How To Resolve Nigeria's Succession Crisis


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How To Resolve Nigeria's Succession Crisis




Omo Omoruyi



June 16, 2006



I know what this date represents in the Nigerian history; I was part of that date. I still recollect very vividly what happened on June 12, 1993. Before the cancellation of that event on the morning of June 23, 1993, I granted an interview which I described that event as "free, fair and credible" and after the cancellation, I called it the "Freest in Nation History". I still stand by these two statements; international reports on that event confirmed my assessment. To all Nigerians today, that exercise demonstrated that Nigerian can organise "a free, fair and credible election". Why can*t we do that today is an aspect of the politics of succession that form the subject of this lecture.


I am glad that we no longer call Chief MKO Abiola of blessed memory, the "presumed winner" but rather the winner of that election.
Under the Modified Open Ballot System (MOBS) and in accordance with the Decree governing the 1993 Presidential Election, (Decree 13 of 1993), results of the election were to be released at the various polling booths throughout the country. These figures were available to all concerned including, the military, the CDS, the candidates, the Press and the International Observers and Domestic Monitors in accordance with international practice. Chief Abiola did not need to wait for the result to be declared from the collated figures in order to know whether he won.

He knew he won as by June 12; I knew he won as that date. What was to follow by way of Chief Returning Officer announcing loudly "the total votes scored by each candidate" could also have been done as of June 15, 1993. Today, exit poll tells one results yet to be officially declared. If the outcome of the MOBS could not be used, what about "exit poll"?



If the present organizers of the forthcoming election would follow the process adopted in 1993 leading to the June 12, 1993, they would join those who organized the June 12, 1993 in the record of great but forgotten or abandoned Nigerians. It is sad that those who organized June 12 1993 election are still to be recognized by the Nigerian post 1999 authority; yet those who worked against it are the leaders of the post 1999 government parading themselves as "democrats". What a tragic irony? This is the tragedy of Nigerian political development.



Nigeria since independence has not been blessed with how one regime ends and another commences. This is a problem applicable to both military and civilian regimes.

Under the military, the Decree setting up the military government never provided for how a military junta would be succeeded by another or how a military government would transit into a civilian rule. All military officers are potential heads of state.

Under the civilian regime, there is "a boundary on rulers" that we call the Constitution. The Constitution makes it clear as to how one government would begin and how it would end or succeeded by another one. This is usually through an election. Nigeria has never been blessed with a democratically elected political order that ends well.

We will recall how the government of Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1959-1966) ended; we still can recall how the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari (1979-1983) ended.

The third one, the current one under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-till date) has the opportunity to learn from the fate of the 1st and 2nd democratically elected civilian governments and end in accordance with the Constitution. One would have thought that from his age and experience, he knew of the fate of the two democratically elected governments before him. But he chooses not to learn from history! There was no reason why that administration was afflicted with the virus called "tenure elongation", or "third term".

Even though the "tenure elongation" is constitutionally dead, its ghost is haunting the political class. The President is still basing his policy on his view of the death of the "tenure elongation". He now wants to punish the anti-third term Nigerians and reward the supporters. He wants to install a successor who is a third termer and who would continue in his image. This plan will also suffer the fate of the ill-fated "third term" or "tenure elongation".

The plan to use the governors he called thieves yesterday to commence the nomination process for his successor is a recipe for disaster. We are going to make the same mistakes of the past. We don*t need reluctant leaders.

His plan raises such question as the Place of Vice-President under the Presidential System. the Nomination of a Presidential Candidates and a Level Playing Field for all Nigerian Contestants. This lecture is meant to address some of these issues as part of my contribution to the subject of this seminar titled, "Redefining Nigeria*s Political Destiny".

My view is that the Presidential System is good; the practitioners should be blamed. I am taking up from this. Alhaji Shehu Shagari understood it but Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has difficulty understanding it, hence the current crisis with the Presidential Ticket. I shall take off from this the Presidential Ticket.



The Presidential Ticket (President and Vice President is an experience that is new; we had two in Nigeria Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Dr. Alex Ekwueme (1979-1983) and Obasanjo-Atiku (1999-?). Under the military, there was no status for a number 2 as General Abacha put it. A military rule was essentially a "one man rule" with potential "heads of state" in the waiting.

An open rift between the President and the Vice President within the Presidential ticket is unusual. I can vouch for this as a member of the Constituent Assembly that it was never anticipated during the debate in the Constituent Assembly in 1977/1978 (see Volume 11 of the Proceedings of the Constituent Assembly) that there would be an open rift between the President and the Vice President as we have been observing in Nigeria since 2003. Who is at fault?

How can this be resolved? My answer to these questions is that it is the President who made the appointment of the Vice President from a pool of party men. Once it is made, it cannot be unmade; hence he should take steps to save his Presidency by ensuring that there is "unity in the executive". It is not the work of the Party - the PDP as the case may be.



A Presidential ticket is a practice we copied hook, line and sinker from the United States in 1979 just as we copied the Fundamental Obligation and Directive Principle of State Policy Sections 13-25 of 1999 Constitution from India. Pakistan and Bangladesh also copied this from India for obvious reason.
For an understanding of the link between the President and the Vice President, the Constitution is clear that the President is not a complete entity until he has a V.P (see Section 142 of the 1999 Constitution). They are two in one, in fact, Siamese twins.



Because we copied from the U.S, for a discussion of the relationship between the President and the Vice President, we should reach for what is expected of the V.P under the U.S Constitution. The first ticket was made up of two leaders of the Revolution-General George Washington and John Adams, V.P. John Adams later succeeded George Washington after two terms. It should be noted that the founding fathers of the U.S. Constitution did not set a term limit until 1951, with the 22nd Amendment that set a two term limit of four years each.

From the U.S where we copied from, the relationship between the President and the Vice-President is one of mutual respect. They treat themselves as colleagues. It is not one of superordinate subordinate relationship where the President is the master and the V.P, the servant. The President is designated "head of the ticket" in some books. One needs not imagine Senator John Kennedy as the Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party picking his majority leader, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, a tower of strength in the South who competed with him in the Presidential primaries as his subordinate.



Two principles were established from the beginning and a third principle came later. The two early principles are:
1. That the Vice President would be "an automatic successor" to take over from the President if a vacancy should occur in the No. I office under three conditions death, resignation and removal from office (impeachment). This is the origin of a "heart-beat away" to describe its uniqueness.

2. That the V.P would meet the condition of "balance". North-South; New York - Virginia; Conservative Liberal.
The third principle is that the V.P must look "Presidential". This principle arose from the reality of automatic succession from death through assassination etc. This will be further elucidated later below.

The Vice President, as an institution has been a subject of detailed study especially after when it is obvious that no one could change it. See A Heartbeat Away. Report of the Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on the Vice President (1988). Also see J. Goldstein, The Modern American Vice Presidency. The Transformation of a Political Institution (1983). The most recent study by an authority on the institution of the Vice Presidency remarked "there are many good things in the Constitution, but the Vice Presidency isn*t one of them (See Richard D. Friedman "Some Modest Proposals on the Vice Presidency" in Michigan Law Review, Vol. 86 June 1988) pp.1703-1734 at p.1703.

One hopes that the Nigerian Political Scientists would subject the Nigerian experiment to a detailed study soon. We do not yet have a published work on the Nigerian experiment. Maybe the rift between President Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku would compel such a study. It is a good subject for a doctoral dissertation.



How the Vice President is chosen in the U.S varies from one period to another. It used to be competed for at the same Convention when and where the President was chosen. Today, it is essentially the prerogative of the Presidential candidate.

The majority of the U.S. V.Ps are from the list of rivals during the Presidential primaries. This means that in addition to being a standby automatic successor and a balance, a Vice Presidential nominee must look "Presidential". This is the third principle above.

What this means is that the U.S voters are looking for a Vice President who does not need further training and must be prepared for the office of President if a vacancy should occur. The Americans also believe that the V.P must be prepared to run if he wants after the tenure of the President. As Daniel C. DiIler puts it: "The importance of the Vice President is evident when its occupant is called upon to succeed the President" See C. Diller and Stephen I. Robertson, The President. First Ladies and Vice Presidents. (CQ Press Washington D.C. 2005).

In very recent past, the world saw how V.P Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded President John F. Kennedy in 1963 when the later was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. It happened instantaneously. V.P Johnson only had to reach for a judge to administer the oath of allegiance and the oath of office to him and he became President instantaneously from Dallas. The dead President*s widow became the wife of the former President and the wife of the former V.P became the First Lady also instantaneously. Are Nigerians ready to allow the Constitution work? This is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when the V.P is taken as "an automatic standby generator" ready to light the environment if darkness suddenly comes over the country through death.

This was why the first occupant of the Office of the Vice President in the U.S John Adams said:
"I am Vice President; in this I am nothing, but I may be everything"
(See Diller and Robertson)
The world also witnessed how two unelected men occupied the position of President and Vice President in 1974. The Founding Father of the U.S. Constitution never anticipated a situation and time where and when the voters would not have the four yearly opportunity to make a genuine choice of who governs them. It happened in 1974 and the Republic survived. I am referring to the ticket of Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller, unelected President and Vice President respectively. See Arthur Schlesinger. "On the Presidential Succession" Political Science Quarterly Vol.89, 1974.



(a) Alhaji Shehu Shagari Alex Ekwueme.
Shagari when asked recently of his working relationship with Dr. Alex Ekwueme, he had this to say:
"I worked with the V.P as a colleague and there had never been any disagreement between us. We worked in harmony".
Vanguard April 3, 2006.

Alhaji Shagari paid tremendous tributes to Dr. Ekwueme. According to him, Alex was respectful to me. I liked him very much because he had a great deal of respect for me.

And he appreciated the way I brought him in, even though he was not among the candidates for Vice President".
(Vanguard, April 3 2006).

It should be noted that Alhaji Shagari did not talk of personal loyalty. Being from a civilian background with many years of civilian life and as a politician, he knew that there was nothing called 100% loyalty expected of two politicians, a requirement expected of officers in the army in the war front. Political life cannot be compared with a war front and actors in politics cannot be compared with combatants in war. This is an issue that Nigeria would continue to face unless the military officer turned-politician sees himself more as a politician than as a military officer. I tried to deal with the issues involved in this transformation in the past. See Omo Omoruyi "From Khaki to Agbada CDS" (1991).

On whether he would support Dr. Ekwueme as his successor at the end of the second term, Alhaji Shagari said he did not anticipate any problem. To the question, "if the military did not in December 1983 interrupt your second term would you have had any problem with your Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme succeeding you"? "No! I wouldn*t". See Vanguard. April 3, 2006.

Alhaji Shagari also dwelt on why he settled for Dr. Ekwueme after he was disappointed with his first choice, a woman. Nigerians should have been surprised with Alhaji Shehu Shagari*s first choice of V.P who was to be a woman- Mrs. Abigail Ukpabi, a colleague of his from the Constituent Assembly days. This still remains unexplored aspect of the life of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. He wanted to make history. Writers or women in politics are still to dwell on this. (See Shagari*s Memoir, Beckoned to Serve and his recent Vanguard interview).

He saw in Dr. Ekwueme, an opportunity just as he wanted to do with his choice of a woman to break away from the old guard the Mbadiwes of this world, and wanted to have a window to the new generation of lbos. This was why he wanted a woman and when that failed, he settled for a younger and relatively unknown man, Dr. Alex Ekwueme.

According to AIhaji Shagari:
"I did not know him at all. However, I told the party that although I did not know the man at all, from his credentials, he seemed to be the type of man I could work with, learned. From his credentials, I knew he had no connections at all with the old establishment and so would be helpful to me because most of my party leaders belonged to the old brigade. We wanted a fresh young man who would tell us the views of the younger generation and balance our progress". (Vanguard interview above)

(b) Chief Olusegun Obasanjo - Alhaji Abubakar Atiku
There is nothing on record as to the qualities Chief Obasanjo wanted in his choice when he chose Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, a Governor-elect from Adamawa, a leader of a formidable political machine, the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM).

Only recently did the issue of "military loyalty" come into the picture. It would appear that Chief Obasanjo was not looking for a colleague but a subordinate officer like in the army who would be 100% loyal to him personally. One could ask some pertinent questions.

Did Chief Obasanjo tell Alhaji Atiku this in 1999? Did Alhaji Atiku know this? If he knew as a politician, would he have accepted the offer?
What is loyalty outside the two oaths prescribed in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution — the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office? This is a very serious matter that the Founding Fathers of Presidential System never thought about. Did the Founding Fathers ever think of a situation and like where and when other oaths would be administered just as Chief Obasanjo demanded of Alhaji Atiku later?

The country must have been shocked (I was one of the Founding Fathers of the Presidential System) when Chief Obasanjo told the nation that he would not trust Alhaji Atiku as to his loyalty to him when he refused to swear to an oath of loyalty on the Bible and Koran. This would have been a third Oath. Is a combination of the Bible and Koran valid in law?



The Constitution of the Presidential System since 1979 till date makes the Vice President the automatic successor to the office of the President under three conditions (death, resignation and impeachment).

Alhaji Shehu Shagari, being one of the founders of the Presidential System in Nigeria, did not see anythiitg wrong with the V.P succeeding him automatically in office would the unexpected, death, happened. Hence Alhaji Shagari was opposed to the earlier amendment to the Constitution by the PDP to have two VPs. A two VP plan is a reflection of what President Obasanjo thinks about the prospect of VP Atiku as the sole VP as an automatic successor should he die in office.

What is bothering one is that the 1979 Constitution was as a result of two exercises the final work of the Constituent Assembly of which Alhaji Shehu Shagari was a part and the final verdict of the Supreme Military Council headed by then General Olusegun Obasanjo. Alhaji Shagari still believed in that Constitutional provision; it would appear that Chief Obasanjo who headed the military that approved it, did not. It would appear that Chief Obasanjo as a civilian President has reason to think otherwise today. Otherwise why the fuse!

Under the two VP plan, Chief Obasanjo was bringing his idea of loyalty to play here. Should he die in office after the amendment, the VP from his area i.e. a Yoruba VP who is loyal to him personally and who might have sworn to a Yoruba God with him would automatically succeed him. This was a reflection of the way he saw the current VP, a Fulani from Adamawa and a Muslim who refused to swear on a combined Bible and Koran with him and who would under the 1999 Constitution, succeed him if he should die in office. He knew that this could be a possibility.

He was aware from the U.S recently that this could happen. Of course, this is not an issue in the U.S. It should be noted that in the 200 years of the U.S history, nine VPs became Presidents when the incumbent died or resigned. For the interest of readers, the nine Vice Presidents who became Presidents were: John Tyler (1841); Millard Fillmore (1850); Andrew Johnson (1865); Chester A. Arthur (1881); Theodore Roosevelt (1901); Calvin Coolidge (1923); Harry S. Truman (1945),; Lyndon B. Johnson (1963) and Gerald R. Ford (1974). (See Daniel C. Diller and Stephen I. Roberts on The Presidents. First Ladies and Vice Presidents, CQ Press Washington DC, 2005 pg 2005



Now, let us look at the practice in the two cases in Nigeria:
Shagari - Ekwueme and Obasanjo - Atiku and examine how the Presidential candidates made the choice. All the two principles from the U.S, which are succession and balance, are still adhered to in Nigeria. But Nigerians do not yet have the experience of automatic succession in a democracy if the President should die in office.

This was heavily debated in 1978 in the Constituent Assembly before the U.S practice was adopted. Why is this an issue today. The reason is obvious - no Nigerian especially in public office dies of natural causes. We had a military experience in 1976 and in 1998. The succession in the military regime in 1976 and in 1998 was not provided for in the Decree setting up the military regime. How the military resolved it cannot be used to discuss how the matter would be addressed in a civilian era governed by a Constitution. Hence the succession rule must be provided for in a civilian rule.

The two systems Military and Civilian are not comparable. In the civilian era, there is a law. How Shagari interpreted it is different from how Obasanjo is interpreting it today.



Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the Achebe Foundation interview in the Vanguard of March 20, and April 3, 2006, dwelt extensively on how he came to his decision on Dr. Alex Ekwueme in 1979. We are looking to Chief Obasanjo*s piece on how he came to the decision on Alhaji Atiku in 1999.

Dr. Alex Ekwueme never harboured any presidential ambition. He only wanted to be a Governor of Anambra State. When he was defeated during the gubernatorial primary in 1978 by Chief C. C. Onoh, it would appear that he dropped any idea of running for any office in 1979.

Alhaji Atiku on the other hand had a presidential ambition from 1992. It is a matter of record and Nigerians knew this. I was a witness to his quest up till the Jos Convention of SDP under the Option A4 in 1993. He came to the final nomination race as the "favourite son of Adamawa to vie with such known Nigerian as Chief MKO Abiola and Amb. Baba Gana Kingibe. The question is did Chief Obasanjo know that Alhaji Atiku was an ambitious person who had since 1990*s wanted to be an elected President of Nigeria when he chose him as his VP in 1999? This is an issue we should examine within the context of what Chief Obasanjo had in mind when he chose him as his Vice President.

When I read of his choice far away in the U.S, I came to one and only one conclusion then that Chief Obasanjo chose a young man, a democrat who would be his successor, if he died suddenly or after his tenure of four or eight years.

The onus is on Chief Obasanjo today to tell the world what he had in mind when he made that choice. This is the only function of the Vice President. This is why it is called "the heart-beat away". This brings us to the current debate leading to the politics of amendments and the 2007.



President Obasanjo acknowledged Atiku as a "disloyal Vice President"; Other PDP leaders knew him as an ambitious man with a plan to succeed the President in 2007. The CNN programme took the VP as a leader of the "corrupt" Governor in Nigeria. This is why President Obasanjo does not think of him as his successor in 2007. Hence he made the PDP to first toy with the idea of a system with two Vice Presidents so that should he die before the end of his tenure, the VP from the South West with him and who might have taken a special oath outside the two prescribed in the Constitution would be his automatic successor. Later, the PDP led Mantu Committee provided for a permanent institution of a Vice President who would remain a Vice President but would not be allowed to succeed the President automatically should a vacancy occur in that office. This is a retrograde step.

In the Mantu*s draft it was stated:
Where the office of President becomes vacant by reason of death, removal, incapacity to discharge the functions of the office or resignation, the Vice President shall hold office for a period of not more than six months during which time, an election of a new President from the zone of the former President shall be held to complete the unexpired term of office.

Under the foregoing amendment, if it were passed, the VP as an automatic successor would have been jettisoned. We would have had a permanent institution of VP who would not be allowed to succeed the President for the reason given above. But Atiku had amassed great strength in 2003. Nevertheless I noticed when I arrived Nigeria in 2004 that the VP Atiku had control over the Party. I also noticed that most of the PDP Governors saw him as the would-be President come 2007. But President Obasanjo thought differently.

President Obasanjo set out to politically destroy VP Atiku when he commenced his 2nd term in 2003. This was the stage we are today. It is generally acknowledged that Alhaji Atiku is not the candidate of OBJ in 2007 and that President Obasanjo will do every thing to chase him out of the party (PDP) before the commencement of the primaries. Can he and how?

This is a question many commentators have been addressing especially when the VP openly dramatised his disagreement with his boss over his boss’ quest for a third term or tenure elongation.

To the PDP unelected leaders, this was tantamount to anti-party activity. Is this in accordance with the PDP Constitution? On such a fundamental issue, the party needs to handle this very carefully.



Now that the third term issue is resolved against President Obasanjo and the PDP and for Alhaji Atiku and for Nigeria, one question is critical, i.e what can President Obasanjo do to VP Alhaji Atiku today?



What OBJ can do to Atiku now or in the nearest future is an issue that was seriously discussed before, during and immediately after the debate on "tenure elongation".

Expelling or suspending Atiku from the Party is an option. Applying this option in the hand of Dr. Ahmadu Ali and his national leadership, could destroy the PDP. Alhaji Atiku would be the beneficiary. Is this what the President wants?

Impeaching VP Atiku is not a possibility because the number is not there in the National Assembly. Infact, the process could turn against the number one on the ticket, President Obasanjo. Is this what the President wants? This will be part of the unanticipated consequencies of trying to impeach the VP.
Maybe forcing him to resign is a possibility, but how? VP Atiku has made it clear that he would not resign and would stay on the ticket until 2007.

If God had His way, this is something we cannot discuss because Nigerians in public places especially those in the leadership do not want to be reminded that death could come one day and put an end to a grand plan of executing the myth of indispensability. Christians and Muslims know that when, where and how death would come cannot be determined by mortals. The Founding Fathers of the Presidential system in 1979 in Nigeria realised this and did not hesitate to buy the U.S draft.
The PDP today is playing God, just as the military of yester years played God. Lest I forget, the same people (called militicians) were involved in the two episodes. Did President realise that those who handled General Abacha*s self-succession project were the ones handling the "tenure elongation"? Nigerian who believes in democracy had no alternative but to kill it.



I wish to advise President Obasanjo to be careful in the face of threat from the leaders of PDP who strongly believe that VP Atiku should be tried for anti party activities. The onus is on President Obasanjo who should safeguard the institution of the Presidency. It is Chief Obasanjo who can do this. It is not the unelected PDP officials.

May I strongly advise President Obasanjo that any attempt to undermine the VP would rub off on the President as both the VP and the President constitute the integral whole - a ticket in the Constitution, Section 142 and 143. This is the Constitutional provision. President Obasanjo should prevail on his handlers in the PDP National Secretariat that the Presidential ticket should not be broken. This is the first issue that we should note.

The second issue that should be considered is whether the immunity that the VP enjoys is limited to the Court of Law alone. Will this not be extended to him in the "Court of the Party"? I surely think so. If the VP cannot be charged and tried in the court of law, he should not also be tried by the leaders of the PDP as a court and jury of lesser men and women. The charge of anti-party activity should not be extended to the President, Vice President and Governors who enjoy immunity in the court of law.

Third that the office of the VP is over and above the National Secretariat of the PDP. One would recall when the National Secretary of the PDP cautioned state branches of the party not to try any national officers. Wouldn't the argument that the National Secretariat, a lesser organ than the Presidency could not also try the Vice President an integral part of the Presidency, who is senior to any member of the National Secretariat? It should be obvious to the National Chairman and the National Secretary of the PDP that, if the President is the National leader of the party, the VP is the Deputy National leader. This is the practice in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where the VP is the Deputy Chairman of three key statutory bodies where the President is the Chairman — the Council of State, the National Defence Council and the National Security Council.

If the President does not know this, let him be cautioned that any attempt to denigrate the office of the VP would also affect the office of the President, since the choice of AIh. Atiku was his sole responsibility in 1999. He should protect his decision. Not to do this would amount to his failure. Why did he settle for Atiku in preference to older people like Adamu Ciroma etc?

In the US, the choice of any person as a running mate of a Presidential candidate is the first duty that a nominee performs. Does this not apply to Nigeria? I think so. The way the nominee does so tells volumes as to how he would handle the affairs of the nation. This is the way the US voters take it. One wonders if that was not the way Nigerians took the action taken by AIh. Shagari and Chief Obasanjo in 1979 and 1998 respectively? It would appear that the choice made by both had implication on the character of the two Presidents.

One would recall an incident in the U.S. in 1972 when the Democratic Presidential Candidate made a blunder with his nominee. George McGovern learnt of the effect of a hurried decision in a hard way when he did not make a thorough searching scrutiny of his choice of a VP with a history of mental illness. It was the media that revealed that on three occasions his VP nominee, Engleton, had received electric shock treatments for depression and fatigue. See Southwick, Presidential Running Mates 1783-1980(1984).

Thirty years after Alh. Shagari left office; he still pours encomiums on Dr. Alex Ekwueme.
It would appear that before the end of his tenure, Chief Obasanjo had written the testimonial of Alh. Atiku as the most "disloyal" Vice President. Who is at fault? One would leave this to history.

My final advice is that the PDP headed and managed by unelected Nigerians should leave President Obasanjo and Vice President Alhaji Atiku alone, who are democratically elected to sort out their relationship. The unelected PDP officials should appreciate that the constitution calls President/Vice President a Presidential ticket that is over and above the PDP.

Did Nigerians know that they were gradually being prepared for a one man rule? This was what would have emanated from the above amendment if it had become part of the Constitution. This would have killed the idea of a ticket as we knew it from the 1979 Constitution. The death of the third term project is not the end of the threat to the Presidential System. The debate only signifies the opportunity to examine some salient issues such as the position of the Vice President under the Presidential System of Government and other issues such as the nomination of a Presidential candidate etc.

May I use this forum to call on my colleagues, the Political Scientists and the Media to hold a Round-table on the theme, "Role of the Vice President under the Presidential System".

If time allows, I am adding two extra papers to this lecture - Nomination of Presidential candidates.


Now that the "third term" project had failed, the President is bent on formally excluding those who contributed to the failure of the "third term" in the National Assembly from the Presidential nomination process. The use of the Governors as the instrument of throwing up his successor is a contradiction in many respects. On the one hand, he is unleashing the EFCC after them; he openly calls some of them thieves and at another time, the CNN documentary called the V.P the leader of corrupt State Governors. These are the same Governors who are to originate a successor to Obasanjo from among themselves! These are the same Governors who are operating as if they are zonal champions itching to defend zonal rights. These are the some Governors who are now being told by the President to jettison old agreement under which he become President in 1999. Everything about this smells of the "tenure elongation", it would crash.

As a way out, what I am proposing is for the political parties to revisit the nomination plan of 1993. This is what we call Option A4.
We must deal with the issue of "turn by turn" or "rotation" in the choice of Presidential candidates. We faced the issue during and after the botched Presidential primaries in 1992. A system had to be devised that tackle the following issues.
1. that Presidential nomination should be open to all Nigerians;
2. that every State or ethnic group has a potential President who should be given opportunity to compete With other potential Presidents;
3 that every State should be encouraged to come up with "their favourite sons and daughters" to compete with other favourite sons and daughters for nomination at the the national level.
4 that States not zones being units in the Federation should be allowed to express a preference that would be made known at the national convention. If not our son, who else?

5 that the "turn by turn" should be left to parties and voters to decide. This is what we call the interplay of democratic political forces;
6. That every State has its likes and dislikes i.e. its conception of who they will prefer as President of Nigeria and who can lead the country.
General Babangida resolved the above by making the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to include it among its Options as an Option that guarantees that all Presidential candidates would emerge through four levels: the Ward, the Local Government and the State Congresses and ending with the National Convention. This happened to be the fourth option in a list of eight options submitted by NEC to the President for consideration. The 8 options were numbered Al, A2, A3, A4 to A8 and A4 happened to be the preferred option. There is nothing so called Option A4 in Political Science literature or in the Oxford Dictionary of political terms.

I still recall how the President had to appeal to all Nigerian ethnic groups to screen their candidates and prepare them to commence their political journey as provided for in the Option. One would recall how many important Nigerians including General Yakubu Gowon, Chief M.K.O. AbioIa and Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule commenced their political journey from their wards in Wasasa (Zaria), Abeokuta and Kano respectively. Gowon made it from the Ward to the Local Government, but he could not go beyond there; Chief Abiola made it to the National level and Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule could not make it at the Ward level.

Some Nigerians who are itching to seek the Presidential election today under the auspices of various parties would not succeed under method of nomination. Some would drop at the Ward level and some could make it to the National level. State and ethnic groups applying their yardstick as their preferred likes and dislikes would instruct their delegates at the national convention to negotiate with favourite sons/daughters from some States at crucial stage at the national convention. This was how it worked at Jos and Port-Harcourt in 1993 observed by representatives of the U.S, U.K. and Japan leading to the emergence of Bashorun M. K. 0. Abiola and Alhaji Bashir Tofa under the SDP and NRC respectively.

How could this be brought about and enforced in all the political parties? This again raises the question of the number of political parties that should be allowed to vie for the Office of the President. A system of two parties would be ideal for the kind of Presidential System that we copied from the U.S. just as it is in the

The beauty of a two sprawling national parties for the Presidential election is that it would cut across ethnic and regional divide. The negotiation that would take place under the Option A4 is only possible under a two party system that already cut across ethnic and regional divide.



The closest to Option A4 in terms of allowing all and sundry to vie for offices is in the practice in Bangladesh that was adopted as the 13th Amendment to the Blangladesh Constitution in 1991. This is a unique feature that was the choosing of all the political parties in Bangladesh. I am still to see it replicated anywhere in the Commonwealth. The relevant section in the Bangladesh Constitution is made part of this lecture as an appendix to this paper.
If the Nigerian political class is serious and if they are committed to a credible democratic election, they should behave like the Bangladesh politicians and adopt a variant of what I call the Bangladesh Formula.

Under this amendment, the general election in Bangladesh is usually held under NEUTRAL NON-PARTY CARETAKER GOVERNMENT. The closest to this were the Colonial Government that conducted the 1959 Independence Election, and the Military Government that conducted the 1979 and 1993 elections. They were "neutral non-party governments". The conductors were not candidates. The closest to this was the advice given by Alhaji Yusuf Maitama SuIe warning Chief Obasanjo not to get involved with election of his successor. My view is that this is a continuation of the ill-fated third term agenda, if President Obasanjo continues to force on Nigeria his successor and Nigerians would see that such and reject it.



For the first time, under the Bangladesh formula the voter would be the king by making his or her vote to be his or her voice. The anti-democratic elements in Nigeria are oblivious to this as they show their contempt for the voter in many ways by declaring that there is "no vacancy in Aso Rock" despite the law, which says that the position shall be filled by competitive election.

On the information sheet in the www on Bangladesh, it is stated that:
Through this system the people of Bangladesh got back their lost right to vote freely and independently without the pressures of the reigning government.
The Nigerian people need to get back their lost right to nominate their candidate and vote freely and independently without the pressure of unelected party chiefs that abound in all the parties.

This is what we need in Nigeria today. We want to be able to say that the Nigerian voters for the first time in an election organized under the civilian era shall have got their lost right.

Under the Bangladesh formula candidates are free in two ways:
(1) The fear of security agencies and EFCC intimidating would be candidate challenging the office holders would not arise;
(2) The fear of security agencies taking over the election as was reported in the media in the 2003 election would be a thing of the past.
The beauty of the Bangladesh plan is that the new Caretaker Body would also take over these agencies, the military and the police during the period covering the election process. This means that the Federal or State Government media and the security agents would be removed from the control of any candidates since they would not be doubling as officials and candidates. Since the security officials are under the caretaker body, no candidates would be able to intimidate other candidates and the voters.

The voters would for the first time be free to judge the records of the party of the former office holders with the other contenders. Put simply, the plan would take definite steps as follows:

(1) The party of the outgoing President through the new Presidential Candidate would have opportunities to Challenge the claims and sell themselves. The voters as the KING would be the arbiters.

(2) Under the plan all the candidates would enjoy for the first time equal protection under the law as candidates if the outgoing President no longer is in charge of all the security agents. All the candidates will have equal opportunity to make their case if the outgoing President is no longer in charge of the public media of communication like the Radio Nigeria, the TV, Daily Times and New Nigeria and a host of State Mass Media.

(3) Under the plan at the State level, the parties of the outgoing Governors would also have the opportunity to parade themselves with what they did in four or so years as the basis for asking for a second term. Their challengers should also be ready to go to the people with their plan. The voters will be the judges.
(4) For the Senators and others, they would also have to go back to their constituencies and face their challengers.

(5) Under this plan, all the elected officials including the President, the Governors and Assemblymen will have to vacate their official quarters immediately after the Term of office. There would be a symbolic declaration of vacancy in Aso Rock and in all the State Government Houses awaiting the end of the election when they would be filled or occupied by the newly elected persons.

(6) Under this plan, all officials should also surrender the official vehicles.
(7) All the state security details would be extended to the Presidential candidates of all parties. All the security details not available to others would also be denied former office holders.

This is what is meant by a level playing field in an election. This is what all candidates, political parties and civil societies should be demanding. This is how the independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission can actually be guaranteed.



For the attention of party leaders, this would be an opportunity for them to get their freedom back. They would get the freedom of action that would enable them to provide the needed level playing field for all aspirants in their respective political parties. The system of allowing those who were enjoying government patronage (Ministers. Commissioner. Chairmen of Boards) to be members of the Convention as was the case under the PDP would no longer be allowed. All these would go with the outgoing President. Nigerians did not believe the PDP National Chairman in 2003 when he said that all the aspirants seeking the endorsement of the PDP would have a level playing field with President Obasanjo during the Convention of the party. Did Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Senator Ike Nwachukwu and others, who were seeking the nomination of the PDP have a chance with the President of the country who were also an aspirant for nomination of the party? This was what Dr. Ekwueme and Co. should have done in 2002 to agitate for a level playing field with the President before the party*s National Convention.

The fear of Nigerians during the third term debate can that if it were passed, President Obasanjo would be returned "unopposed" in the PDP National Convention as was done during the series of Congresses and Convention of the PDP in 2005. He would have been elected President so planned by the third termers. How do they plan to do it? Any assumption that he can be defeated is not part of the plan of the third termers.

Under the Bangladesh plan this would be an opportunity to have political parties as we would want and not political parties that are tied to the apron string of the Executive or political parties that operate as arm of regional/ethnic organisations.

Under this plan, there should be a rigid application of the Constitution that only makes the political parties the sole body to sponsor candidates in election and campaign for them. There should be a legislation that would prescribe penaJty for any breach of this provision in the Constitution.



The number of political parties makes the suggestion of all party affairs in Nigeria unacceptable. In the U.S, the Federal mission (FEC) is made up of equal number from the two political parties and the Chairmanship rotates between the two parties. Where one party produces the Chairman, the other party produces the Vice Chairman. There is no way that this practice can operate in Nigeria. Hence the suggestion of the leaders of the Patriot, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Senator Abraham Adesanya for an All-Party INEC would not be a solution to the issue of a level playing field. There are at the moment thirty-seven political parties with a possibility of having more. With the best will in the world, no consensus can be formed around thirty-seven parties when it comes to the issue of political competition. It is a level Playing field that they all want and they would NOT get it from All-Party Government. But they can get it from a Caretaker Government. if we adopt the Bangladesh Formula or a variant of it.



It should be noted that it is not the specific of the Bangladesh Formula that we need. What is critical is the principle behind the Formula. We should also understand and appreciate why the people of Bangladesh came by it. There are three principles governing this Formula that I wish to commend to the political class in Nigeria.
* That the party in power or the government in power should NOT be entrusted with the organization of election while in office;
* That no person should double as an office holder and as a candidates in any election. This means that the same Government officials should not be candidates in the election;

* That election should be entrusted to a neutral body that would provide or guarantee a level playing field for all the political parties.
The Bangladesh Constitution is very clear in the relevant amendment Chapter 114 Section 58D that spells out the two functions of the Caretaker Administration as "routine functions" and "election".
How do we apply these principles to Nigeria? Let me make some suggestions. They are just suggestions and nothing more.
Any suggestions within the three principles should be considered.



What would be required are:
(a) That President and other elected persons at the Abuja and at the State capitals should take themselves out of the administration of elections.
(b) That in order to make No.1 operational, the office holders would have to end their various terms at the end of the term and vacate the offices and residences of the State.

(c) That the office holders would formally hand over to a new body, the Caretaker or an interim body. Are they free to contest elections? Someone had asked that since they are not to be involved in the management of the election, if they would be free to seek a reelection?
By the nature of plural composition of the States and of Nigeria, the term of the Governor and the President
should be restricted to one term. Therefore they would Not be free to participate in the election. They should allow the interplay of political forces to produce other candidates.

Under this plan from 2007, all office holders should vacate office at the end of the current term and they would not double as office holders and as candidates at the same time. This is lust one part of the Bangladesh Formula. The second part is that the office holders should have nothing to do with the election at the end of their tenure of office.



The invitation directs me to be futuristic. This is what I tried to do in this lecture. It assumes that the past and the present should be left alone. I believe so too. The first generation Nigerian political class inherited a country designed for them by the British and they never had time to reinvent the British design. They had to face many issues arising from the mistake or benefit of 1914 or of 1959/60 which were responsible for the series of military adventures and the politics of zoning, rotation and power shift that are based on the ethnic religion and regional factors.

The data is there; the Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS) found out that there was a progressive reduction of the political salience of ethnicity and religion by the time we had the series of elections in 1991-1993.

Sometime we forget that a Presidential ticket made up of Muslim-Muslim was once supported by Christians and Muslim alike in 1993.
Sometime we forget that this was possible under a system of two parties that cut across ethnic and religious divide.
The system of nomination of Presidential candidate that recognised the interplay of political forces is what I want us to revisit as we ponder over the future. The future of Nigerian democracy is bright if we take the hard decision above.

For the future, we should return to the system of nomination that reduces the political salience of ethnicity and religion.
For the future, we must reduce the power of incumbency in the choice of his successor and in determining the fate of his rival.
Above all, we should study the Constitutron. A thorough understanding of the Constitution would have been a solution to the crisis within the Presidential ticket since 2003. This is why I devoted alot of attention to the issue. The system worked under the Alhaji Shehu Shagari - Dr. Alex Ekwueme administration, and it is not working under the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo-Alhaji Abubakar Atiku administration. Why? Whose fault? I will leave this to the issue of political education.



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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.