By Eric Teniola
WITH the selection of the presidential flag bearers by the various political parties for next year’s election, the era of lame- duck, especially in the central government, is here. The lame-duck definition refers to when a person in power has entered the final stages of their control, and the chosen successor has been elected or soon will be. Lame-duck became the term used to describe politicians, especially the president, who either lost an election or decided to forgo reelection.
For some time, we have been witnessing a weak Presidency, but it is likely going to get worse now. What is about to happen is the deconstruction of the imperial Presidency. Nothing humbles a man or a woman who has been in power to realise suddenly that he or she has to lose the power. Exit date humbles any government official and that is why they say power is transient. We have nothing that is really our own; we hold everything as a loan. The bad news is that nothing lasts forever.
The good news is that nothing lasts forever too. People and things will come and go. Everything in this life is transient. Weak men create hard times. Weakness invites aggression. A leader with excessive weakness can be a danger to democracy. He can even split the country with indecision and failure to act. We need a dynamic leadership with initiative. The danger about weak leadership is that you do not really know who is in charge. Hence, we hear of a cabal ruling the country. The emergence of a ruling cabal is failure of leadership.
The lame-duck era will create more confusion for us and it will be like a government on holidays. Henceforth, the spotlight will shift from The Villa to the campaign field. The presidential flag bearers will make more news than The Villa. It will affect the political parties too.
In a presidential system of government, the presidential candidate is the leader of the party. The political parties will have fewer roles to play during the campaign. The chairman of the political parties and the party headquarters’ will be mere passengers in the political drive. In some instances the flag bearers will undermine the power and influence of the political parties.
In our own case, ministers, special advisers and special assistants will be thinking of their own future since all of them will go with the President next year. In this case, fewer appointments will be made and the era of imperial Presidency is coming to an end. It is a very interesting time we are about to witness.
I have witnessed the era of lame-duck twice. The first time was the last six months of General Abdusalam Abubakar (80), between 1998 and 1999. The second time was the last six months of President Olusegun Obasanjo (85), after Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the PDP was elected president in December 2006. At those two occasions, I saw power fading from those in authority.
Suddenly those who wielded enormous power before became human to the extent that they were answering telephone calls and receiving telephone calls by themselves instead of through secretaries. Suddenly they were contacting old friends knowing fully well that they will soon be out of power.
During the lame-duck era of General Abdusalam Abubakar, he only concentrated on the construction of the Eagle Square, the National Assembly building and devoted much of his time to the transition programme. He dispatched his then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Gidado Idris(March 15, 1935 – December 15, 2017) to South Africa and East Africa to sell his transition programme to the leaders of that region. I accompanied Alhaji Gidado Idris on the trips. We met the then South African President, Nelson Mandela (July 18, 1918, Mvezo, South Africa – died December 5, 2013, Johannesburg) in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Present at the meetings with President Mandela was the then Nigeria ambassador to South Africa, Alhaji Shehu Othman Malami (88), Sarkin Wurno in Sokoto State and former Chairman of Union Bank, who was not only a friend to President Mandela but also part of his household. He constantly referred to him as Shehu while Malami referred to President Mandela as Madiba. No doubt President Mandela was very much fond of Alhaji Malami. The affinity between the two men was very strong.
In the various meetings, President Mandela always referred to General Obasanjo as my “friend”. He was consoled when Alhaji Gidado told him that General Obasanjo was among those vying for the presidency and his chances of becoming President were bright.
From South Africa, we moved to Kampala, Uganda where we met President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (77). We also met President Daniel Arap Moi (1924-2020) in Kenya as well as the Namibia President, Samuel Shafiishuna Daniel Nujoma (93). During the two weeks tour, we met President Benjamin Mkpa(1938-2020) of Tanzania. That was when Nigeria was like a colossus in Africa.
Lame-duck era is when ministers rush memos to the Cabinet secretariat for approval by the Federal Executive Council. During the lame-duck era of General Abdusalam, The Cabinet secretariat was the centre of activities. Day and night, members of the cabinet secretariat were receiving memos on contracts from different ministers. Their Permanent Secretary then, Dr. P.K. Kaigama, along with Alhaji Auwab Abdullahi, Mr. A. Fasan, Mr. O.S. Ogedengbe, Mr. Ibrahim Mahe, Mr Chike N. Agina, Mr. Wuese AI, Mr. T.A. Ajayi, Mr. M.U. Nnaji, Mr Joshua E. Okpo, Mr. K.W. Jibril, Mr. F.F. Ogunshakin, Mr. E.I. Onuoha, Mr. S.K. Ikata, Mr. O.I. Adisa, Miss Charity C. Utok and others were working day and night.
The gossip among the workers in cabinet secretariat was that the memos were “parting gifts”. At that time the media was reporting how our foreign reserve was depreciating daily.