Vice President Yemi Osinbajo
About three weeks since President Muhammadu Buhari returned from his recent two-week trip that took him to Saudi Arabia for Lesser Hajj and then to London for a private visit, the fate of 35 aides of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, recently relieved of their duties by the presidency during the period, are still hanging in the balance.
The workers are yet to be recalled or redeployed to new posts so far. The officials, who were reportedly sacked by some powerful forces working for President Buhari, have continued to lament what they termed injustice meted out to them by those behind their travails.
Some of the aides, who were allegedly sacked without Buhari’s knowledge, said they had been undergoing physical, emotional, financial and psychological trauma since the action was taken against them.
President Muhammadu Buhari, however, revealed that he did not sack the 35 aides from the Office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The president, while questions from State House Correspondents at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, upon his return from a private visit from the United Kingdom, explained that they were redeployed to a new ministry.
While describing the interpretations of his directives as a sack as ‘unfortunate,’ Buhari said what happened as a re-organisation and not a sacking, stressing that, a new ministry had recently been created, that is, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development.
“They said 35 people were sacked in the Vice President’s office, but we just created a ministry, and we reorganised, but people are giving it an ethnic and political dimension. It is unfortunate,” the president said.
“There had been wide reports of the sack of 35 aides, including the circulation of a list of those sacked, However, informed sources insisted that what the president directed was a redeployment and not a sack.
Although some presidential aides had confirmed the sacking of 35 aides, the president only gave express instructions for redeployment to ministries not sacking.
Also, the presidency, through a statement issued by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, said an unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s seat of government was ongoing, which resulted in a number of political appointments either revoked or not renewed in Buhari’s second term.
The exercise, which he said was ordered by the president, was meant to streamline decision making, cut down multiple authorities and reduce the high cost of administering the nation.
He said: “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.”
Shehu added: “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.”
He stressed: “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.
“In carrying out these exercises, the overriding objective is to save taxpayer money and deliver needed service to the public.
“As far as the president is concerned, there is no scope for an excuse for administration after getting a huge mandate to run the country for four more years.”
However, the Vice-President’s media aide, Laolu Akande, while reacting to a list of the ‘sacked aides’, said on his Twitter: “A list circulating in the media on the so-called sacked presidential aides is not genuine and ought to be ignored,” Akande had tweeted.
However, one of the affected aides, who pleaded anonymity, said he was given the appointment in August this year and was told to report in the vice president’s office. He attributed their sack to intense rivalry and power play in the presidency.
He disclosed that he had to resign from his job, leave his base in Lagos and relocate to Abuja to take up the appointment.
According to him, “We were actually issued a sack letter. But, we refused to accept the letter which was given to us after the president had gone for vacation. We all believed it was done without the knowledge of the president.
“I was among the aides who were appointed in August. Later we were told there are no vacancies in the Villa so were posted to various ministries where our experiences will be needed.
“I was posted to a ministry (name withheld) and I was accepted there. I was already settling down only for me to hear that we have been relieved of our jobs.
“Contrary to rumours out there that we were sacked because there were no spaces in the ministries, many of us had already been accepted. We believe it (the sack) has political undertones.
“When I got this appointment, I had to resign from my job and move to Abuja. Since I came here, I have spent millions of naira on hotel bills, transportation and other expenses.
“I have been ridiculed by some friends who are wondering why I was offered an appointment in August only to be sacked in November of the same year without committing any infractions.
“I have since returned to my base in Lagos because it is of no use staying back in Abuja. Hotels in Abuja are very expensive and cost of living is very high. I will only return after the issue has been resolved.
“I am a staunch member of the APC and I worked vigorously for the success of the party in 2015 and the 2019 general elections. This is definitely not a good way to reward me.”
Another aide, a female, whose appointment was also terminated, said she went through the same harrowing experience too as her business suffered during the period she was in Abuja. She was, however, optimistic that the vice president would sort out the issue with the president and that they would be recalled.
“There is still light at the end of the tunnel. The president may be right when he said we were not sacked, but redeployed to other ministries. That was what happened before he left the country. But, after that, a powerful person in the presidency issued us sack letters. We believe the vice president is on top of the situation.
“For me, I was highly disappointed and traumatised. Imagine my name being circulated in the media that I was sacked a month after I got an appointment for committing no offence. I have also spent a lot of money while my businesses have suffered since I moved to Abuja. Many of us believe that justice will prevail in the end.”
Another aide affected by the action confirmed that they were actually sacked despite a directive from the president that they should be redeployed to other ministries.
One of Osinbajo’s aides affected by the sack said he was yet to hear anything about the presidential recall requiring him to return to his duties.
According to the aide, who is based in Lagos, although the vice president had discussed the matter with the president, who said he knew nothing about the sack, no serious action had been taken by the president to reverse the decision.
“I haven’t heard anything since. I am back to Lagos waiting to hear from them. I understand the vice president has discussed the matter with President Buhari who said he knew nothing about our sack, because he only approved our redeployment to the ministries. However, till now, he has not taken any action to reverse it,” he said.
One wonders for how long the fate of the 35 aides of Vivce President Osinbajo would continue to hang on the balance, as they were yet to be redeployed as Buhari said they would, or given sack letters to officially indicate that their services were no longer needed at the nation’s seat of power.