“Acting or Coordinating”, Osinbajo is In Charge


Saturday Polscope

By Eddy Odivwri

eddy.odivwri@thisdaylive.com   08053069356

No one can truly measure the amount of mischief contained in partisan politics. At almost all times, there is a running plot for one to undo the other.

That perhaps explains the storm in a tea cup over the choice of word used by President Muhammadu Buhari in his letter to the Senate transmitting power to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

Long before the letter came, Nigerians have been urging President Buhari to do the needful by going to treat himself and hand over power properly to his deputy, seeing that his ill health is hampering his performance in office, irrespective of the ‘‘hale and hearty assurance” from his publicists.

So, last Sunday, Mr President decided to indeed go for what they called “medical follow-up” to the United Kingdom, and to avoid needless anxiety over when he would return, he added that his length of stay would be determined by his doctors in London. Therefore, he makes reference to section 145(1) of the constitution, writes a letter to the Senate informing the upper chamber of the trip and that in his absence, the Vice President, will “coordinate the activities of government”

And then some opposition politician in the Senate picks a quarrel with the choice of phrase, “coordinate the activities of government”, saying the phrase is “saying nothing”. Really? And further suggested that the letter be taken back to the presidency. This is said, knowing that the author of the letter was already two days old in London, in the hands of his doctors. So where did Ohuabunwa want the letter taken back to? London? It was just a ploy to cause needless constitutional confusion.

How can that phrase really mean nothing in semantics to Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, who probably was speaking for the fast-depleting stock of PDP senators in the red chamber? Has the distinguished senator never heard of synonyms?

Pray, is the coordinator of any scheme/system, not the head of such scheme/system? And in the true sense of the word, is running the government not actually the coordination of the various activities and programmes of government, including the men and materials thereof? So, what is the fuss about?

While I may not rule out some shallow mischief by the person who drafted the letter for President Buhari to sign, by avoiding the word “acting in my place” or “performing the duties of my office” (as was used in the first of such letters last January when Buhari travelled on a brief medical vacation), the mere fact that reference was made to Section 145 (1) of the constitution, means that the constitutional provision, demanding the transmission of power to the VP, has been complied with. Those who make a mountain out of a presidential diction should ask themselves why the president made reference to the relevant and appropriate section of the constitution if he was not willing to relinquish power to his Vice.

Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that this “medical follow-up” is ad infinitum. It is indefinite and timeless. The implication of this is that unlike the case of last trip in January where the president had said he would spend ten days and ended up spending 49 days and rushed back, even when he had not fully recovered, this trip seeks to keep the president out of any pressure either by his handlers or by the larger Nigerian people to return home, albeit in imperfect health. For all you care, the president could stay back for another one year or another one week, depending on the verdict of his doctors. This way, he will worry less about Nigeria, just as Nigeria will worry less about him, although prayers will/should continue for his quick and perfect recovery.

It is redeeming that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki ruled Senator Ohuabunwa out of order and upheld the import and spirit of the letter.

And so, the Vice President is rightly acting as the president. He presided over the Federal Executive Council (FEC) last Wednesday. He is very much in charge, to the discomfort and pain of the mischievous schemers in the presidency called “the cabal”.

It is even more reassuring that for the 49 days that Osinbajo acted earlier in the year, he held his own, filled the gap, proved his mettle and reinforced public confidence in his persona, character and competence in ‘coordinating’ the affairs of the country. That is why there should be no qualms from any quarters as to what will become of Nigeria while Mr President does his “medical follow-up” in London.

Our Lawmakers and the National Budget

The success or failure of any government derives largely from the discipline applied to the fiscal budget of the country. That is why utmost care must be exercised in working on it by the legislators to ensure the overall interest of the country is accommodated. Not surprisingly therefore, the budgeting process has remained one filled with intrigues and apprehensions.

Most Nigerians believe the national lawmakers often use the budgeting process to blackmail the executive arm of government, even as it causes a lot of rancour among them. We have not forgotten all the hoopla about budget padding which resulted in the suspension of Hon Jibrin Abdulmumin for one year because he, so-to-say, exposed the huge paddings that got into the 2016 budget by the leadership of the House of Representatives.

If it is not blackmail, we do not understand why the lawmakers will need five months to pass a budget. How long did it take to prepare it? The 2017 budget was presented to the National Assembly, December 14, last year.

The Senate had vowed to pass the budget before the end of March. It didn’t happen. They have since then kept promising and failing on passing the budget. Two weeks ago, Senator Danjuma Goje introduced another drama to the appropriation process, when he claimed that the police that raided his Abuja home carted away the 2017 budget documents, even though the Police denied that there was nothing about budget in the documents they seized from his home. Goje had tried to tie the passage of the budget to the release of the documents. Thankfully, the police released the documents few days after. But that did not mean the passage of the budget.

As at Tuesday, the budget had been jerked up to N7.44 trn from the N7.29 trn which Buhari presented; representing an increase of over N143 billion, all in the name of power of appropriation. Is that not what they call padding? Just wondering!

Once again, they had promised to pass the budget last Thursday. As at the time of writing this, the budget had not been passed.

And I read an interesting post on the social media: “A sick President Buhari prepared and presented a budget in December. Healthy senators are unable to pass the budget in five months, so who is sick?”


Two Years after, How Does the Change Feel?

Have you bought your Aso Ebi?

Aso Ebi for what?

Need you ask? Everybody is warming up for the second year anniversary of this administration. Have you not seen the anniversary Ankara with the picture of our able President emblazoned on it?

Ehn? Which president is able? The same one battling with doctors in London? And what will you be celebrating anyway with the chief celebrant out of town?

It is an ideological celebration. A celebration of ideas and values. The values of a national rebirth. The values of a new socio-economic orientation. The values of a greater….

(cuts in) Please, spare me! Stop saying things that are not real. You are talking to a fellow Nigerian. I am not Diaspora-based. I live here in Nigeria. So what national rebirth are you talking about that has to be celebrated? Have our plagues ended? Are we not yet bedraggled by corruption and nepotism? Did you not hear of the scandal that trailed the recruitment exercise into the Department of State Service (DSS), where the number of people recruited from Katsina alone is more than the number of the entire people from the south-east, all because the Director of DSS, Mallam Daura is from Katsina State? Are those not the same plagues of nepotism that have troubled us from independence? Or did you not hear of the grass-cutting scandal where over N500 million was allegedly netted by the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir Lawal? Do you know right now, a lot of politics is being introduced into the report of the Osinbajo-led investigative panel that probed the grass-cutting contract award? Do you know many Nigerians believe that the man (Lawal) will wriggle out of the noose because of the “we-we” syndrome of those in government?

So my dear brother, what national rebirth are you talking about? Are people stealing government money less? Did you not hear that the nation’s lawmakers beefed up the nation’s budget with over N143 billion? Is that the national rebirth you want to celebrate?

You talk as if you do not know that the journey of a thousand miles begins with just a step. You talk as if you do not know that it is easier to destroy than to repair. This administration is doing reparative works. You do not expect that the transformation will be automatic. Sure, fixing Nigeria will not be an overnight job. No such miracle happens in governance. What is crucial and important is that the government is headed in the right direction of self-recovery. And it is even more reassuring that the will to do what is right is not lacking at all.

You are a witness to the fact that this government is in an unyielding war against corruption. You can see how busy and even overworked our EFCC is. It is all sign of the battle to reclaim Nigeria from the hands of ancient prey masters.

Yes, we are not there, but we are headed there, that, I can assure you.

You talk as if you are still campaigning. Two years after, it’s been all talk and more talk, no action. No visible action. Even in the so-called fight against corruption, no significant conviction of a Big Thief. Only the hapless crooks are in prison. The big thieves are still driving their bulletproof Range Rover SUVs all over the place. Yes, we are seeing flickers of the fire, but the flame has never been strong enough to burn down the bad guys. We have not seen this.

This government promised Change. This is gradual. Blame non-convictions on the crooks in the judiciary. And they are being hounded too.

So our belief in the government should have been as gradual too.

You don’t get it. This is just half-time in the game. There is yet another full half left. A lot can yet be achieved. The groundwork of change has been laid. You can see the mileage covered on the agric sector. You can see the huge moves being made on the rail sector.  You are a witness to the recovery of the Chibok girls and the overall degrading of the Boko Haram insurgents. You can see the huge …..

I cannot see anything. You are merely parroting the mantra of Change. I want to feel it, not hear it. Let our breakfast table experience the change. Let our bank accounts experience change. Let those who work be paid their salaries. Let the pensioners be paid their gratuities. Let the contractors owed by government be paid. Let those who do private business have the enabling environment to do so.  Let there be light. We have suffered enough in darkness, choked further by too much grammar and needless technicalities. Those who enjoy steady light never had to pay the price of this volume of governmental explanations. The more we appear nearer the mark, the further we really are. The change is not visible. Go to Apapa in Lagos, when it rains and you will know what type of Change we have.  The French will say Rien Change. Let the purchasing power of the people be restored. Those are the things that will reflate the economy.  Let the millions of unemployed youths experience change by getting jobs. That is what will make sense, and that’s the change we want to feel, not these “ideological” abstracts you are talking about.

Awwww. What you describe as “ideological abstracts” are the fundamentals of change. I can tell you that the nation was at its lowest ebb in many areas before this government took over. You know this government literally inherited the economic recession. But it is to its credit that we are getting out of it. The indices are all there. If you cannot yet see them, then you need Tinubu’s glasses.

So, go get your aso-ebi. Get ready for the beat of the drums. The drums of hope. The hope of a better tomorrow. The tomorrow of our dream.

Rather than involve the drums, let’s turn it to a prayer conference. A prayer to heal both our president and  our land. A prayer to reset Nigeria. No need for any celebration!