Wednesday, July 17, 2024

An ideal Vice President!

The Vice presidency is a serious job.

It should be given to people who the nation and country could trust during the time of a national crisis.

They should be people known not for their rancor, but silent loyalty.

Only a heartbeat away from the top job, a vice president should be a person of formidable character and integrity ÔÇô an easy shoo-in that could easily ascend should anything happen to the president.

And that is not all.

A vice president should be a person well disciplined enough to not clamour and compete for public attention with the president.

A vice president should be someone capable and willing to live under the shadow of the president.

Where they differ with the president they should express their opinion in private, where there is nobody else but just the two of them.

Such differences of opinion should be few and far between and should be expressed politely and with absolute diffidence.

A vice president should be a person who is confident in their skin; self-effacing and even willing to deprecate themselves in public as way of exalting the president.

In other words they should a person fully prepared to take a bullet for the president.

A good vice president is someone who is also willing to be a companion and confidant of the president ÔÇô sticking with the master through thick and thin.

This should by no means be interpreted to imply that the two should be friends or social buddies ÔÇô in fact far from it.

By its nature, the job of a president can be an exceedingly lonely undertaking.

A former American president, Bill Clinton once compared it to a prison sentence; “a crown jewel of the federal prison system,” he called it.

“Free at last, I said to myself” George W Bush, another former American President writes in his autobiography referring to the moment when he saw his successor, Barack Obama raise his hand to take oath of office during the inauguration.

In choosing a vice president, every president looks for a steady hand that can offer not only wise counsel and unvarnished truth, but also warmth.

This is because during his tenure there are many times when a sitting president feels not just lonely but also alone, notwithstanding an army of self-seeking hangers-on always lurking around.

Thus a vice president, being the most senior of the president’s advisors should be somebody in who the president can have absolute trust. This is important not least because a vice president being part of key state security apparatus is entitled to full access of state top secrets many of who could be too painful and harrowing for the president to harbor alone.

The job of a vice president is not to fight or vanquish the opposition in parliament.

Only in Botswana does that seem to be the case.

The upshot of it has been to reduce the office to pettiness ÔÇô almost to the levels of a clown.

In fact a good vice president should be somebody whose voice carries weight and commands respect even on the opposition side; a priestly figure comes to mind.

A vice president should also be someone radiating a kind of gravitas that emanates not just from honour and integrity, but also experience.

They should have few words that when such words are uttered, never get forgotten.

In here, Mike Pence, the current vice president of the United States comes to mind.

While a vice president should never aim to be the puppet master, in the same token the job of a vice president should never be reduced to being a chief cheerleader to the president.

A vice president should be somebody who the president can trust during difficult times.

Here again we can draw further experience from the recent American experience, with particular reference to Dick Cheney.

More importantly, it should be somebody in who the nation has absolute trust -that by the way was the case with Joe Biden who was Barack Obama’s vice president.

In an ideal world, a good vice president should be someone who themselves harbours no ambitions to become a president.

An absence of ambition liberates the vice president to express their advice and counsel to the president in exactly the manner they see fit without fear of any consequences.

An absence of ambition erases the potential of anybody second guessing a vice president as being on a frolic to advance own ambitions and interests.

Having no ambitions of their own also allows a vice president to be wholly focused on ensuring the success of incumbent president.

From all above, it is clear that there is no one clear formula for choosing a good vice president. What is however clear is that making such a choice is a difficult job.

In less than a month Botswana will have a new vice president.

The optics are thus far distressing.

The appointment of a vice president is by its nature not an open affair. With a possible exception of a few close personal friends, it is a process fully enclosed and controlled by the president.

There is nothing wrong with that.

Because the vice president is accountable only to the president, it does not need to be an open affair.

Somewhat unprovoked, and deploying his trademark shooting from the hip, Samson Moyo Guma says ruling party ministers should stop campaigning for the job of vice president.

Moyo Guma’s comments would be rich in legitimacy were his own lobbying not as intense as to be seen from miles away.

For a reason that is difficult to decipher, Moyo Guma has appointed himself a gatekeeper to future President Mokgweetsi Masisi. Other than a clearly calculated trick to wreak an overbearing twine around Masisi, this role is immensely difficult to understand. In business and economics it is called rent-seeking.

This retainer role whether real or imagined seems designed to give the former BDP Chairman an oversized role that is neither official nor with precedence.

Moyo Guma should know better than most of us; he is neither qualified nor deserving of a role as a future president’s gatekeeper.

He is not a grandee of the ruling party. He is certainly not the party’s moral voice ÔÇô and having defected from it before, certainly not among its loyalists or diehards.

His only qualification, if that can be called as such is his swashbuckling and brazen demeanour.

Moyo Guma is however right on one thing.

There is an ongoing campaign which is by itself troubling.

That campaign is not subtle but outwardly brash. The campaign is causing tensions that the party can hardly afford.

And contrary to his pleas of innocence, Moyo Guma is equally guilty because he is on a full throttle campaign of his own.

His campaign includes shooting down those he perceives – rightly or wrongly – as contenders that have a chance ÔÇô however slim to jeopardize his.

His allies admire him for his boldness and courage, but Moyo Guma’s relentless and pointed attacks on Tshekedi Khama and more lately on Sadique Kebonang can hardly be a result of some recent Damascene conversion to the clean ethos of good governance on his part.

Listening to his moralizing attacks on his colleagues a visitor from another world might be excused for believing that Moyo Guma is some kind of a saint ÔÇô a Dalai Lama or a Desmond Tutu.

A choice of vice president will be one of the biggest decisions Mokgweetsi Masisi will ever have to make.

The rest of the nation will be watching him closely.

That choice will communicate a lot on what texture he wants his presidency to assume. A good choice will buy him and his government a lot of goodwill and popular approval.

A wrong choice might cause turmoil that will ripple not only within the party but across the country.

Looking from the way people are already behaving inside the ruling party, by the time a decision is made public there would be tears, possibly blood flowing on the floor.


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