*Says office of vice president does not carry constitutional responsibility
By Joseph Erunke, ABUJA
A constitutional lawyer,Okon Efut,SAN,has flayed attention being attached to the choice of presidential running mates in the three political parties ahead of the 2023 general elections, saying it was unnecessary.
He said the office of the vice president in the extent law does not carry responsibility except delegated duties by the president, and as such,does not warrant attention as being currently witnessed in the choice of presidential running mates.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria,SAN, reacting in a piece he titled,”The Needless Outcry Over Choice of Presidential Running Mate”, noted that the choice of running mate in the Constitution was an exclusive preserve of candidates of political parties.
Efut also said,”The raging external controversies and internal dissensions based on religious, ethnic, regional and even gender considerations” appear to to him “an unnecessary distraction, and an exercise in futility.”
“The Presidential candidates have peacefully emerged through the prescribed process of Presidential primaries. The selection of the Running Mates or Associates of the main candidates is merely to guard against the vacuum which could be created by reason of death, incapacity or impeachment of the presidential candidate, if elected into office.
“If neither of these undesirable eventualities occur, then the running mate, if he ultimately becomes the Vice-President, can only exercise powers delegated to him by the President. The 1999 constitution is very clear on this.
“It is therefore surprising to find so many Nigerians who normally would prefer to sit on the fence and abstain from partisan politics, to suddenly make a u-turn and become engrossed with controversial issues surrounding the choice of running mate in the three major political parties of PDP, APC, and LP,”he added.
The lawyer said,”Nigerians must break down mental and religious barriers and inhibitions which tend to work against their participation in partisan politics, largely based on the false notion that politics is dirty and demonic or satanic.”
While insisting that unlike the president,the vice president has no clear-cut role in the Constitution,Efut noted that,”We have been so mentally enslaved and socially depraved to believe that the container is as good as the content.
“Section 142(1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) makes it abundantly and expressly clear that the choice of the Presidential Running Mate is the exclusive preserve or prerogative of the candidate. It is the political party that nominates the presidential candidate, while the candidate in turn, nominates another candidate as his associate from the same political party to run with him, and to occupy the office of Vice-President if the main candidate wins the election.
“It is therefore needless and fruitless to engage all our energies and mental resources in disputes, controversies, contentions and dissensions over the choice of a running mate, thereby undermining the real deal- the choice of the next President of Nigeria whose constitutional powers completely overshadows the office of the Vice-President,”he said
Açcording to the Senior Advocate of Nigeria,”It is apparent from the above provision that no mention is made of the Vice-President and his role in the executive branch of government.”
“That means all executive powers and authority of the federation are vested in just one man, with no provision or requirement to share that power with the Vice-President or any other person or authority. This explains why some schools of thought have opined that the Nigerian President is a constitutional dictator, by reason of the enormous powers he enjoys, and exudes. That is not the case with the office of Vice-President under the Constitution.
“Under the Nigerian Constitution 1990 (as amended), the office of the Vice-President enjoys no constitutional powers or authority, except as may be delegated to it by the president, in the same or equal measure as the Ministers of government departments.
“Section 141 of the Constitution which creates that office, merely established the office of the Vice-President in the following terse words:“There shall be for the Federation a Vice-President”, and nothing more.
“The President may; in his discretion, assign to the Vice-President or any Minister of the Government of the Federation responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation, including the administration of any department of Government.”
“This clearly demonstrates the weak and vulnerable position of the Vice-President, in sharp contrast with the enormous powers reserved for the President as the Chief Executive. As if this provision were not sufficient to place the Vice-President at the very low rung of executive powers and authority, section 148(1) of the Constitution has gone further to demystify any occupant of the office of Vice-President of Nigeria, by placing him at the same level with Ministers of the Government.
” It reads:It is therefore beyond every iota of doubts that the Vice-President can only exercise powers or authority assigned to him by the President. The Nigerian constitution has assigned no role whatsoever to that office, the same way the constitution is silent with respect to the role of the Ministers. They operate at the discretion or mercy of the president. I dare say, the Vice-President, by the provisions of section 141(1) of the constitution, is a glorified Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria whose appellation as Vice-President becomes relevant only when the President is dead, incapacitated, impeached or on leave. For all other purposes, the Vice-President enjoys no special or specific powers.
“Why then is there so much anxiety and agitation over the choice of who becomes the Vice-President, come 2023?,”he asked.
Açcording to him,”The answer is simple. We have been so mentally enslaved and socially depraved to believe that the container is as good as the content.”
“The name or tittle unfortunately assumes greater significance than the corresponding powers or duties of the office. We have been severally deceived, and manipulated to believe that any issue thrown up for public discourse is worth our hair- splitting arguments and attention.
“A case in point is the current raging debate over Muslim/Muslim, Muslim/Christian, Christian/Muslim, Christian/Christian ticket. This dispute or controversy has raged on dangerously to the point of assuming a real issue of national cohesion or disintegration; when there is actually no basis for this.
“There is no such thing in law, and in fact as a joint ticket. It is a mirage, as far as our constitution is concerned. What we have is a single presidential ticket which can only result in a single Presidential mandate for one man, and one man alone,”he further said.