18 July 2018

Nigeria: 2019 - Unmasking Vice Presidential Hopefuls

Photo: allafrica.com
Yemi Osinbajo, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Ayo Fayose.

Since the build up to the 2019 presidential election, all eyes have been focused on who will contest with President Muhammadu Buhari. In this report, JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAHshifts attention to the potential vice presidential hopefuls and their chances of getting picked as candidates for the joint tickets of various political parties.

With just few months away from the presidential primaries and the 2019 election, the die seems to have been cast for politicking, horse trading and defections. While it is certain that President Muhammadu Buhari will fly the flag of the All Progressive Congress, other political parties are yet to settle for their potential candidates. With the political atmosphere already charged and some of the presidential aspirants embarking on a nationwide tour to solicit support from governors and relevant stakeholders, some politicians lurking in the dark are studying the political map to know which direction to go.

Among the political bigwigs who are stealthily gearing up in the background are the potential vice presidential aspirants. Having settled for the deputy position, they are flowing with the tide but at the same time navigating their own course towards presidential aspirants that are likely to win the 2019 general election. It is a common notion that vice presidential candidates could easily ride on the back of a popular presidential candidate. But this thinking is mythical, as the VP hopefuls also have their bags and baggages to carry.

Since the president and vice president are elected together and not separately, Nigerians also vote for the VP but are usually much more concerned with the presidential candidate. Presidential candidates and their campaign organisations select the person they want to run as their VP once it is clear that they will get the nomination and mainly use them as a way to balance the ticket. So, if the presidential candidate is seen as inexperienced then they select a veteran politician for VP, if the president is from the North the VP may be from the South and if the president is a woman the VP may be a man. Popular politicians from large swing states are also favoured as VP candidates since their appeal may help tilt the election in the ticket's favour in that state.

Vice presidential selection can also create as many problems for a candidate as it can help with an election. The actual impact of a vice presidential nomination on an election varies greatly, with most having little direct consequence. The presidential nominee carries the ticket and makes the argument for his or her election. This, of course, is the crucial choice, while the VP nominee complements whatever weaknesses in style, ideology, or political or geographical balance, or in buying off a party faction the candidate thinks necessary.

Below are the vice presidential aspirants and their pedigree:

Yemi Osinbajo

Barring any last minute change, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will be Buhari 's running mate in the 2019 presidential election. In the last election, outside of Lagos where he served as commissioner of justice and attorney general under the administration of Bola Tinubu, Osibanjo was virtually unknown to many Nigerians. But three years down the line his stock had risen considerably.

The professor of law is in charge of the economic team of the president and has the confidence and trust of his boss. Last year, President Buhari travelled twice to the United Kingdom for a medical vacation and handed over the reigns of power to Osinbajo who performed creditably well. Many Nigerians were surprised by the way and manner he performed. President Buhari had in serveral foras praised his Vice to high heavens.

Also, there is a mutual respect between the president and his vice. Even when some fifth columnist wanted to cause a friction between the two by comparing the acting presidency of Osinbajo to that of Buhari, the former ignored the comparison and went about his duty.

The vice president's office is also in charge of the social investment programme of the administration and the president has also handed over some key assignments and responsibility to Osinbajo. Unlike previous vice presidents, Osinbajo has been very busy and active as one of the major engine rooms of the Buhari administration.

Ayo Fayose

Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, is said to be eying the vice presidential slot in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He has declared for the presidency but his party has already zoned the slot to the North. To confirm his ambition, Fayose didn't support a candidate from the South West for the chairmanship of the PDP because it will truncate his ambition of being the vice president. He threw his weight behind a candidate from the South South in a political chess game.

The Ekiti governor had been one of the most vocal critics of President Buhari and was the voice of the PDP when the party was still hanging on the precipice. He is also the chairman of the PDP governors forum. According to some analysts, the July 14 gubernatorial election in his state will determine his political future. Some keen observers of the polity aver that, while his performance as governor of Ekiti has been below average, he lacks the clout to deliver the South West to the PDP come 2019.

Peter Obi

The former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi is also a potential vice presidential candidate. His record in office was said to be impeccable and is one of the most sought-after public speakers in the country.

Before his emergence as governor in Anambra, the state was in turmoil. He brought stability, good governance and accountability to the state. He is regarded today as one of the best governors from the South East since 1999.

Obi was governor of Anambra State from March 17, 2006 to November 2, 2006, when he was impeached and from February 9, 2007 to May 29, 2007 after his impeachment was overturned. Although a fresh election was held on 29 April 2007, he was reappointed governor on June 14, 2007 after a court ruling that he should be allowed to complete a four-year term. He won a February 6, 2010 election for a second term as governor.

Giving reasons for his famous frugality, Obi once said, "Every citizen of Nigeria must be blamed for what is happening in the country. We make cost of governance to be very high. The church, the society, everybody is corrupt. This is a country where people idolise those whose sources of wealth are questionable. Almost all the states are going to the bond market borrowing money for consumption and not for production."

Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala

Former minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo- Iwella is being pushed forward by the Obasanjo coalition as the vice presidential candidate. Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria's Finance Minister and also as Minister of Foreign Affairs. She was the first female to hold both positions. During her first term as Minister of Finance under president Obasanjo's Administration, she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club of Creditors that led to the wiping out of US$30 billion of Nigeria's debt, including the outright cancellation of US$18 billion. In 2003 she led efforts to improve Nigeria's macroeconomic management, including the implementation of an oil-price based fiscal rule where revenues accruing above a reference benchmark oil price were saved in a special account, the Excess Crude Account which helped to reduce macroeconomic volatility.

She also introduced the practice of publishing each state's monthly financial allocation from the Federal Government of Nigeria in the newspapers. This action went a long way in increasing transparency in governance. With the support of the World Bank and the IMF to the Federal Government of Nigeria, she helped build an electronic financial management platform-the Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS), including the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), helping to curtail corruption in the process. As at 31 December 2014, the IPPIS platform for example had eliminated 62,893 ghost workers from the system and saved the Nigerian government about $1.25 billion in the process.

Okonjo-Iweala was also instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's in 2006. In 2011, Okonjo-Iweala was reappointed as Minister of Finance in Nigeria with the expanded portfolio of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy by President Goodluck Jonathan. Her legacy includes strengthening Nigeria's public financial systems, stimulating the housing sector with the establishment of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC). She also empowered Nigeria's women and youth with the Growing Girls and Women in Nigeria Programme (GWIN); a gender responsive budgeting system and the highly acclaimed Youth Enterprise with Innovation programme (YouWIN); a highly acclaimed programme to support entrepreneurs that created thousands of jobs.

Ike Ekweremadu

The deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, is the highest ranking Southeasterner in the government at the moment. He is currently serving as the deputy Senate president for the three consecutive time.

He has been a voice for the South East and it is rumoured that the PDP may zone its vice presidential candidate to the South East, with 2023 and 2027 in view for power to shift to the region. In 2002, Ekweremadu was appointed Secretary to the Enugu State Government. Before then he was chairman of Aninri in 1997 and won the Best Local Government Chairman Award in Enugu State at the time. He was appointed the Chief of Staff of the Enugu State Government House.

On April 12, 2003 he was elected to the Nigerian Senate. In September 2003, as vice chairman of the Senate committee on Information, Ekweremadu stated that the Senate would make a serious investigation into allegations of bribery leveled by Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. Relations between Nasir el-Rufai and the Senate continued to be hostile, and el-Rufai was eventually charged with corruption in 2008. In 2005, Ekweremadu was beaten in the race for president of the Senate of Nigeria by Senator Kenechukwu Nnamani.

In July 2006, as spokesperson for the Southern Senators' Forum, Ekweremadu denied charges that they had made an agreement to return power to the North in the 2007 elections. In September 2006, then President Olusegun Obasanjo asked the Senate to review a report by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that laid charges of fraud against Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. Ekweremadu promised to establish a committee of inquiry whose report would be submitted to the Senate, though he noted that impeachment would be difficult since it would require a 2/3 majority.

Ekweremadu was returned in the April 29, 2007 Nigerian National Assembly election, and retained his position as deputy Senate president. He was given the job of handing out committee chairmanship positions allocated to the South East zone.

He has also been one of the advocates of restructuring and state police.

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