By Eric Elezuo
In one fell swoop, President Muhammadu Buhari came down hard on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, cutting off 35 of his personal aides. The President had earlier a few weeks back disengaged a good number of the Vice President’s men in addition to stripping him of some of his oversight and constitutional functions. The move has generated discourse in many quarters, questioning the rationale and the intentions behind laying the Vice President bare in terms of work force and job description.
However, in a brazen show of superiority, even as the Vice President’s camp was denying Buhari’s action, the Presidency owned up to the action, saying it was part of the ongoing overhauling of the seat of government. It blamed the desire to cut down multiple authorities and reduce cost of administration as some of the reasons the VP had to be stripped.
“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”, a State House statement by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, said.
The gestapo fashion with which the President and Presidency have dealt with and been dealing matters relating to the VP’s office has called for a thorough review, the good intentions notwithstanding. While everybody no doubt is crying blue murder, Osinbajo’s camp has however, maintained a dignified calm, in an attempt prove nothing is amiss.
Recently, the President asked the Vice President to seek approvals for agencies under his supervision, and moved the National Social Investment Programme from the Office of the Vice President to a new ministry. Also, the Economic Management Team, the vice president should chair constitutionally, would now be overseen by the President on the advice of the newly constituted Economic Advisory Council.
As if that wasn’t enough, last week, Buhari traveled to the United Kingdom on a 10-working days private visit without handing over to the vice president via a letter to the National Assembly.
But if the President is not back within 21 days, the Doctrine of Necessity law will become operational and Osinbajo ‘may’ be empowered to function as acting president. The Doctrine of Necessity law was passed in 2010 when late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua traveled out without handing over to his then vice, Dr Goodluck Jonathan. The then Senator David Mark-led National Assembly passed the law which also operates at the state level if governors travel without formally handing over and remain abroad for more than 21 days.
Adding insult to injury, Buhari, last week signed a bill into law while holidaying in London, sparking a debate in the country. In defence, the chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the APC and the presidency said he could rule from any part of the world.
Nigerians are worried at the way and manner the vice President has been cowed into irrelevance, and seems to send a strong to the Buhari Presidency to take heed before it becomes unbearable.
Much as it is obvious that almost all the Presidents so far existed in the country has not treated their deputies fairly, a great number of Nigerians are of the opinion that Osinbajo’s case has gone beyond the ordinary. It is therefore, imperative for the President to rescind his steps before tempers go higher than it is now.
But coming to look at it, the 35 sacked Osinbajo aides are just a part of the over 80 personnel in the Vice President’s retinue of staff, and one is tempted to ask what the VP is doing with much number of aides when cost cutting is being canvassed and the regular Nigerians are eating from hand to mouth, and in most cases, not eating at all.
If Buhari is cutting cost as he tries to make Nigerians believe, well and good. But his manner of approach leaves a lot to the imagination. This is a country highly polarised by ethnic, sectional and religious coloration, and the president must learn to trade cautiously. It’s time he changes his tactics; vendetta or not, to avoid an uncanny situation from yet unknown corner.
The 35 sacked aides were among no fewer than 80 aides of the vice president.