The Edo state chapter of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently raised an alarm over the failure or even outright refusal of the state governor Mr. Godwin Obaseki , to appoint commissioners who will assist him in the arduous task of governance. Even some leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, have also lately expressed disappointment over the governor’s mysterious tardiness in constituting his cabinet.
Godwin Obaseki was sworn-in as governor of Edo state on November 12, 2016, having won the September governorship election on the platform of the APC. Amidst the pressure mounted on him within and outside his party to name his commissioners, the governor retorted in a rather curious way. He vowed not to be forced into appointing commissioners, saying that he is still setting up a template for the would-be commissioners to tap into when they come on board.
The Secretary to the Edo state government Osarodion Ogie, gave another strange perspective on the issue. For the government scribe, “there is no delay at all because when a new government comes in you expect it to take stock; look around and know how to run the administration before making appointments. Ogie thinks that Governor Obaseki should get his priorities right before appointing his cabinet members, more so since he does not want to make mistakes.
The above excuses given by Governor Obaseki and the secretary to the state government for not constituting a cabinet – a little over four months into his administration – would have been tenable if the governor is a sole administrator probably under a military government that has no respect for constitutional democracy and the rule of law. Assuming Governor Obaseki is a sole administrator or operating within a military milieu, he may choose not to appoint commissioners or those who would assist him actualize his mission and vision.
But we are running a democratic system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body such as parliament. In the case of Governor Obaseki, he was elected by the people of Edo state to head the executive branch of government as provided for in Chapter VI, Part 11 (A) Section 176, sub-section (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
That same constitution in Section 192, sub-section (1) empowers the governor to appoint commissioners who will assist him in running the affairs of the state, smoothly, effectively and successfully. Thus in Section 193, sub-section (2), the constitution provides that “the governor of a state shall hold regular meetings with the deputy governor and all commissioners of the government of the state for the purposes of-( a) “determining the general direction of the policies of the government of the state, and (b) “coordinating the activities of the governor, the deputy governor, and commissioners of the government of the state in the discharge of their executive responsibilities, and (c) “advising the governor generally in the discharge of his executive functions other than those functions with respect to which he is required by this Constitution to seek the advice or act on the recommendation of any other person or body.”
Our humble submission here is that governance of Edo people stopped on the day that the immediate past governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole handed over the baton of leadership to Governor Obaseki. Furthermore, we posit that Edo people have since Governor Obaseki came into office been faced with a sordid situation where one dictator prowls the land; dishes out instructions, dispenses punishment and rewards those considered as his loyalists, if any. This is not the democracy that the people of Edo state voted for, but autocracy.
On a serious note, what is happening within the corridors of power in Edo state is a clear sign that Governor Obaseki is not prepared to govern the state. At best, he is merely posturing as governor. If during the electioneering campaign he had presented the APC manifesto to the electorate – and was actually voted into office on the basis of that document, he ought to have hit the ground running immediately after being sworn-in as governor. Most politicians who are prepared to govern the people either in the capacity of governor or president usually form a shadow cabinet several days and weeks leading to the election, and most often fall back to members of this cabinet once they win the election.
Alternatively, the period between the announcement of election results and swearing- in, constitute a veritable period for any politician ready to govern the people to assemble those who will work with him either as commissioners or ministers, and to send such names to the parliament shortly after being sworn-in. The country is yet to recover from the debilitating wounds inflicted on the economy following the lethargic approach adopted by the President Muhammadu Buhari APC-led administration in the appointment of ministers.
It is on this score that we condemn in its entirety the non-appointment of commissioners in Edo state, since Governor Obaseki came into office about four months ago. We are not unaware that his victory at the poll is still being contested by the main opposition PDP before the Election Petitions Tribunal. But it is our contention that allowing enormous powers to rest on the shoulders of one man in a democracy, breeds corruption, ineptitude, and systems failure. It is our contention that when one aspires to an elective public office, he must strive to meet the demands and challenges of that office if elected. It is not in vain that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides for the appointment of commissioners in states of the federation.
A situation where one man sits in Government House like a monarch, as is the case in Edo state, is antithetical to the principles of democracy.
In fact, the beauty of democracy is that it contrasts with other forms of government where power is either held by an individual, as in an absolute monarchy, or where power is held by a small number of individuals, as in an oligarchy. Democracy demands devolution of powers. In common parlance, it is government of the people – by the people -and for the people. But it’s hard to believe that Edo people are enjoying the fruits of participatory democracy.