Yemi Osinbajo’s ordeal and the slippery presidential terrain
What actually informed his decision to jump into the murky waters of Nigeria politics in 2014 to the extent of even accepting to serve as the running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari? That and other questions must be running through the mind of the law professor and Pastor of the populous Pentecostal Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) daily as he remains at the centre of mischief and villainy of Aso Villa, the country’s seat of presidential power.
By now, the Vice President would have recognized that unlike the table in the household of God, where righteousness and holiness guarantee access, in the power game of presidential politics, there is no brother in the jungle of interests.
Did Osinbajo fail to realise on time that politics is the only ‘business’ that brings saints and sinners together on the same table?
Having spent the first four years filled with enthralling benefits associated with his high office, Osinbajo seems to be going through the valley of the shadow of presidential politics, which could be as harrowing as death.
The same vice president, whom his principal, Buhari, entrusted with so many tasks is now being vilified and degraded by the same source. A founding member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) described the unpalatable circumstances around the Vice President in an interaction with The Guardian recently.
The elderly APC chieftain said: “What Osinbajo is passing through might last throughout the tenure of this administration. It appears that he has fallen out of favour with powers that once embraced him.”
Barely a month after a subtle move was made in the Presidency to whittle down the influence wielded by his office, which stirred the hornets’ nest, the news of the sack of 35 aides in his office by the presidency has continued to generate wild conjectures across the country.
And coming just a few weeks after he was accused of corruption, which elicited his declaration that he was ready to waive his immunity to face trial, it was if the events were carefully planned to achieve a particular end.
Intriguingly, the two developments took place after the surprise directives from his principal to the effect that all correspondences from the newly appointed ministers should pass through the office of the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
Most observers interpreted the directive to mean that the office of the vice president had been subsumed under that of the Chief of Staff, Mallam Kyari. And while these were going on, in the true character of APC, an organisation that could even engage in self-abnegation, both the Presidency and the party continued to deny the existence of any rift in the Buhari administration, especially between the President and the office of the Vice President.
Then came Buhari’s private visit to the United Kingdom, which was ostensibly for medical checks, without transmitting power to the VP as stipulated by the constitution. As if that was not enough, the President was seen signing a bill into law, which was ferried to him outside the shore of Nigeria.
It has become glaring to a miffed nation that despite attempts by Mallam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant, Media, and Publicity, to the President that there is no rancour between the two leaders, the contrary obtains.
Some observers have described the unfolding drama as the manifestation of the true nature of the ruling party, beginning from when it took over power in 2015.
However, the shocking aspect of the entire scenario is that none of the Southwest APC elders or leaders from which Osinbajo hails has made any statement in defense of the VP, despite the calculated attempts to embarrass his office.
Background to Osinbajo’s ordeal
A popular proverb has it that: ‘Eewu bę loko Longę, Longę fun ara rę eewu ni’, meaning there is a danger at Longę’s farm. But unfortunately for the Vice President, he does not seem to be extremely careful of situations that could portend danger in Nigerian politics.
Some political actors blamed the odds on the VP’s nonchalance, saying: “Osinbajo’s ordeal did not start today. He ought to have seen the handwritings long ago when his principal deliberately distanced from the National Leader, Bola Tinubu immediately after APC won the 2015 presidential election. And despite Tinubu’s commitment to Buhari’s victory, the former Lagos State governor stayed out of the Villa for almost three years until his services were needed for the second term. The vice president felt comfortable, while his godfather was forced to go on self-exile.
“Recalled that it took Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Asiwaju’s wife and Aisha Buhari to cry out in defense of the Jagaban. At a point the tension that surrounded the news of who nominated Osinbajo as Vice President was so tense that he (Osinbajo) had to come out to disclose how he got the job.
“The vice president went further to entangled himself in the issue of restructuring in a manner that portrayed him as speaking the interest of the north, which has been apprehensive of the subject, he eventually caught the wrath of several socio-cultural organisations, including Afenifere just as Nigerians did not take the explanation for the persistence of the alleged killings by the Fulani Herdsmen that became rampant at a point during the first term of Buhari lightly.”
However, signs of the danger ahead came up a few months to the 2019 general elections, when it was speculated that Buhari might replace Osinbajo as his running mate in the election. The insinuation then was that his ‘godfather’ and some cabals did not want him (Osinabjo) back as Vice President, but he scaled through and later became the face of Buhari’s 2019 reelection campaign trotting all over the country and adducing reasons the government should be given a second term.
Osinbajo must have also stepped on some powerful toes when he acted as President. A PRESclose source from the presidency told The Guardian that a major sin of Osinbajo happened when he acted as President.
Said the source, “The annoying aspect was the poor and puerile manner in which the Vice President’s media aides conducted themselves when he acted as President. Some of his decisions, which he may have taken innocently or in the best interest of Nigeria, did not go down well with some cabals, who decided to wait patiently until the second term was won to strike. But that does not justify what they are doing to him, because his loyalty to Buhari has been blind and unquestionable.”
The source pointed out further that the popularity Osinbajo garnered during the last general elections, especially as an average northerner sees him as a loyal ally of their idol, Buhari, and the way ‘TraderMoni’ was spread, endeared him to the masses across the country. This must have made those that didn’t want him to start his early denigration.”
Another campaign of calumny against the Vice President is that he was unduly favouring those from the same religion and ethnic background in most of the appointments he made while in office as Acting President.
The list of the sacked aides does not justify the arguments just as it has not been proved that the affected aides and others eased out of their jobs were engaged in acts of official corruption. But the insinuation is that some of them might be arrested and tried for corruption when Buhari returns from his medical trip.
What the Emir of Daura, Alhaji Farouk Umar, did by commending the loyalty of Osinbajo to Buhari and their commitment to the transformation of Nigeria may have been one of the factors that trigger a quick response from the opposition. The Emir described Buhari, Osinbajo relationship as unequaled in the history of the country. This may be coupled with the fact that the vice president, being a Christian and from one of the strongest religious blocks in the country stands a better chance than other key Yoruba people in APC to take over from. For instance, the issue of religion may work against Tinubu and the incumbent Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola both Muslims to succeed the incumbent president. “Why not bring him down before it is too late,” one of Osinabjo’s loyalists lamented.
He added: “The allegation that Osinbajo favoured members of the Redeemed Church was a nullity. For instance, I can say authoritatively that the game playing out is politics at the dirtiest level as anything is good as a weapon. As for Osinbajo, his present ordeal is like a man walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Redeemed Church members are nursing grouse with him that they didn’t benefit from his position especially the parish he pastored. Yoruba leaders are vilifying him because of restructuring, he is being attacked across the South because of his comments on Ruga while faithful of other religions in the party want him down at all cost since he stands a good advantage on religion ground in 2023. Some northern cabals have their grouses against him. He is more or less like a lone ranger now except the Almighty advocates his matter.”
The question that must be asked in the first instance is would Osinbajo have employed such a number of aides without the approval of the presidency in the first instance?
However inside sources said the controversial sack of the 35 aides was part of the politics of the Villa to relegate Osinbajo. It was claimed that Buhari had already approved all the aides of Osinbajo and stipulated those to be in the villa, and those to be in the ministries. This was the initial arrangement that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha was to execute until a counter directive came from Kyari. This eventually caused rancor between the two officers.
Sources said the SGF was prevailed upon after a shouting match between him and the Chief of Staff on the matter. The SGF is believed to have resisted for a few days since he was swayed. Meanwhile, Shehu’s statement must have resolved the area.
The ongoing travails of the Vice President demand that he must be very tactful, otherwise, his reputation and those of his fans could be at risk. Although he has gone to court to defend his integrity over corruption, he needs to do more to address the issue of ethnic and religious bigotry leveled against him, just as he must also explain to Nigerians at what point he changed his stance on the need to restructure Nigeria and true federalism or whether he was moved by political exigencies please the Fulani oligarchy.
For now, Nigerians are waiting with bated breath to see how the game ends.
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