Ojodu, Osinbajo and the sleeping president
Nigerians are legendarily associated with patience. But it is troubling when the distinction between this virtue and the propensity to brook the excesses of our political leaders is blurred. The danger of the conflation of this virtue and the vice of acquiescence is often signalled by our political leaders’ exploitation of our famed patience to turn public office to an opportunity for self-valourisation as manifested by regular heists in government.
Our leaders strive to over-stretch this patience. They do not expect us to interrogate their excesses. So, whenever the citizens occasionally lose their patience, show signs of alertness and query why their government has become their affliction, our leaders fume with rage.
Just on Monday, the presidency demonstrated this. It was furious that the citizens could be aware of the fact that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has become an ogre rather than a means of succour as it ought to be. Bristling with rage, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Babafemi Ojodu, wondered why Nigerians dared to review the now almost two years of the administration of Buhari and declare that it has been a period of an unspeakable ordeal. The presidency, as articulated by Ojodu, did not expect the citizens to know that they have been suffering. The presidency is enraged that the citizens have realised that it is possible for a president to make a difference despite the recession, the crash of the price of oil and the so-much lampooned looting of the common patrimony by the previous government.
The presidency was reacting to a people who have been subjected to so much suffering and depression in the past 20 months and more and who now saw a reason to be hopeful in Osinbajo and they expressed this. Does this require the flagellation of the citizens by the presidency? If the presidency really felt that it must correct some wrong impressions, it should simply have said that Osinbajo is executing the agenda of Buhari and stopped there. But Ojodu committed the same blunder that he accused the citizens of – launching into a campaign of a Manichean categorisation of Buhari and Osinbajo.
But if Osinbajo is only executing the agenda of Buhari as Ojodu would like us to believe, why did Buhari fail to execute this agenda in the past 20 months while he was in charge? What the citizens can see is that Osinbajo has some ideas of governance he is pursuing that were not known to them until now.
Ojodu who accused the citizens of mischief could not hide his own mischief. For in the attempt to compare Buhari and Osinbajo, he strives to denigrate Osinbajo as a leadership neophyte while Buhari is the political virtuoso at whose feet Osinbajo must learn lessons in leadership before he considers himself eligible to govern. He says Buhari “is more experienced, he has been in the game longer than the vice president.” But Ojodu and his principals in the presidency must be told in clear terms that Nigerians do not care about the kind of leadership experience that does not solve their problems and guarantee the provision of food on their tables and pay their children’s school fees.
In comparing Osinbajo and Buhari, Ojodu further portrayed the latter in a negative light. Consider this: Ojodu said that Osinbajo had decided “not to sleep at all, all through the time the president is away just to show him that he is capable of ensuring that Nigeria goes on well while the president is away.” But is Ojodu aware that by this comparison he has unwittingly confirmed the suspicion of the citizens that Buhari was sleeping while the nation’s crises festered? For if it takes not sleeping to discharge national responsibilities and produce results as demonstrated by Osinbajo, does it mean that Buhari was sleeping and that accounted for his poor performance?
We agree with Ojodu that Osinbajo has not been sleeping. This is why he has been able to succeed where Buhari failed. In just over a month since Osinbajo became the acting president, there has been a sense of direction in the country. The citizens have the confidence that the nation would overcome its challenges. This confidence is well-grounded: Through Osinbajo’s visits and parleys in the Niger Delta, there has been a cessation of hostilities. This not only promises to restore crude oil production, it has boosted the availability of gas that has improved electricity supply. Yet this is a region that Buhari avoided like a plague even though the citizens repeatedly reminded him that his just going to the area to empathise with the people would help douse tension. Instead, he was threatening to bomb the Niger Delta out of existence if its people insisted on demanding their right to wellbeing. The best Buhari could do was to launch the Ogoniland cleanup. Even the way this has turned out has rather aggravated the suspicion of the people rather than pacifying them since there has not been further action on the project.
While Buhari was in Aso Rock, the citizens groaned under the burden of a foreign exchange crisis. But through Osinbajo there is the hope that this crisis would be overcome with the naira appreciating against the dollar. Osinbajo has also demonstrated better leadership in the area of appointments. For while Buhari was afflicted with lethargy as regards filling the many vacancies in the boards of agencies, Osinbajo demonstrated better leadership by quickly replacing the officials of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) who were sacked.
Buhari also bungled the opportunity of demonstrating great leadership in managing the crisis of killer herdsmen in southern Kaduna and other parts of the country. But Osinbajo quickly summoned the Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris when there were fresh killings in southern Kaduna.
Again, if Osinbajo through his performance is trying to impress his boss Buhari, as Ojodu would like us to believe, why did Buhari not impress his boss, the citizens? Does this not mean that Osinbajo knows that he must discharge his responsibilities to his boss, a fact that Buhari was oblivious of and that accounted for his dismal performance? Nigerians expected Buhari to impress the citizens through his performance. But since he failed to do this, what is wrong with the citizens saying that Osinbajo is living up to the expectations of his boss, not Buhari as Ojodu thought, but the citizens?
The presidency which apparently sent Ojodu on this self-sabotaging errand does not need to preach the virtues of Buhari to the citizens. What the citizens witnessed in the presidency of Buhari are more convincing than whatever preachment that Ojodu and his principals can do about the president. And there is no need to raise the alarm about some enemies’ plot to cause a division between Buhari and Osinbajo. If all these enemies have done is to alert the Buhari presidency to the possibilities in governance, he should be humble enough to learn these lessons and bring them to bear on his resolution of the nation’s crises when he returns from his overseas’ medical vacation.