Certain political interests have been insinuating a rift between President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. They see every action Buhari takes as aimed at eroding the influence and visibility of the vice president. It all began with Buhari’s decision to divest Osinbajo of his headship of the presidential economic policy team, after winning reelection in February. The latest was the president’s reduction of Osinbajo’s aides. These so called political clairvoyants say it is humiliation of the vice president and they urge him to resign.
The Presidency, last weekend, had to come up with an explanation. It said the sacking of over 30 of Osinbajo’s 55-strong personal staff was to “save the cost of governance”. A statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, on Friday, said: “The Presidency wishes to confirm that there is, ongoing, an unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s seat of government, arising from which a number of political appointments have either been revoked or not renewed in the Second Term.”
“The exercise, which has been ordered by the President, is to streamline decision-making, cut down multiple authorities and reduce the cost of administration. It is also an appropriate response to the general perception that the Presidency has an oversized and bloated workforce which acts as a drag on efficiency. As may have been noticed by discerning members of the public, a number of political appointees among the few that served in the office of the President were not returned for the Second Term. The office of the Vice President, His Excellency Yemi Osinbajo, has, in compliance with the directive of the President, equally been shed of a number of such appointees.”
Shehu also denied there was any rift between Buhari and Osinbajo, saying the relationship between the two was cordial. “The relationship between the two leaders remains excellent and trusting. Together, they will script a glorious future for the nation,” he said. The media reports of a soured relationship are originating from the minds and mouths of mischief makers, who are desperate for entertaining stories from the Aso Rock Villa with which to titillate the public. This ulterior motive is the basis of the wrong interpretation given to the recent exercise in the Presidency.
“There has been a streamlining of staff going on for a while. The President has always had fewer staff than the Vice President, and there were always plans to reduce the number of staff at the Villa. The streamlining was not personal or targeted to undermine the Vice President’s office, as the so-called insider sources quoted by the media appear to make it seem. The President is in absolute control of his government. The media should stop attributing non-existent powers to some people. There cannot be anyone too powerful for President Buhari to control.”
It must be said that the President owes nobody an explanation for every action he takes. The 1999 federal constitution makes it clear that the Office of President is an Executive one. The buck, as the saying goes, stops on the President’s desk. The same constitution does not ascribe specific responsibilities to the Office of Vice President but only such as the President decides to delegate to him. Vice President Osinbajo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), understands both the letter and spirit of the constitution. This is why he is not complaining. Even if he does have a grouse with his boss, he knows better than to hire complainants from outside.
Buhari and Osinbajo, together, have come a long way since their first term, four years ago. The Vice President, by his unquestioning loyalty, has earned Buhari’s respect and trust. The two should be allowed to continue on this trajectory of mutualism. Our advice to Osinbajo is to ignore the ‘Madding crowd’ out there and hang on to the man that first put him on the Presidential Ticket in 2015.