For more than a month now, various reports are pointing to a rift between President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The recent dismissal of over 30 aides of the VP by Buhari’s Chief of Staff has brought the issue to the fore again.
A deeper look: Things happen. While the Presidency’s official position has dismissed the reports, a number of changes that seem to have whittled down the powers and responsibilities of VP Osinbajo keep coming to light. Some of these include:
- The appointment of an Economic Advisory Council (EAC) that reports directly to President Buhari, took over the mandate of the Economic Management Team (EMT) that was supervised by Osinbajo. Efforts to downplay this announcement especially from the VP’s quarters have been unconvincing.
- President Buhari also removed his VP from the committee to resolve the farmers-herdsmen conflict and rejected his proposals for the National Livestock Transformation Plan in favor of the RUGA initiative through the National Food Security Council as recommended by his Chief of Staff.
- A number of government agencies and parastatals under the Vice President’s supervision have been reallocated. These include; National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), National Social Investment Programme, National Boundary Commission (NBC) and the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA).
- The recently signed Deep Offshore (and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract) Act by President Buhari while on vacation is another indicator of a strained relationship.
The triggers of this rift
- A number of actions undertaken by VP Osinbajo as acting President has not been forgiven by Buhari’s men. These include the confirmation of the appointment of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen; and the sack of the former Director General of the state’s secret service, Lawal Daura.
- Osinbajo has publicly distanced himself from the RUGA initiative being promoted by Buhari’s CoS and other members of the inner circle. The VP’s denial of RUGA appeared to give credence to the reports of corruption around the scheme, casting Buhari’s men in bad light.
- Osinbajo is interested in running as President in 2023 and nobody is finding that funny, even his godfather, APC National Leader Bola Tinubu, who seems to be interested in the position. Insiders tell us that the former Lagos governor is behind some of his godsons present woes, as he feels betrayed by Osinbajo’s exploratory moves. Osinbajo is quite popular with a part of the country as he connected with many people during the 2019 electioneering campaign where he toured the country distributing TraderMoni allocations to beneficiaries. A number of people inside the President’s camp are starting to explore the possibilities of a Buhari third term in a bid to stop some of the other strong likely contenders.
What Nigerians are saying
Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organisation, Ibuchukwu Ezike said that President Buhari should “stop acts that portray him as intimidating the vice president. That was how the judiciary was intimidated and is now dancing to his whims and caprices.”
Opposition political strategist, Demola Rewaju says the current dilemmas faced by the VP is not unique to Osinbajo, citing a similarity between the VP’s travails and one of his predecessors, Atiku Abubakar.
The National Assembly is unfazed. In September, Senate spokesperson, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, said the Senate is not interested in the issue. “We are not concerned about what happens in the executive (or) things that are happening with the Executive.”
Bottomline: The tension between major figures of the incumbent administration is not strange. The power struggle is already in full effect. 2023 has come earlier than it was supposed to.