Vice preisdent Yemi Osinbajo flanked by Chief Edwin Clark and Delta State governor Ifeanyi Okowa during as the vice president addresses leaders of the Niger Delta during his visit to the region recently. PHOTO: TWITTER/PRESIDENCY
The first time I saw Vice President Yemi Osinbajo up close was on Sunday April 5, 2015 on the occasion of the Seventh-day Fidau prayers for my late friend Muheez Olayinka Bello in Lekki Axis of Lagos State. Muheez died in a boat mishap at Epe on March 28, whilst returning from an electoral voyage where he journeyed to, to deliver his ward for President Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election. He was the APC chairmanship aspirant for Epe Local Council. Osinbajo then a Vice-President-elect delivered a tribute. He didn’t big-foot himself into the occasion like most politicians do; there was no fanfare and he appeared so humble to me without carrying regal airs. I wondered then why a man on such a pedestal would come to the Fidau prayers of a young man who was a Moslem (Osinbajo is a Christian, my late friend was a Moslem) and I concluded therein that unlike many people Osinbajo doesn’t work with imaginary lines. After all, people on pedestals are lured by blandishments everywhere other than to pray.
The appraisal of Osinbajo’s performance as acting president has given me so much concern especially since it comes from very highly revered people who should know Great leaders all through history became great by being autonomous. As mentioned elsewhere by this writer, “ to be president of a country one must be a place-holder, an ideologue, who pursues causes that gladden the hearts of all. He must also have strength of character. To attain high office, a candidate needs one of these qualities or all of these qualities.”
One president Nigeria missed not having in the Fourth Republic is Dr. Alexander Ekwueme. He is a place-holder, an ideologue, has strength of character.
There are only a handful of persons in history that are blessed with all three qualifications and who became presidents, A fourth quality, which is not common in the political corridor of civilised democracy, is that you must be lucky, some say “fated to be.”
A peep into the presidential history of Nigeria in The Fourth Republic is quite revealing.
President Olusegun Obasanjo, in spite of the fact that he trounced Chief Olu Falae to become president, only managed to do so because he was a place-holder and not an ideologue. Like Dwight Eisenhower, Olusegun Obasanjo’s persona was needed for stability of the country. Especially after the raucous aborted Third Republic and the death of M.K.O Abiola. Chief Olu Falae would have made a better president but the establishment didn’t see him as a place-holder. The establishment is responsible for the running of a country and a place-holder’s mandate most times is to restore peace and provide solutions to a country’s problems.
Presidents Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, many analysts say, were fated to be presidents. They had a date with their predestined apogee. Some say they were lucky. For this reason, they never wanted to be president but got the job by providence and by being at the right place at the right time. Every human being needs that element of luck sometimes. After all, credentials alone do not qualify people for elective office. There are preferred candidates and qualified candidates. Sometimes the preferred candidates aren’t the qualified candidates.
President Muhammadu Buhari became president owing to his strength of character, not because he is a place-holder, ideologue or lucky. Presidents with strengths of character strive to be autonomous but most times collide with the establishment.
Presidents who are ideologues believe in winning the hearts and minds of the masses. I prefer those who rally nationalistic causes over those who choose regional and ethnic pabulum. Ronald Reagan was an ideologue who spoke to the hearts of Americans. While Carter spoke about the harshness of nature, economy and life, Reagan mythologised the American dream. Small wonder, he served two terms as president. Regrettably, Nigeria is yet to produce an ideologue as president. Two factors determine who becomes a vice-presidential candidate: geography and ideology. The second is rarely considered. Balance in most cases is appreciated more than ideology and is the reason all vice presidents in this Fourth Republic were treated as whippersnappers by presidents. This is not peculiar to Nigeria. When Albert Einstein transmitted a letter to F. D. Roosevelt that he had found a way through an experiment to split the atom, Roosevelt gave him the go-ahead but shielded the information from his vice president, Harry Truman. Truman never knew about the atomic bomb until after the death of Roosevelt close to the end of the Second World War.
Lyndon Johnson was picked as running mate to J. F. Kennedy for balance. He was from the south. It is an open secret that he was never a member of the inner cycle of Kennedy’s administration until after the latter’s death when he became his own man and even won a landslide in the election against Barry Goldwater. Lyndon Johnson secured the presidency in 1964 by defeating Barry Goldwater 486 electoral votes to 52.
Mike Pence was picked as running mate to Donald Trump to please the evangelical Christians without whom it might have been difficult for Trump to have won the election. The closest the U.S. got to having ideologues as vice president was the Bill Clinton/ Al Gore presidency.
Both sync ideologically and was the reason Al Gore could dissociate himself from Clinton whom he saw as a liability during his own campaign for President as a result of the Monica Lewinsky scandal .
While the combination of Buhari and Osinbajo is perfect, well groomed soldiers dominate and conquer their environment; a well-trained lawyer works with the asymmetry of morality, law and the algorithm of what is best for polity, but the country needs both men to be ideologues. That way, there wouldn’t be unnecessary need for comparison because the vice president can act out the script of the president without squirming in the absence of the latter.
Ideologues know their purpose for being in politics. Even when they are appointed by The Heavenlies, they do not subordinate the discharge of their duties to The Heavenlies but to self.
They communicate from the inside. Osinbajo did. Is it too much for a politician to do? Aren’t they supposed to solve our problems? Have they? So why cavort and praise endlessly?
Politicians today do not inspire anybody because they believe in love of power and authority, not power to love. People follow leaders who inspire them because they want to and not because they have to and those leaders must speak from the heart.
Simon Abah writes from Port Harcourt