’s bondage during his screening on the floor of the Senate to be a Minister. So it is not a good thing for any State to have a former Governor still looming large over his successor. A lot of State resources have to go down the drain to massage the ego of such former Chief Executive.

So once again Your Excellency Governor Emmanuel Udom, congratulations for breaking free from bondage. Happy Freedom Day

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