IDEAS Radio 17 October 2018
Rotimi Sankore: Welcome to Countdown 2019 on Nigeria Info 99.3 where we feature all the big and significant issues on the road to the 2019 elections. Remember, you can follow the programme on Twitter @Countdown2019ng, and myself, @RotimiSankore. You can also tweet at us on the station handle @NigeriaInfoFM.
Our big topic today, on both on the IDEAS segment with Ayo Obe and on the main programme: Are we, the electorate, paying enough attention to the process of choosing vice presidential candidates and deputy governors. Why is this important? Because the VP or the Deputy Governor could become President or Governor in a variety of circumstances.
So, first the IDEAS segment with Ayo Obe, Legal Practitioner, and democracy advocate. Welcome, Ayo.
Ayo Obe: Hi, hello.
RS: So this is a really important question, we saw what happened with late President Yar’Adua when President Goodluck Jonathan was his VP, suddenly it became very important. But even now, we are not sure that these principles of Integrity, Ethics and Accountability are consistently applied to all running mates. What’s happening?
AO: Well, I think that the reality is that when you are, when you emerge as the candidate of your party, whether as the president or as the governor, you end up, you bring a certain amount, number of qualities. It could be where you come from, it could be your religion, your age, your experience and so on. And when you’re looking for a deputy or a vice, you’re looking to fill the gaps that you don’t have, that you don’t fill.
RS: What people call balance.
AO: You need balance. But I think it’s also, it’s also a matter of understanding that in law, there doesn’t seem to be any requirement, there’s no obligation
RS: No constitutional requirement
AO: … about how to fill the post of the deputy, the deputy governor or the vice president so that what you end up with is that, it depends entirely on what the individual parties have to say about it.
RS: In some cases, the main candidate.
AO: Well, it’s often the main, the candidate, yes, the main candidate …
RS: … that picks the running mate, sometimes in wide consultation with the party, sometimes not.
AO: And the fact is that if we’re talking about issues of Integrity, or Ethics and Accountability and so on, it will be an unspoken consideration, but the reality is that no candidate is going to admit: I have a deficit in any of these areas, and therefore I need to select a candidate who will fill that gap. They would rather talk more in terms of ethnic balance, religious balance …
RS: … maybe gender
AO: Well, it doesn’t seem to be, as though gender has been a feature at all at the presidential level, and even at the gubernatorial level, it has, it’s been a fashion in some parts of the country …
RO: In some states …
AO: in some parts of the country, and it’s almost become … what would I say, it’s almost like a convention
RS: Like in Lagos
AO: Kind of, although Lagos has, it’s more of a convention. It’s not that, a convention of course, is something that you don’t have to obey, it’s a choice. But gender is really not an issue, at least it doesn’t outweigh any other factors, and …
RS: If I may just point out to listeners, so, we have a poll on the @Countdown2019ng Twitter handle, it’s a pinned tweet, and we are asking this question: What is important to you in a running mate, and there are four options there, ethnic balance, gender balance, religious balance and competence. If you go to the Twitter handle @Countdown2019ng you will see it there. And so far it says ethnic balance 10%, gender balance 0%, religious balance 7%, competence 83%.
AO: Yes, you see the thing is that people will say competence, and from an IDEAS point of view, it seems to me that if you ignore the issues of, Integrity, Ethics and Accountability, you end up being incompetent because you’re busy trying to hide things. You’re busy trying to run things in a non-transparent way and the outcome of that is that your left hand ends up not knowing what your right hand is doing, and the, with the outcome that you may end up not being competent.
If you are more fixed on what you are going to take out of government than what you are going to put in, and from IDEAS point of view, somebody who is going in for public service should be more concerned about what they are going to put in to government, but you are concerned , if your focus is what you are going to take out, then you may find that things get held up, because people are busy arguing about ‘Who Gets What’ and if that is the focus, ends up delaying government and it ends up in incompetence as well.
RS: There’s a big question, how wide should this consultation be, and what should the running mate be put through in terms of testing Integrity, Ethics and Accountability? Should it be party members, the super delegates like the office holders in the party, that is National Assembly, the House of Assembly members, Governors, those who have won positions. Or should it be everybody ? Because I don’t think, in Nigeria, we say “Olorun ma je!”, it’s not my portion, but the President or Governor may pass away!
AO: And it has to be a factor because we know that the last President who died in office was a relatively young man so we can’t even say that it’s something that we only consider where we have elderly candidates,. It can happen to anybody. And so it definitely has to be taken into account.
But, I think it’s also important to understand that the extent to which there is external consultation, at the end of the day, the candidate, if they are successful, they need to be able to trust the running mate, and I think that what we’ve seen, it’s fairly rare to see a level of trust between the principal and the deputy or the vice. We saw that there was trust, certainly, between President Goodluck Jonathan and his own deputy, Namadi Sambo. We also saw, that in the current administration there’s trust between the President and his Vice. But the same could not be said, not so much of the Yar’Adua against Jonathan situation, but at the end of the day, when late President Yar’Adua was leaving the country, he did not hand over as the Constitution requires him to. President Obasanjo in his first term, he had, effectively his Vice President was running the government. But in his second term, when he was now feeling his power, we found that the level of trust became one of undermining and sabotaging and we all remember that at the end of the day his Vice President had to be rushed onto the ballot papers which were consequently unnumbered and that resulted in one of Nigeria’s worst elections. So if there’s no trust, again, it makes for inefficient government. It makes for, so however competent a deputy or a vice is, if the principal is more suspicious and afraid that the deputy or the vice will outshine them, then it becomes a problem in terms of allowing them to perform their constitutional role.
RS: Yeah, but if the vice or deputy is given specific responsibilities, for instance, based on the person’s core competence. So let’s say for instance, economic governance, so if the vice or deputy governor is really competent, that “Ok, you are in charge of this, let the President get on with the politics. Is there a fear …
AO: Or vice versa
RS: Or vice versa. Yes. But is there a fear sometimes, that ah, if the vice or deputy is ambitious, the person may start taking credit for …
AO: Yes, I think that this is actually the issue, and as I said, it again comes down to the relationship between the principal and the vice, because a principal who is secure in their shoes should be able to feel that any success that is achieved by their deputy is a jewel in their own crown and therefore that they should actually be encouraging it, and the same goes for ministers as well. Now, we’ve had situations where we’ve had very … ministers who have shone in their respective fields.
But when it comes to choosing a deputy, they need to be able to not so much shine or have just a core competence, but rather what they need to be able to do is to pick those who will do well. Because it is not always that what you yourself can do, it’s who you pick. The choice of a vice or a deputy also tells us something about the principal. The, it may because of the peculiar divergencies or the diversities that we have in Nigeria, the principal is bound to narrow their choice to a particular area. But it’s not the same as, even within that, if you are running for President in a country, you ought to have people that you know in every section of the country and you should be able to have an idea of either somebody that you would trust to make the choice for you, or somebody that you yourself can pick, and choose and trust.
RS: If you look at demographics now, say like gender and age , so Nigeria, the majority of the electorate are young. If a candidate is 60 or 70 and above, can the choice of a running mate that is 35 or 40 make that big difference, or will the choice of a running mate that is a woman if the presidential or governorship candidate is a man, make that big difference, or the presidential or governorship candidate is a woman, and the deputy is a man, what kind of influence can it have on the electorate?
AO: Well, if we’re, I mean, there is a theory which may not necessarily be proved in practice, that there’s a theory that women are less inclined to throw away the ideals of Integrity, Ethics and Accountability. On the other hand, if there is any example of women who have not upheld those virtues, they suddenly become the template for all women in office, its … so that’s a problem. Similarly to some extent, with young people. If a young person does very well, that’s that young person, but when a young person does badly, then it becomes “You see, this is what happens when you get young people!”. And so we have a bit of a problem with this sort of, you stand for your whole tribe sort of thing. Nonetheless, I think that it’s unrealistic to say that in the current political landscape , as far as the main political parties, the two largest political parties are concerned, it’s a factor at the national level. At the state level there seems to be more of a tendency for governors to treat, in fact, it has been described as a spare tyre. The deputy governor as a spare tyre. And we’ve had very few instances where people look at the deputy and say this person is really going somewhere.
What we’ve found , particularly when it comes to issues of gender, women who’ve had an opportunity to shine in their role as Commissioner or as Minister, we all remember the coordinating Minister of the Economy in the last administration, then they come out, they shine, and they become presidential, people start thinking of them as good running mates in that context. But I think that it is based on the fact that in office, whatever problems may have attached to the larger administration, they themselves are perceived to have performed very well and to have demonstrated Integrity, have been Accountable and to have behaved in an Ethical manner.
RS: Let’s turn it on its head before we end. So, in America, we saw Barack Obama as President, pick an older colleague. They were in the Senate together, Obama and Joe Biden, and Obama picked his older colleague for experience, race and other qualities like that, and Biden played the role wonderfully and they referred to each other as brothers, even though in reality, he was more like Uncle Joe to you.
But if you look at gender, also, we haven’t really seen that play out on a big stage. But a woman President with a male …
AO: Well, if we’re looking at the United States, it was an issue when late Senator John McCain picked Sarah Palin. She had mass appeal, she had her own constituency and she came with that …
RS: But that was ideological, not gender.
AO: Yes, but the point is that she was able to galvanize her own base.
RS: Yes, but her own base was Tea Party, gun-toting Tea Party, not necessarily women.
AO: Absolutely, absolutely, but at the end of the day, you’re not going to pick a woman as your running mate if all she can bring in is the fact that she’s a woman. Because it’s undoubtedly the case that women will not just vote for a woman simply because she’s a woman. She has to bring something else to the plate.
RS: Ok, alright. Thank you
AO: I just want to say, Rotimi, that you can now check us out on the IDEAS website which is ideasradio.ng.
We’re going to be putting up our podcasts and videocasts, and the transcripts.
RS: Thank you for the reminder @IDEASradioNG but on the website or the blogsite it’s ideasradio.ng. And on Twitter it’s @ideasradiong.
Okay, excellent. Thank you so much Ayo Obe.