By TE Columnist, Epa Stevens
SWITZERLAND, SEPTEMBER 28 – Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo is currently in the eye of the storm as recent presidential decisions have undermined his influence within President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
Once heralded as the shining star of the Buhari regime, Osinbajo’s fortunes now appear to be heading south. Each day, it seems, his position, persona and office are considerably being weakened deliberately for political reasons. Despite denials from all the usual suspects, all indications point to an emerging conspiracy against the industrious and ingenious Vice President.
One of the first signs that all is not well is the dissolution of the Economic Management Team (EMT), which he has chaired since the inception of this administration, and its replacement with the Economic Advisory Council (EAC).
This was followed by the media report indicating that the president had directed all agencies operating under the supervision of the Vice President to report directly to him and that the Vice President should seek authorization from the president.
There are rumours that some of the agencies he oversees, like the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), will soon be yanked off his desk. There are also reports that the National Social Investment Program (NSIP), a brainchild of Osinbajo and one of the most successful projects of the Buhari era, will soon cease to be a part of his purview.
Osinbajo’s travails have been compounded by several allegations of corruption under his watch, none of them backed up with concrete evidences. Even members of the opposition are beginning to throw stones at him.
One of the people throwing unfounded allegations against the Vice President is the former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Timi Frank, who said that Osinbajo received N90 billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), under Babatunde Fowler, to help the ruling APC win the last presidential election.
There is also a report by the Punch Newspaper, claiming that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is launching an investigation into alleged corrupt practices in the execution of the Social Investment Programmes (SIPs), under Osinbajo’s supervision. The EFCC has since denied the report but apprehension persists in the camp of the Vice President.
Meanwhile, rumours circulating on the social media and speculations by some media outlets indicate that the end game of the current plot against Osinbajo is related to the upcoming elections in 2023 and Osinbajo has come under fire as a person of interest for the 2023 power play.
However, I am deeply worried that in the midst of all the accusations and rumours, the APC has not come out publicly to defend the Vice President. Instead, key leaders of the party have been denying the existence of a rift in the presidency and the plot against him.
The Yoruba have a saying that translates in English as:
“The worm eating the vegetable resides inside the vegetable.”
The silence of President Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and other key members of the party on the matter speaks louder than words about the fact that the Vice President’s problem is coming from within the party.
Current trends indicate that Osinbajo is being targeted by a cabal to take him out of his strategic position to pave way for the emergence of another person more beholden to its members as the next president of Nigeria. This is exactly the use and dump mentality that has poisoned Nigeria’s political landscape. Why is it that people who have done well in positions suddenly become the enemies of powerful political entities just because they have not danced to the tune of the powers that be?
It will be a huge mistake for the president and the APC if they allow this to continue. Osinbajo is a democratically elected Nigerian public official of the highest order and must not be allowed to be rubbished like this. Osinbajo is important to Buhari’s government not just because he represents the interests of a powerful ethnic group (Yoruba), but also because he is seen by many as the positive face of the government.
The APC will definitely lose considerable support if Osinbajo’s victimization continues to worsen and is seen as coming from within the APC. Moreover, most of the policies touted by the government as monumental and lauded by the people were carried out under Osinbajo’s supervision.
The SIP scheme which Osinbajo is being reportedly probed for, is perhaps the most significant policy of this administration. Osinbajo and his economic team have helped to cushion the effect of recession by implementing a massive, innovative set of Programmes which include the National Home-Grown School Feeding (NHGSF), Tradermoni, N-power and Conditional Cash Transfers.
Through Tradermoni and its sister program, Marketmoni, the Federal government has provided soft, non-collateral loans that can be paid back in bits to over 1.1 million traders and artisans. Under the NHGSF provides jobs for 95,422 cooks, who feed about 9.4 million pupils in 49, 837 schools across the country. Under the N-power scheme, 500,000 youths have been provided internship placements with government stipends in various sectors including construction, education and technology. Under the CCT, the government has spent N15 billion on N1.8 million vulnerable women across 20 states, enhancing the livelihood of 326,000 households.
Osinbajo’s contributions to Nigeria even goes beyond the economy. He has been instrumental to efforts to bring peace to many restive areas of the country despite been excluded from the security council. A year into the APC administration, the Niger Delta became restive again as armed youths from the Niger Delta Avengers destroy oil facilities. It was Osinbajo that travelled to the Niger Delta to negotiate with these youths.
At the height of the Fulani herdsmen/herdsmen crisis in the Middlebelt, it was also Osinbajo that went to placate the aggrieved parties. Same thing happened in Borno State, where Osinbajo visited several political and community leaders in an effort to bring a lasting solution to the Boko Haram Insurgency. When the security situation began to deteriorate again across the country, especially in the South-West, it was Osinbajo that undertook a consultative tour to traditional rulers in an effort to resolve the crisis.
May I say if Osinbajo is removed, the president risks the wrath of Nigerians, many of whom already loathe the APC for failure to improve the economy and secure lives across the country. Many more will withdraw their support for the party ahead of 2023 if Osinbajo continues to be undermined. This is because he is seen as the more intellectual and humane face of an administration that has failed on many fronts and many Nigerians will lose complete hope in this administration if Osinbajo goes down.