Yemi Osinbajo, deputy president chaired the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting yesterday on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari who is in London on a ‘private visit’. However, the duty to put out speculations that the relationship between him and his principal has hit an all-time low.
As the council sat at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Nigerians heard the latest in a series of stories suggesting the inefficient carve of the deputy president’s influence. According to online reports, Buhari approved the sacking of at least 35 out of over 80 aides in the deputy president’s office. The aides, said to have been issued appointment letters in August, included senior special assistants, special assistants, personal assistants, and technical assistance.
Osinbajo was previously asked by the president to seek presidential approvals for agencies under his supervision and had moved the National Social Investment Programme (N-SIP) from the deputy president’s office to a new ministry. In addition, the Economic Management Team chaired by the deputy president has been replaced with the Economic Advisory Council under the direct influence of the president.
The source said the aides were taken aback late when Tuesday news filtered that Buhari had approved the sacking in a correspondence presented to him by the CoS during the visit. Kyari plans Buhari’s schedules, known to be one of the president’s closest aides. Ministers reportedly queue in his office to see the president.
His influence became visible to many during a retreat organized by the president for ministers-designate. While declaring the retreat open on November 5, 2015, Buhari stated: “All communications and appointments from you (ministers) to the president should be routed through the Office of the Chief of Staff as it is the normal (procedure) in this presidential system.”
Some of the aides had their access tags retrieved at the gate yesterday. As it’s reported for work, security guards checkered their names on the list and seized the tags. Osinbajo’s spokesperson, Laolu Akande, could not be reached for comments at press time as his number was continuously busy.
Majority of Nigerians have criticized Buhari’s failure to send a letter to the National Assembly empowering Osinbajo to act on his behalf. Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Babajide Omoworare, dismissed the criticism
At a press conference in Abuja, he stated: “President Buhari has no reason to do so. I don’t think there is any way or manner that the office of the vice president has been relegated. The president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can work from anywhere he is in the world. The only celebrated case was that of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who was ill and could not transmit any letter to the National Assembly.
The National Assembly had to work around the situation by ensuring that executive powers go to the vice president.”
The president-general of Igbo think-tank, Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, disapproved of the “subterfuge” surrounding the sacking of the aides. He stated: “The combination of the military man and the erudite professor (Osinbajo) was seen by many as a good one. But it appears that the military man has grown tired of the well-grounded reasoning of the professor. The development is certainly not good.”
The executive director of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Ibuchukwu Ezike, said: “You don’t sack them without a cause. It is the abuse of due process and negates the rule of law. Buhari should rescind this decision and 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.”
But the deputy national president of Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mazi Chucks Ibegbu, said: “They should sort themselves out.” According to him, the group is more concerned about the country’s urgent need for restructuring, justice, equity and fairness and the parlous state of infrastructure in the southeast.