Marriage made in heaven?
First it was John Odigie Oyegun, national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, who voiced concern. He was followed closely by Senator Babafemi Ojodu, special adviser to the president on political matters. They both spoke out early this week because they seemed sufficiently peeved by the worrisome comparison of the performance and the style of President Muhammadu Buhari, aka PMB, with that of his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, now acting president in the absence of the vacationing president.
The President, you will recall, took off for Britain, January 19 for his vacation in London during which he said he would do some medical checkups. While waiting for his results, he extended his stay abroad. But before he took off, he followed the constitutional provision by transmitting full powers to the vice-president and he duly informed the National Assembly in writing. He thus made sure there was no vacuum.
Ordinarily, there should be no worry about the trip but because his state of health became a matter of speculation, some fellow Nigerians, adept at causing mischief, fabricated stories of his death. Since rumours of death don’t have inordinate expiry date, they fizzled out in no time. But the rumour mongers were not done yet. They conjured all manner of theories and prescriptions and conjectures. Not a few concerned citizens were sent into the panic mode, because these rumour architects and conspiracy theorists had propounded such highly toxic theories that got people worried. Their doomsday scenario was designed to achieve only one effect, cause confusion and send people fleeing for dear life.
Then President Buhari spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump. Then, he received high profile visitors from Nigeria. He then made a surprise phone call to Kano State governor. He put a call to his media aides, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu and condoled with the Emir of Kastina who lost his mother. PMB specifically thanked Adesina for holding out against “mischief makers.” I guess the mischief makers included those who peddled the tales of his death and who have stubbornly refused to believe that the man is alive and kicking in London.
I am sure that President Buhari is proud that his deputy who is holding forth for him is doing a great a job of it. His performance, to say the least, is sterling and many Nigerians are eulogising him. On the flip side, the president must also be disappointed that some of the mischief makers that he alluded to in his telephone discussion with Adesina have not given up.
Now, while majority of Nigerians are delighted by the sterling performance of Osinbajo, some of these mischief makers are determined to put a wedge between the two gentlemen. Those who berated Professor Osinbajo, the clergy man who decided to pair with Muhammadu Buhari, the so-called Islamic fundamentalist, during the presidential election campaign, have suddenly realised that there was nothing satanic, after all, in the coming together of the duo. If anything, the association, like the marriage made in heaven, has turned out to be a huge blessing for the country.
Osinbajo’s management of the economy, especially the foreign exchange regime, is capable of showing the way out of the current economic recession. Last week after a meeting of the National Economic Council, the acting president gave a directive to the Central Bank to review its foreign exchange policy. In compliance, the CBN released 500 million dollars to the banks. That singular act saw the dollars tumbling down. If this is sustained in the next few weeks, the naira would have appreciated significantly.
Apparently, those who want to play politics with the anguish of the people would be sorely disappointed if things begin to look up. And things will surely look up following Osinbajo’s foray into the Niger Delta region during which he engaged the stakeholders to work out the modalities for peace in the region. On the authority of Ojodu, the political adviser, who should know such matters, it is now common knowledge that the Niger Delta initiative was worked out between the president and his vice before he travelled out for his vacation.
Ojodu in Daily Trust: “The president called the vice-president and said that I am giving you the mandate, go into the Niger Delta, meet with everyone who is a stakeholder, all the communities, talk to the militants and make sure you solve this problem for the benefit of all Nigerians. We are losing 1.2 million barrels of oil per day; all the gas pipelines powering the turbines are being blown up. And the president said unless and until we resolve this problem we will not get out of recession.”
It is one thing to give a marching order, it is quite another thing to carry it out effectively and efficiently. Osinbajo has proved to be an able and dependable deputy and a team player, committed to the objectives and aspirations of their joint ticket, which is what Buhari administration is. There are no two administrations; not Osinbajo’ s singular show, nor the solo effort of President Buhari, though when the chips are down, the buck stops at Buhari’s desk. At the end of the day, it is PMB who takes the credit for success and he takes the blame for the failure of the government.
In any case, if I may ask, what is the basis for this comparison? Idleness? If it is indeed a product of sheer idleness, why not compare the comparable? Compare, for instance, this time with the times of some former vice presidents and how they acted for their principals. Vice president Atiku Abubakar, for example, did he act for President Olusegun Obasanjo? That era witnessed a turbulent relationship between the president and his vice, a relationship that was characterised by overheated ambition, power play, intrigues, betrayals, mutual suspicion and doubtful loyalty. The duo parted ways in an acrimonious political divorce during their second term. These two compatriots were torn apart by ambition and they metamorphosed into two strange bedfellows.
Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, a child of fate and goodluck, moved from obscure Bayelsa to become vice president to President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua in 2007. By his own account and the account of Patience, his wife, he was confined to reading newspapers while he was vice president. When the president became incapacitated, it was the National Assembly’s doctrine of necessity that made him the acting president.
Architect Namadi Sambo went from being Kaduna State governor to being vice president to President Jonathan. All one can remember now is that the duo had a colourless relationship. That may have saved Sambo the embarrassment of having to come and account for stolen money.
The Buhari Osinbajo relationship has the unique distinction of playing it by the book. Three times now, the vice president has had to act. Three times, the president did the needful by transmitting full powers to him. Nobody should therefore do anything to put sand in his garri. I can bet that Osinbajo will not allow this current adulation to enter his head or create any illusion of grandeur for him. His credible background has equipped him for this role and he is performing it at optimal level.
I have said on previous occasions in this column that the greatest handicap of political leaders who fail in office is their inability to pick capable staff to drive the implementation of set objectives and policies. Some leaders are scared stiff to pick brilliant staff, people who seem to be smarter than them. Smart and brilliant staff oftentimes challenge and interrogate some policy objectives and seek out alternative ways and means to produce better result. Their sheer idealism – and the ability to think outside the box – can lead to outstanding results. These leaders forget that it is they who take credit for the success. For Buhari, Osinbajo is a good find. Those who seek to sow seeds of discord tend to forget that it was PMB, as candidate of APC, who picked Osinbajo to pair with him on the joint ticket. And he has his reasons.
Osinbajo’s austere background – his inevitable romance with Tokunbo cars (for which, read second hand) which was what he could afford – his aversion to the culture of making it by all means, fair or foul, and his sheer intellect – teaching law at age 23 and becoming a professor 10 years later – combined with his belief that it is God who gives positions and prosperity, commended him to Buhari. Yesterday’s critics of Professor Osinbajo today call him God’s gift to APC, nay, to Nigeria.