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Time to review vice president/deputy governor’s positions

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By Zainab Suleiman Okino

Our kind of democracy is such that the winner takes all; but even among the so-called winners, some are just onlookers. The deputy governor could, in unsavoury circumstance, be that onlooker; no matter highfalutin name he or she is called such as his or her Excellency plus other titles.

 Well for political and geographical balance, the deputy governor who represents a section of the populace should be like a partner and associate, and therefore should ordinarily share in his boss’s power, but events and happenings in the corridors of power do not indicate such a cordial relationship exists.

 If anything, they are more or less like errand boys; their power is as made by their boss, the governor and he can be dispensed with at will. Even the errands may never come, so he is reduced to reading newspapers. This too can apply to the vice president. Remember Patience Jonathan’s complaints that her husband, Goodluck Jonathan, under Umaru Yar’adua was so idle, he was only reading newspapers. For a power-hungry woman like Patience, you can imagine her frustration before her husband became acting president after the Senate’s doctrine of necessity that allowed him act as president and later as substantive president after Yar’adua’s death; then the real and raw Patience began to manifest.

In the latest announcement of President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent and money guzzling trips, there was no mention of his Vice President  Yemi Osinbajo,  acting as president. I really hope it is given and not a deliberate attempt to sideline him. If indeed it is deliberate, it will be a confirmation of the new low the vice president has been subjected to and indeed almost all deputy governors in the country.

 When going on vacation, the president is expected to write the National Assembly indicating his vice would act, (Buhari did that in the past), but now that they say it is a working visit and  there is no letter to the National Assembly yet, who governs the country?  For me being away from office, whether it is a vacation or working visit is one and the same as long as the president is not physically present  in the country. Now that he is going to be away for almost 20 days, who fills the vacuum? Unelected cabal members or the country will be on auto-pilot?  

Meanwhile, what does the constitution say about the deputy governor and Vice president? Chapter 6, part 2, section 193 talks about the executive responsibilities of governors and commissioners thus: “the governor of a state may, in his discretion, assign to the deputy governor or any commissioner of the government of the state responsibility for any business of the government of the state including any  department of government;

the governor of a state shall hold regular regular meetings with the deputy governor and all commissioners of the government of the state for the purpose to;  (a)determine the general direction of the policies of the government of the state (b)co-ordinating the activities of the governor, the deputy governor and the commissioners of the government of the state in the discharge of their executive responsibilities; and (c) advising the governor generally in the discharge of his executive functions, other than those functions with respect to which he is required by this constitution to seek the advice or act on the recommendation of any other person or body”

 Imagine this lame and weak function assigned to the deputy governor, an elected official being equated with  mere appointee like commissioners.

Just like the position of deputy governor the “executive functions of the Nigerian Vice President includes participation in all cabinet meetings and by statute, membership in the national Security Council, the National Defence Council and the National Economic Council.

The first snag under the law, is that the vice president and the deputy governor don’t wield any power except as delegated by the president and the governor. Once the deputy is made redundant and tries to flex muscles, he runs into troubled water. A mere thought or wish or ambition to succeed oga at the top is enough to nail that deputy. If you are in doubt, ask Atiku Abubakar, who because of his ambition and nationwide acceptability, he spent his second tenure fighting on all fronts for survival; all for the obvious reason that the constitutional role for the vice president is weak and insufficient.

The fact of their being hand-picked by their principal (despite behind the scene politicking), the law subordinates the Vice President or Deputy Governor to the governor/president completely. Recall the story of how MKO Abiola picked Babagana Kingibe as his running mate despite their gentlemen agreement to pick Atiku, who was magnanimous enough to step down for him (Abiola) before he could emerge. Such is the cutthroat competition, horse-trading and betrayals that characterise trust deficiency in politics. 

If in the end, Buhari did not transmit a letter to the National Assembly informing them that his deputy will act as president this time around, then there is element of truth in the rumour that there is no love lost between the duo anymore and the cookies are beginning to crumble. Pity that many of these people played the self-interest card and cashed in on Buhari’s cult-following to ride to power. Now they don dey see pepper.

Those whose concern for good governance for the good of all and so did not or refused to support Buhari, but were labelled as wailers, may have been vindicated. Those who pointed out that Buhari is vindictive and will not necessarily be in charge of the country’s affairs, as the cabal will take full charge,  are beginning to chuckle with laughter.  

If the Vice President of a big country like Nigeria can be stripped of his powers and rendered redundant and cannot even act in the absence of his boss; if a deputy governor was so hounded, he was impeached on the very day a committee set up to probe him returned a ‘no guilty verdict’ report on him, if the state assembly could not even wait for the two-week-window provided by the constitution after such a deputy governor can be impeached if he is found guilty, we do not need the office of the vice president or deputy governor. This is the recent case with the impeachment of Kogi state deputy governor. As it was in several states in the past, everyone is quiet about the latest impunity and miscarriage of justice.

It is even more depressing that politicians, deputy governors and vice presidents themselves (serving and ex) have not deemed it necessary to summon the courage to present a bill to the National Assembly to amend the provision of the law affecting the powers of the deputy governor and the vice president, shows that everyone just wants “to chop and go” and has no interest in the coming generation and the need to make laws for posterity and not for immediate gratification.

Fellow Nigerians, Is it not time to revisit, review and amend the “spare tyre” or “appendage” roles called vice president and deputy governor?