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The Vice-Presidency is incurable frustration – Part 2

By Eric Teniola
05 April 2022   |   2:49 am
Till today I am still at a loss as to why General Buhari did not name Chief Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (56) as his running mate. These decisions by President Buhari and Chief Tinubu are still causing serious

[FILES] Osinbajo. Photo/facebook/MuhammaduBuhari

Continued from yesterday

Finally on December 17, 2014, in Abuja, General Muhammadu Buhari announced Professor Osinbajo as his running mate.

Till today I am still at a loss as to why General Buhari did not name Chief Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (56) as his running mate. These decisions by President Buhari and Chief Tinubu are still causing serious “Katakata” in APC today.

Either Vice Presidents have a political base or structure, the office is a futile job, full of frustrations. The Vice Presidency is like the human appendix, a vestigial organ on the body politic. It is difficult for a President to take the Vice President completely into his confidence. The President by necessity builds his own staff and makes his own decision and the Vice President remains an outsider. Even at present, the incumbent Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo cannot be claimed to belong to the so-called CABAL, the inner caucus ruling the country, made mostly of CPC members who have become stupendously rich in the last six years and this has drawn jealousy of other APC members. Afterwards, the ruling APC government was founded by members drawn from DPP, APGA, CPC, ACN, ANPP and disgruntled PDP members. 

For example, most Ministers if not all, owe their loyalty to the President for appointing them and not to the Vice President. Even the present Vice-President could not nominate a Minister from his own state of Ogun. That privilege was given to Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who first nominated Mrs. Kemi Adeosun (55) six years ago. The same Ibikunle Amosun who is now a Senator further nominated Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, who served under him as Commissioner for works, as Minister for Mines and Steel Development two years ago.

In any Presidential contest, no one competes to be Vice President. It is when they lose out that they are compensated to be Vice President. In reality, the Vice Presidency is a consolation prize that diminishes the office. 

Since 1999, when we started this democratic experience, we have had only two former Vice-Presidents who have not become presidents yet. They are Alhaji Abubakar Atiku (75), GCON and Alhaji Namadi Sambo (67), GCON. The Third, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (64), GCFR, eventually became President on May 5, 2010, following the demise of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua (16 August 1951 – 5 May 2010), GCFR. He too was later elected President in his own right. None of these former Vice Presidents has written memoirs to let us know their experience while serving as Vice President. 

In 1999, it was a smooth take-off for President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR and Vice President Atiku Abubakar. No major storm was experienced in their first term in office.

In his wisdom, President Obasanjo equipped Vice President Atiku with loaded schedules. He first made him the Chairman of the National Boundary Commission and posted an experienced Civil Servant, Alhaji D. Bobbo as his Permanent Secretary.

President Obasanjo later constituted the National Council For Privatisation and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). He made Alhaji Atiku Abubakar the Chairman of the Council. Other members of the council at that time were the Minister of Finance, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma (1934-2018) (Vice-Chairman), the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette (1939-2019), CFR, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Ajibola James Ige (1930-2001), the Governor of Central, Mr. Joseph Oladele Sanusi (84), from Ogbagi in Akoko, Ondo state, the Minister of Industry, Chief Kolawole Babalola Jamodu (78), the Chief Economic Adviser and Vice Chairman, National Planning Commission, Chief Phillip Chukwuedo Asiodu (88), the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai (62) and four others who were appointed from time to time by President Obasanjo. It was the Council that formulated policies and approved the Privitisation Programmes of the Central Government.

The Office of the Vice President then was equipped with experienced public officers with the likes of Prince Sola Akanmode, Abdullahi Nyako, Chris Mamah, Abdu Yari Lafiya(DSP), Mahmoud Abdullahi, Sajo Mohammed, Professor Boris Aborisade, Dr. Usman Bugaje, Dr. Hamilton Isu, Tokunbo Adeola, Umar Ardo, Ajuji Ahmed, John Agwu, A.A. Achibong, A. Maigari, O.O. Oyelakin, M.F. Aiyegbusi, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdullahi, G.A. Sobajo, Alhaji I.G. Kura, Dr. A. Ndukwe, Butrous Pembi, and A. Braimoh. President Obasanjo also directed the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, CFR, to assign the following portfolios to the Office of the Vice President. They are General Services and Administration, States and Local Government Affairs, Code of Conduct Bureau, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), National Population Commission, Public Complaints Commission and National Planning Commission. Unlike what is playing out now, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had the privilege and power to nominate ministers, ambassadors, special advisers and other officials from Adamawa state.

So close by then were President Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku that VILLA SCOPE, the official news magazine of the statehouse coordinated by Chief Tunji Oseni, Chris Mammah, Tunde Olusunle, Steve Itugbu, Musa Aduwak, Justin Abuah, Sule Katsina and Lanre Idowu, described the bond between the two men as a strong relationship that works. 

In the second term, things fell apart. Only the two men can explain what really happened. I still believe today, that if Chief Mrs Stella Abebe Obasanjo (1945-2005) had not died in Puerto Banus in Spain on October 23, 2005 and if Otunba Oyewole Fasawe, the ASIWAJU of Owo, who was and is still a close friend of the two men was not incarcerated at that time, the relationship between President Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar could not have degenerated so low, during the second term of President Obasanjo in office. 

It is wrong to pretend that the rift between former President Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar did not affect the smooth running of the government between 2003 and 2007. Of course it did. Careers of many public officers were ruined by the crack. Most did not recover till today. Some were heartbroken, some even died. It was a difficult period for those close to the two of them. There was the case of Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, former Managing Director of The Daily Times and a literature guru and friend of the two men. Unaware of the rift, he flew from Lagos and by mistake first visited Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. He was disallowed from seeing President Obasanjo in spite of his scheduled appointment.

The complete loyalty of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette and that of the Chief of Staff to the President, Major General Abdullahi Mohammed (81), CFR, saved the central government, in spite of the numerous travels of President Obasanjo at that time. The carryover of the split has affected President Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the rest of us till today. 

To be continued tomorrow

Teniola is a veteran journalist and former Director in the Presidency.