*Denies rift between president, VP
*Says no one more powerful than president in Villa
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The presidency finally reacted to the news making the rounds since Wednesday that President Muhammadu Buhari sacked 35 aides of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, saying Buhari only ordered the reduction of the vice-president’s aides to save the cost of governance.
The presidency which also debunked claims that there is a powerful force in the Presidential Villa who controls the government, was swift to deny claims that the decision to lay off some of the vice-president’s aides was a deliberate attempt to undermine his personality, insisting that the relationship between both men remains cordial and will jointly lead Nigeria to a glorious future.
A statement in Abuja Friday by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, confirmed that the move to lay off some of the vice-president’s aides was part of the decisions of the administration to downsize what it described as the over-bloated workforce in the presidency.
Shehu who said the move did not only affect the office of the vice president , added that some of the aides of the president did not equally make it back to this second term administration.
He emphasised that the move was aimed at reducing the cost of governance with a view to enhancing service delivery adding that the move was also a reaction to a general belief among the populace that the presidency has over-bloated workforce.
“The Presidency wishes to confirm that there is, on-going, an unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s seat of government, arising from which a number of political appointments have either been revoked or not renewed in the Second Term.
“The exercise, which has been ordered by the President, is to streamline decision-making, cut down multiple authorities and reduce the cost of administration. It is also an appropriate response to the general perception that the Presidency has an oversized and bloated workforce which acts as a drag on efficiency.
“As may have been noticed by discerning members of the public, a number of political appointees among the few that served in the office of the President were not returned for the Second Term.
“The office of the Vice President, His Excellency Yemi Osinbajo has, in compliance with the directive of the President, equally been shed of a number of such appointees.
“In carrying out these exercises, the overriding objective is to save taxpayer money and deliver needed service to the public. As far as the President is concerned, there is no scope for an excuse for administration after getting a huge mandate to run the country for four more years,” Shehu explained.
The presidential spokesman also denied reports that the sack of the vice-president’s aides was a proof that there is a rift between the president and his deputy, insisting that their relationship is not only excellent but also built on trust.
According to Shehu, those insinuating there is a rift between the two leaders had their own ulterior motive, which he said only fuelled such insinuations, explaining that the president has always had fewer staff than the vice president, and the move to downsize Villa staff had commenced for a while.
He emphasised that the move was not targeted at the vice president as widely reported, arguing that the president is in firm grip of his government and no one is more powerful than him in Aso Rock.
“In the light of this, the Presidency wishes to strongly deny rumours of a rift between President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The relationship between the two leaders remains excellent and trusting. Together, they will script a glorious future for the nation.
“The media reports of a soured relationship are originating from the minds and mouths of mischief makers, who are desperate for entertaining stories from the Aso Rock Villa with which to titillate the public. This ulterior motive is the basis of the wrong interpretation given to the recent exercise in the Presidency.
“There has been a streamlining of staff going on for a while. The President has always had fewer staff than the Vice President, and there were always plans to reduce the number of staff at the Villa.
“The streamlining was not personal or targeted to undermine the Vice President’s office, as the so-called insider sources quoted by the media appear to make it seem.
“The President is in absolute control of his government. The media should stop attributing non-existent powers to some people. There cannot be anyone too powerful for President Buhari to control,” the statement added.