Those incensed by the recent actions of the Akwa Ibom state helmsman, Governor Godswill Apkabio do not understand the interesting and intricate tribe called “governors”. If they did, they would have understood that Akpabio’s deed is nothing compared to what he, as a governor, is capable of doing, given governor’s sprawling power. Our governors are the most powerful folks on Earth. And although all governors are equal, some are richer than others as Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, recently revealed the top ten states in Nigeria.
In fact, (and as Okonjo Iweala also noted) many of them are richer and more powerful than some presidents around the world. At the states, governors are the beginning and end of all wisdom. In their cases, the king is the state and the state was created for their good pleasure. They may occasionally try and display some decorum in treating the state’s funds as belonging to the citizens, but don’t be fooled! Much of that fund is their pocket money literally. In one state, the SURE-P fund for instance is essentially the helmsman ultimate ATM!
Security votes and ecological funds belong in that category too. Governors may acknowledge the position of other office holders within the state, but don’t be carried away, everyone is subservient to them. The party structures belong to them (because governors, in PDP-controlled states, are the leaders of the party. A dissenting party chairman can be rooted out without warning) Traditional rulers quiver before them (because a governor can make a King’s life miserable by dethroning him. Governors have that power).
The House of Assembly is just another building down town (because the governor can deal with the speaker or a stubborn member with state’s fund if he likes). The cabinet is just another bunch of people invited to eat as many of them have no real powers. In fact, some are only too glad to be called upon and try hard not to rock the boat (because the big man can sack them without even the slightest notice). All power resides with the man at Government House and he’s lord.
In one state (name withheld) big men like commissioners sit on the floor when talking to the big boss. In another state, the so-called Special Advisers don’t even see the man they are supposed to be advising. They may be special, but the boss does not need their advice for all he cares. And no two governors are alike as every state gets the governor it deserves. To be fair to the tribe though, some of them are trying hard to change the mould, to actually serve their people and to leave a legacy behind. I know a governor who hates the sound of sirens and the overzealousness of convoys.
He also won’t accept any chieftaincy title and detest praise singing. He is a strange one. But while some of the state’s chief executives may dispense with the extravagance or an opulent lifestyle, make no mistake about it; they are still rich and powerful. A few of them are trying hard to demystify the position and make themselves people friendly and look like ordinary folks but it is all a façade- a governor is a governor. Governor Rochas Okoracha of Imo state is the best example of this.
He sometimes dances on the streets, sits with the common people, eats at bukkas, speaks broken English, cracks jokes- all in a bid to appear like the man next door. Yet, he couldn’t escape from the controversies and issues of that office. There once was a telling photograph showing his aides kneeling to talk to him! There is just something about governors that elicit that sort of reverence, fear and even hate from their minions. But let’s stay on the person of the Akwa Ibom’s leader.
Akpabio signed into a law a bill which entitles him to a life time of comfort (he would be collecting N100m annually for the rest of his life on Earth) and all hell broke loose. His spin doctors have since tried hard to explain it away by saying that Akpabio would not exactly be collecting that amount but that he must not exceed that amount in his expenses! Abi I no sabi book again?
The explanation is as puerile and intriguing as the lifestyle of the most powerful bunch in Nigeria. Because that is what Nigeria’s governors are: the masters of their universe, the lords of the manor and conquerors of their realms. They are capable of being dictatorial, democratic, benevolent, malevolent, difficult, simple, matured and childish all at once. They are tough, calculative and ingenious in maneuvering the turbulence associated with that unique office.
But don’t blame them. Becoming a governor in Nigeria is the hardest thing on earth. It is easier to run for office as United State’s president than to become the occupant of any Government House. The road to that house is one fraught with intrigues, sorrows, tears and blood, and as the race to all the offices in 2015 hots up, the one to the Government House is going to be the fiercest. It is going to be a rat race, a horse race, a dog race and a race against time.
There would be cat fights, bull fights, dog fights, cock fights and of course, street fights. In the end, after all the billions of naira spent and after many unspeakable things, one man would clinch the party’s ticket and then go on to “win” the election and get sworn in. Then his battle for survival would begin. And to stay afloat all that would come his way, he may have to become ruthless.
He would also need to control all the money and become the most powerful person in that state. That is the only way he would survive to anoint his successor and retire into a life of comfort. Problem is that EFCC has a way of spoiling what ordinarily would have been a happy ending to the epic. But in the case of Akpabio, may be God’s will might be done!