By Michael Emmanuel
As the clock ticks to 2023, the political climate is upbeat with regards to who succeeds Governor Udom Emmanuel. Many conjectures are being thrown up on what should be? Who should be? And, how it should be? There are permutations, contestations, arguments to the effect of the above thinking.
There are some schools of thought who question the Governor’s capacity to throw up a successor. Some hold a very strong opinion that he is incapacitated to that effect. Still, there are some people who are very confident that the Governor will have his way. Therefore, the imperative question is, what does Governor Emmanuel want? Is he desiring to install a successor or enthrone succession?
From these assumptions, it is pertinent to establish what constitutes successor and succession. The Cambridge dictionary defines successor as someone that follows and takes the job, place, or position that was held by another. So, simply put, a person can be hired from anywhere as a successor to take the position of anyone. And in executing this, it could play down on process, planning, involvement and succession. Whereas, Investopedia defines succession planning as a strategy for passing on leadership roles. Succession ensures process, planning, involvement and continuity of corporate goals.
In Akwa Ibom State, history shows that within this fourth republic of democratic governance, two events of succession and successor have played out. The first is His Excellency, Arc. (Obong) Victor Attah and his exit in 2007. Even though, Obong Attah had instituted a culture of succession through the grooming of members of his cabinet, “against the run of play” he opted to install his son in-law, the then Commissioner of Works, Dr. Udoma Bob Ekarika, as his preferred successor. There is a near consensus that why Udoma’s gambit failed was because of what pundits considered as “Udoma’s huge political baggage”. Chief Godswill Akpabio who went on to win the election can inarguably be said to be a product of Obong Attah’s succession plan.
There could be no denying the fact that Godswill’s enormous political assets – appeal, charisma and goodwill – resonated more with Akwa Ibom people. It must be noted here that though Obong Attah failed to have his choice successor, his succession planning threw up a successor and that made it possible for Chief Akpabio to key into Attah’s vision for the State.
In lending credence to succession ideology, Chief Godswill Akpabio is quoted to have said during his quest for the governorship in 2007 that, “the governorship of Akwa Ibom State is not an event where you travel to attend, but a process you must be seen to have been involved”. The effect of Attah’s succession plan on Akwa Ibom State is a great attestation to his leadership legacy.
The second event is that which saw the incumbent emerging as Governor in 2015. Even though Chief Akpabio appointed Mr Udom Emmanuel as Secretary to the State Government sometime in 2013, to a large extent Akpabio breached the succession principle by ensuring that Udom Emmanuel, an unknown political quantity
emerged as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in 2014.
Despite the deep-seated opposition against Mr. Udom Emmanuel which led to the formation of the G-22 group, it can be stated without equivocation that amongst the many reasons that saw Udom emerging in that election, the strongest was the charisma and huge political capital of the former governor. During the campaigns, Chief Akpabio appealed to Akwa Ibom people, saying, “if you won’t vote for Udom, vote him because of me”. By the time Udom was elected, it remains an indisputable fact that his political capital alone would not have seen him through the race.
However, though Chief Akpabio succeeded in producing a successor, it is one sad commentary on his leadership years that he could not groom someone who was worthy enough to succeed him within his mix of “boys to men”. This undoubtedly is where Akpabio failed in leadership.
Barely 24 months to the transition date of 2023, can Governor Emmanuel in his quiet moment convince himself that he has the political capital weighty enough to throw up an unknown political quantity as his successor of choice?
Examples abound in public and private leadership of how succession planning has helped in advancing both political and corporate goals for collective good. From Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore to High-Tech Pioneers – IBM, to Luxury Retailers – Barneys’ New York, to Steve Jobs’ Apple Inc., and Nigeria’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) famed for his leadership grooming, the central theme in these stories is the succession equation.
A notable leadership succession template within our political space is the glaring example of the phenomenal BAT. As Governor of Lagos State, Tinubu created a leadership succession process that saw Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN, as his successor in 2007. Before this time, Tinubu had appointed Fashola as his Chief of Staff also doubling as the Honourable Commissioner to the Governor’s office. He was secretary and member of various strategic committees that exposed him to the shared vision of the State. That succession template did not end with the exit of Tinubu. BAT had earlier on appointed Akinwunmi Ambode, who later on became Fashola’s successor, as Acting Auditor General for local government in 2001, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance in 2005, and the State Accountant General in 2006. Even the current Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was appointed Acting Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget and later Commissioner for Commerce and Industry in 2007 by Bola Tinubu. Sanwo-Olu went on to serve as Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions under Fashola. He later became the MD/CEO of Lagos State Development and Property Corporation in 2016 with Ambode as Governor.
The message from the BAT’s succession equation is simply that of vision, planning and continuity.
As stated by Steve Jobs in his resignation letter from Apple Inc., he wrote, “as far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.” Tim who went on to succeed Steve had served in different strategic roles – manufacturing, distribution, sales, supply-chain management and the CEO’s office.
The seamless question that resonates from all of the foregoing is: Can Governor Udom Emmanuel name his Tim Cook?
There are talks within political circles that the Governor is confused and lost on the subject matter of who succeeds him. More compounding is the concern that six years down the line, Governor Emmanuel cannot point to one person he has groomed in the context of this succession equation, especially as his popularity and acceptability is still being questioned by the vast majority of Akwa Ibom people.
These words of his former boss, Chief Godswill Akpabio should not be lost on him: “the governorship of Akwa Ibom State is not an event where you travel to attend, but a process you must be seen to have been involved.” Governor Udom Emmanuel’s corporate background should remind him that issues of leadership succession are not given to chance.
Will Governor Emmanuel as popular opinion holds be drowned in the succession confusion?
To Be Continued…