Anytime he stands in for President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo hits the headlines with his landmark actions, writes Shola Oyeyipo
Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo is back on the centre stage and has managed to salvage what would have been another devastating dent on the image of the President Muhamnadu Buhari-led administration. Striking with an unbelievable blow at a high-ranking government official who holds a very insensitive office , Osinbajo sacked the Director General of the Department of Secret Service (DSS), Mr. Lawal Daura.
His courage at taking the decision to punish the Secret Service boss for not clearing with his office before laying siege on the National Assembly, while Buhari is a 10-day vacation demonstrates without his preparedness to give any challenge confronting him the seriousness it deserves.
It is a familiar terrain for Osinbajo, who has been president in acting capacity for varying durations on six different occasions since 2015 when the President Buhari-led administration came on board. With his latest travel to London, the president would have been out of the country for more than 180 days altogether and during those periods, Osinbajo was firmly in charge to the admiration of many.
Firstly, in consonance with Section 145 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution, President Buhari, always transmitted a letter to the National Assembly to state that during his leave, Osinbajo would act as president. That act of the president effectively rests leadership on his shoulders.
Osinbajo always seized the opportunity to exemplify his ability to stand in for his boss. The Vice President represents Buhari perfectly whenever he is away. The last time Buhari was away for a long stretch, Osinbajo used the period to sign some Executive Orders, particularly the EO on Ease of Doing Business which was widely commended.
Ordinarily, 10 days may seem too short, but it is long enough to make some impact in governance, and this is more so in a country like Nigeria where there are countless national issues begging for urgent presidential attention.
It is nearly impossible to think that the acting president can deal with issues relating to the Boko Haram war, which President Buhari has worked tirelessly to end, but which remains a problem. Finding lasting solutions to herders/farmers clashes is another niggling problem that the leadership addresses daily and which Osinbajo must also attend to.
Anti-corruption campaign, one of the fulcrums on which the Buhari administration based its electioneering campaign will continue receive attention from Osinbajo. Anyone with the responsibility of leadership must be seen to increase the tempo of the anti-corruption war. Osinbajo’s achievements during Buhari’s absence would also be evaluated in this context.
Apart from the daily smooth running of government, and ensuring that it is devoid of scandals and mishaps, Osinbajo would have the major responsibility of overseeing the crises ridden All Progressives Congress (APC) from which its lawmakers, including the Senate President recently decamped to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
That is perhaps the biggest issue before him and already there are insinuations that President Buhari took the 10-days leave to pave way for Osinbajo to do the dirty job. This unsubstantiated insinuation was raised by the House of Representatives lawmakers under the aegis of Parliamentary Democrats Group (PDG), while accussing the acting president and the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The lawmakers alleged that Osinbajo and Oshiomhole will be sponsoring some APC senators to cause chaos and instability in the National Assembly.
The opposition PDP has maintained that President Buhari’s planned 10-days leave to London was a plot to be away while Saraki’s impeachment is perfected. Similarly, the APC, and its splinter group, Reformed All Progressives Congress, r-APC, have had heated arguments over allegation that the ruling party plans to induce each senator with N50 million to forcibly reconvene the Senate and remove Saraki as President of the Senate.
So, it was refreshing to see Osinbajo swing the hammer of justice and strike swiftly at Daura whose action would have been interpreted as a collusion between the security services and The Presidency to oppress the opposition.
Apparently an egg ihead n Buhari’s government, Osinbajo, who was employed as a law lecturer at the University of Lagos, Nigeria at age 23 in 1981, taught from 1983 to 1986. From 1988 to 1992, he was an Adviser (legal advise and litigation) to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Bola Ajibola.
From 1997 to 1999 he was made Professor of Law and Head of Department of Public Law, University of Lagos. From 1999 to 2007, Osinbajo was a cabinet member, serving as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. He returned to the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos from 2007 to 2013 and was made Senior Partner, Simmons Cooper Partners (Barristers and Solicitors) from where he was selected to be President Buhari’s running mate by his former boss and National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu.
He is a leading lawyer in the area of Law of Evidence and as the Pastor in charge of the Lagos Province 48 (Olive Tree provincial headquarter) of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Ikoyi before his inauguration into office as the Vice President of Nigeria, Osinbajo has insisted that he remains the pastor-in-charge of the province and that he is only on loan to the federal government. .
“I am still the pastor-in-charge of Province 48 in Lagos and my wife remains wife of the pastor-in-charge and wife of the Vice President,”
But the question now is, will the Vice President join the fray by getting involved in the politics of removing the Senate President as being alleged by the PDP or would he seize the opportunity, as he did before, to quickly embark on activities capable of moving Nigeria forward. He seems to have demonstrated a willingness to move Nigeria by showing his disdain for illegality as exhibited in the DSS blockade of the National Assembly.
Its on record that it was when he was acting president that as part of plans to sort out the issue of resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta region that has led to dwindling revenue from oil production that he visited Oporoza, headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom, home of Chief Government Ekpemupolo a.k.a Tompolo in Warri South-west Local Government Area of Delta State on a facts-finding mission in January.
The second leg of his peace and dialogue tour of the oil-rich Niger Delta region, which took him to Bayelsa, Rivers and Imo States had far-reaching impacts because he did not only reaffirm government’s commitment to addressing the sufferings of the people of the Niger Delta, where Nigeria gets its major income, he openly agreed that the region has been largely neglected and promised that the federal government would discontinue the ugly trend.
Later in Bayelsa, he assured the people that the federal government would provide rapid development for oil-producing communities in the region.
According to Osinbajo, while addressing the Bayelsa State stakeholders’ meeting, since oil is the dominant source of foreign exchange earnings in Nigeria, it is only proper that the country adds value to crude oil. To him, adding value to crude oil will bring enormous economic benefits to the oil-bearing communities.
In Rivers State, Osinbajo held another town hall meeting with governors, former governors, community leaders, women and various youth groups in the region and he underscored the fact that Rivers was critical to the development and stability of the country. He pleaded with vandals of petroleum infrastructure to desist from act, assuring them that unlike at any time in the past, the current administration is prepared to ensure that the needs of the region are met.
It was at the Rivers State meeting he hinted that the federal government had secured funding of over $1billion from Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to develop the Niger Delta region, a piece of news well received by the people. He also noted that the template for the ‘Clean up Ogoni’ project of the federal government would be replicated in other oil producing communities affected by oil exploration.
From Rivers, Osinbajo made a stop in Imo State on a one-day working visit. There, he informed the people that he was there at the instance of President Buhari to consult with stakeholders in the oil producing communities of the Niger-Delta region, of which Imo is one.
Just as he did in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers, Osinbajo, while at the palace of Imo State Chairman of Traditional Rulers Council, Eze Samuel Ohiri, owned up to the fact that the people of the state have been largely marginalised as an oil-bearing state of Nigeria, reiterating that the federal government would correct the anomaly.
Overall, that he was received with pomp and pageantry in the three states of the South-south is noteworthy. This is because the three states are controlled by opposition Peoples Democratic Party ((PDP). Again, that the people were convinced somewhat that government is truly ready to walk its talk is a pointer to an enduring peace in the region as leaders in the region enjoined the militants to give government the chance to make good its promise.
Back then, in Gbaramatu, militant leader, Tompolo and his kinsmen rolled out the drums to welcome Osinbajo. Hence, some lessons were learned from the Niger Delta tour. First, that irrespective of party affiliation, every Nigerian should have equal access to the federal government. The second is that the people in the oil-producing communities, who have been agitating for a better deal from government, could be pacified if government is committed to meeting their needs.
Some other interesting achievements of Osinbajo as acting president was that he enlisted the support of the duo of Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogora, to approve the federal government’s $1 billion Eurobond.
Last year, Osinbajo assented to seven bills passed by the National Assembly. The acts that were mainly amendments to the principal act include Oath (Amendment) Act 2017, Defence Space Administration Act, Veterinary Surgeons (Amendment) Act), National Film and Video Censors Board, Pension Rights of Judges, Nigerian Institute of Social Science Establishment Act and Mortgage Institutions Amendment Act.
He held forth and headlined the news for many positive presidential initiatives. For instance, despite assumptions that President Buhari was not disposed to the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, Osinbajo forwarded his name to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive CJN.
Buhari, on November 10, 2016, appointed Onnoghen as acting CJN following the retirement of Justice Mahmud Mohammed at the attainment of the mandatory age of 70 years. The National Judicial Council had earlier forwarded Onnoghen’s name to the president as the new CJN based on the recommendation of the Federal Judicial Service Commission but he had remained in acting capacity until Osinbajo forwarded his name to the lawmakers for confirmation.
In another instance of personal example, the Vice-President rejected the new official residence built for the vice-president by the administration of Goodluck Jonathan. His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, said Osinbajo was satisfied with living in Aguda House built in the 1990s by the General Ibrahim Babangida administration
While Buhari was still on medical vacation, Osinbajo, in a letter to the Senate re-presented the name of the acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), Ibrahim Mustapha Magu for screening and subsequent confirmation as the substantive Chairman of the anti-graft agency.
He performed so brilliantly in the estimation of many including an international human rights organisation, Opinion Nigeria (ON), which urged President Buhari to tender his resignation letter and allow Osinbajo come in as substantive president but at the same time, there are those who are uncomfortable with him in acting capacity, but for the fact that his principal trusts him and prefers to be on the right side of the law