By Olalekan Adetayo
As the one who presides over the most populous country in Africa, President Muhammadu Buhari is no doubt an influential man. It is not out of place that millions of people within and outside the country might want to get his attention for one favour or the other. Expectedly, not many people will get that needed access to him.
There are, however, a few individuals who are very close to the President and, hence, wield huge influence in their own rights. These are apart from members of his immediate family that consists of the First Lady (sorry, the President’s wife), Hajia Aisha Buhari, and the children.
As far as the Buhari Presidency is concerned, one of the men that can be said to be very close to the President so far is Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who currently supervises the nation’s economy. Osinbajo is always at the service of the President. He represents him very often both within and outside the country. The relationship between the two top government officials so far is very cordial. In fact, I don’t think Osinbajo’s loyalty to the President is to be questioned.
Another man that is very close to the President is his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari. The closeness may be due to the position he currently occupies, but the lesson must not be lost that something must have qualified him for that appointment.
Since his assumption of office, Kyari, who has a trademark of always wearing white ‘agbada’ and wine cap, has not been far from the President. He is in charge of arranging the President’s day-to-day activities. Despite that Kyari’s office is a bit far from the President’s (about 200metres), the COS can trek that distance to and fro more than six times in a day either to consult with Buhari or attend one meeting or the other.
While making his way to the President’s office or back to his office, he will pass through the corridor of the Briefing Room, where journalists always hang out to search for scoops. No matter how busy he is, he will pause a bit to crack jokes with the reporters and quickly leave as fast as possible. Kyari is no doubt one of the President’s men.
There is no way those who wield influence in the Villa for now will be identified without mentioning Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State. I can even state without fear of contradiction that he is so far the most frequent state governor in the Villa. If he is not visiting the President, El-Rufai will be consulting with Vice President Osinbajo. I am aware that he was instrumental to some of the appointments so far made by the President. He wields big influence that is not commensurate to his small stature.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State also wields enormous influence in the Villa. He is also a regular visitor, coming closely behind El-Rufai. Most times, after consulting with Buhari, Oshiomhole will brief State House correspondents. His interviews had always been focusing on how officials of the last administration allegedly stole the nation blind.
I will be identifying more President’s men in subsequent editions.
Like Mobola Johnson, like Kemi Adeosun
Since the wind of change that blew through the Villa during the last presidential election, many other things have changed. The change permeated through the seat of power from who occupies the President’s seat to ministers and even Villa guests. The hitherto known faces have given way for the new ones.
By the time Buhari inaugurated his cabinet, most of his 36 ministers are those who are entering the Villa for the first time. A few of them who had been here before had either done so because of the public offices they occupied before or because they belonged to the then-ruling Peoples Democratic Party before they parted ways with others under that green-white-red umbrella.
There is, however, someone in the present cabinet that keeps reminding us of one of the ministers that served under former President Goodluck Jonathan. That person is the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun. She keeps reminding us of Jonathan’s Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson.
Both ladies look alike in stature, and also in the way they walk and talk (with foreign accent). Incidentally, both of them are Yoruba ladies, though from different states. While Johnson is from Ondo State, Adeosun is from Ogun State.
Unlike her predecessor in office, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, whose trademark is her headgear that she places delicately on her head as if it will fall down with a slight push, Adeosun rarely tie headgears. In fact, I heard her telling one of her female colleagues recently that she resorted to holding her headgear after many failed attempts to tie it correctly. The female minister collected the headgear from her, carefully folded it and placed it on her (Adeosun’s ) shoulder. Those who specialise in tying headgears for fees may find a good business in her.
Adeosun has, however, created her own trademark. She has been appearing, most times, in ‘adire,’ a tye-and-die traditional clothe that is popular in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital. With different colours and designs, her tailor has been cutting the material neatly into skirts and blouses or gowns for her. Those who have business sense can also explore the idea of supplying her with the materials.
Since their inauguration, Adeosun had the first opportunity to address State House correspondents on Tuesday, albeit, briefly. It was at the press conference addressed by the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, shortly after a closed-door meeting she had with Buhari. The lot fell on Adeosun to introduce Lagarde to journalists at the Briefing Room of the Council Chamber.
The following day, however, she had more time to spend with reporters. She had the opportunity of briefing journalists of the outcome of the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by Buhari. The venue was the same. She was introduced by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Unlike his predecessors who will first speak at length on what transpired at such meetings before yielding the stage for relevant ministers to brief, Mohammed does not waste time. He will just introduce the ministers concerned and step aside for them to carry their cross. That style, to me, is good. It simply avoids repetition.
Since the main item on the agenda of the FEC meeting was how to plug leakages in government revenue, all the questions raised by journalists during the post-FEC briefing, except one, were directed at Adeosun. The minister gave a good account of herself to the extent that her performance became a subject of discussion among journalists long after the session ended. Some also mimicked her foreign accent.
As she was making her way out of the Briefing Room with Mohammed, I approached her to tell her how impressed I was with her performance, especially bearing in mind that she is my state’s representative in the cabinet. After appreciating the compliment, she sought to know the part of the state that I hail from. She informed me amidst smile that she is from Ogun Water Side. Enjoy your weekend.
- This Best Outside Opinion was written by Olalekan Adetayo/The Punch