Government is an essential component of a state, it is made of various sectors maned by both elected and appointed representatives of the larger populace. Since democracy is expected to be centered around citizens, although this is more of a faux, the institution called government is saddled with the sole responsibility of representing the interest of the governed. More often than not, government has become the fastest way to enrich one’s personal pocket due to the unrestricted access to the state’s treasury. No wonder Nigeria’s electioneering process is marred with rigging, violence, loss of lives and properties. Who would not want to have access to the national cake?
In Nigeria, the most coveted position by any individual or politician and is keenly contested for, is the office of the president. The struggle for that office is as a result of the enormous power bestowed by the constitution on whoever occupies the office. From the 1999 election which ushered in democratic rule and brought an end of military regime, subsequent presidential elections have always seen the declared results being contested in courts. Since Nigeria operates a presidential system of government, the constitution provides for the position of the Vice President.
According to the constitution, aside from his or her participation in the cabinet meetings, the Vice President is also a member of the National Security Council, the National Defence Council, Federal Executive Council, and the Chairman of National Economic Council. Although the Vice President can have his inputs on economic policies, the power of the Vice President’s office relatively depends upon the duties delegated by the President. Also, the constitution stipulates that when the President is to take a vacation outside the country which will exceed 21 days, he or she must write to the National assembly thereby transferring power to the vice-president who then becomes the Acting President.
Over the years, due to the malleability of the constitution, Nigeria has seen this section flouted thereby bringing public ridicule to the government and Nigeria in general. During late president Yaradua’s battle with his reoccurring illness which led to him being out of Nigeria for over 21 days, the Executive failed to transmit a letter to the National assembly which is supposed to make the Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan Ebele, the acting president.
In most recent scenero, of all the over 51 foreign trips embarked on by President Buhari, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has only become the acting president on two occasions. First, notably the longest, was when he spent 104 days out of the country from May 8, 2017 till August 19 of the same year on medical grounds. The second was when the President travelled to London on a working leave on August 3, 2018, and returned on the 18th, spending a total of 16 days.
Since the constitution confers full executive power on the Acting President, he or she is constitutionally in charge and is empowered to take decisions which might be against the desires or wishes of the President who is only on vacation. In August 2018 when Vice President Osinbajo was Acting President, he sacked the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura, which was a bold move that was said to have been vehemently opposed by those close to President Buhari. Incidentally, since that sacking of Daura over a year ago, the President has not transferred power to Osinbajo again. Recent withdrawal of certain responsibilities from the Vice President by President Buhari only points to an existing bad blood between both offices. The President’s action is seen by many as a desperate attempt by those close to the President to checkmate the powers of the Vice President.
Many believe that Vice President Osibanjo harbors an agenda to succeed President Buhari in 2023 which many party chieftains are wary of. While all these permutations and power play is ongoing, the major desire of Nigerians is to see a functioning government that isn’t blind to the economic woes of many. Few days ago, Nigerians frowned when the news broke that President Buhari’s chief of staff took the bill amending the Deep Offshore (an Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract) Act to President Buhari, who was on a private vacation in London, for his accent. Many believe that to save cost of governance, the president should have transmitted power to the Vice President by writing to the National assembly.
While it is obvious that Nigeria’s constitution requires serious amendment, Nigerians sole desire is to see a national improvement in the economy of the state. Many see the ongoing obvious but denied feud between the office of the President and that of the Vice President but have their interest on how Nigeria’s fortune can experience positive growth. Since the President is likely to take many more foreign trips and vacations, many await to see if the President would listen to public outcry and transmit power to the vice president.
We also use this medium to remember activist Ken Saro Wiwa who was killed on November 10, 1995. We say May the labor of our heroes past not be in vain.