Recent developments in the seat of owner have set tongue wangling about the conviviality between the office of the President and his Vice. The sequence of events have given objective observers reasons to conclude that there are probably some squabbles between the two exalted offices in the land.
Even when certain actions taken by the President have been rationalized on the ground that he controls the ultimate pover and chooses to delegate to any of his subordinates, the recent sack of 36 aides in the Office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo allegedly by his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, has attracted more than a passing attention.
Though the alleged sack has yet to be officially authenticated with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) claiming ignorance of the development, there are indications that the disengagement of the Vice President’s aides may be true afterall.
An official in the Villa, who pleaded anonymity, disclosed that the Vice President had ordered the affected aides to submit their sack letters to him hoping to raise the matter with his boss on his arrival from his two-week’s break from London by November 17. The source revealed that Osinbajo had resolved to take up the matter to confirm whether the order for the sack of his aides actually came from his boss or from certain cabal operating within the precincts of power.
While the presidency has consistently maintained that there was no rift between the President and his Vice, there have been insinuations that some political interests are hell bent on putting a limit to the rising political profile of the ‘Star Boy’ ahead of 2023.
According to those in this school of thought, Osinbajo endeared himself to the hearts of common men by bonding with the down trodden during the 2019 Presidential Campaigns through the Social Investment Program (SIP) which he personally championed. Added to this was his House-to-House campaign initiative where he visited indigents with a view to establishing flourishing bonds with common men ahead of the 2019 general election.
They added that Osinbajo, through the Trader Moni program had built political alliances across the country and as such must be stopped ahead of the 2023 Presidential contest. This they reasoned was why the cabal in power impressed it upon the President to excise the SIP from the office of the Vice President and domicile same in a newly created ministry of Humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development.
With the SIP, which got N500 billion budgetary allocation annually in the last three years, domiciled in the newly created ministry, pundits reasoned that the cabal may have achieved its aim of whittling down Osinbajo’s political power and influence. But the budget for the program in the 2020 budget estimates submitted to the National Assembly for approval was a meagre N30 billion indicating that the program may have ceased to be a priority project for the government.
However, the President cleared the air on this line of thought during the inaugural meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) when he explained that he created the new ministry of Humanitarian Affairs for administrative expediencies.
He said “We also created the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to fully institionalise our various interventions to support some of the poorest and most distressed citizens of our country.”
Another action taken by the President suggesting deliberate plot to whittle down Osinbajo’s influence was the disbandment if the Economic Management Team (EMT) which he chaired. He created the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) chaired by a renown Economist, Prof. Doyin Salami in its stead. The Salami’s Council was mandated to report directly to the President.
Many interpreted this to mean that Osinbajo’s influence was being reduced even when the Presidential decision was commended by the majority of Nigerians.
Also considered as a pointer to deterioration in the relationship between Buhari and his deputy was the refusal of the former to hand over power to the latter while on a two-week private visit to the United Kingdom. The President left Saudi Arabia for the London without officially writing to the National Assembly to transfer power to his Vice.
Many people argue that this singular action indicated that the Vice President no longer enjoys the trust of his principal. They maintain that Osinbajo’s decision to sack one of the prominent member of the ruling cabal in the past while exercising presidential power in acting capacity had put a serious wedge between him and his principal.
They also alleged that the Vice President got his fingers burnt by recommending the confirmation of the former Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen while acting as the President.
It was learnt that the President never wanted Onnoghen’s appointment confirmed by the Senate because he had certain reservations but Osinbajo thought otherwise. Onnoghen was later to be charged with corruption only for him to resign thereafter.
Perhaps to demonstrate the fact that the President is completely in charge of the government even while away in the United Kingdom, story broke out on Monday that the Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, took an oil bill to the President in London for assent.
This development has got people insisting that the decision to take the bill for Presidential assent was deliberately taken to physically demonstrate to the Vice President that his political influence in the Next Level administration has been seriously decimated. It was reasoned that the move was taken to score a serious political point and to demonstrate to the Vice President that he has some limitations in the exercise of political power.
Pundits query why the hurry to go to London for Buhari’s assent when he would be returning to the country in only a few days.
In any case, the Presidency has maintained that taking the bill to London for Presidential assent was not out of place as they argue that the Nigerian President can exercise his powers from anywhere in the world.
Despite all these, the Presidency has consistently maintained that there was no rift between Buhari and Osinbajo. The Vice President has persistently demonstrated his loyalty to his boss at any given opportunity. Buhari, in turn, had on several occasions poured encomiums on his Vice acknowledging his loyalty both to his person and to his administration.
Could it therefore be safe to conclude that those actions taken by the President were being accorded political interpretations by meddlesome interlopers bent on causing rift between two patriots in power? Were they mere happenstances with no ulterior motives? Only time will tell.
It is only hoped that the nation would be spared a repeat of the schism in the Presidency as experienced during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The rift between the ex-President and his Vice, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, was micro-managed until it eventually bourgeoned out of proportion with its attendant consequences on governance.
While it is within the power of the President to assign responsibilities to whoever he feels and take actions for good governance, actions from his lieutenants suggesting desecration of any of the exalted offices must be avoided. The Presidency is one and must be made to remain so.