Smart politicians have learnt to choose their fates, to accept impositions of the public on them. In fact, America’s bellwether presidency was run by a cabinet-team of rivals…

Jimanze Ego-Alowes

There has been a lot of misconception about the prerogative or otherwise of a presidential, etc, candidate to choose his deputy.

Those who canvass it is a candidate’s sole right end up mismatching the internal coherence of their logic. Representatively, a senior journalist at a television show, 17/10/18, was illustrating with examples why a governor/president hopeful should hold the full reins over who becomes his vice.

He began his illustrations with Bola Tinubu. But like all such rigged arguments, he skipped some of the facts. He stated, perhaps correctly, that Ms Kofo Bucknor-Akerele, Tinubu’s first Deputy Governor, was imposed on Tinubu, and that they later had issues. And the lady was later shown the way out, paving the way for Femi Pedro. But our TV hero forgot to mention that Femi Pedro was a choice of Tinubu. And he also skipped to tell that Pedro was messily pushed out of office, just like Akerele before him. That is to say, Tinubu had issues with the deputy that (1) was imposed on him and (2) that he chose himself.

READ ALSO: Personality of the Week: Bola Ahmed Tinubu

If we looked further afield, there is the case of the governor who invented iberiberism as a political lexicon. He, like Tinubu, sacked his first deputy and is now at war with the one he personally chose. The new deputy, Eze Madumere, happens to have been his “best friend forever,” until now. The point is, Rochas Okorocha, for such is his name, and Tinubu are just examples of a near universal order observable across the known world.

Thus we can safely say the personalised choice of a deputy is not a pointer to a cordial working relationship. And the basis of this is simple. First, friendships and relationships are organic things, open to growth or decay. And the fact of this is hinged on two variables: the parties in issue and changing circumstances. A man is a compound of whoever he is, plus his circumstances, to quote an insightful Spaniard, Ortega.

To put it concretely, any two or more men who hold relationships outside of power or affluence, are not the same persons when they come into power or influence. The relationships between candidates Tinubu/Iberiberism Okorocha and Pedro/Madumere on one hand is not the same, perhaps, is not related to the relationship between Governors Tinubu/ Okorocha and Deputy Governors Pedro/ Madumere on the other. And this makes sense. In the end, a man is just a bundle of information. A man acts according to his perceptions and interpretations of the powers at his disposal. That is, a man is nothing other than his interpretation of his own powers in contradiction or cooperation with others he comes in conflict or contact with. So, if these powers change in substantive terms, a man reinterprets and recalibrates himself and his relationships appropriately. In other words, it is meaningless to project a relationship into a future of power from a past of powerlessness, as it were. At best, such choices are gambles. That is why the old saw endures: a friend in power is a friend lost.

Immediately the issue of the alleged efficacy of personal choices is dismissed as irrelevant, the real issues are these. The presidency, etc, is an institutional office. It is thus constructed to be independent of persons. It is true our personal proclivities affect how we interpret these powers and offices, but the fact is that public office is a commons, a public trust. In so being, public office is thus not tailored to suit persons, no matter how well-meaning. If this is taken, it thus follows that a prospective potentate, in wanting to win or after winning, cannot unilaterally choose who he wills to be his deputy. The powers in high offices therein are not his by inheritance, are not a part of his father’s private estate.

In other words, in wanting in on the commons, that is, public office, the prospective president, etc, must choose whom the stakeholder publics will he chooses. The caveat is that, if he dares otherwise, he will pay terrible costs. My Oru people have a world best characterisation of the fact: agba wo dike izu agba ya ngba nawo. Loosely, “If you excluded a substantive stakeholder, you must reverse yourself to include him.” This is an iron lore, writ large in Tokyo, Washington or Abuja.

Before we go further, let us state as follows: all societies are by definition fractionalised. In fact, politics is nothing other than bewitching the fractions and factions of powers to come to dinner and not eat themselves. That’s why the most successful politicians are tightrope walkers, not geniuses.

Related News

But there are regional differences. Society “A” may be fractionalised along the lines of ethnicity/Nigeria and income/ Mexico and society “B” along the lines of religion/Burma or language/Canada. The salient points are (1) that they are all made up of contending fractions and factions (2) these fractions are hubs around which electoral power and choices are gathered. Whether one fraction is taken as socio-politically pejorative or not is not in issue. That they are fractions is matter enough. The fact is that, in the power game, no human society is homogenous.

Now, what defines democratic or electoral politics is in its representativeness. That is to say, an unrepresentative democracy is a contradiction in terms. So, for a society, say America or Nigeria, to be democratically ruled, its representativeness must be expressed in their leadership brackets. Whether it is in America or Abuja, if the sense of representativeness is breached, that government won’t last a day longer than necessary. One may recall Jimmy Carter, America’s former helmsman. His second term bid collapsed because he was too provincial to be representatively American. There was the irredeemable resentment over his Georgia Mafia, running America like it was his peanut farm. In fact, it was this provinciality or lack of representativeness that triggered other follow-up failures.

The de facto choice and appointment of key/senior personnel in any given administration is not the choice of the prospective or substantive potentate. It is really an imposition by the stakeholders and or factional publics and powers, that is, the agbawodikes, on him. It is never a charity handed out by the prospective or substantive leader, if he wins, on the rest of us.

So, when Chief Onwuka Ukwa, described as a founding father of APGA, expresses some sentiment one wondered if he had his thinking cap on. On Obi pairing Atiku, he is reported as saying: “It is only in the South East that a gift from someone should be made an issue.” (VP candidacy: Why choice of Obi rankles Southeast PDP). That is uninformed, even if well received, commentary.

First, the presidency/vice presidency offices are not owned or to be owned by Candidate/President Atiku. Thus Atiku cannot gift it or aspects of it out. The two offices belong to Nigerians and to Nigeria. And to be sustainably held, the offices must be representative of Nigeria and Nigerians. To say otherwise is to push our democratic leaders into privatising public power and commons, into electing themselves as dictators.

READ ALSO: Peter Obi: Atiku’s thunder

Perhaps, we may remind ourselves as follows: it is this same style misunderstanding, that a leader is at leisure to remake the public commons, that puts Nigeria under the Buhari conundrum. Rather than take President Muhammadu Buhari for what he is, that is, an out of job politician who successfully begged to be so employed, sycophants, etc, are telling he is a special kind, even a gift to Nigeria. So, one reads of adult third party Nigerians calling Buhari, a fellow citizen, their father. Or saying he graciously appointed them to XYZ offices. If you have such a mindset, it is time to let it go. Buhari is neither your father nor are his appointments of fellow Nigerians to offices a matter of grace. He is condemned to so appoint. And what holds true for Buhari holds true for all public office holders.

Why? The democratic diktats are these. We, the people, are the dictators to elected leaders. So, they are hired to do our will and not to indulge in their own fancies. These leaders, whether substantive or prospective, are, despite their high stations, hired labourers, at best, foremen. They are not missionaries and are not elected to do their wishes. A dictator steals and seizes power to impose his mad obsessions on the people. An elected leader is out in the field to do what he is hired for, obey his masters.

Democracies are about managing factions, it is not about homogenising composite systems. Thus politics is the art of learning to bring your friends close and your enemies even closer. In other words, in politics, you are condemned to work with whom you must, not whom you like. And smart politicians have learnt to choose their fates, to accept in grace the impositions of the public on them. In fact, America’s bellwether presidency was run by a cabinet-team of rivals, an eponymous book tells. And it is worthy to remind ourselves that Obama tellingly acknowledges the same book as the one book he will bet on if he ever was stranded in a desert.

So, while the Atiku-Obi ticket is inspired, the following must be understood: the ticket will win only if it is representative of Nigeria and Nigerians. Two, what they do, whom they appoint, if and when they win, will also determine the viability of their government. Ahiazuwa.

READ ALSO: Atiku/Obi ticket: S’West Igbo leader to Ndigbo: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket