How dreadful knowledge of truth can be,
When there is no help in truth.
Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex
Whatever it is that led to the altercations ascribable to the person and office of the Vice president of the federal republic concerning President Obasanjo’s hunger to rule us for life lie clearly in the fact that that fact is the bulwark in the vice president’s ambition to become president. Of course everyone knows the implications for the vice president to come out that openly to criticize his constitutional boss-he most likely committed political hara-kiri with that diatribe of his and detractors have started a sustained canticle on the expediency of his exit from Aso Rock precincts. A lot of this is especially against the universally accepted role and position of Vice presidents in democratically elected governments.
Vice presidents are usually presidents-in-training and in-waiting and how they conduct themselves is one hell of a factor that determines whether they become president or not. In the context of American history, this office is one which Encarta Encyclopedia describes as having few duties-one in which the constitution surrogacy, ceremony, visibility rather than an articulate mien on the part of the incumbent. It could either be a position of opportunity or one of frustrated ambitions as Al Gore found out. Most of the time, presidential advisers have done very well to advise the president to keep tabs on their vices mostly because they are known for all manner of intentions and ambitions to preside over the dent as well. For instance, before President Reagan chose President George Walker Bush as his running mate for the presidential elections in the eighties, there was a long drawn conflict between the duo for nomination on the platform of the Republicans. In the melee before the calm, George Bush often referred to Reagan’s proposed economic plans as ‘voodoo economics’. That economic plan, fancifully dubbed ‘Reaganomics’, was said to have failed in theory as well as in application but a sensible Bush did not go yap it from the mountaintop that his boss’s economic plan was a flop. He kept his mouth shut and later went on to clinch the presidency (though not really because he was discreet).
The incumbent Vice president’s position today should be no different to that of Nigeria’s first president, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe in the parliamentary government of the first republic. We make this assertion boldly and without prejudice and mostly because the constitution arrogates very few powers to that office. At best, the constitution recognizes the vice president as the dejure president only of the Senate. In this position, the Vice-president is a glorified errand boy to the president and a flamboyant image maker who derives a lot of relevance from his boss. The chap who runs the show take it or leave it is President Obasanjo, at least for now. Let us still use the Reagan-Bush administration as yet another instance. Because President Reagan recognized very well the antecedents of his ebullient deputy and because it was his constitutional right to do so to avoid a head-on collision, Reagan assigned Bush the onerous task of chasing after Colombian drug lords who exploited the ready American market to their advantage. To a large extent, this took the winds off the sails of a Bush who bided his time, dodged the Iran-Contra arms scandal and survived to tell the story. If the Nigerian president has relegated his political assistant to the background of this administration, that is not what the veepee should blow his top on. That is a normal thing for a president to do. The President is President while the vice- president is vice-president. The concept of parliamentary primus inter pares is not tenable here. It goes without saying that much of what the president has been accused of doing with his vice is a keeping with the Machiavellian methodology of maintaining a hold on the instruments of power at whatever cost and no matter whose ambition is in the line of fire.
The constitution is silent concerning whether or not the Vice president can contest the office of president at the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent. This code of silence says a lot concerning the fact that that office is an immensely powerful one and with the enormous political clout that he may have amassed, it would be a shame indeed if the Vice president is deemed unfit for the presidency. In that political incubator, fourteen American vice presidents have emerged as presidents on their own merit and without the influence of their predecessors. This was not the case however with the Clinton-Gore administration. Though both men enjoyed an excellent work relationship, Gore wanted nothing to do with his predecessor maybe as a result of the Monica-Lewinsky stigma that led to Clinton’s impeachment. As matters stand here and now, there is obviously no love lost between the President and his deputy. You would agree with me that the direction the political pendulum shifts may depend on a lot of miscellaneous factors. One of them is the theory that states that since the PDP is a bye product of late Shehu Yar’Adua’s PDM, and since the Vice president is a political sire of that arrangement, it should as a matter of course give the vice president a chance to fulfill the political destiny of his mentor. It is this sort of specious reasoning that seemingly clashes with the minds and hearts of the Mantus of the day, who would stop at nothing to prolong the tenure of their patron.
However, a lot of us are interested in the power play that is beginning to jar th
e nerves and jolt the sensibilities of the vice presidential camp particularly with respect to the presidential aspiration and ambition of their principal. Some hold on to the view that the vice-president was a little out of line to come out this openly and openly criticize an administration of which he is an integral part. The best he should have done, they suggest, is work assiduously behind the scenes to truncate this obnoxious agenda and promote his own. It either cut him out as a fool or that he is somebody fully aware of his rights, privileges as a duly elected vice-president who committed no serious, impeachable sin by blowing the whistle on the third term-cum-life president agenda of his boss. Whatever way you look at it, it takes a lot of guts to sing a swan a song in the manner of a Prima Donna as the vice-president just did. Ideally, they say he should resign and throw whatever stones needed be thrown from without. Operating from without, the way his detractors insist veritably makes him another kind of a fool we know he is not, to be mercilessly hacked down and disgraced in the market place.
Most of us from the Niger-Delta do not see much difference between the president and his deputy in terms of the political-cum-economic misfortunes of that region. Their fight has nothing to do with the betterment of our lot and the implication for us is already obvious-whether or not Mr. Obasanjo gets a third-term or not; whether the deputy gets to be the next president or not, the handwriting that I see decipherable on the wall is that no Niger-Deltan will get a chance to control the destiny of a nation his region feeds if either Obasanjo or his vice have their way. We want to use this opportunity to admonish the feuding parties to sheath their swords and let the temperament of the nation be the determining factor in the choice of who rules next (in this wise, we refer not to a third term but a fresh one).