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Acting president or coordinating vice president?

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

Nigeria is a peculiar country and she is not in any hurry to shed this unwholesome peculiarity. It is not out of place to describe any nation or entity as being peculiar, after all, individuality is entrenched in man as it is second nature to nationalities. The problem emerges when a particular peculiarity is becoming more of an albatross standing in the way of development and progress.

In Nigeria, the more things change, the more they remain the same. What do we make of the letter transmitted to the National Assembly by ailing President Muhammadu Buhari to inform the legislature about his medical trip abroad and also to comply with the constitutional requirement of formally handing over to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. Issues as simple and mundane as writing: ‘during my absence, the Vice President will act on my behalf’ and thus constitutionally transferring power and authority to the Vice President to continue with steering the affairs of state unencumbered, have been complicated. Now, we read about a letter saying that the Vice President will coordinate governance in the President’s absence.

Ordinarily, President Buhari appears a decent man, but certain events in recent times and a litany of unforced errors may lend this perception or opinion to serious criticism or even scepticism. Can the President in true conscience sign such a mischievously worded letter?

If Mr. Buhari indeed appended his signature to such a hoax, it might throw up a couple of theories. One of them is that indeed, the President is caged by the infamous amorphous cabal. This is because it beats one’s imagination, that Buhari with the legendary puritanical mien will deliberately allow the shackling of his Vice President. Another theory being bandied around is that of incapacity. Proponents of this theory might want to believe that President Buhari may have lost the capability to intellectually withstand the rigours of office, including reading and comprehending a simple memo. If this is not so, why would he sign such a letter to the National Assembly? Still, some mischief makers will want to advance the theory that Buhari’s famed morality and patriotic zeal are all but a hoax. Reason will be that a true patriot will always subordinate his personal interests under that of the nation he leads.

We have been through this path before and we weren’t happy with the experience. Not that the curious twist of semantic has anything to do with the Vice President effectively acting as the President in his principal’s absence, but it does reveal the depravity in the thinking of the author of that letter. Why would people want to act God? Either a coordinator or an acting President, what has that got to do with Buhari becoming hale and hearty? When the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua was ill, this was the way the cabal around him mismanaged his situation to the consternation of the whole nation. They even said that the gentleman could rule the nation from anywhere in the world!
People should always learn from history.

Just as President Buhari earned applause when he transferred power to his deputy in good faith the first time he travelled, he should seek to earn plaudits for doing the needful and respecting our constitution. When the President wholeheartedly obeys the nation’s grundnorm, he is indeed respecting the citizens who gave him the mandate to rule over them. And the citizens deserve not only to be served, but respected too. This is the ideal.

Changing a nation starts with a vision. But the vision will not of itself translate to meaningful changes until we make conscious efforts to materialise the ideals of the vision underpinning the change. This government of change must not live on mantra alone. Doing so will render the whole effort an orchestra without a conductor. The change movement being championed by the Buhari-led APC government means that:  ‘behold, all things have passed away, and everything becomes a new.’ The archaic and unprogressive mindset of the past must necessarily give way to modern and more altruistic approach to governance. If anything at all, history should have thought us the futility of being fixated on retrogressive ideas and practices. President Buhari and his handlers must know that the whole nation, indeed the world, invested so much hope in this APC government. Running after looters and decimating Boko Haram insurgents will remain cosmetic achievements if the core of governance which is, clear and uncontaminated vision and ideals are nonexistent or polluted. President Buhari should rise above the demeaning peculiarities and insensitivity of enervated politics.



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