Events around Aso Rock, the Nigerian seat of power, last week showed that things may no longer be at ease with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, once regarded as the poster boy of the administration.
Not a few Nigerians expressed shock at the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari which tended to castrate the powers of his deputy.
Like one tossed about by a tempest, on Monday, September 16, 2019, Osinbajo got stripped as head of Buhari’s Economic Management Team (EMT). While he was supposedly still ruminating over that, on Tuesday, September 17, agencies and ministerial departments under his watch were advised to report directly to Mr President.
Buhari was said to have also instructed his vice to seek approval before taking decisions on any agencies under his watch. As if that was not enough, the Presidency, allegedly gave some aides attached to the office of the Vice President marching orders out of the Presidential Villa.
Many Nigerians had argued that Buhari did no wrong in replacing the economic team led by Osinbajo with a new one, Economic Advisory Council (EAC). According to Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, what Buhari did was in the best interest of the country. In a rather sarcastic manner, he said:
“But unfortunately our country is one in which even if a 100-year-old man dies, people will still want to find out what killed him.
“In Nigeria, there are too many inferences from things that are just normal and natural; things that are designed to accelerate governance and make sure there are probity and accountability. They will find all sorts of inferences. All that President Buhari has done particularly this week is just to tweak governance and get the best for Nigerians.”
The VP’s kinsmen, the Afenifere, refused to accept the explanation. To the Yoruba social-cultural group, Osinbajo’s office had been rendered useless, ineffective and irrelevant.
So, who put Osinbajo’s neck on the chop board?
The travails of Osinbajo have been blamed on the same old cabal. The same amorphous group President Buhari’s wife, Aisha, claimed hijacked her husband’s administration.
If conspiracy theories bandied in the media are true, members of the cabal in the Presidency may just have kickstarted moves that will leave the Vice President derobed of authority and influence.
The VP’s offence, according to unconfirmed rumours, is that he stepped on powerful toes while serving as acting president in the course of Buhari’s indisposition. He was also alleged to have, against the dictates of the cabal, made Walter Onnoghen, from Cross River State, the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
Finally, he was also accused of daring to remove Lawal Daura, a close relation of Mr President, as the director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS) on August 7, 2018.
1, Bakare in the Osinbajo mix
Osinbajo’s travails only appeared to wet the ground for the Pastor Tunde Bakare script, all founded on rumour. Referring to this, ardent critic of Buhari’s government and former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode wrote on his Twitter handle at the weekend:
“Rumours abound and if the truth be told @T Bakare would be a much better VP than @ProfOsinbajo. I may not agree with him on everything but at least he is loyal, he is courageous, he is strong and he would never betray his people and faith. That is more than I can say for Osubande.”
Many fell for the story of a certain plot that might see Osinbajo eased out of power and Bakare taking over from. What they didn’t realize was that the video in which Bakare had prophesied his emergence as the President, after Buhari, was actually an old one.
“I will succeed Buhari as president of Nigeria, nothing can change it. I am number 16, Buhari is number 15. I never said it to you before. I am saying it now and nothing can change it.
“In the name of Jesus, he is number 15. I am number 16. To this end was I born and for this purpose came I into the world. I have prepared you for this for more than 30 years,” the video transcript read.
Whether this permutations will come to pass remains a matter of conjecture.
However, if the plot was to weaken Osinbajo’s access to power, the initiators may have made some gains. His reputation has, no doubt, received a serious dent.
“If the short man doesn’t resign within six months they will soon be sending him to wash toilets. You came in on the same ticket, you sold your soul, you betrayed your people, your tribe, your region and your faith and you sucked your boss’ rectum for four years! Look at what you got in return! Shame on you!” Fani-Kayode recently said in mockery of Osinbajo.
2, Oyo-Ita gone!
The week gone by saw the embattled Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF), Winifred Oyo-Ita, quietly eased out of office. Buhari had directed her to proceed on an indefinite leave.
While she was asked to enjoy her indefinite leave, the permanent secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Folashade Yemi-Esan was asked to take her place in an acting capacity.
Oyo-Ita’s travails, like others who had suffered a similar fate before her, was also blamed on the ‘almighty’ cabal in Aso Rock. She had once escaped sanction when she raised the alarm and came short of blaming President Buhari of masterminding the reinstatement of the fugitive former pension boss, Abdulrasheed Maina.
However, this time she was not lucky. The Presidency said that the HoSF had to proceed on the leave to enable the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to conclude investigation on her alleged N3 billion contract scam.
The indefinite leave sure looks like end of the road for Oyo-Ita.
3, Obono-Obla shamed, SPIP dismantled
After the shameful suspension of Okoi Obono-Obla, chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP), Buhari last week dismantled the panel.
The development came after several allegations of high handedness, blackmail and financial impropriety were heaped on Obono-Obla. The lawyer had blamed some ‘highly placed Nigerians’ for his suspension. According to him, the unnamed persons hunted him down just to protect some individuals under probe with the panel.
Buhari had after the dissolution of the panel, directed the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to immediately take over all outstanding investigations and other activities of the SPIP.
According to a statement by Adesina, Mr President “looks forward to receiving the final Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) report on the ongoing investigations of Obono-Obla.”
Obono-Obla, the hunter had become the hunted.
In all this, Buhari’s loud silence is observable. Perhaps true to type, he has refused to be publicly drawn into making any pronouncements. Even the ubiquitous Buhari Media Organisation, always quick to shape the narrative on issues concerning the presidency, has kept mute. And, that is, perhaps, because the President’s body language isn’t sending clear signals.
For now, Osinbajo is left to sulk quietly in what many believe was a circumstance he brought upon himself.
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