In September 2008, about nine years ago, I published an article titled “If Yar’Adua Doesn’t Die!” It was a response to strong insinuations in the media on the plight of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who was alive then but some commentators were already expressing views on expectations after his likely demise.
We are currently witnessing a similar scenario as the national discourse has shifted to debates on the ailing or recuperating President Muhammadu Buhari who left the country on January 19, 2017 for medical vacation in London, after handing over power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to act in his behalf.
The media is awash with views of Nigerians, as well as patriotic commentators, over the transfer of power and the commendable progress made so far in the absence of Buhari. Meanwhile, spin-doctors and political manipulators, in their different shades, have joined the debate, mostly on cyberspace. In some cases, the issue is coloured in sectional sentiments, with political undertones and religious undercurrents.
In fact, there have been gossips on the motives behind recent fasting by some Christians in the South, as well as speculations on massive prayers by some Muslims in the North, over the ill-health of the president. Some scenarios are disturbing, as some comments attempt to create rifts between Buhari and Osinbajo who have so far shown maturity, sincerity and respect in their mutual relationship.
President Buhari does not only trust Osinbajo, he assigned the law professor and church pastor to oversee the economy as the head of the federal economic team. In fact, sensitive offices and strategic positions within that sector, including that of the chief economic adviser, are domiciled under the Office of the Vice President. In more than two occasions, President Buhari has officially, through legislative mandates, handed over power to Osinbajo to act as Nigerian president.
Aside from the recent controversial and illegal disengagement of a female chartered accountant, Mrs Maryam Danna Mohammed from the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) and the replacement of the boss of the agency with an aide of the vice president, Professor Osinbajo has demonstrated, to some extent, unquestionable loyalty to President Buhari in his utterances and actions. A politically conscious person, Osinbajo has not behaved frivolously. As a legal luminary, acting President Osinbajo knows the implication of wilful disobedience to court orders by the Buhari administration, especially on several bails granted to some personalities who are still being detained illegally, he nevertheless refused to act or intervene professionally on the legal dilemmas probably to prove his absolute loyalty to the administration. In tandem with the style and language of his boss, Pastor Osinbajo has consistently re-echoed the message of the administration on the war on terror and the aggressive rhetoric on the anti-corruption campaigns.
As a loyal public officer, Osinbajo has embarked on local tours and hosted several meetings towards addressing seeming economic and socio-political challenges. The deliberate efforts, in the absence of the president, have so far strengthened the local currency – the naira, boosted oil production, and stabilised the polity. At most occasions, he insists that he is a representative of the president. For instance, when he travelled to the heart of Niger Delta to appeal against militancy, Osinbajo said he was there as an emissary of Buhari to offer “a new vision” for the oil-producing region.
There is all certainty that Professor Osinbajo would have sought the consent of his boss and/or members of the Federal Executive Council in taking some of the far-reaching decisions which are being commended. We should therefore encourage the administration to be focused without allowing a division between Buhari and Osinbajo to be made, while making comparisons.
There is always the fear that political sycophants may feast on such divisive and distractive debates to create avoidable complications, like those which almost consumed two previous administrations. The political imbroglio between President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar, as well as the cabal-infused impasse between President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan were triggered by the reckless expression of sentiments by supporters
Any insinuation that questions the loyalty of a subordinate and doubts the strength and competence of the boss is always painful. Such a dilemma merely creates feelings of betrayal and instigates a crisis of confidence that can distract and derail a focused administration. In our clime, there is a thin line between sanity and insanity among political fans (fanatics) whose support are based on ethnic, religious and sectional sentiments.
We should, therefore, support the brilliant strides of acting President Osinbajo in sustaining the tempo of progressive governance and pray for the safe return of President Buhari to carry on the task of making this a greater country.
Yushau A. Shuaib, firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.yashuaib.com, writes from Abuja.