One Year in Office: Nine governors yet to fight their godfathers

In less than ten days, 20 governors will be celebrating their one year in office.

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Some of them emerged as governors through the endorsement of their predecessors who paved the way for them among several other interested politicians.

In Nigeria, fights between godfathers and godsons are very popular.

Some of the most notorious recently would be Rabiu Kwankwaso vs Umar Ganduje, Peter Obi vs Willie Obiano, Udom Emmanuel vs Godswill Akpabio, Adams Oshiomhole and Godwin Obaseki, Rauf Aregbesola and Gboyega Oyetola, and others.

On the other hand, President Bola Tinubu is perhaps the most successful godfather in this return to democracy. Between 2007 and now, he has installed three governors in Lagos State but still controls the political structure.

Fast forward to this period, the fight between Governor Similayi Fubara of Rivers State and his predecessor, ex-governor Nyesom Wike has dominated reportage.

In Kaduna, there is an ongoing fight between former governor Nasir El-rufai and Governor Uba Sani. Also, in Benue State, Governor Alia and ex-governor George Akume are in a supremacy battle for the control of the structure of the party.

However, there are some states where it has all been quiet between the incumbents and their successors. Even though there may be fights, it has not gotten to the pages of newspapers.

Enugu State

Former Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and a member of the famous G5 group, endorsed Peter Mbah ahead of the primaries in 2022, and despite the push by the Labour Party during the election, the PDP was able to retain the state.

However, Ugwuanyi lost his bid to go to the senate. He suffered a heavy defeat against Okechukwu Ezea of the Labour Party.

The ex-governor appears to have his focus on the G5 struggle for the control of the PDP at the national level, while Mbah appears to have control of governance and the PDP in Enugu State. The former governor has not uttered a word about governance in the state since he left office, indicating a good relationship between him and his successor.

Kebbi State

Former Governor Atiku Bagudu backed Nasir Idris during the primaries to defeat former Majority Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi.

Bagudu’s support for the former President of the Teachers’ Union caused heavyweights like former Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami not to join the race for the party ticket.

One year into the administration, Bagudu, a top minister in the Bola Tinubu government and his successor appear not to have started any fight over the control of the structure of the party in the state.

Kano State

After surviving eight years of political humiliation at the hands of his former lieutenant, Rabiu Kwankwaso, the former governor of Kano State, appears to have finally gotten the hang of being a godfather.

In 2015, he reluctantly supported his then deputy, Umar Ganduje for the governorship seat. That decision almost cost him his political terrain.

In 2019, Kwankwaso decided to keep it in the family by backing his son-in-law, Abba Yusuf but he was defeated in controversial circumstances.

The same ticket was repeated in 2023 and it worked. So far, both Kwankwaso and his son-in-law appear to have their energy focused on the same foe, Ganduje.

Jigawa

The Minister of Defence and former Governor of Jigawa State, Abubakar Badaru and his successor Umar Namadi are another classical case of quiet relationship.

Like most other governors, Badaru picked his deputy as successor.

It would be recalled that Namadi did not start the administration with Badaru in 2015, he joined in 2019 after Ibrahim Hadejia was dropped.

Hence, it appears that the succession plan was carefully planned in 2019.

Delta

In 2023, for the first time, a candidate endorsed by James Ibori did not win the governorship election in Delta State.

The former governor endorsed Emmanuel Uduaghan as his successor and according to multiple sources, he also paved the way for Ifeanyi Okowa.

“Before the 2015 elections, I received a call from our leader (Ibori), and I asked him the direction. He (Ibori) told me Okowa should be supported.

“I was then the Deputy National Chairman. I gathered all my people; I said I have received an order from our leader. Your Excellency, I am grateful that your decision was right. That is how we supported Dr Okowa because the leader spoke to us,” Uche Secondus, a former PDP National Chairman revealed in 2018.

However, Okowa put a halt to the trend when his candidate Sheriff Oborevwori defeated Ibori’s David Edevbie.

According to Okowa, he refused to back Edevbie who dared to challenge him for the seat in 2015.

“David Edevbie is my friend. We were with the former governor in his tenure together as commissioners, but in 2014, when it became obvious that it was the turn of the Delta North — Delta Central and Delta South had had their turns — I heard that David was going to run and he was indicating interest.

“I went from Abuja with three of my friends to visit him in Lagos — and I said ‘David, please, it’s only fair, I know that there are so many people competing but I’m coming to you as a friend. It will not be fair if you run. Governor James Ibori has been there, Governor Uduaghan has been there, it’s obviously the turn of the Delta North; why don’t you allow us to have our space so that we can all be said to be part of the state? Thereafter, we can all work for you to become governor’.

“And then suddenly, the next thing we heard was that they had endorsed David but this same David had committed himself to me,” Okowa told journalists in 2023.

However, all have been quiet in Delta State since the election, with the incumbent and his predecessor keeping it cool.

Sokoto

Aliyu Wamakko has been involved in all leadership tussles in Sokoto State since 1999 when he emerged as deputy governor to Attahiru Baffarawa.

His endorsement of Aminu Tambuwal in 2015 and the fallout left him in a political wilderness for some time, but he made a comeback last year by backing Ahmad Aliyu.

So far, the two have been quiet, which could mean the political arrangement is suitable for all sides.

Akwa-Ibom

Udom Emmanuel, the immediate past governor of Akwa-Ibom State, fought a tough battle against his then-godfather, Godswill Akpabio, and emerged victorious.

Governor Udom did not just win the battle, he dominated the entire structure of the party. In 2022, he backed Umo Eno as his successor.

The former governor had earlier promised not to endorse anyone but made a U-turn that Eno was revealed to him by God as the preferred candidate.

“The governor announced that he (Eno) was the one God has revealed to him as the next governor of the state and he was unveiled to all the stakeholders from the three senatorial districts of the state by the former governor, Obong Victor Attah, who then commended the choice,” Ekerete Udo, the then press secretary to the Governor said in 2022.

Mr Udom refused to go to the Senate like many of his other colleagues and has been quiet aside from his appearance at the last NEC meeting of the PDP.

The two have not openly clashed for control of the state.

Ebonyi

Dave Umahi, the former Governor of Ebonyi State, fought a tough battle to become governor of the state.

From party chairman to deputy governor, he subsequently emerged as the governor despite not getting the support of Martin Elechi, the then-governor.

Umahi who has a reputation for being a hardliner, single-handedly nominated Francis Nwifuru as the candidate of the APC and ensured his emergence as governor.

So far, Umahi, the Minister of Works, appears to focus on his work as federal minister, while the governor is focused on the home front.

Cross River

Governor Bassey Otu and his predecessor, Ben Ayade appear to have a cordial working relationship since the last election.

Ayade had endorsed Otu as the governorship candidate but the endorsement was challenged by John Enoh. The fight was so fierce that it took the intervention of President Bola Tinubu before calm was restored.

However, Ayade has been in political irrelevance since he lost the senatorial election and was not appointed minister like others.

It appears as though the former governor has ceded the political structure to his successor

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