IDEAS Radio 19 April 2019 

Episode 32: Outgoing & Incoming Governors

Aghogho Oboh: Alright.  It’s thirteen minutes past four.  I’m Aghogho Oboh and this is Countdown 2019.  Countdown to a number of things today, because there’s Inauguration coming up.  Countdown to the Ministers who are leaving office very soon. But first the IDEAS segment with Ayo Obe.  We’re looking, we’re going to be talking about political office holders who are not going to be returning to office, who include most notably Governors who will not have a second term or who have already served out their second terms.  Things like awarding late contracts, appointments which will be happening between now and inauguration day, as well as some who will be granting amnesty or pardon to some convicts.

You can follow the programme on Twitter @Countdown2019NG, @RotimiSankore, @AghoghoOboh, @sezekwesili, @NigeriaInfoFM, @ideasradiong.  Tweet at all these handles. If you’ve got questions or comments, you can also talk to us via WhatsApp. Our number is 08095975805, again 08095975805. 

Good evening Rotimi Sankore of course,, good evening Ayo Obe.  It’s a Good Friday.

Ayo Obe: Good Friday greetings to all the listeners

AgO: Yes.  Ok So! I’m also incidentally a JP too, you know, so … 

Rotimi Sankore: Good Friday mood … 

AO: Well, I’m not sure what JP is … Jerusalem Pilgrim Ok.

Rotimi Sankore: Or Justice of the Peace

AO: Well, he’s not a Justice of the Peace.  But yes, it is the mood. But we are going to bring us right back from the world of higher things to the murky world of politics  and in particular Rotimi I think we need to discuss this question of what’s been happening with regard to the outgoing governors. How lame duck is a lame duck outgoing governor?

AgO: Well …

RS: Lame duck because everybody can count the days they have to stay in office, but their successors-elect are complaining that they are not lame at all in awarding contracts and appointing people.  And there’s a whole lot of – is rancour the right word? With so many governors-elect declaring that the incumbent governors that were either defeated at the polls or failed – as they describe it – to ‘plant’ their surrogates in office, they are alleging that …  Some are alleging that the incumbents are setting booby-traps, crippling the administration, or otherwise awarding last-minute contracts that are not sustainable, jobs for the boys, appointing people to all kinds of positions and backdating the appointment dates. I think that is a dastardly one if it is true …

AO: That certainly raises questions about Ethics and Integrity.

RS: Yes, because if you appoint someone in your last months and you backdate it six months … 

AO: Then effectively you are saddling your successor with bills and liabilities and responsibilities for which actually the state has not received any service.  And that’s really the problem. It’s not so much that a lame duck governor or an outgoing governor does not have the power to continue to govern within …

RS: Until the last minute …

AO: …  but that government must certainly be within the parameters of – when it comes to spending – it has to within the parameters of any spending that has been approved in the state budget; they can’t just suddenly wake up and start spending money anyhow.  But, if the governor is now making appointments which the state hasn’t received any benefit for, then it becomes a problem of, as I say, Integrity and Ethics.

RS: In fact, just to quote one report, from the  Leadership newspaper, it says: “The governors-elect are lamenting that their predecessors are not just leaving empty treasuries, huge debts, salary and pension arrears and other liabilities, they are also  issuing contracts, giving out gifts, luxury cars, houses to their appointees and associates, and in some cases giving out land, although I’m not quite sure how the land one impacts on the governor-elect, except that it reduces what he can give out.

AO: Yes, it reduces what an incoming …   I mean, obviously. I think that what’s always interesting is that this is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria.  I mean if you were to … particularly in the case of Ekiti State where the government changed hands from Governor Ayo Fayose to Governor Kayode Fayemi, it’s the same complaint, and it’s also the same complaint that Fayose made when he was an incoming governor on the heels of Governor Fayemi!  And in the most recent case Governor Fayemi met several appointments that had been made, hundreds of people had been appointed into the … onto the state payroll, and of course once you are a civil servant it’s not easy, your appointment has a measure of statutory flavour, so it is not easy to just reverse the appointments as one might think.  One has to really go into the validity of those appointments to see whether they can stand. But otherwise you do get saddled with it, and if … even in trying to negotiate these people’s way out, you have to deal with the trade unions and other vested interests in the state.

RS: With regard  to that kind of example specifically, so in Adamawa State the incoming, the Governor-elect Fintiri, has cautioned the outgoing Bindow administration against what they’ve described as “last-minute employment and award of bogus contracts”.  So he says that he understands that the state government is set to issue employment letters to 1,540 post-primary school teachers.

AO: Yes, I mean the thing is that, it’s easy to just say that as soon as an outgoing Governor does anything, it’s not, … it’s designed to line people’s pockets.  But actually if you look at the report further, you’ll see that the Governor’s response is that: Look, we have a shortage of primary, post primary teachers in Adamawa State … 

RS: Five thousand

AO: Yes, five thousand, but we could only afford 

RS: 1,540…

AO: Exactly.  And we started this process in 2018, and what’s more, we were giving these people training so that they would be fit for employment.  So it’s not, it’s always good not to have a knee-jerk reaction to these things. But some of these appointments are made in bad faith, and what is also a sad thing, I’m speaking as somebody who, I remember having done a case for a state government which unexpectedly lost the elections in 2003, and it hadn’t paid my fees.  And it took about two administrations before the state government acknowledged that the, that our bill should be met. So it’s a two way street. And of course, you remember, I mean in countries like Britain the turnover is a lot faster, but …

RS: Two days

AO:   … but you remember, there was one Labour, either in the Ministry of Finance, or Budget he left a sort of … it was supposed to be a joke:  There’s no money left!

RS: There’s no money left! 

AO: But it came back to haunt him.  

RS: … and the successor waved it to the media: Is this a joke or what?

AO: Well, he presented it as though it wasn’t a joke and that the outgoing government had “spent all the money and crippled the nation”, and therefore gave the incoming administration a whipping boy or a scapegoat for years and years of government failure.  And of course, this is what we see here. That part of this … these complaints are being made because there is genuine cause for concern about the integrity of the way the money is being spent, but part of it is setting up a series of excuses, to say: Well, I would have done it, but you see, this person who was there, this is the mess that they made!

RS: There is one instance where banks have been warned and cautioned against giving arbitrary loans and overdrafts to outgoing governors and their commissioners.

AO: We’ve actually seen cases where, I mean of course, a bank that decides to give a  personal loan to a commissioner or anybody, that’s the bank’s own business because they should know what  their security is and they should know what they are lending the money is for. But if money is being lent to the State Government, then that again has to be something that is covered by the State’s budget, you can’t just … 

AgO: It is interesting you brought this out, because almost all the states, when we had some discussion on Countdown some time last year, that the … early this year rather …  the budgets were passed very quickly.

AO: Yes.

AgO: Most states had less than a month.  So it’s not like the federal situation where we still have the budget pending, and the administration will still keep spending the one for the previous year.  So it’s the fact that you have the money already budgeted for, and they have no problems with that, they can just keep spending until they are out of office by May 29th 

AO: They can continue to spend it, but at the same time if a bank gives money on behalf of a state then the state is liable.  However, what we’ve also seen, is that beyond these sort of warnings not to, we’ve also seen attempts by some incoming governors to …  almost to get the banks to freeze the accounts of the state which they are coming in to because of the fear that the money is just going to be drained out of the state’s hands.

RS: And the incumbent, so in the case of Imo State, where Ikhedioha, the incoming, alleges that Governor Okorocha has withdrawn up to N17 billion for …  N17 billion for what he describes as “inexplicable purposes”,  Governor Okorocha says that the state does not have N17 billion to withdraw in cash and then has warned Ikhedioha to stop impersonating him.  You know, he should stop going round to institutions saying I’m the Governor, you know, Freeze the accounts.  Stop giving out money. So he has warned Ikhedioha to stop impersonating … there is only one governor at a time. 

AO: That’s true.

RS: There’s only one governor at a time.  That if Ikhedioha says anything as a governor, he’s an impersonator and should be treated as such.  I’m not quite sure what the penalty is, but … 

AO: And yet, as the governor who is there now, they can almost physically feel the power draining out of them.  Some of them of course, have set up for themselves juicy berths in the National Assembly, but those berths in the National Assembly don’t go with any immunity.  So they need to be very careful about making sure that anything that they do can stand the test, can stand scrutiny, because if they can’t, and the EFCC or other bodies are brought in, it may be … it may no longer be a question of … although I know that the previous situation was as Senator Shehu Sani so memorably said:  “Insecticide for your political enemies and deodorant for those who are coming on to your own side”, but it may no longer be that treatment.

RS: In Oyo State, so …  Makinde who is … succeeding Ajimobi

AO: That’s another case where the Governor was not able to get his preferred candidate.

RS: Yes.  So, there is this big contract of 33 excavators to boost agricultural production, safety and rescue operations.  So Makinde says: Yes, but why is he giving out this … awarding this contract in his last days? And Ajimobi says …  you know I actually saw it on television he was waving his hands in the air, he said “I promised” that he will govern to the last minute to sustain his developmental stride, and that this is in keeping with his promise!  So he can’t, you know, he’s not going to break his promise to govern until the last minute, so he’s not going to give in to blackmail, he’s not going to!

AO: It’s very difficult because the fact is that if those contracts …  if those excavators are being bought at a reasonable price, then an incoming governor cannot just reverse anything that’s done without being exposed to challenge by the contractors.

AgO: Where can they draw the line?  Like in the Oyo State situation, the excavators, and then interestingly, he’s carrying out urban renewal, which will include demolishing structures and perhaps winning bad capital before he … to say …  where do you just draw the line?

AO: Well it’s difficult, because if the governor creates a lot of problems like demolition of houses and so on in the name of urban renewal and then his, his incoming has to either pay compensation or to restore the people to the houses …   the real penalties are political, or the real sanctions are political ones, because while the outgoing governor may have this “Après moi le deluge”, you know, “All the problems should come after me” type of approach … 

RS: I’m glad you interpreted it!

AgO: When you hear “après moi” French …

AO: It means that look, There’ll be a flood after me, but basically, it will be when I’m gone, it won’t be my problem.  And you know, they may adopt that type of approach, but they are … government is a continuum so are political parties and so are political ambitions, and if they find that they are too closely associated with evil done to the people of the state, then it will mean that instead of being able to position themselves on a good footing for a comeback, they will find that actually, that the people will say: Whatever else happens, neither you nor anybody that you are mentioning or you are recommending to us is going to be somebody that we want to see.

RS: Just on a last note on this Oyo, so there is an allegation that N30 billion worth of contracts were awarded in one day, and the Governor-elect says: This is very suspicious and curious, and described it as an aberration, especially when there are other debts that are …    

AO: As old as 2011 that haven’t been paid!

RS: Yes, that have not been paid.  So … I mean, does this … is this a red flag?

AO: It’s certainly a red flag   It has to be a red flag. And as I’ve said, that where the activities of the outgoing Governor cannot stand scrutiny, they no longer enjoy any immunity which can prevent them from being asked back to account.  I mean, another experience of mine was … 

RS: Some of them may be walking straight into jail!

AO: No no, you don’t walk straight into jail, but you certainly walk into continued invitations from the EFCC.  Now it’s obviously, because of the … their closeness, their relationship with the party in power at the centre,  there may be some idea that the EFCC is not … 

RS: There may be some waiver

AO: But it’s important to remember that many of the complaints will amount to state offences.  So whether the EFCC chooses to act or not, it will still be something that the state Attorneys-General can take up.  We saw a lot of threat of that in Rivers State in 2015 when Governor Amaechi was leaving power. Whether it’s amounted to anything yet, it’s difficult to say whether that’s because there’s nothing for it to amount to, or because people are saying: Well, you know there but for the …   I don’t want to set a bad precedent. Which is another problem!

RS: There was a panel, some investigation which came out with some report   claiming that Amaechi had more or less undone the state.

AO: But in the end, we … nothing further, and as I said, he doesn’t enjoy any immunity, so one always has to ask oneself: Is it a system where what is good for the goose needs to be good for the gander.  Well, the Integrity deficit, the Ethics deficit … 

RS: Somebody mentioned that, they said: This what is good for the goose is good for the gander?  One day somebody said: What is a gander?

AO: I believe is a female, or a male goose.  I’ve no idea. Some kind of poultry anyway.

RS: Alright.  We have to take a break now

AO: I want to say thank you very much for joining me on the IDEAS  segment. We … I’m not going to be here next week because I’m not going to be here!  But I’ve no doubt that the Countdown continues … will continue next week as it will continue in a few short minutes from now, so we’ll be with you in a fortnight’s time.

RS: So ok, thank you.  And please remember to follow IDEAS Radio @ideasradiong and Ayo Obe @naijama.