Dissecting Osinbajo’s Stewardship as Acting President

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The Newsmakers

While President Muhammadu Buhari was away, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo demonstrated a rare commitment to national service, writes Segun James ‎

A few days ago, in reply to a tweet by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), a Nigerian named Abubakar, wrote, “working together is a sign of good leadership the country needs both of you for the next six years and may the almighty God grant him (President Buhari) health.”

Similarly, another Nigerian, using the handle, @sebastineadele, wrote, “Thanks for holding forth for the president. You did very well while he was away. May God continue to grant you both the wisdom to govern Nigeria.”

These tweets captured the feelings of many Nigerians on the performance of Osinbajo as Acting President while President Muhammadu Buhari was away on medical vacation.

While he acted as president, Osinbajo was a study in commitment to national service and united leadership under a one-government system. From Abuja, Bayelsa to Borno, Osinbajo showed dedication to upholding the vision of the Buhari presidency.

Osinbajo’s leadership qualities have not only endeared him to Nigerians, they have also helped in steering Nigeria in the right direction at a time when critics stoked controversies over the duration of the president’s vacation.

It is pertinent to say that the criticisms were unnecessary as the president did the right thing by handing over power to Osinbajo.

For instance, some faulted the president’s letter to the Senate where Osibanjo was described as coordinator instead of Acting President. The bottom line was that the president did what was right and in accordance with the constitution. Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution states: “Whenever the president transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”

Mischief makers also raised issue on whether the acting president had the power to sign the 2017 Budget. As a matter of fact, Osinbajo’s decision to delay signing the budget was to ensure that there were no surprises therein.

This was clarified by the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, to the Vice President, Laolu Akande, in a tweet on May 17, when he stated that Osinbajo would assent to the 2017 budget when he was satisfied with it.

He tweeted: “Just so we are clear: when the time comes, everything is set, and he is satisfied, Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo will assent to the 2017 Budget.”

His commitment to doing things rightly also informed his decision to delay the swearing in of the two ministerial nominees after their screening on May 3. For the record, the two ministers, Stephen Ocheni and Suleiman Hassan, were assigned portfolios as Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Productivity and Minister of State, Power, Works and Housing respectively.

What Nigerians have come to realise about the vice president is the seriousness, devotion, care and diligence with which he handled his constitutional responsibility as acting president.

Like the APC, many Nigerians, including chieftains of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, have commended Osinbajo’s forthrightness in service and competent leadership while the president was away.

Despite the misrepresentation by critics who claimed that Osinbajo as acting president had to travel to London to get approvals before making some decisions, no one can dispute the unity of purpose between the two.

Akande set the record straight when he said: “Interpreting reasonable and regular communication between the acting president and the president as teleguiding of one by the other is simply curious in the least or perhaps pure mischief. These two gentlemen have always worked together as a team and will continue to do so.”

Unlike what happened in similar circumstances in the recent past, the Buhari presidency has shown that it is united and one that follows due process and uphold the nation’s constitution in leadership by example.

Also, there is nothing unusual in the acting president visiting the president while he was away on medical vacation. The duration of the visit is inconsequential. Leadership of a country is not a solo effort.

In the same vein, Osinbajo reiterated this during an interview with CNN’s Zain Asher at the Nigeria Bar Association conference in Lagos on August 21, when he noted that himself and the both the president have always worked as a united team.

Osinbajo said: “The president is very committed to everything we ‘ve done. I mean, as much as it was possible, we worked together on most of these issues. And what we are doing essentially was executing a plan, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, and we intend to continue to execute it as efficiently as possible. So, I think we should expect double efforts as opposed to single effort now that the president is back. And I am sure that you are going to see very strong leadership.”

While mischief makers were at work, Osinbajo was not distracted. On May 18, he signed three executive order that would significantly ease some of the ways government business and operations are conducted in the country, fast-track budget submissions and promote Made in Nigeria products.

He also signed the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act, 2017 (otherwise known as Collateral Registry Act) and the Credit Reporting Act, 2017.

In June, he signed an executive order to implement Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), a tax amnesty programme.

The scheme is an attempt by the government to increase the country’s tax base with at least an additional four million taxpayers expected to boost the numbers.

The three orders signed by Osinbajo provide specific instructions on a number of policy issues affecting the ease of doing business in the country, support for local content in public procurement by the federal government, and timely submission of annual budgetary estimates by all government agencies, including companies owned by the federal government.

Osinbajo said the orders were in line with Buhari’s administration drive to set strong foundations for the nation’s economic recovery.

“We also have the executive Orders, one looking at we are looking at transparency in government business, we are looking at annual budgets of small agencies, and another is Voluntary Assets Declaration and one on local content, encouraging local content. I think really where we are in a situation where we have cleared the mess, cleared the debris and we are laying solid foundation for modernizing the economy”, he said.

As Acting President, Osinbajo’s visit to the Niger Delta has contributed to the peace in the region. His tour to the oil-rich region also further communicated the significance of Buhari’s new vision for the Niger Delta, a comprehensive peace, security and development plan that will ensure that the people benefit fully from the wealth of the region, as well as the environmental clean-up of Ogoni land, which started last year.

Speaking after a meeting with Osinbajo in August, Chief Edwin Clark, said the Pan-Niger Delta Forum was happy with the federal government’s commitment to improving the fortunes of the region.

PANDEF, which joined the federal government’s Inter-Ministerial Group tasked with the implementation of the vision, commended Osinbajo for his genuineness, truthfulness and forthrightness.

There have been significant improvements in manufacturing, agriculture, technology and innovation around the country. Osinbajo recently noted that there would be more improvement in several areas of the economy, as well as in the business environment and the ease of doing business in the country.

He said: “I think that there are so many areas where there is going to be greater efficiency and delivery. We are at a point where I think we are taking off quite well and we will soon see significant improvement in the lives of people.”

The economy is crawling back from recession, because of the commitment of this administration through its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan which built on the foundations laid by the Strategic Implementation Plan of 2016.

“The plan has set forth a clear vision for the economic development of Nigeria. The impact of our Ease of Doing Business work is gradually being felt by businesses small and large; its successful take-off has allowed us to follow up with the MSME Clinics -our Small Business support programme, which has taken us so far to Aba, Sokoto, Jos, Katsina, and we expect to be in all other states in due course. Let me note, at this point, that several of our Initiatives are targeted at our young people, who make up most of our population, from N-Power, to the Technology Hubs being developed nationwide”, Osinbajo noted in his Democracy Day address to the nation on May 29.

Similarly, more jobs are also being created nationwide through the Buhari administration’s Social Investment Programmes. These include the N-Power, which selected and engaged 200,000 unemployed Nigerians graduates for volunteer jobs, the Conditional Cash Transfer being implemented now in nine states, the General Economic and Empowerment Programme, GEEP-a micro credit scheme that is giving out loans and the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme, where 25 million meals have been served and almost three million school children in 14 states so far are being fed, with 33,895 cooks engaged.

Again, it must be emphasised that the Buhari administration has recorded milestones in the three focal points of the administration, namely security, corruption and the economy.

Indeed, despite its challenges, with such committed and united leadership, the future of this country certainly looks very bright.

Many Nigerians have also praised Osinbajo for his unflinching loyalty to the president in discharging his duties as acting president.

Commenting on Facebook, Boniface Denim Ortese, described Osinbajo as the “definition of loyalty”. He added, “I am really awed by your leadership style. I think I have found a role model in you. God bless your efforts so far and may he give you more strength to handle all circumstances others can’t handle together with our dear president”

“Loyalty is rare”, wrote Tayo Akinyele, adding that, “I want to commend Mr. Vice-President, for holding forth while Mr. President was away”.

Another Nigerian, Modupe Olaiya Shopeju, echoed Ortese’s views when she said: “I am so humbled and awed at your leadership style in the absence of our president. You were so true and exemplary in your conduct as the Acting President.”

Similarly, Mustapha Sule, in a tweet, thanked the vice- president for his services to the country during the president’s absence. He also expressed gratitude to God for the president’s return in good health.

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What Nigerians have come to realise about the vice president is the seriousness, devotion and diligence with which he handled his responsibilities as acting president