I know the problems of a deputy because I was once a deputy and later a leader with a controversial deputy. As a deputy or vice, if you work hard people will say you are very ambitious, and if you slow down, they will say you are sabotaging your boss. Unfortunately, many bosses are suspicious of their deputies.
The problems of a deputy are largely associated with personalization of power. Instead of perceiving public office as a privilege to serve, it is perceived as an elevation to a higher social status, where power and authority are personal to the person who occupies an office. This makes the boss suspicious of anybody perceived to be encroaching his “territorial integrity”.
Framers of the 1999 constitution were quite aware of the occasional tension in the relationship between bosses and their deputies, therefore, denied vice president and deputy governors specific roles, other than the one’s assigned to them by their bosses. They are called spare tyres, but spare tyres cannot function in any capacity until the original tyre is not usable. In the case of deputy governors and vice president, their offices were specifically designed to complement the offices of their bosses and function at the same time with the bosses. This relationship is an opportunity for political tutelage. How can you train somebody for four or eight years, and throw him away at a time when he should be good enough to take over from you? Are you acknowledging your failure to train him good enough to succeed you? Isn’t it an irony that of the over one hundred deputy governors produced in Nigeria from 1998 to date, only two (Zamfara and Kano) succeed their bosses?
If we were a nation that takes research and political engineering seriously, we would have long ago found out why chief executives fear handing over to their deputies, and correct the anomaly so that trained deputy governors will not be wasted. This requires serious research because even the two governors that handed over to their deputies fell out with them and appear to be sworn-enemies.
It is often argued that most governors go for weak deputies to avoid challenges, therefore, found the deputies too weak to take over from them. This may be true in some cases, but certainly there were many good deputies. We can avoid the tragedy of a tragic deputy by being confident as leaders, aware of the fact that the mandate and the power are yours. Interestingly, the pattern is changing with a professor of biochemistry as deputy governor in Kano State, professor of political science and former Vice Chancellor of UNIJOS as deputy governor in Plateau State.
I was reluctant to write about the tenure of Professor Yemi Osinbajo as Acting President because it should be a simple administrative procedure, until I read the article of Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar in the Daily Trust of Friday, March 3, 2017 (Deft moves of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo). One thing I like about Dangiwa Umar is that he always intervene on the side of Nigeria. The point is that responsible Nigerians must always come out, take a position on national issues and push it, especially on contentious issues, otherwise, some reckless Nigerians will take over the driver’s seat of Nigeria and drive us recklessly to perdition.
To begin with, to accept and respect Professor Osinbajo is to respect the decision of God who gives power to whom He pleases. Equally important, President Muhammadu Buhari, is aware of the provisions of the constitution of the country when he picked Osinbajo. The message of Buhari is simple and clear: “In my absence, this man will be your leader. If at any time my creator decides to call me, he is your president”.
The dilemma of a deputy is more apparent when you are a pastor and a professor, who professes. In all the two capacities, you are expected to serve humanity diligently because that is what you chose by opting to be a man of God and an intellectual. And just as you step out to answer your name, some people started shouting: “This man is ambitious, stop him!”. You look around and ask yourself: What is my calling? Is it not to serve humanity? Is this not an opportunity to serve humanity?
Undoubtedly, Professor Osinbajo has done well and deserves commendation. For me, the assessment of a leader starts with whether he is a “philosopher king” or an ordinary person who cannot see beyond the horizon of his ordinary country men and women, therefore, cannot be a pathfinder or custodian of the future.
Philosophical leaders are known for their philosophical thought, philosophical statements, and coherent interventions. Osinbajo was at his best recently, during a civil service function, where he said, civil service is a call to service, a privilege to serve “and if you miss this, you have missed the point”. Period. This statement resonates more than a 500-page book on how to reform civil service in Nigeria. Also, consider the statement of the Acting President to some protesters. He said: “To those who are protesting… we hear you loud and clear. You deserve a decent life and we are working night and day to make life easier”.
There is no point arguing on who takes the credit of the impressive performance of Osinbajo. Nobody should. Not even Osinbajo. If you think that public service is about credit, not service to humanity, “you have missed the point”, to use the words of Osinbajo.
But it is legitimate to ask: what satisfaction should Osinbajo and Buhari draw from the performance of Osinbajo. For Osinbajo it is obvious. The joy of serving humanity and not disappointing your boss cannot be quantified. He is also a good ambassador of his religious and professional constituencies. Nobody will say: what is the point in making a pastor or a professor a president, when one of them failed as Acting President?
President Buhari should be elated that his decision to handover to his vice has vindicated him. This is how it should be. The presidency is for public service, and whoever finds himself in-charge of the office is to be pre-occupied with public service, not personal glory. Also, Buhari’s policy of picking “quality materials” as vice, says much about his self-confidence and passion for Nigeria. The two people he picked in the past to deputise for him, Major General Tunde Idiagbon and Pastor Tunde Bakare, are among the best Nigerians one can find.
We wish President Buhari quick recovery so that he will come back home and continue with the good work he started. The mandate is his.