There are stories of a fallout between President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo ahead of the 2023 presidential race. This is how it all began.
On the night of Tuesday, September 17, 2019, the Nigerian presidency was forced to react to stories of a ‘discord’ between President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; hours after a slew of social media influencers submerged the internet space in a pool of hot takes on the subject.
Online news platform, TheCable, had run a story insinuating that the vice president’s powers were being deviously whittled down at the Villa, and that he is being asked to seek approvals from the president to run agencies assigned to his office.
Osinbajo is currently the chairman of the governing boards of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) , the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA).
“With the new memo, the vice-president will now have to seek approvals for contract awards, annual reports, annual accounts, power to borrow, and power to make regulations, among other key functions”, the story from TheCable read in parts.
The story concluded with the following paragraph: “Suffice it to say the president has finally taken control of his government,” a minister, who confirmed the development, told TheCable.”
TheCable Columnist, Fredrick Nwabufo, even inferred that Osinbajo is being reduced to a
“condolence vice president” and a “lame-duck” in the presidency.
“As a matter of fact, it seems Osinbajo is being stripped of even peripheral responsibilities and consigned to the desk of irrelevance. If this is the case, then it is a ratification of the wild rumours suggesting that he will be kept abridged ahead of the 2023 ‘’gladiatorial’’ contest.
“It appears condolence visits and food-sampling in markets are now functions, where the beautiful intellect, experience and wealth of knowledge of Vice-President Osinbajo are being deployed in,” Nwabufo wrote.
Reacting to the stories, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande said the report from
TheCable “is obviously misleading and aims only to plant seeds of discord in the presidency, while attempting to create unnecessary national hysteria.
“The agencies in question are established by law and the vice president has always insisted on due compliance with the enabling statutes and other established regulations.”
What exactly is going on in the presidency between Buhari and Osinbajo?
Pulse has been told by top ranking sources within the presidency that stories of a discord between the offices of the president and his deputy are not completely wide of the mark.
“Yes, there’s some power play going on and it has everything to do with the 2023 presidency”, one source disclosed on condition of anonymity, while explaining that the cabal in the presidency is doing everything to ensure that Osinbajo’s rising profile is significantly diminished before the 2023 presidential vote.
Another source has shared that with power set to return to the south of Nigeria based off a gentleman’s agreement within the governing APC and amongst the power brokers in the nation, Osinbajo is being considered as a possible successor to Buhari (who would have concluded his constitutionally permissible second term in office by 2023).
“The hawks in the presidency are trying to make sure that the environment becomes too uncomfortable or hostile for Osinbajo so that he doesn’t even consider running for the top job at the end of the day. He is gradually being cut to size and his powers are gradually being whittled. It’s a long game and it’s still early days, but the signs are there already,” said another highly placed source who preferred anonymity for this story.
The red flags that sparked the chatter
On Monday, September 16, President Buhari announced the scrapping of the Economic Management Team (EMT) which was chaired by Osinbajo.
The EMT, the presidency announced, will now be replaced with the Economic Advisory Council (EAC).
“The Economic Advisory Council will advise the president on economic policy matters, including fiscal analysis, economic growth and a range of internal and global economic issues; working with the relevant cabinet members and heads of monetary and fiscal agencies,” the presidency announced.
Political pundits have pointed out that throughout President Buhari’s first term, Osinbajo was handed the task of supervising the economy; and that by scrapping the EMT which he headed and replacing same with a team of technocrats who will now bypass Osinbajo to brief the president directly on economy matters, President Buhari was clearly sending out a message.
Pulse has been told that a distraught Osinbajo only learnt about the dissolution of the EMT from the media like everyone else; and that he was not carried along in the events that led to the new set up. Pulse has been unable to independently verify these bits of information however; and official presidency talking heads have declined comments in this regard.
Sources in the vice president’s office have told
Pulse on basis of anonymity that they strongly feel that their boss is on the receiving end of a vicious power play in the power corridors, and that this power play is being orchestrated by the infamous cabal who have long been accused, even by First Lady Aisha Buhari, of running the Buhari presidency behind the scenes.
There are also reports that the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), domiciled in the Office of the Vice President, has also been taken off Osinbajo’s desk.
However, presidency spokesperson Akande has dismissed all of the stories bordering on a rift in the nation’s power corridors as a creation of the media and ‘fake news’.
“The vice president remains committed to the service of his fatherland and will continue to do so despite the purveyors of fake news.
“We urge media organisations, as gatekeepers, to uphold truth, balance, fairness and objectivity in their reports,” Akande said.
A relationship gone south?
Buhari and Osinbajo enjoyed something resembling a harmonious, cordial working relationship in the first term of the Buhari presidency; with pictures of both men often sharing jokes and laughing in each other’s faces, a permanent feature of the 2015-2019 Buhari presidency.
When rumours emerged before the 2019 presidency that Buhari was going to dump Osinbajo as his running mate, the former military ruler dismissed all of the speculation by still settling for Osinbajo as his vice presidential pick.
Osinbajo, a christian cleric who hails from Ogun State in Nigeria’s Southwest region, has enjoyed the support of APC godfather Bola Tinubu since he served in Tinubu’s Lagos governor’s cabinet as Attorney General in the early 2000’s.
Osinbajo was Tinubu’s handpicked candidate for the running mate role when the then opposition APC set out its stall to wrest federal power from the governing PDP in 2013.
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