For Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the honeymoon appears over. Olawale Olaleye writes
First off, let it be established that whatever are the travails of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in the ongoing power game – he has no one but himself to blame.
And if there’s anything that even the layman could take away from the current power flexing, it is the fact that some of the events of the last few days had shown one thing and one thing only – that all is not well with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and his principal, Muhammadu Buhari is not unaware.
Although there were no direct indications that things were going to degenerate this quickly apart from the speculations from different quarters, traceable only to certain interests within the different power blocs, as it is, the gloves are palpably off and the die is desperately cast.
Some of the decisions taken by the president in the last few days are being seriously interpreted as direct symptoms of the state of affairs between the two leaders and likely indicators of what to expect. This, of course, is for close watchers of events to dissect, albeit with open minds.
As a first critical step, the president had in the week that just ended, dissolved the Economic Management Team chaired by Osinbajo and replaced it with what is now known as the Economic Advisory Council that is to report directly to him. That’s instructive and no excuses other than a failing mutual trust suffices.
Within hours that this was done, the president also issued a directive to the vice-president that he must seek approval for all the agencies and parastatals under his supervision.
Although Osinbajo had immediately responded that the directive was not at variance with what was hitherto the norm, because he had always sought approval for agencies under him, it was another move no sound student of politics could gloss over. It was noteworthy.
Trailing this was the sack of the Chief Okoi Obono-Obla presidential panel on asset recovery, an initiative of the vice-president, which was believed to have gone on overdrive without a proper supervision by Osinbajo. This also took place days apart from other steps. Quite signposting!
Naturally, with these moves, which seemed to have stripped Osinbajo of his seeming relevance in the scheme of things and made him somewhat vulnerable, if not answerable to other artificial levers of power, the thinking in many quarters now is that these were orchestrated to cancel him out of the emerging 2023 equation since he appeared to be the most influential amongst those likely to throw their hats into the ring, when the time is nigh. Of course, there are other schools of thought which held the view that the vice-president was being punished for some of the actions he took while he acted in place of the president, when the latter was away on medical vacation. To be honest, that bit could not be discountenanced. It actually added up.
Listed in this category of alleged offences when Buhari was away was the sack of a former director-general of the Department of State Service (DSS), Lawal Daura and the confirmation of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, who had since been shown the way out in the lead up to the 2019 elections, in a most mortifying manner.
In the two instances above, Osinbajo was said not to have exercised requisite discretion especially, one that spoke directly to emotional intelligence. The following explanations would sit this submission in context.
In the case of Onnoghen, for instance, although Osinbajo was acting in the stead of his boss, what he had to function with was a ‘delegated authority’ and not the responsibility of the office as a direct consequence of his choices.
Therefore, it was expected that in heaping any responsibility on the doors of his principal by virtue of the authority he exercised, he should have checked to be sure his principal would be willing to accept such responsibilities but he failed here by not checking to find out why his principal failed to forward Onnoghen’s name for approval in the first place let alone taking the initiative to do otherwise in his stead.
The same posers are tenable in the case of Daura, who was believed to be one of the few but very close aides of the president. But Osinbajo fired him in the heat of the moment, both to the shock and awe of observers.
Interestingly, the vice-president was said to have told some of his close allies that on the day he sacked Daura, he was unable to reach the president and yet, was under immense pressure to act given the anxiety and global rage the siege on the National Assembly by some DSS operatives, allegedly working on the orders of Daura, had caused the nation at the time.
But the story that later filtered out of the Villa claimed otherwise. It was gathered that he actually succeeded in speaking to the president, but that was after he had taken the decision, meaning it was deliberate. He was, perhaps, prepared for the consequences of his action. This is especially so, when the president was said to be in the know that all was not well between him and Daura, since he was said to once had a brush with the ex-DG over alleged moves to replace him with someone else, an action which of course, explained the memo he would later author to the president, explaining the reason he sacked him.
But, for the record, this is what happened in the case of Daura. President Buhari had seen the ‘breaking news’ from London, where was that Daura had been sacked. Shortly after, Osinbajo called to speak to the president and he was told the president had not come downstairs, as such not accessible.
This was about an hour after he had sacked him. The president however requested that he should be called back and when his staff did, Osinbajo wanted to start explaining, the president told him to save it since the deed had been done but would wait to hear his explanation when he returned to the country.
His actions were therefore not considered altruistic in the true sense of it by other forces presumably loyal to the president. On the contrary, those actions were believed to have put the president in very compromising position especially, in the reckoning of the power play, both now and the future everyone looks forward to.
Further exacerbating the angst against Osinbajo were reports of his alleged scheming to assume office as substantive president, in the period Buhari was sick. There were sinister rumours doing the rounds at the time.
There were said to be several of such meetings, envisaging the unintended and projecting the power structure afterwards, the outcomes of which security had compiled for the record in the expectation that the president returns.
In some instances, there were said to be both the audio and the video recordings of some of such meetings, which have already been availed the president even before he returned, showing clearly who played what role in the mix.
Yet, the president, sources claimed, refused to act on some of these even though he might have waited for this long, when it seems Osinbajo’s 15 minutes are up.
In fact, from the signals emerging from the corridors of power, some of the events that happened in the period the president was sick, is also likely to consume a top security person as the power struggle continues as he was allegedly fingered in the scheme.
Curiously, these incidences were not even the reason the vice-president finally landed in trouble. The reason he is facing these challenges is said to be more about ‘abuse of trust’, which conflicts with the understanding and confidence the president had in him in terms of transparency and accountability.
First was said to be his handling of some of the intervention funds allocated to the agencies under him for the various social programmes.
The management of these funds were said to have become an embarrassment, because of their untidy nature, which suggested outright mismanagement steeped in lack of transparency and accountability.
But the main issue of trust abuse, which the president was said to have found appalling was in regards to a large some of money believed to have come from a certain revenue-generating agency of government to the vice-president during the elections.
When the head of the agency was queried with respect to the money, he was said to have mentioned the name of the vice-president and when asked to explain too, Osinbajo allegedly claimed it was money used as special funds to intervene in some of the states during the elections, twice more than what the president allegedly approved.
Not furious still, the president was said to have asked the vice-president to put it into writing with details and breakdown of how the monies were spent, espousing the state-by-state analyses of the expenses.
But as at the time of filing this report, the vice-president was said not to have responded to this request by his boss, a development the president could not exactly place, thus raising more concerns.
This attitude of his was said to have further encouraged the investigations of many other transactions believed to have involved the vice-president, the result of which sources claimed embarrassed the president, who shockingly did not want his deputy embarrassed, because of the larger implication for the government as an entity. But the options before them are limited. Sadly so! There is no debating the fact that Osinbajo’s 15 minutes are already up and the turn of events in the days to come isn’t going to smile at him.
With a disposition largely considered hypocritical and contrary to expectations from someone of his stature, the likely correlation between his current travails and the 2023 elections is the reason he may not leave office unscathed.
Unfortunately, at this time, resignation is not even an option except it pleases the president to ease him out on the ground of magnanimity. This is showing an understanding that they could not have moved against him if they were not sure of their facts.
From all indications, it does appear Osinbajo might have walked into traps he is unable to get out of, even though these are traps designed by his own misadventures.
And a majority of the facts against him was said to show disloyalty, unbridled ambition, poor ability in applying emotional intelligence in key decisions and his failure to be accountable and transparent in handling primary assignments.
As it is, Osinbajo prayed for the rains and the rains are here now in torrents. It is about time he dealt with the mud and the flood as direct consequences of his many choices. It is politics, realtime!