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The underperformance of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration stares the vice president in the face, writes Bolaji Adebiyi

Since Vice President Yemi Osinbajo made public his intention to succeed his boss, Muhammadu Buhari, he has come under heavy attacks by many social critics who find him unworthy of the position for many reasons that appear difficult to dispute. Yet this is paradoxical given his oratory, erudition, intellectual standing and many years of public service dating back to 1999.

How could he be found wanting for the highest office he has deputised for seven years? Although in Nigeria, deputies are hardly found worthy of the saddle by their principals, Osinbajo, given his erudition and experience, ought to be different. He came into office with otherwise illustrious public and private service records. An accomplished academic, who became a professor of Law in record time, he was appointed attorney-general and commissioner for Justice by Bola Tinubu, governor of Lagos State in 1999, serving two terms. While serving in that position, he took silk and was well regarded for his reformatory works in the justice sector.

Before then he had been a special assistant to Bola Ajibola SAN, a former attorney-general of the federation and minister of Justice, who later became a judge of the International Court of Justice, The Hague. Ajibola found him so competent that he took him to The Hague.

After public service in 2007, Osinbajo refused to go back to the classroom, opting for a private legal practice that turned out to be very lucrative and successful. He also became a senior pastor in the well-known and populous Redeemed Christian Church of God. It was from here that he was invited to come and run with Buhari in 2015. The story since then is well known.

It is interesting that these records have not headlined the public discourse of Osinbajo’s declared intention since Monday. And from the intensity of the volleys ranged against him, they are not likely to come into any meaningful reckoning in the days ahead. This may be strange but to the discerning observer of the nation’s often slippery and sophisticated political landscape, the vice president has only himself to blame for allowing the narratives to be framed against him long before his declaration of intention.

Around early last year, a curious conversation about how Osinbajo became Buhari’s running mate emerged and developed into a big media issue. Contrary to the erstwhile general belief that he was nominated by his presumed godfather, Tinubu, the story became rife that other forces were actually his destiny helpers. Osinbajo is not known to have issued any clarification. Not a few persons thought that was strange, giving rise to the allegation of ingratitude. A seemingly innocuous conversation developed a life of its own and blew open on Monday with many otherwise serious political analysts accusing the vice president of betraying his godfather. Trivial? Maybe. But it was a big issue that overshadowed the very important act of his presidential declaration.

A more important issue though is the disbelief in the ability of Osinbajo to rise to the occasion of pulling the country back from the precipice of economic, social and political misery. Pointing to his declaration broadcast, critics said it was empty of any meaningful attainment and full of promises of the same thing that were promised seven years ago. The most annoying soundbite in the speech for them was his pledge to continue the job from where Buhari would stop in 2023.   

The hostility to Osinbajo on this score is understandable. Buhari’s records show abysmal underperformance. The facts are justified by the grim reality of the poverty-stricken lives of Nigerians. The administration has done very poorly on all it promised to do: revive the economy, secure the country and tackle corruption. The indices, inflation, Gross Domestic Product, exchange rate, foreign investment inflow, debt portfolio and unemployment and poverty rates are all South from the North the Buhari government inherited. The security situation today is as appalling as the worsening spate of corruption.

Meanwhile, the vice president spoke against the background of a very harsh condition of living. All the basic daily things of life were elusive. Persistent grid collapse had put the nation in darkness for days. Alternative sources could not be deployed because of the high cost, even scarcity, of diesel and petrol. Crippling inflation had made basic food items inaccessible, and just a few weeks before, a train commuting citizens from Abuja to Kaduna was bombed by terrorists, who killed eight persons and made away with over a hundred others.  

Osinbajo’s pledge to continue with this low performance could not in good conscience have been expected to attract applause from a deeply traumatised people. This is particularly so because the vice president neither offered any explanation at all for the dire state of affairs nor did he say how he intended to improve Nigerians’ lot.

Although it could be said that is unfair to hold the vice president responsible for this state of play since the buck stops at his boss’ table, this nevertheless is a hard sell for two principal reasons. First, under the 1999 Constitution as amended the vice president has exclusive responsibility for the economy. That is why he chairs the National Economic Council made up of the 36 state governors and some key ministers. So, it would be correct to allot him the blame for the failed outcomes of the administration’s economic policies.

Secondly, Osinbajo was the one who led and articulated the economic policies of the All Progressives Congress during the electioneering campaigns of 2015 and 2019. As it were, he was the face of the APC hence the need for him to appraise the situation and report progress.

However, the overall problem is the refusal of the APC government and its supporters to accept its glaring failure and take responsibility. Surely, if this is the official position it becomes difficult for the vice president in that administration to deviate. The challenge though is the difficult task of asking Nigerians to disbelieve the hard evidence of their own reality. This, obviously, is the dilemma Osinbajo and the others on his trail face and would have to contend with in the days ahead.

Adebiyi, the managing editor of THISDAY Newspapers, writes from      

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