Friday, 12 June 2015

A VIEW FROM MY WINDOW : PITTING THE VP AGAINST THE PRESIDENT

                                    "A war of attrition destroys the morale of soldiers"



A VIEW FROM MY WINDOW : NIGERIA IN FOCUS:

PITTING THE VP AGAINST THE PRESIDENT: Is History about to repeat itself?

The National Assembly inauguration on June 9th 2015, which saw the emergence of House leaders who are not the preferred candidates of either the ruling APC Party or the President, has provided enough cheese for us to nibble at, for weeks on end.

Political intrigues and an increasingly bold, vibrant Media constantly 'attriting' , constantly searching, and posting on all media forms, make for a really interesting first term in office, on President Buhari's second coming.
Early as it is in the life of this regime, the political meteorologist's report is already showing that thunder storms may be gathering in the clouds not too far ahead of us :

The scenario? President Buhari has twice excluded Vice President Osinbajo from crucial security meeting with security chiefs, where matters of State , critical to the operations against Boko Haram are discussed.
The Problem? Watchers of politics in the country, political commentators and the media are beginning to insinuate that there must be some underlying trust issues between the President and his Vice when it comes to Security. Others believe that the VP has a right to be in those meetings and that being excluded was a way of limiting his rights as a VP. The matter has become another talking point and before long either the President or his Vice will be forced to address it.

For those of us however, who are intrigued by the power play between Presidents and Vice Presidents across Africa, this is yet another drama in the making. Some, as a matter of fact, really do believe it's just a matter of time before history repeats itself leaving us with a Vice President estranged from the Presidency. How it pans out in the long run may just depend on what point the trio of loyalty, common sense and selflessness come to intersect with each other .

But while this drama continues to play out internally within the Party confines, and externally, in the media and public space there is need to search out for precedents, and seek out the legality or otherwise of the President's action.
Nigeria operates a democratic system patterned along the American style of democracy, and although today, America's Vice President seems to wield considerable power as well, this was not always the case.
 Infact John Adams , Vice President , 1789 to 1798 had this to say about his office :

         "The office of the Vice President, is the most insignificant office ever the               invention of man contrived, or his imagination conceived"

It was only since after the 2nd World War that the US Congress and the President began to assign more roles to the VP. For over 100 years , Vice Presidents of the United States of America were simply marginal figures along the corridors of power.

Important to note is that it was not until 1933 when President F. D. Roosvelt, (32nd President of US) began to include his VP in cabinet meetings that other Presidents after him started including their own Vice Presidents in cabinet meetings.

But here is a situation we can draw parallels from: President Roosvelt even though he allowed his VP attend cabinet meetings, he did not allow him attend National Security meetings, and particularly did not inform his VP about the highly important National security project called "The Manhattan Project" which at the time was a top secret project to develop atomic weapons. Ironically, President Roosvelt died in 1945, and the war was still going on. His VP, Harry Truman suddenly became a war time President and found himself in an extremely difficult position (to put it mildly) because he did not have firsthand knowledge of all the available National Security information . He had to depend on daily briefings from the Secretary of War to make critical decisions that could affect not only America but the World in general.

How did the American Congress deal with this anomaly ? Simple. The American Congress realized that a situation where a sitting President did not have firsthand knowledge of the country's National Security options was absolutely untenable, and a very big security risk. In 1947 congress then included Vice Presidents as one of the four statutory members of the National Security Council . The sense behind it is this: If at any point in time the President is unable to continue being President, the VP who succeeds him would be fully equipped to discharge most of his duties without hang-ups.

This is good precedence and I would think the new Senate, and Representatives ought to, as a matter of urgency, look into passing laws that clarify and specify  some of the critical responsibilities of the Vice President  as a way of minimizing an unnecessary attrition that could destroy the morale of the nation.

                Written by Victor O. Sawyerr
                  June 12, 2015

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