AFTER weeks of low-key backroom jostling and shenanigans, the Nigerian political system has thrown up Alhaji Namadi Muhammed Sambo, who was until his appointment, the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, as the third Vice President in the contemporary phase of our democratic system.
Sambo, whose appointment was ratified on Tuesday by both Houses in the National Assembly, was sworn-in yesterday, thus filling the vacuum created in that institution by formal ascension to the Presidency of his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Considering the political tempest, which accompanied the debacle and dissension over the late President Umaru Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s incapacitation in the context of the politics of succession, Samboâ€™s main role will be that of a stabiliser and balancer of the institution of the Presidency in the unusual times we find ourselves.
Fortunately, Sambo comes to his new turf, not just with the impressive credential of having successfully governed the multi-ethnic and multi-religious state of Kaduna, but also as one who has had diversified and rich experience in several bureaucratic and political positions. His relative anonymity and reticence are ideally suited to an office created as second fiddle and to which the constitution assigns very few specific duties. A more colourful and emphatic political gladiator would probably, in our circumstances, have been inappropriate if not counterproductive, considering President Jonathanâ€™s own placid, but far from colourless mien and disposition.
As is well known, a Vice President in a presidential system where the president is both head of state and head of government, is only as powerful as the President chooses to make him. In the best of circumstances, the Vice President becomes the Presidentâ€™s close confidant and adviser, in the process extending and complementing presidential imprimatur on the national and international terrains. This kind of constructive symbiosis was a hallmark of the former American President, Bill Clintonâ€™s presidency, where Vice President Al-Gore was given charge of several aspects of domestic and international policy, a feature replicated under President George Bush with Vice President Dick Cheney. Here in Nigeria, former President, Olusegun Obasanjoâ€™s first term provided a nice illustration of the rewards of a cooperative relationship between the President and his Vice. The intragovernmental tumult witnessed in his second term was in part a sorry testimonial of the conflictual relationship between himself and his Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
In sum, the constitution mandates the Vice President to work in tandem with the President, who in the final analysis, determines whether the Vice President would be consigned to irrelevance or will constitute a backstage dynamo for extending the creativity and productivity of the President. There is no reason, given the antecedents of the occupants of the highest offices in the land why nice blending rather than factious disagreeableness should not become the defining factor of the Presidency viewed corporately. Working together, the two of them should give Nigeria decent elections in 2011 and make a mark on rolling back our infrastructural and social debilities. Which is to say that in the remaining months between now and handover in 2011, the Vice President could either mark time by indulging in the ceremonies and protocols of his office, or he could, in a purposeful manner, join forces with the President to redeem Nigeria from its current morass of arrested development and electoral misadventures. As we have indicated, for him to make a real difference, he will have to maintain a cordial, but not unduly subservient, relationship with the President.
As he begins his work, he already has his job cut out for him in the sense that the preeminent agendum of the hour is to take the nation smoothly to the next elections and transitions. The emergence of those we may call political titans as aspirants in the race suggests that there is need for an umpire standing above the fray as well as providing a level playing ground for contestants; ensuring, in the process, that the system does not career off-course nor its stability overly threatened.
The Nigerian Compass congratulates the new Vice President and wishes him a successful tenure as he and the President seek to implement their vision for a reinvented Nigeria, while keeping a tight leash on forces and factors that have the potential to torpedo the ship of state.