This became glaring following some developments in the presidency, which appeared to have reduced the influence of the VP within government
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo
Notwithstanding public appearances and statements to the contrary, political permutations and maneuvering for the 2023 presidential race may have finally come between the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.
This became glaring following some developments in the presidency, which appeared to have reduced the influence of the VP within government. About three weeks ago, government agencies under the supervision of Vice President Osinbajo were directed to be seeking their approvals from the President, and same period, the Prof. Doyin Salami-led economic advisory council was set up to replace the Osinbajo-led economic management team. A presidential directive sacking the VP’s aides from the villa capped that; they are now to operate from a rented apartment in the Abuja metropolis.
While there have been many political interpretations given to the gathering storm, ranging from alleged complicity in some activities to attempts to shove him aside or whittle down his influence ahead of 2023, Saturday Sun gathered exclusively that the storm the VP is battling against is three-pronged.
Trouble began for the brilliant professor of law when some officials working with him were fingered in the purchase of some houses abroad especially the United States. It was learnt that in all, the VP has about 80 officials as aides. With the exception of a few, most of the aides were being paid salaries by agencies under the supervision of the Vice President’s office.
A probe of the development was said to have absolved Osinbajo of any complicity in the activities of some of the indicted aides. This, those opposed to the VP in APC, government and within the opposition ranks twisted against him.
Presidential sources disclosed that this was responsible for the decision to relocate over 70 officials working with the VP from Aso Rock villa to a rented apartment within the capital city as well as the issuance of the directive to seek President Buhari’s approval by certain agencies under the direct supervision of the VP.
For Osinbajo and Tinubu, the relationship started going down south when the APC leader and former governor of Lagos state began to get feelers that the number two citizen might equally be nursing the ambition to succeed his boss in 2023. The latter is believed to have nominated the former for his current position in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election. Some persons close to Tinubu were said to have made some snipe remarks about the suspected ambition of the VP to the hearing of security agents in an open discussion at the 11th Bola Tinubu birthday colloquium held March in Abuja, an incident that later became part of a security report on the programme.
It was further gathered that Tinubu has not been too pleased with the VP because he has not been consulting him on a number of issues, while “some of their people in government like the FIRS man have been working more towards the political ambition of the VP than that of Asiwaju.” The APC leader was said to have been restrained by friends and aides from releasing a press statement endorsing recent presidential actions viewed as whittling down the VP’s influence before jetting out to London over a week ago.
He equally has a Buhari ally and former governor of the state, Senator Ibikunle Amosun to contend with. All the major federal political appointments going to Ogun since the inauguration of President Buhari’s second term in May had been clinched by persons nominated by Amosun. For instance, Amosun’s childhood friend and Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure during his eight-year term as governor of Ogun, Olamilekan Adegbite, was recently appointed the Minister of Mine and Steel Development.
Amosun has also succeeded in pushing his ally, Adeleke Moronfolu Adewolu, to be appointed as the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Engagement, at the Nigerian Communications Commission. He replaced Sunday Dare, who is now the Minister of Youths and Sports Development. Adewolu had contested but lost the House of Representatives seat in Ifo/Ewekoro Federal Constituency on the platform of APM, a party openly supported by Amosun. In addition, Amosun has been able to push for his former Commissioner for Agric and Urban and Physical Planning, Mrs Ronke Sokefun, to be appointed as the chairman of the Governing Board of the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Three weeks ago, President Buhari constituted an economic advisory council and named Prof Doyin Salami as chairman. Salami, from Ijebu Ode, Ogun state, is Amosun’s close friend. Few days before his appointment, he was in Owo, Ondo state with Amosun for Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s daughter’s wedding ceremony.
Meanwhile, a top official in the VP’s office, who preferred anonymity, told Saturday Sun “ The vice president can’t be seen to be a local champion. Yes, his camp produced the governor of Ogun State and you must also remember that Amosun’s relationship with the president predates the APC. They were together in ANPP and, since the vice president’s camp has produced the governor, it was only fair that Amosun’s camp nominate for other appointments. Appointments are at the president’s discretion.”
Asked why Tinubu is yet to publicly defend Osinbajo, the official replied: “People are free to make extrapolations based on their interests. Besides, some of these issues are better sorted locally. Now, let’s remember that whenever (former President Jonathan) Goodluck had any issues with Sambo, did they discuss it publicly? Any issue will still be resolved locally.”
Speaking on record however, Senior Technical Assistant on Media to the Vice President, Louis Odion denied some aides were indicted in any probe set up by the presidency. He said: “I think President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo deserve not to be distracted in their efforts to find solutions to our numerous national problems with rumour mongering like this.
“I am glad you said a panel set up absolved the Vice President. I don’t know of any secret probe. I only know of a committee of the House of Representatives that looked into the funds spent by NEMA and it came out with a report that the Vice President was above board. You need to understand that Professor Osinbajo is a man of impeccable integrity who is very loyal to his boss and has the fear of God and whose guiding principle in public office is to serve the interest of the greatest number. To answer your question directly, I am not aware of any secret probe of any of his aides or their indictment.”
While also responding to the issue of some VP aides being paid salaries by agencies under the office, Odion said “I doubt if such is impossible. You need to understand that it is a single presidency. We all are appointees of President Buhari. Civil servants are under the head of service while the Secretary to the Government of the Federation signs letters of employment for political appointees. It is only after you are engaged that you get deployed in the office, department or agency where your service is needed. Salaries are paid through a unified system. In fact, through reforms introduced by the Buhari administration, tens of thousand of ghost workers have been weeded out of the system. This was achieved through the integrated payroll system.”
Reacting to the removal of 70 out of the over 80 aides working with the VP from the Villa, Odion said: “I think President Muhammadu Buhari offered sufficient clarity to this in his October 1 national broadcast. The government thought it necessary to create a new ministry to respond to new realities and dynamics. I think there is a consensus today that the social investment programme, which has been supervised by Vice President Osinbajo in the last three years, has been quite impactful and beneficial to a large segment of our population. “The TraderMoni and MarketMoni initiatives have benefitted more than two million Nigerians. The school feeding programme has touched more than 10 million pupils in public schools across the country.
Also, the conditional cash transfer has offered succour directly to more than 600,000 vulnerable Nigerians.
“These programmes were incubated and nurtured under the Vice President. Until now, these initiatives were more like interventionist. Now, what President Buhari has done is to try and institutionalise them. To this end, a ministry has been created called Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. So, the implication is that officers or aides as you call them, whose duties or responsibilities pertain to the agencies I earlier mentioned, are to be moved to another location where the ministry is constituted.”