They all became the new chief executives in their respective states following the outcome of the last general elections. Bello Muhammed Mutawalle (Zamfara), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed (Bauchi) and Emeka Ihedioha (Imo) have all hit the ground running as new chief executives of their states but not without take off challenges that have raised dust between them and their predecessors.
Bello Muhammed Matawalle
When the Supreme Court delivered its verdict voiding all votes cast for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara State, it was a great relief to Bello Muhammed Mutawalle, candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general elections. He became governor on a platter, having benefitted from the pronouncement of the five-member panel of justices who declared that the candidate(s) with the highest number of votes in the elections be declared and sworn in as winners. Events following his declaration and inauguration as governor so far have, however, indicated that it is not a tea party for him. Like his predecessor, the new sheriff in Zamfara has been grappling with the lingering security situation in the state since he was sworn.
In an apparent move to deal with the situation, Mutawalle’s days in office so far have been characterised by melodrama, even as the bandits and kidnappers terrorising his state have left little oxygen for him to breathe. From his inauguration to date, no fewer than three major attacks have reportedly taken place. While 23 people were reportedly shot dead in attacks in Tunga and Kabaje villages in Kaura Namoda Local Government Area (LGA), 16 others were shot dead in Kanoma District in Maru LGA. Yet another 35 were massacred in Gidan Wawa, Tungar Kahau and Kwallido villages in Shinkafi LGA. Consequently, the governor summoned a meeting with all the emirs, security chiefs and many other stakeholders in the state, warning that he would not condone laxity from on their part because of their important role in containing the security situation. Gov. Mutawalle then proposed a new peace roadmap for the state in which he dared to reach out to some of the armed men in the forests to know their actual grievances. The armed criminals are said to have given the governor conditions for laying down their arms. One of the conditions is that they would stop the deadly assaults only if the local vigilante, otherwise known as Yan Sakai, halted further extra judicial execution of Fulani men, especially in rural markets. Gov. Mutawalle then warned the Yan Sakai that the state government would not condone acts of lawlessness, and that therefore, they should stop further unlawful execution of suspected criminals, warning that whoever flouted the order would face the full wrath of the law. The governor said his administration would re-demarcate grazing reserves and cattle routes, adding that he would also re-integrate the dispersed Fulani settlements into one big community and build hospitals, schools and dams for them. After attacks on some communities in Kanoma District, Gov. Mutawalle paid condolence visits to the communities and reiterated his resolve to bring back peace to the state. But in a dramatic move after the visits, he announced the dethronement of the Emir of Maru, Alhaji Abubakar Chika, and the District Head of Kanoma. Before then, there had been allegations that some traditional rulers in the state were conniving with some armed criminals. Earlier, he paid a similar condolence visit to Lilo community in Mada District. During the visit the governor and his security chiefs and their entourage had an encounter with some armed bandits. The security operatives attached to the governor’ convoy engaged the bandits for some minutes before the criminals withdrew into a forest. As part of effort to tackle the security situation, Gov. Mutawalle also visited President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Muhammad Adamu Abubakar, in Abuja. Top on the agenda of his meeting with them was the security issue. After the visit, Mutawalle jetted out of the country on his first post-inauguration foreign visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to hold a meeting with the officials of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and some investors on how to improve the economy of the state. A similar visit was billed to hold with security experts in Dubai on the best ways to end the menace of armed banditry in the state. The latest move, however, got many Nigerians worrying about whether the governor was already towing the path of his predecessor, who was accused of incessant foreign travels while his state was on fire. Other than the security burden he inherited, Gov. Mutawalle may also contend with a huge debt burden as his predecessor, Abdulaziz Yari, allegedly left N252bn in debts, according to the Transition Committee Chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Wakkala. Alhaji Wakkala, who was deputy governor to Yari, said the liabilities from the state Ministry of Finance stood at N65,361,873,755.75, adding that the liabilities accrued to the state Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs alone were estimated at N35,399,498,154.53. However, during a news conference at the APC state secretariat in Gusau, Yari said he left no debt or liability to the new administration. Speaking Yari’s media aide said, “I want to make it categorically clear that the immediate past governor, His Excellency, Hon. Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, left no debt on the state when he handed over the leadership of the state to the government of Alhaji Bello Matawalle.
Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed
Unlike Mutawalle, Gov. Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed has so far focused his attention on addressing what is considered some unpopular policies put in place by his predecessor, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar. Aside promising to reverse any policy that “is not in the interest of Bauchi State and its people”, Mohammed also vowed to probe contracts awarded by the APC administration, as well as last-minute appointments made by the administration, especially recruitment into the state civil service. The first move by Gov. Mohammed was the stoppage of the planned disbursement of the about N14bn refund released to Bauchi State in the last week of the Abubakar administration.
The governor’s spokesperson, Dr. Ladan Salihu, at a press conference, disclosed that Gov. Mohammed alerted the Economic and other Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other relevant agencies and blocked the former administration from accessing the fund. Gov. Mohammed also revoked the over N4bn contracts awarded by the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) for the renovation of schools and provision of major learning materials and school furniture across the state. He argued that contracts were awarded by the last administration to reward his (Abubakar) political patronage of friends and cronies.
At another gathering on development of education in the state organised by UNICEF, Gov. Mohammed vowed to prosecute the immediate past SUBEB Chairman, Prof. Yahya Ibrahim Yero, for allegedly awarding the revoked contracts without the funds to pay contractors. Gov. Mohammed also revoked all political appointments of the former administration, like Directors General (DGs) of government agencies, as well as local government caretaker committees of all the 20 local government areas. The governor also promised to review other contracts awarded by the previous administration and threatened to revoke any one awarded in a dubious manner.
However, what is considered his most daring move was the recent planned control of the House of Assembly where he outwitted the APC and hijacked the leadership by ensuring that his candidate emerged the speaker and the PDP got the deputy speakership despite being in minority in the house. The move may not be unconnected to his promise to reverse the enactment of the laws brought through two bills presented by the former governor to repeal the anti-corruption law to stop the probe of the former governor. The other law is for the creation of additional districts and village areas which many see as a plan to put additional burden on his administration.
The governor also ordered the redeployment of about a dozen Permanent Secretaries (Permsecs), including the Clerk of the House of Assembly, which many believe paved way for what happened later during the inauguration of the house last Thursday. The other permsecs deployed were considered as either close to former Gov. Abubakar or had actively participated in politics during campaigns and elections. Gov. Mohammed also sent a bill to the House of Assembly seeking for the downward review of the 2019 budget appropriation from N198bn. His request was granted by the members before the dissolution of the assembly which gave it a speedy deliberation and reviewed it downwards to N197bn which he signed into law. The row between former Gov. Abubakar and his successor assumed a dramatic dimension when the former was accused by the latter of spending N2.3bn to buy materials for burials. The governor made the allegation through his spokesperson, Dr. Ladan Salihu, in an interview with newsmen, stressing that the said funds were spent between January and May, 2019. However, the former governor has denied spending N2.3bn on burials, saying he only spent N1.2bn.
Similarly, Gov. Emeka Ihedioha’s inauguration as the new sheriff in Imo State has not been without drama. As had been predicted by bookmakers, the governor’s first action was to try to undo some of those things he thought were wrong during the Rochas Okoroha-led government. This was not altogether surprising, given Ihedioha’s outcry over the actions of his predecessor, even before taking over the mantle of leadership. However, not many people believe that the first act of the new administration was to demolish one of the monuments built by Okorocha, the Akachi.
Although the governor denied involvement in the action, it has remained an issue. Some members of the new administration tagged the monument an evil omen that should be pulled down. Since the Akachi incident, the governor has reversed key appointments made by his predecessor on the eve of his departure. The first was to sack all the members of boards of government agencies and parastatals inaugurated by Okorocha less than two months to his departure.
Also, Ihedioha, by the approval of the House of Assembly, sacked all the elected local government chairmen and councillors. In their stead, the he inaugurated a transition committees the 21 local government areas of the state. Each of the transition committee has members from each of the electoral wards in the state. The governor has also set in motion machinery for the recovery of government property allegedly carted away by some members of the outgone administration, including family members of his predecessor.
A detachment of policemen were said to have gone to the house of Okorocha’s younger brother, Okey Okorocha, to retrieve some vehicles and property during which a scuffle was said to have ensued between the security agents and members of Okorocha family. Some members of the new administration were also said to have stormed a mechanic workshop where a car belonging to Okorocha’s first daughter, Uloma Nwosu, was forcefully taken away despite her protestation that the car legally belonged to her. Last week, a fresh dimension was added to the unfolding drama in Imo State as some members of the state committee on recovery of government property reportedly stormed a shopping mall owned by Uloma Nwosu. During the raid, they reportedly carted away merchandise believed to be owned by the state government.
The operation was said to have been supervised by Jasper Ndubuaku, chairman of the committee. On their part, the state legislators have also moved to recover some of their residential houses allegedly leased out by the former administration. They have also passed a motion urging the governor to probe Okorocha for spending N5bn state funds to build a state university, Eastern Palm University, which they allege the former governor appropriated for himself and even appointed one of his staff as vice chancellor. There are concerns that the governor is making the cardinal point of his administration to be a war against his predecessor.
In Ogun State, Gov. Dapo Abiodun’s first month in office has been defined by less decisive activities, apparently moving at a slow pace contrary to high expectations that greeted his government. His major challenge upon assumption of office was appointments, as it took him a week before he made his first appointment, which was the Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin.
A week later, he named Olatokunbo Talabi as SSG and Shuaib Salisu as the chief of staff. The delay in the appointments, it was gathered, was due to some power play and intrigues among various political blocs that brought him to power. Therefore, it seems a great challenge lies ahead of the governor as he prepares to form his cabinet. Last week, Gov. Abiodun at a meeting with APC stakeholders, revealed how he borrowed funds from his friends who are managing directors of commercial banks to clear N7bn wage bill for last month. The governor said he met “almost nothing” in the state’s treasury, but was silent on how much he met.
It was gathered that the total external debt of the state amounts to $210m, while the local debt stands at N120bn. But in defence of former Gov. Amosun, the Allied Peoples’ Movement (APM) in Ogun State chided Abiodun, describing his position as “height of unpreparedness and gross irresponsibility.” In a statement, the acting Publicity Secretary of APM, Olumide Balogun, said Amosun “had already prepared the cash for payment before handing over to him (Abiodun) on May 28th, 2019”, and wondered how the governor who had barely spent three days in office as at May 31, would borrow N7bn to pay salary.
Also, Amosun’s last-minute appointments and promotions in the civil service have turned out to be a thorn in his successor’s flesh. He had employed 1,000 fresh civil servants and appointed 21 permsecs. This, no doubt would have led to increase in the monthly wage bill, which the former governor left at N9.3bn, and the new helmsman is expected to pay the N30,000 newly approved minimum wage. Interestingly, Abiodun has suspended appointments of the 75 newly appointed traditional rulers. He equally set up a review committee to “determine on a case-by-case basis whether such appointments or promotions were in accordance with the extant laws of Ogun State and due process.”
In the education sector, Abiodun will have to contend with the crisis rocking the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Abeokuta, over its upgrading to Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUSTECH) by the Amosun-led government. In March, 2017, Amosun signed a bill for the conversion of the polytechnic into a university and the establishment of Ogun State Polytechnic, Ipokia. The development has pitched the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) in MAPOLY against Amosun as lecturers accused him of insincerity. Already, the governor has reversed MAUSTECH to its former status, MAPOLY, with its academic activities fully restored, while he set up a panel to look into the feasibility of the operations of the newly established institution.