We have come to another election season and the momentum is building up as we prepare to go to the polls in about 12 months’ time. Like previous elections, I have observed an overemphasis on the Presidential elections. While it is the most colourful of all elections, it is not the most important.
I don’t mean to suggest in any way that the Presidency is not a powerful position but if we do a careful study of our democracy during First, Second, Third and now Fourth Republic, it will highlight the fact that the biggest dividend of democracy comes from the State Governors and they are also the biggest political influencers.
Governors are closer to the people: Every Nigerian citizen is likely to hear more and see more of their Governor than the President. Almost every time citizens are faced with a crisis, some of which is under the care of the President, the state Governors have to respond because they are closer to the people.
Governors have the greatest impact on our wellbeing: They are responsible for the public primary and secondary school education; they are responsible for the public healthcare and social care system; they also responsible for fixing most roads, drainage, cleaning the environment, sorting out vehicular traffic; they receive taxes from citizens; even though power generation has been privatised, they still work in partnership with power generation companies to ensure citizens and businesses in their state have increased supply; they ensure security of lives and property as Chief Security officers even though the President controls the security agencies (most states have their Community Policing initiatives), etc.
If State Governors were effective in delivering quality educational and healthcare system, alongside providing an attractive environment for investors, most citizens in their state would have a good quality of life and security will improve greatly.
Governors are power brokers: Since the beginning of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, no other political office holder is as powerful as State Governors. They control the party structure in their states and, together with other colleagues, control the national structure because they are the main financiers of their party. They nominate citizens whom the President appoints as Ministers, Special Advisers, Special Assistants, Board Chairmen and Members, Ambassadors, etc.
Governors also control the funding of Local Government Areas, appointments or elections of Chairmen and Councillors, the party structure at the Local Government and ward levels.
The Nigerian Governors Forum, despite being formed by members from various political parties, is the most powerful political group when they unite for a common interest.
Unfortunately, they also control their State Houses of Assembly. It is not uncommon for citizens who stand for elections into the State House of Assembly and the National Assembly to be handpicked by their State Governor. Therefore, if Governors really want to push a bill through the legislature, they can achieve this through their cronies there.
In fact, any citizen that wants to contest or re-contest as President needs the support of the powerful State Governors.
So, a citizen who, as State Governor, influences their political party’spresidential candidate, and those who become Local Government Chairmen, members of the state and federal legislature, state and federal appointees, must be one the electorate must give more attention to.
Bearing in mind some of the roles and influences of State Governors highlighted, our biggest task concerning 2019 elections is to research into who will become our State Governor. During the general election, we must mobilise to go vote the candidate who will best deliver the true dividend of democracy as our State Governor.
The second and concluding part of this post will look at the next category we must give greater focus to – the State and Federal Legislature.