.Dele Sobowale

“The Vice President is a heartbeat away from the Presidency.” That still remains the conventional wisdom in the US despite the fact that John Adams, America’s first Vice President, once said that “the Vice Presidency is the most insignificant office ever the invention of men contrived or his imagination conceived.” Our own Dr Ezeife called him “a spare tyre”.

But, that is because most Presidents finish their terms without the need for the VP to take charge. Only drivers, alone in a car, on a dangerous road, know how priceless a good spare tyre can be – when one goes down.

Going for it, half of you are praying that it would be in perfect condition. Wahala starts if you discover that it is also flat.

America experienced change of leadership four times when Presidents were assassinated. The most famous were Abraham Lincoln, 1865, and John Kennedy, 1963. Nigeria had two changes brought about by death. Under the military, Obasanjo replaced Murtala Mohammed; and Jonathan succeeded Yar’Adua under civil rule.

We can debate whether the succession arrangement in a presidential system is the best or not. But, nobody can dispute that it allows for change with the least disruption to governance. That is one reason I am writing this article today. We must take a closer look at the VPs presented to us.

The second, and just as important, reason for this article has to do with the declared ages of two of the leading presidential candidates – Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

International award-winning flutist, T-Mac, poured petrol into a raging fire, recently, when he declared categorically: “Tinubu, my in-law, is 86 years old.” I would have dismissed it if a habitual liar had said it. But, T-Mac, like all great artists, is as painstaking with his art as he is with the search for truth. That statement, in fact, got me thinking.

I am not an insurance professional; the closest I have come to studying age groups was when taking a full year course on demographics. I got to know that anybody 78 years old, like me, has less than five per cent chance of staying alive four years from now. \

Obviously, we are running the risk of having a VP stepping in, once again to run the affairs of the country. Thus, in my opinion, the question of who you would like to see in Aso Rock, in case the “spare tyre” is to take over becomes very vital.

I will proceed in alphabetical order – starting with the APC. I have never met any of them.

KASHIM SHETTIMA – APC VP CANDIDATE

“A rich man’s jokes are always funny” – Sir Thomas Browne, 1605-1682.

If the presidential candidate of an obscure political party, and one not fabulously rich, had proposed a Christian-Christian or Muslim-Muslim ticket, most of the hypocrites now asking us not to mind would have laughed scornfully at the “jester”.

But, once it is Abiola or Tinubu, influential, then the idea is really funny. Commentators fall over one another; shout from roof-tops to be sure that the man knows that they are laughing – in hope… Thus, it was not surprising to me that some prominent Christian columnists have lined up behind it.

This is not the first time they would change their public posture. In 2011, when Buhari contested as CPC candidate against Ribadu, ACN candidate, the same columnists who pronounced him as too old turned around and announced that “age is irrelevant” once he was backed by Emilokan in 2015.

God sparing our lives, it will be interesting to know how many of them will say the same thing in 2026 – if an old and poor candidate attempts to foist such a team on the nation. At any rate, there is something defective about their logic.

Accepting an M-M ticket does not imply supporting Tinubu-Shettima team; we can accept M-M and still reject Shettima.

That brings me to the matter on hand – Shettima as the one sitting “a heart beat from the presidency”. The question we should each ask ourselves is simple. Given all I know about this man, will I be happy if he accidentally becomes President – like Jonathan in 2009? I certainly will not. I will not elaborate now.

SENATOR DATTI BABA-AHMED – LABOUR PARTY VP CANDIDATE

The young man has everything we should desire in a VP. He is well-educated, speaks with moderation, apparently very intelligent and would have energy to spare. His interest in education is not in doubt; and that is a major plus in his favour. However, he is standing behind a presidential candidate just a few years older than he is; and who can go eight years without sweating.

Will the VP be contented to sit in his office reading newspapers? Make no mistake about it; most VPs are regarded as unwanted nuisance by the President after election. They have served their purpose of balancing the ticket and that is all. Still, I would not mind if he steps in. We can begin to get quality northern leadership.

PASTOR ISAAC IDAHOSA – VP-NNPP

The VP candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party is the youngest of the four. I don’t know what was responsible for his selection. In fact, I am probably not alone in confessing total ignorance about him. I wish we can meet. However, from the scanty information available, it is obvious that he is articulate, well-educated and not a “commercial” Man of God. He has certainly never headed a Local Government; neither had he been a lawmaker at any level.

Everything considered, he is a complete novice with regard to governance. Anybody expecting him to step up to the Presidency must base that decision on hope rather than the verdict of human experience. Count me out.

GOV (SEN) IFEANYI OKOWA – PDP VP

“You are entitled to your opinions; you are not entitled to your own facts” – US Senator Daniel P Moynihan, 1927-2003

Again, from the facts readily available on the internet, Okowa’s public service experience can be summarised briefly. He was a Local Government Chairman. He was a Senator in the National Assembly; and now he is serving his seventh year as Governor of Delta State. Delta State is a mini-Nigeria.

It is home to at least seven ethnic groups — in alphabetical order – Igbo, Ijaw, Ika, Isobo, Isoko, Itsekiri and Urhobo. Only Plateau, Benue and Nasarawa might have more ethnic groups than Delta in the Federation. For Okowa, like all of his Delta predecessors, balancing ethnic interest is a 24/7 ordeal – if peace is to prevail. That is a skill nobody can learn from books or by attending courses at Harvard University.

You learn it on the job – sometime painfully – since it is impossible to satisfy everybody. Okowa has learnt, and is still learning it the hard way. That education, acquired the tough way, is an asset which Nigeria needs very badly.

Finally, Okowa can act as a bridge builder; first straight across the Niger Bridge; second across the Patani Bridge and even to the South-West. Delta was an important part of the old Western Region – we can’t forget that now.

BIRTHDAY WISHES TO DR AKIN OGBE FROM COMPRO 63-64 SET

I should have been in Benin-City from Friday till today; so would Dr Babalola Akin-Johnson. We met at the 80th birthday of Saint Segun George, KJW, the Class President for Igbobi College, Class of 1958-62/64. By then I had received the invitation from Akin Ogbe, who was our classmate at Comprehensive High School, Aiyetoro, Ogun State.

We were the first set of students admitted for the Higher School Certificate, HSC, programme. Despite being dull and restless, I did not finish with my classmates. God in his infinite mercy donated an American government scholarship to me and, by September 1964, I was in a university in the US.

Of all my classmates Akin Ogbe stood out. He carried himself with self-assurance; he also carried a bag.

I asked him one day. “What do you hope to study?” “Geology”. That was the answer. To hide my ignorance, I ran to the library to find the meaning of the word. It is “the study of rock formations.” So, I told another classmate, the late Dr Yinka Fadipe, “That fellow has rocks in his head; he is in the wrong place. If he wants to study rocks he should go to Olumo Rock or Mt Kilimanjaro.”

He was as hard as a cement block too; hard knuckles; and never go up to head the ball with him. One week’s headache would follow.

It was not until I reached America and the oil boom started that I knew that Akin was the most prescient of our set. He was a colossus in the oil sector. I heard his name everywhere; and I was always proud to let people know that I shared the same room with the great Akin Ogbe.

I wanted to be there to see him one more time. But, this is Nigeria; where you can no longer travel from Lagos to Benin-City when you want. So, Akin, on behalf of Akin-Johnson, Dapo Adegbite, Olu Adebiyi and all the others, please accept our sincere best wishes on this grand occasion; longer life, prosperity, happiness and sound health. Henceforth, you are my Egbon Akin. I want to reach 80 also.

P.S. It still hurts me that I could not make it. I hope we will meet again before…

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