Globally, it’s a norm for political office holders to desire re-election, and Nigerian politicians are no exception. It’s a valid aspiration after all, as long as it doesn’t run foul of the law.
In Nigeria, one enviable class of such officer holders are governors. They are a powerful lot. The influence, paraphernalia of office, and almost unrestrained access to state funds have made the office very lucrative. Thus, incumbents go to any lengths to retain their seats for a second term. However, due to issues like intra-party crisis, unfulfilled promises, godfatherism and outright non-performance, some of them lost their re-election bid.
The recent governorship election in Osun State comes to mind in this regard. The governor of the state and candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the election, Adegboyega Oyetola, lost to Senator Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party in the keenly contested poll.
A few days before the election, PDP’s former Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Diran Odeyemi, predicted APC’s defeat, saying the party was divided. He also said Oyetola had failed to deliver adequate security and the much-needed infrastructure for the state, especially in the education sector.
Osun as example
Oyetola will not be the first governor of the state to lose his second term bid. Former governor Bisi Akande, of the then Alliance for Democracy, lost to Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the PDP at the 2003 poll. The PUNCH reported that Akande had blamed the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, for influencing the elections to favour the PDP candidate. But Oyinlola argued that Akande lost because he fought with many people, including his deputy, Iyiola Omisore, and sacked many civil servants, among other issues.
While it is largely uncommon for governors to lose their re-election, given their influence and the huge resources at their disposal, some of them have suffered that fate between 1999 and now. According to a scholarly paper titled, ‘The quest for the second term and the crisis of democracy in Nigeria’, by Leke Ojo and Olawale Ariyo, accessed by our correspondent, the South-West states witnessed a wave of changes in 2003 when the Alliance for Democracy governors, Lam Adesina of Oyo State, Bisi Akande of Osun State, Olusegun Osoba of Ogun State, Niyi Adebayo of Ekiti State and Adebayo Adefarati of Ondo State lost at the ballot. Many of them accused Obasanjo of stifling their chances of being re-elected.
While they lost due to the supposed federal might, others like Celestine Omehia (Rivers), Rasheed Ladoja (Oyo), Oserheimen Osunbor (Edo), and some others lost their second term bid to election litigation, battles with political godfathers, internal party wrangling, and governance challenges.
Bindow Jibrilla (Adamawa)
In Adamawa State, former governor Bindow, an industrialist and member of the PDP, became the governor after defeating Boni Haruna of the APC in the 2015 election. He later defected to the APC, to secure his re-election in 2019 but lost to Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of the PDP.
Bindow was reported to have lost the election because many of the powerbrokers within the APC worked against him. The likes of a former governor, Murtala Nyako; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal; former Lagos State military governor, Buba Marwa, were some of those who allegedly didn’t support him, while the senator representing Adamawa Central, Abdulaziz Nyako, at the time regarded Bindow as a loyalist of the then presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, despite his public allegiance to the then APC presidential candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Chinwoke Mbadinuju (Anambra)
Mbadinuju was the first governor of Anambra State in the Fourth Republic. The PDP chieftain was one of the few governors who did not return to office in 2003. It was reported that he was excluded from the contest by the machinations of Obasanjo, and his political godfather, Chris Uba. Mbadinuju tried again by defecting to the Alliance for Democracy but he lost to Dr Chris Ngige, then of the PDP. Ngige also failed to secure a second-term bid in the 2007 elections due to the overbearing influence of his godfathers. Ngige, now the Minister of Labour and Employment, told The PUNCH in 2022 that political godfathers removed him because he refused “opening” the state treasury for them.
Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi)
In Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar of the APC won in 2015 but he was unable to repeat the same feat in the 2019 elections, as he was defeated by Bala Mohammed of the PDP. Abubakar claimed in a BBC Hausa interview that he lost the poll to the PDP because of electoral irregularities. However, pundits blamed his defeat on the slow execution of road projects, non-payment of the entitlements of civil servants, and the rumour that a cabal wielded too much influence in the state.
Nevertheless, the former Special Adviser on Media to the former governor, Ali Ali, said, “Every politics is local, the local variables will determine whether you win or not. In Bauchi politics, there is always the Abuja group and the local group. It was the Abuja group that ganged up against him. He was not answerable to them.” He said the powerbrokers fought Abubakar to a standstill. “If you ask the average person in Bauchi, they will tell you that he was a nice person but he couldn’t manage the Abuja group,” he added.
Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa)
Sylva as a PDP member became the governor of Bayelsa State in 2008, succeeding Goodluck Jonathan. Jonathan, who served as governor from 2005 to 2007, was nominated to be the running mate of Umaru Yar’Adua. Sylva struggled to keep his governorship position as the court nullified the election that brought him to power in April 2008. He regained his position in May of the same year, through the courts, but was not able to run for a second term in office. It was reported that Sylva blamed the development on the irreconcilable differences between him and Jonathan.
Oserheimen Osunbor (Edo)
Former governor of Edo State, Prof Oserheimen Osunbor, assumed office in 2007 on the platform of the PDP. He was however removed from office by the election tribunal due to voting irregularities. This made the court declare his victory invalid and his certificate of return withdrawn while Adams Oshiomole of the Action Congress of Nigeria was declared the winner of the election. Osunbor took the matter to the Appeal Court, but Oshiomhole’s victory was affirmed.
Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti)
The current Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, was the governor of Ekiti State from 1999 to 2003. Adebayo, who was governor on the platform of the AD, told journalists during the 2022 Ekiti governorship election that he would not have lost the 2003 election if it had been credible like the June 18, 2022 election.
Abubakar Hashidu (Gombe)
Abubakar Hashidu was the governor of the state in 1999 on the platform of the All Peoples Party. He however lost his re-election bid to Danjuma Goje of the PDP. Hashidu re-contested in 2007 as the standard bearer of the Democratic Peoples Party but lost again to Goje. He later died in July 2018.
Ikedi Ohakim (Imo State)
Ohakim became the governor of Imo State on the platform of the Progressive Peoples Alliance from 2007 to 2011. Although the election was alleged to be fraught with violence, he was declared the winner of the poll. While many of his loyalists claim that he developed the state, provided quality infrastructure and put in place a strong policy against kidnapping and criminality, his critics said he was wasteful with the resources of the state.
Idris Wada (Kogi)
Wada of the PDP was the Governor of Kogi State from 2011 to 2015 but lost his re-election to Yahaya Bello of the APC in 2016. Pundits said Wada lost the election because of his inability to pay workers’ salaries. He was also accused of having a hand in the sacking of council chairmen and councillors in December 2014 by the High Court. This contributed to the dissatisfaction of political stakeholders in his party.
Wada however accused the Buhari-led government of playing politics with the bailout the state asked for to pay outstanding salaries. He said the refusal of the Federal Government to release the money caused financial hardship for the residents who voted against him.
Mohammed Lawal (Kwara)
The late Lawal was elected as the governor of Kwara State from 1999 to 2003 on the platform of the All Peoples Party. The suspended Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission, Is’haq Modibbo-Kawu, recalled that while Lawal was in office, he was accused of trying to whittle down the influence of the emir and the emirate.
This rumour was allegedly peddled by his estranged political godfather, whose son eventually became the governor. Lawal ran for re-election in 2003 but failed because he was up against the political structure of his godfather, and the federal might of the Obasanjo-led PDP.
Akinwumi Ambode (Lagos)
Ambode became the governor of Lagos State in April 2015. His re-election bid in 2019 was frustrated by party chieftains, led by the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who ensured that he lost the party’s primary. Tinubu admitted in the run-up to the primary that Ambode did well as governor but wasn’t a good party man. Babajide Sanwo-Olu eventually won with 970,851 votes against Ambode’s 70,901 votes at the primaries. The PUNCH reported that Ambode told journalists at the Aso Villa in May 2019 that he was more of a technocrat than a politician at the time he was governor of the state. “Politicians learn every day; the fact remains that I came in as a technocrat, but I think I am wiser now.”
Meanwhile, the Deputy Chairman of the PDP in Lagos, Benedict Tai, told our correspondent that Ambode was sidelined because he refused to bow to the overbearing dictates of Tinubu and other party chieftains.
He said, “They said Ambode did not carry party leaders along, but Ambode did what was good for the generality of the residents of Lagos. He was the governor of Lagos State not the governor of APC leaders, and in doing the right thing for Lagos, he did not get the ticket to run for a second term.”
Olusegun Osoba (Ogun)
Osoba was the governor of the state in 1999 on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy. He lost the 2003 governorship election to Otunba Gbenga Daniel of the PDP. In January 2022, Osoba recalled circumstances that led to his electoral loss. At the launch of a book, titled ‘Colour of Perception’ by his Chief Press Secretary, Kayode Odunaro, he said his second term bid was truncated because of an existing “electoral conspiracy” that removed him from office in 2003. He also stressed that the results were manipulated to favour the PDP.
Six-year single term
The 1999 Constitution (as amended) does not make two terms mandatory for any political office, but it has become a do-or-die for most, not so much, arguably, for the desire to impact lives, but out of the need to remain in office and enjoy the perks, as evidenced in the country’s level of development today.
Considering the high-level politicking that made some governors lose re-election, two political scientists, Leke Oke and Ojo Ariyo recommended in their paper a single term of six years to reduce the conflict and unhealthy competition in the political space. The scholars stressed that this would also go a long way to reducing the cost of conducting general elections. This aligns with the view of Jonathan when he also proposed a six-year single tenure.
“The single term has the capability of growing and stabilising the country’s democracy. The citizens should be well educated and nurtured in democratic governance so as to regard election or succession as a simple exercise and not a ‘do-or-die affair. The monetisation of democratic government should be greatly reduced to pave the way for more dividends of democracy to the citizenry,” the paper read.
However, a public affairs analyst and convener of a non-governmental organisation, Dialogue 365, Waheed Saka, disagreed with the political scientists. Speaking with Sunday PUNCH, he noted that Nigerians were more interested in linking the tenure of a government to its achievements of basic dividends of democracy and economic interventions than the years spent in the office.
He also said Oyetola and Ambode lost their second term bids not because they did not perform well in office but because they were not traditional politicians who could manage the various interests in their parties. According to Saka, the negative perception of the APC at the centre, the factionalisation of the party between the former governor and current Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola and Oyetola, the non-payment of salary areas, the negative perception, and the hardship brought upon the people by the APC at the centre led to Oyetola’s loss. He added that public perception would go a long way in determining the outcome of the ballot even if the credibility of the poll was not in question.
Speaking on the idea of the six-year single tenure, he said, “I don’t agree with six years single term. Nigerians love to experiment. In Osun State, the margin between the person who emerged as the next governor and the incumbent is just 28,000. The winner got over 400,000 votes and the runner-up got 375,000 votes, which shows that we have about 28,000 votes waiting around for the next government to fail. It is unfortunate that whether it is a six years single term or two tenures of four years each, our politics and style remain different.
“There is a need for us to look beyond politicking and electioneering and link our electoral process to development. That is when the tenure will be reasonable to the people. The pain and the pangs of the citizens at the moment will not make any experimentation work. People want basic things, education, healthcare, minimal inflation, and good roads. People don’t actually care whether you use 10 years in government.”