Nwabughiogu Since stepping in as President and Commander-in-Chief in May, 2015, Muhammadu Buhari has gone on vacation abroad three times and consequently transfered the powers of his office to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. The last he did was on Thursday, January 19, 2017 – for a period of 10 days. Meanwhile, the country was buffeted with rumours, wild rumours, about the President’s health, as well as unfounded stories about the Yar’Adua/Jonathan-type ugly power transmission and its attendant high-wire politics; all of which have since been debunked by the Presidency and the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. This piece takes a globular look at the
activities of Vice President Osinbajo and his style each time he acts on behalf of President Buhari. VP Osinbajo This would not be his first shot at discharging the functions of the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is not also the second. It is Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s third, since May 29, 2015. He is fast learning the job and also proving himself a dependable ally of Mr. President. In Nigeria, despite the sacred dictates of the constitution, sitting presidents are not usually known to be generous transferers of the powers of their office to their deputies; instead, they choose to delegate such powers to their Chief of Staff or a “Kitchen Cabinet” Minister. But that has never been the case with the present administration. Keen observers of Nigeria’s political experiment since the return of democracy in 1999 would recall that the scenario hardly existed between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Vice, Atiku Abubakar. Such was still not the case between the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and his former deputy, former President Goodluck Jonathan. If it ever existed, it was between Jonathan and his vice, Namadi Sambo. But in the present regime, delegating the presidential powers to a deputy has never been a big deal for President Buhari who has always done that. In the course of his service to the nation in the Fourth Republic, he has had to publicly transfer the powers of his office to his vice. FIRST TIME OUT First was in February 2016 when the President took some five days off for a vacation abroad. While the vocation lasted, Osinbajo held sway as Acting President. For the period, he oversaw the day-to-day running of the affairs of the country. The second time Osinbajo was also made the Acting President was in June, 2016 when the President also announced a vacation to London to attend to an ear infection. For the 13 days Buhari was abroad Osinbajo effectively fitted in the shoes of his boss. Amongst the major tasks he undertook were the meeting with governors of Niger Delta states and the Service Chiefs on the threats of the Niger-Delta Avengers to bomb government buildings in Abuja,. It was also during that time that he inaugurated a Task Force on Rice and Wheat production. That was not all – the launching of Home-grown School Feeding Programme was also done. On a sad note, it was the lot of Osinbajo to issue condolence messages on the demise of ex-Super Eagles Coaches, late Stephen Keshi and Amodu Shuaibu. Chairing the meetings of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, and the National Economic Council, NEC – he is constitutionally empowered to chair the latter – had become almost a norm by this time. THE FIRE THIS TIME Yet, on January 19, 2017, another opportunity availed itself for the Vice President to act as President.
Interestingly, Osinbajo was made Acting President while he was in far away Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, WEF, summit. Upon his return on Friday, January 20, the Acting President journeyed straight to Ibadan, Oyo State, for a function. Coming back to Abuja, the seat of power, later that evening, he received updates and briefings on the situation in The Gambia where Nigerian troops were stationed to give effect to the transition from the recalcitrant Yahya Jammeh, to then President-elect, Mr. Adama Barrow. Osinbajo also took briefings from a number of cabinet ministers. On Monday, Jan 23, he chaired the Second Presidential Business Forum which held at the Old Banquet Hall, located within the precinct of Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja. Kicked off last September, the Forum is a platform to engage and interact with the private sector operators to keep them abreast of government’s economic policies, programmes and activities. The Acting President, at the meeting, underscored the need for full public/private partnership in the salvation of the sick economy. He said: “I am extremely pleased to welcome you all to this second quarterly business forum. The last one was held in Sept 2016. This is the first this year and we will ensure it keeps running. The main plan of our economic plan is the sustenance of the robust private sector partnership. Indeed, it is our strong belief that sustenanable economic growth is only possible if it is private sector led and a great deal of attention has been paid as you will possibly find in sustaining private sector leadership, especially in the plan of economic recovery and growth plan 2017, which is to be launched next month. The pivot of that plan is the private sector-led recovery growth and plan. So, this Forum is an important one for engendering the continuous engagement that this partnership will entail.” Tuesday, Jan 24 was yet another busy day for Osinbajo. He launched the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, MSME Clinics in Abuja. Organised in-conjunction with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, the programme is designed to not only to sensitise operators of Small Scale Enterprises, SMEs in Nigeria on the best business strategies, but to also assist them financially to grow their businesses. Abia and Kwara State governors were amongst various dignitaries in attendance as the programme was billed to be replicated in the 36 States of the federation starting with Abia. One take-away from that event that also held at the Old Banquet Hall was Osinbajo’s displeasure with the activities of most revenue generating agencies of the federal government that delay registration of SMEs and inadvertently, stifle the growth of the SMEs. Earlier that same day, he had presided over the meeting of Presidential Enabling Business Council, PEBEC, where a decision was taken to begin the evaluation of various options that would eliminate hitches in the Nigerian business climate. On Wednesday, Jan 25, the Acting President presided over the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting in Abuja. Of course, this was not his first time. It can only be the umpteenth time. Curiously, Wednesday ended with a stinging controversy. The day ended with a wicked rumour that Nigerian Governors were pressuring on Osinbajo to resign his office amidst the rumoured fears of concerns for President Buhari’s health. But his office through the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, in the Vice President’s Office, Sen. Femi Ojudu, quickly dismissed the resignation threat in a statement. Thursday, Jan 26, the Acting President performed a function at the National Defence College, NDC, Abuja, and later at noon took off to Abia State to launch the first phase (State-wise) of the MSME. He returned to Abuja later in the evening. Friday, Jan 27, the Acting President was also seen in his office. But it was unknown if he had any functions that required media coverage. At least, not at 5:30 pm when this piece was being written. The Man, Osibajo Apart from ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo who was lucky to rule Nigeria as a military man and later elected President for two terms, former President Goodluck Jonathan who was within the corridors of power for 16 years; served as Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President, Acting President and President, and President Buhari who, like Obasanjo, ruled the country militarily and now elected President, Osinbajo is another lucky Nigerian. His political profile may not be as rich as those mentioned above but he got lucky, becoming the Vice President of Nigeria from just nowhere – only having served as commissioner for justice in Lagos State between 1999 and 2007. This is because, Buhari had run for the Number One office in the land for three consecutive times without luck. But Osinbajo, a Pastor of the Redeemed Church of God, RCCG, got elected with Buhari at his fourth shot at the presidency. The Acting President is also a Professor of Law. He’s adjudged to be cerebral but to many people, Osinbajo is very carries his professorial calling one step too many in politics (meaning there is too much talk coming from his office) Osinbajo is a workaholic as well as the typical Lagosian who wouldn’t stay outside of the city for weeks. Sunday Vanguard had observed that most times, he leaves his office as late as 10 pm. Sometimes also, he returns to the office to perhaps, clear his table. Unlike what characterised the Obasanjo/Atiku Presidency, Sunday Vanguard is yet to notice any face-off between him and his boss. In fact, the feeling is that he’s totally loyal to President Buhari. This informed why he has been allowed to represent the President in many fora both within and outside the country. Should there be problem between them, many believe that such would have been influenced by external forces. But at the moment, he’s Buhari’s Man but not his Man Friday. Religion Is Osinbajo a religious man? Yes, he is. To him, prayer is key and that’s why the Acting President spares time to pray. But just as the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, had to confront him last Friday, it was asked whether the Acting President has for one day shown compassion on his people in the face of the violence unleashed by some criminals on Christians by keeping a disturbing silence as christians are being slaughtered; to which his office said he will always defend the rule of law..