The vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday, identified some reasons why hardworking deputies often run into problems with power brokers, saying conscientious seconds-in-command are always thought to be working towards outshining their principals. Osinbajo said this in Abuja at the launch of a book, “Deputising and Governance in Nigeria”, authored by the governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdulahi Ganduje.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, who chaired the book launch, advocated constitutional provisions to ensure presidential and governorship candidates picked their running mates before the party primaries to reduce the animosity that such choices often caused.
Osinbajo maintained that the efforts of hardworking deputies were often subject to wrong interpretations. He said many believed deputies were spare tyres, but wondered why some people still wanted the job if it was so worthless.
Osinbajo stated, “A great political wordsmith, Kingsley Mbadiwe of the caterpillar and juggernaut fame, once disdainfully described the vice presidency as repeater station of a major station. It was a verdict to convey the very low esteem he held the office. He came to this conclusion, when he lost out in his bid to serve as vice president to Shehu Shagari in 1979.”
However, Osinbajo said the deputy or vice must be hardworking in the government, bringing his own skills and talents in representing his principal as efficiently and as effectively as possible every single day. He said unlike the deputy governors, the vice president had a few more well-defined constitutional roles, like chairing the National Economic Council’s monthly meetings, leading the National Council on Privatisation, and serving as deputy to several other official bodies.
But Osinbajo stressed that the effectiveness of the vice president depended on the trust reposed in him by the president.
“I think, personally, I have been more fortunate than others in my relationship with my principal, President Buhari. I believe he also genuinely believes in the world of the vice president,” Osinbajo stressed.
Jonathan, who is also a former vice president, related his own experience, recalling that he was selected as running mate to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua a day after the presidential primary of his party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He called for constitution amendment to address such issues.
The former president said the subject of the book resonated clearly with his experience and that of Ganduje, as they shared a similar political trajectory of serving as deputy governors at the same time, and eventually taking over from their principals.
Jonathan, who stressed that he later got better, because he moved on to become the vice president and later president, decried the frosty relationships between the deputies and their principals. He said the issue was something everyone needed to ponder about.
Jonathan said when they were elected in 1999, there were states where the relationship between the governors-elect and their deputy governors-elect became bitter even before their inauguration.
He stated, “Even if you look back in the current political dispensation, while we are going in for elections, I remember when I was appointed the running mate to (Umaru) Yar’Adua, after the primaries that night, the following morning, I was nominated to be a running mate.
“But if you look at some of the parties, it took a very long time to select running mates, and sometimes after selecting running mates, there are all kinds of issues.
“To me, I’m thinking that the National Assembly should look at it.
“For you to qualify to run for the primaries as a governorship candidate, you should run with a deputy. Same thing at the federal level, for you to run as president, you need to run with a deputy. If the political parties think that the pair is okay for them and when they vote for that pair, nobody will raise issues again after the primaries.
“But here we are in a situation, where issues are being raised after primaries because selection of a vice president is becoming a problem. I believe maybe at the state level, the selection of the running mate to the governor is also becoming a problem. And every country amends their laws based on the challenges they face. This is one area that Ganduje has raised and I believe Nigerians need to have a discussion on it.”
Jonathan, who lamented that deputy governors rarely succeeded their principals, disclosed, “When I left office and we are looking at the whole 36 states, we asked how many states that the governors were able to work for their deputies to take over from them.
“Naturally the deputy governor will look up to taking over from his boss, but I remember at that time, before the Ganduje experience, it was only Zamfara State, when Senator Yerima nominated my friend, Shinkafi.
“Yes, I became a governor by default, you know what happened in my state. It was not a deliberate nomination by my principal. The clear case that I know was Yerima and Shinkafi and, of course, (Rabiu) Kwankwaso and Ganduje.”
He said if the relationship between governors and deputy governors was good, there should be a reasonable number of deputy governors taking over from the governors.
The former president called for constitution amendment to assign clear responsibilities to deputy governors.
He said, “Beyond that, there is always the need for a legal adjustment to assign clear responsibilities, other than the ad hoc functions they perform at the behest of their bosses.”
On his part, Ganduje said the book told numerous experiences relating to principal and deputy relations in the Nigerian political system, reflecting the successful and evil times, the optimistic and the destructive relationships, and their consequences for development, particularly, provision of dividends of democracy. It also suggests practical options for a pleasant working relationship between the two key political leaders, the governor said.
Ganduje stated that he enjoyed working with his then principal, the former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabi’u Kwankwaso, as his deputy during their two tenures, 1999-2003 and 2011-2015.
He stated, “However, the history of relationships between some governors and their deputies in Nigeria since the First Republic has been that of disloyalty, envy, betrayal, mistrust, ambition, which has over the years divided several states of the federation and negatively affected the development of the people who voted the pair into office.
“This should be considered as a matter of national importance, because the resentful relationship is unfavourable to democracy, national peace, stability and development, because when governors clash with their deputies, the state suffers.”
Other dignitaries at the book launch included former Minister of Information, Labaran Maku; Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum; Gombe State Governor Inuwa Yahaya; Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State; All Progressives Congress (APC) vice presidential candidate, Senator Kashim Shettima; and former National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole.