INVESTIGATION: The numerous plights of vice presidents, deputy governors and ministers of state

INVESTIGATION: The numerous plights of vice presidents, deputy governors and ministers of state

By Yemi Esho, Abuja

There is no doubt that Nigerian political system is very complex. Whoever finds himself in the position of authority wants to maximize his powers and put those who he sees as perceived enemies in check permanently. Most Nigerian politicians are tricky, slippery and unpredictable, they exercise full power at their disposal to target opponents and even members of their cabinet or party members who derail from set goals.

In Nigerian political context, certain people wield absolute power which most times cannot be challenged by anybody. Those in the categories are the President and the 36 state governors. Nigerian President wields enormous power and unarguably is one of the most powerful presidents in the world. His verdicts and pronouncements are final, same applies to the governors who are lords of the manor in their respective ‘kingdoms’.

To hit the nail on the head, the vice president and deputy governors are just mere spare tyres or errand boys for the bosses and are at the whims and caprices of their Excellencies. Although they run on the joint ticket with their bosses, they are immediately discarded as soon as they get sworn-in. They are simply election materials used to gather votes or get sympathy from senatorial zones as applicable in the states and from a section of the country during presidential election. They can only be lucky if anything untoward happens to the President or governors. If the president or the governor is magnanimous, he could assign very important state assignments to his deputy to have a sense of belonging but most times the relationships go sour apparently due to loss of trust from the boss or the subordinate being seen as over ambitious.

Vice President

Nigeria has had vice presidents who went through turbulent periods while in office with their bosses, most time for not fault of theirs. At the return of democratic rule in 1999, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his deputy, Atiku Abubakar worked together harmoniously during the first term in office and had trust for each other. This was achieved because the two leaders belonged to the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua political dynasty and were seen to possess the same political gene to galvanize the ideals of the senior Yar’Adua. Because of the trust, Obasanjo ceded sensitive organs of government like the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) and privatization sector to Atiku during the first term. What however set them apart was the second term ambition of Obasanjo who was alleged to have agreed to do the ‘Mandela Option’ and hand over to his deputy. Obasanjo’s ambition set the road for a collision course for the two as Atiku too was said to be oiling his political machinery and had won the support of the governors to take over from his boss. Obasanjo cunningly wriggled his way out of the logjam and dealt decisively with Atiku. Obasanjo was reported to have prostrated for Atiku to allow him to go for another term. The aftermath was witch hunting of Atiku and his subsequent exit from the PDP. Obasanjo stripped Atiku of all his powers before leaving and handed over to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua despite his health challenges.  

During the Yar’Adua presidency, certain cabals or what was referred to as the kitchen cabinet of the government with names like Abba Sayyad Ruma and Michael Aondoakaa and others were totally in charge. The then vice president, Goodluck Jonathan was sidelined and denied access to his boss by the cabals. At the height of Yar’Adua illness when Jonathan was supposed to take over as the acting president, Aondoakaa shamefully said Yar’Adua call rule anywhere even on his sick bed. Jonathan was in total darkness and all state apparatus were shut against him even when Yar’Adua’s remain was transported back to the country. The ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ which is the basis on which extra-legal actions by state actors and designed to restore order saved Nigeria from what could have been a road to anarchy was propounded by the leadership of the Senate.

In the present government, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been sidelined by those ‘who are very close’ to President Buhari. But what these set of people failed to know is that if the President had not won the 2015 general election, they would probably be in their respective villages taking nap or reading papers. The success of Buhari in the election was determined by the votes of the Southwest and the candidacy of Osinbajo was used to neutralize the PDP votes along ethnic and religious sentiments in the whole of the south. During the prolonged absence of the President due to ill-health, some powers-that-be tried to hijack the Presidency from the grip of Osinbajo but his wisdom, diplomacy and choice of words saw him through. Unlike in the Yar’Adua where no letter was transmuted to the National Assembly for transfer of power to the National Assembly, President also helped his deputy’s cause by invoking Section 145 of the Constitution which read: “Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.” The letter literarily put any overzealous aides in check and helped Osinbajo to concentrate on governance and in turn got accolades from the President for acting well during his (Buhari) absence.

In clear terms, the functions of the vice president include participation in all cabinet meetings and, by statute, membership in the National Security Council, the National Defence Council, Federal Executive Council, and the Chairman of National Economic Council. Even with this, the Nigerian vice president has not always had the best of treatment either from his principal or those who surround the President.

Deputy governors

Like the vice president, the deputy governors are also endangered species in their respective states. They must compete with governor’s aides, family members, top advisers and especially the wives of the governors who are the de facto deputy governors. The governors’ wives in Nigerian context are clearly above the deputy governors and most deputy governors must be in the good books of the ‘First Lady’ to be favoured by the governor. Is it not an aberration that the deputy who run  joint tickets with their Excellencies are relegated to the backgrounds immediately after oath taking? The irony, however, is that whenever the deputy governors speak about what is contrary to their bosses’ opinion, they are tagged to be over-ambitious or get impeached by the Houses of Assembly members who usually are rubber-stamp of their lordships.  

But before this new trend, there has always been no-love-lost between the governors and their deputies. In the aborted Third Republic, the late Chief Ajibola Ige in the old Oyo State and his deputy, Chief Sunday Afolabi also of blessed memory. There was period when the duo did not see eye to eye and Ige had to withdraw all the privileges enjoyed by his deputy. Also in the old Ondo State, Governor Adekunle Ajasin and the deputy governor Akin Omoboriowo had a cat and mouse relationship which later turned the state upside down.

A lot of drama has also been witnessed in current political dispensation which started in 1999. What stands out here is that most governors do not want to be succeeded by their deputies but rather prefers a certain commissioner or a top aide. APC national leader and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu had tough times with his two deputies, Senator Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor and Mr Olufemi Pedro. Tinubu later settled for his Chief of Staff, Babatunde Raji Fashola to succeed him in 2007. It was also tug of war in Osun State between Governor Bisi Akande and his deputy Chief Iyiola Omisore. Omisore was alleged to have his eyes on Akande’s seat and his ambition led to political upheaval in the state. It was reported that Omisore from a wealthy family in Ife had sponsored the election that brought Akande as governor with the agreement that he would succeed his boss after a term in office. The treatment meted out to deputy governors has clearly shown that they are mere political materials to be used and dumped by their principals.

For former governors who have been magnanimous to their deputies to succeed them, it has not always been bed of roses as they end up becoming sworn enemies. Former governor of Zamfara State, Mahmud Shinkafi, not only dumped his boss, Ahmad Sani Yerima, he left the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) the platform he came to power to join the PDP to slight Yerima. The recent frictions between Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso and Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is a clear example of what usually transpires in the corridor of power. Ganduje served as deputy to Kwakwanso during his two terms as governor. Today, the two are not best of friends and the resultant effect is the polarisation of APC in Kano State. The experience of Yerima and Kwakwanso could be one of the reasons governors did not recognize their deputies or trust them with significant powers.

Ministers of State

The recent disagreement between the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Maikanti Baru has brought to the fore the argument that minister of state portfolio is a trash. On October 9, 2017 in a leaked memo to President Buhari who is also the substantive Minister of Petroleum, Kachikwu has accused Baru of insubordination and called for the cancellation of the recent appointments in the NNPC.

The letter read in part; “Mr. President, like many other Nigerians, l resumed work confronted by many publications of massive changes within NNPC.  Like the previous reorganisations and reposting done since Dr. Baru resumed as GMD, I was never given the opportunity before the announcements to discuss these appointments. This is so despite being Minister of State, Petroleum, and Chairman, NNPC Board. The Board of NNPC, which you appointed and, which has met every month since its inauguration and, which by the statutes of NNPC is meant to review these planned appointments and postings, was never briefed. Members of the Board learned of these appointments from the social media and the press release of NNPC.”

Today, the President has not made any statement on the letter and the allegations against Baru by Kachikwu has not be treated. It shows that Kachikwu did not have a say in whatever happens in the oil sector and may just be a figure-head minister in President Buhari’s government. Nigerians are not happy that religious and tribal sentiments have come to play while the GMD NNPC still remains in the office despite the weighty allegations against him.  

In fact, much are not heard from the ministers of state who most times just exist under the shadows of the substantive minister who exercises his or her domineering power in the ministry.

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