By Bolanle Bolawole
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The first conclusion to be drawn from these series is that in a presidential system of government such as the one that we have copied from the United States of America, a sitting president or governor should, as of right, be given the right of first refusal; except in extraordinary cases should a sitting president or governor, if he is interested in second term, be so denied by his party. We have seen the crisis that snubbing an incumbent can cause in Edo State – and may yet be up for an encore in Ondo if the same faux pas is repeated.
The lessons to learn are many: Parties must not be flippant when screening candidates for high office. God-fatherism, which has deformed and defiled our democracy, must be thrown out of the window forthwith. Can you imagine that the same people who shouted “Hossanah” concerning Gov. Godwin Obaseki four years ago (Adams Oshiomhole, et al) are the same screaming “Crucify him” today? The same certificates Obaseki presented in 2016, which were good to go for APC, are the same certificates they used to disqualify him four years after! The same Obaseki and his certificates that the PDP found faults with four years ago, even filing cases in court asking that he be disqualified, are the same Obaseki, certificates and all that the same PDP is embracing and making its flag bearer today. We are a laughing stock! We are an embarrassment!
How can saner climes and reasonable people take us and our leaders seriously? Once god-fatherism is thrown out of the window, we must be diligent in scrupulously screening candidates for high office. Had this been the case since the Fourth Republic started in 1999, many of those who became presidents, governors, Senators, Speakers, Honourables, etc. would not have smelt the position. I am sure you know many people in and out of high office today whose credentials and character remain questionable and odious.
Another unwritten rule of the presidential system is that a running mate is treated as a president or governor in waiting. In the United States, not a few vice-presidents had become the substantive president after the natural death, assassination or resignation of the president. In Nigeria, President Umaru Yar’Adua died in office with his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, taking over. What this presupposes is that the choice of a running mate must not be treated with levity. While they may be spare tyres, as had been said, they are very important, indeed indispensable, spare tyres that must be in good condition for them to perform the assigned tasks. Woe betides a traveller who suffers punctured tyre in the middle of nowhere without a spare tyre or with a defective spare tyre!
There are, however, rules of engagement between the principal and his vice if a cordial working relationship is to be maintained. “Spare tyres” are rarely to be seen and hardly to be heard. They must remain in the shadow of their principal and work for the success of his administration. It is “his administration” pure and simple!
Not everyone can be a running mate. It takes some temperament and discipline to be one; which was why, when an American politician who had just lost the primaries was asked whether he would consent to being running mate, he retorted: I hate all vices, including the vice-president! Not everyone has the talent to play second fiddle. A bane of our political system revolves around over-zealous, over-ambitious and over-sabi deputies who begin to dig pits around their principal, plotting to pluck him from office right from Day One. We must carefully choose contented, disciplined and god-fearing deputies who will work silently away from the pomp and razzmatazz of power but who, all the same, are competent enough to step up in the event of eventualities.
We have said it is not tidy to approbate and reprobate at the same time; to speak from both sides of the mouth on the same issue is baloney. Do we – or do we not – want power to rotate? If we want power to rotate, we must support it all through – at the Federal, State, and Local Government levels. I am persuaded that to rotate power amongst the various constituents of a polity is wisdom; to deny rotation is folly; such as had led to the disintegration of many hitherto great and illustrious nations such as the USSR and Yugoslavia. Intellectual arrogance and crass ideological posturing that denies the potency of the National Question has been disgraced again and again.
It may not have been enshrined in the Constitution but to rotate power amongst contending groups and forces will help to ensure stability and promote unity and progress. The political class in Ondo State have wisely endorsed power rotation at the governorship level amongst the three senatorial districts of Ondo North, Ondo Central, and Ondo South. Currently, it is the turn of Ondo North, whose candidate, the incumbent Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu, has served one term and shows interest in going for another term of four years, after which the governorship rotates to Ondo South. If I am asked, I will advise that Ondo maintain its zoning formula.
Does that mean Akeredolu should automatically be allowed a shot at second term? My answer is “Yes” and “No” I will explain! Yes, because he is the incumbent. Yes, because he is from Ondo North, which is currently favoured by the existing zoning formula. Within the Ondo North itself, a zoning formula operates between Owo and Akoko divisions that make up the district. While one gets the governorship (Owo/Akeredolu), the other (Akoko/Prof. Robert Ajayi Boroffice) gets the senatorial slot. No, because despite zoning, there should be some competition in choosing political leaders. Without competition, democracy loses its allure; deny the people the right of choice and you strip democracy of its most potent power.
Besides, performance and character must be examined before an incumbent is given the all-clear signal to go for second term. In the ruling APC and the other parties, there is an avalanche of aspirants within the Ondo North senatorial district (and specifically Owo) ready to slug it out with Akeredolu; they should all be given a fair chance to compete. If any of them gets it; so be it. If Akeredolu gets it; so be it. If the losers decide to join the winner; so be it; if they decide to try their luck elsewhere; so be it! But let the APC candidacy remain in the Ondo North senatorial district (specifically Owo).
In the PDP, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, flew the PDP flag in the 2016 governorship election but was truncated by his own party and the then god-father. He, nonetheless, managed a respectable second position. The Founder of Achievers’ University, Owo, Mr. Bode Ayorinde, who is from Owo, is another PDP aspirant. Jegede’s father is from Akure in Ondo Central while his mother is from Ipele-Owo (Ondo North). Someone said I should stop addressing Ipele as “via Owo”! It is not to put Ipele down, my own mother being from Ofi/Ipele!
Jegede’s only difference from Akeredolu is that Akeredolu’s father is from Owo (Ondo North) while his mother is from Ondo South. Were the Yoruba a matrilineal society, Jegede would claim Ondo North while Akeredolu would claim Ondo South. Both married outside the state – Akeredolu to Betty (South-East) and Jegede to Eno (South-South). In 1999, the presidential candidates of the two leading parties came from the South-west simply to assuage the deep-seated feelings of the region over the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by MKO Abiola, a son of the soil, as it were. The whole country then had the opportunity to choose between Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae. Ondo State may want to toe the same path as this allows people from outside Ondo North to sit back and determine who wears the crown.
We said we should begin to discourage men (and women) without a second address. There are those who pride themselves as professional politicians. There are also those who have been in one appointive position or the other since time immemorial. Please, let them go and rest! They have contested every imaginable election. Give us a break, please! Go home and find something else to do! Our tragedy in Nigeria today is that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) tarried longer than necessary in seeking public office. Had he retired earlier – or, better still, had he been allowed to retire earlier – we would not have seen today’s misfortunes!
Many will not be satisfied if I did not make a pronouncement on the eligibility or otherwise of Akeredolu to contest the forthcoming election. Being the incumbent, he qualifies. As for zoning, too, he qualifies. For the second address, he has one; so he qualifies. But people are divided on whether his performance in office merits a second term. Some said he has performed, others said he has not. So I leave the electorate to decide on Election Day.
Has Akeredolu unduly favoured Owo in his appointments and allocation of the dividends of democracy? Opinion, also, is divided. Some said he did; others said he did not. So, again, I leave the people to judge on Election Day. This caveat, though: Virtually all governors before Akeredolu have been accused of unduly favouring their home base. With the type of politics we play here – except we change the template – this sore thumb will continually stick out regardless whose ox is gored.
Is the Akeredolu government corrupt? Point to one Nigerian government – past or present – that was not or is not corrupt! Will any of those struggling for Akeredolu’s seat run a corruption-free government if they get into office? Don’t laugh, please! It is as much about the system that we run as about the personalities involved. Has Akeredolu displayed hubris or character flaws? Yes, everyone does! I have never met Akeredolu or spoken to him, but before he took office, I heard some people discuss certain personality traits that might dog his feet and I twice wrote about those here. Some Owo sons flew into my throat and warned me not to be an enemy of Owo.
One of them passionately begged me to let Akeredolu be. Or don’t you want him to rule, he asked! Of course, I wanted him to rule – so I kept my peace, until these series! Interestingly, some of those early advocates of Akeredolu are today some of his most inveterate critics! Is Akeredolu solely to blame for this unfortunate turn of events? I do not think so. The blames are to be shared across the board. While Akeredolu has been abject in some aspects of his human relationship management –and must turn a new leaf – the expectations for personal aggrandisement of many of our politicians cannot be met by ten Akeredolus rolled into one. The template of our politics leaves much to be desired!
God willing, next week we shall conclude on the other ingredients of a new template for good and effective governance.
Mr Bolawole, author, publisher, and Public Relations specialist, is a former Editor of Punch.
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