Constitutional roles for VPs, deputy governors

For the umpteenth time, former President Goodluck Jonathan has joined other eminent Nigerians at the vanguard on the need for the National Assembly and the whole country to legislate specific roles for leaders who are deputies to their chief executives in political offices.

The former president said unlike the office of the deputy governor, the deputy speaker or deputy senate president in the National Assembly have some roles cut out for them.

Speaking last week in Abuja at the launch of a book titled “Deputising and Governance in Nigeria” written by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano state, the ex-president listed good personal relationship, accessibility, mutual respect and common focus on the part of the deputies as crucial factors for ensuring that a deputy and his principal enjoy working relationship.

Jonathan said: “If you look at the Constitution, the general role of a deputy governor is chairman of state boundary committee. The kind of problems we have with deputy governors and governors are not experienced at the National Assembly, those ones are not pronounced because the deputy has clear responsibilities.

“Everything a deputy governor does depends on the instructions from the governor. In some cases, it is so bad that if the governor is out of the state or country and there are pressing issues to be attended to, the deputy still has to get permission from the governor who is somewhere enjoying himself before the issues are addressed.

“Luckily for me, when I was a deputy governor, whenever my governor was out of town, I addressed things that should be addressed and represent him in matters of national interest which is not so in all states.”

The former president further said: “There are instances where if the governor and deputy disagree on something, then the governor moves the State Assembly to impeach him which should not be so. There are cases where governors win elections because of the deputy and with little disagreement, the deputy is impeached and the governor brings someone who didn’t play any role in the struggle. These are areas the National Assembly and the whole country need to look into.”

Jonathan also said even at the Federal Executive Council (FEC), ministers of state and the substantive ministers were always at loggerheads, noting “some manage it better while some don’t manage it well.”

Also speaking, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was the special guest of honour on the occasion, described himself as fortunate in his present capacity as the nation’s number two person.

Osinbajo, while paying glowing tributes to President Muhammadu Buhari, made reference to the integral part of his role in the governance of the country when he was on medical leave to the United Kingdom (UK) within the last few years.

He maintained that the exalted seats of governors and deputies as well as that of the president and the vice president remain not only inseparable but complement each other as far as governance is concerned. The vice president, particularly, likened the duties of the president and the vice president to that of a pilot and co-pilot charged with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of their passengers aboard.

In his remarks, author of the book, Governor Ganduje, warned governors and their deputies, the president and vice president as well as other office holders of the antics of sycophants and bootlickers within the corridors of powers in the country.

He disclosed that he enjoyed a sound working relationship with his principal and predecessor, Engr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, in their two-term tenures. “The history of relationship between some governors and their deputies since the First Republic has been that of disloyalty, envy, betrayal, mistrust, ambition, which over the years divided several states of the federation and negatively affected the development of the people who voted the pair into office.”

Governor Ganduje said “the challenge should be considered as a matter of national importance, because the resentful relationship is unfavourable to democracy, national peace, stability and development.”

Ganduje stressed the need to adhere to constitutional provisions that clearly stipulate how the duo can work together, adding that whenever governors clashed with their deputies, the states suffered.

Listing the factors that could engender a good relationship between a governor and his deputy, Ganduje said: “If you are deputising, you have to develop an absolute loyalty at all times to your principal; the deputy practically demonstrates convincingly the capacity to support the chief executive in achieving the set goals of his administration.

“Also, those deputising should be aware of sycophants and mischief makers who may set up several traps, which if triggered, might injure the good relationship with his principal. The deputy should also guard against wrong expectations, unreasonable political and material ambitions; and the need to improve working relationship between the governor and the deputy.”

Jonathan’s call for specific roles for vice president, deputy governors and high profile officers could not have come at a better time, considering the ongoing constitutional review by the legislature. We agree with the former president that the aforementioned political office holders deserve clearly defined roles in the constitution in order to be held to account by the electorate and Nigerians at large.

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