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The Vice-Presidency is incurable frustration

By Eric Teniola
04 April 2022   |   3:55 am
Mistrust is always inherent in the relationship between the President and the Vice-President. Even if they deny it, it is constantly there. The office of the Vice President is generally considered to be the graveyard of political careers.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo PHOTO: Twitter

Mistrust is always inherent in the relationship between the President and the Vice-President. Even if they deny it, it is constantly there. The office of the Vice President is generally considered to be the graveyard of political careers. It is a lonely office. It is also a miserable office. The name vice means ‘in place of”. It typically serves as a pro-tempore (Latin) for the time being to the President.

Former US Vice-President, Walter Mondale says “since the start of our nation, the vice presidency has been an awkward office, its occupants have, by and large, been notoriously unhappy.”

In Nigeria the office of the Vice President is a solitary office, so desolate that it has an unelected official-the Chief of Staff to the President around, who is not recognized by the Constitution and who the President directed must be the safest and best gateway to his office. The directive which is abnormal and atypical has not been abrogated in spite of the demise of the former holder of the office. That directive makes the office of the Vice President to be extremely intricate and complex. Vice Presidents suffer and endure in silence. In some cases they are targets of attacks, ridicule and fake news.

The worst thing is that there is little they can do about it. Getting out of sight is a solution most favoured by Presidents, hence, most often the job schedule of vice presidents is to attend funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, lectures, seminars, retreat, etc. They do not really belong to the inner caucus of the President. If anything goes wrong they are always suspects. In 1979, the most powerful person in the country by then, apart from President Usman Aliyu Shehu Shagari (25 February, 1925-December 28 2018), GCFR, was not his Vice President, Dr. Alexander Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme (1932-2017) but the then Minister of Transport, Alhaji Umaru Abdurahman Dikko (1936-2014). The excuse for this then was that the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) did not win in Anambra state, the home state of Dr. Ekwueme or in Imo state. In the 1979 elections, Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe (16 November 1904 – 11 May 1996), GCFR, of the NPP still controlled his empire of Imo and Anambra states. If you wanted anything in Shagari’s era, you need to contact Alhaji Umaru Dikko, who was also the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Rice. The argument then was that, Dr. Ekwueme had no electoral asset or political base in 1979.

That argument was demolished in 1999 in that President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, was not voted by the people of his own region, the Southwest region. The man the people of Southwest voted for in 1999, Chief Samuel Oluyemi Falae (82) from Oyemekun land in Ondo state, by irony was himself a recipient of General Obasanjo’s generosity when he made him Permanent Secretary in 1977 and also introduced him to General Ibrahim Babangida (80), GCFR, who made him Secretary to the Government of the Federation in 1985. Perhaps the weakness of the office of the Vice President in Nigeria since 1999 could be traced to the effect that there has not been mutual relationship between the President and the Vice President before they were appointed Vice President. The process for selecting Vice President in this country since 1999 is faulty.

For example, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, GCON, was the PDP candidate for the January 9 gubernatorial election in Adamawa state in 1999. He was not close to President Obasanjo who was the Presidential nominee of the PDP at that time. His financial purse and a little help from some of his friends including Otunba Oyewole Fasawe, Chief Tony Anenih prevailed on Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to make Atiku Abubakar, GCON, as the Vice Presidential candidate for the PDP, over Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi and Professor Jerry Gana after the PDP convention held in Jos on February 16, 1999. Atiku’s running mate at that time as deputy governor Boni Haruna later became governor by defeating Bala Takaya by 329,595 to 283,863 votes in the 1999 Adamawa state gubernatorial election.

In the December 16, 2006 convention held in Abuja, it was President Obasanjo who forced Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, then Governor of Bayelsa state on President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, GCFR, to be his running mate. Alhaji Umaru Yar’adua (16 August 1951 – 5 May 2010) preferred either Dr. Peter Odili (73) or Chief James Onanafe Ibori (62). President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan picked Alhaji Namadi Sambo (67), the former governor of Kaduna state, to be his Vice President on May 19, 2010 following pressure from the governor’s forum, who wanted their own to be vice president. President Muhammadu Buhari picked Professor Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, in very interesting circumstances. The rejection of the Muslim/Muslim was floated in 2014 because certain elements within the APC at that time never wanted Chief Bola Tinubu to be Vice President.

In fairness, President Muhammadu Buhari fulfilled his obligation to Chief Bola Tinubu at that time.

On December 11, 2014, President Muhammadu Buhari defeated his political rivals in the APC with 3,430 votes, Dr. Rabiu Kwankaso had 974 votes, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar 954 votes, Governor Rochas Okorocha-624 votes with Dr. Kayode Fayemi as the returning officer at the Teslim Balogun stadium in Lagos at the party’s Convention.

In order to calm nerves down, General Buhari left the decision to pick the Vice President in the hands of Chief Bola Tinubu. He could have picked Chief Pius Olu Akinyelure (79), a former Mobil Chief Executive, who is a Methodist Knight. He could as well have picked Chief Olusegun Osoba (82), the twice elected governor of Ogun state. He could have dared his critics as well and picked Chief Bisi Akande, a Muslim and a former governor of Osun state and Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola (64), former governor of Osun state, now Minister of Interior Affairs and the course of history would have changed by now.

A few days later Chief Tinubu picked Professor Yemi Osinbajo. Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a Victoria Garden City (VGC), Lagos resident and a Pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God had earlier served as the Commissioner of Justice during the tenure of Chief Bola Tinubu as the Governor of Lagos State. It was the costliest decision made by Chief Tinubu, a human developer, in his political career. The question now is what has he gained from that decision.

To be continued tomorrow.

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