Buhari’s leave: Why Osinbajo will watch his back
By Emmanuel Aziken
It was one of the most horrendous experiences in recent American political history. A supposedly deranged American, John Hinckley Jr, in 1981 so wanted to impress star actress, Jodie Foster who he had a crush on, and thought the best way to show his prowess was to kill President Ronald Reagan. Thankfully, Mr. Hinckley’s infamous crave was not fully realised, but his action inevitably threw up an interesting drama that has remained a defining point in political ambition.
With Reagan shot and unconscious, and Vice President George H.W. Bush far away in Texas on engagement, the Secretary of State, General Alexander Haig was to make one of the most controversial statements of his life when he told a White House news conference that “I am in control here.” For a man who had been chief of staff in the White House and had been destined for higher office, his controversial claim undermining the order of succession which puts him behind the Vice-President, the Speaker and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, proved to be the end of Haig’s political career.
That historical development should be a point of note for Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo as President Muhammadu Buhari again goes on medical vacation.
Prof. Osinbajo had in his outings as vice-president almost carefully walked circumspectly, refusing to make a distinct political image for himself despite the choking political developments between his political mentor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the presidency.
Indeed, Osinbajo has in recent times sought to present a positive image for the Buhari presidency notably through his work on the social welfare schemes, and most recently earlier this week, through his trouble shooting mission to the Niger Delta.
In Delta State, the vice-president repeatedly emphasised that he came on behalf of the President. Against the background of the fact that President Buhari has failed to visit the region since his 2015 election campaign swing, and making only a flying visit for the Edo governorship election, Prof. Osinbajo, as such had his job cut for him to present the image of a compassionate and caring Buhari for the people of the Niger Delta.
But in the two weeks that Buhari would be away, Osinbajo would be pressed hard on key policy issues especially as the National Assembly members interrogate the administration’s financial plans in Budget 2017.
In the absence of the president, Osinbajo would have to make decisive interventions as administration officials and National Assembly members pitch over 2017 policy and programmes.
The vice-president would act taking into consideration that echoes of his last stint as acting president still resound, if not to the knowledge of all, but in the ears of power schemers in Abuja.
Just six months ago when the president went on leave, Prof. Osinbajo as acting president forwarded the nomination of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to the Senate for confirmation. The gist at that time was that Buhari had before travelling prepared the nomination and left it on his desk for onward transmission to the Senate. However, a faction of the cabal with pre-eminence in the Villa held it back.
Whatever the intrigues weaved by the cabal, those desirous of Magu’s confirmation allegedly including a very influential All Progressives Congress, APC Southwest chieftain had their way when Magu’s nomination arrived the Senate on July 14 not long after Osinbajo came on board.
Observers have since asked whether the Department of State Services, DSS would have had the effrontery to have written the report it did on Mr. Magu had Buhari himself forwarded the nomination?
So as Prof. Osinbajo again takes charge, he would do well to contemplate his actions knowing well that intrigues and power play are almost always at play by those almost always engaged in self-political preservation.
Meanwhile, the president’s resort to the United Kingdom for vacation is bound to invite commentary from many Nigerians. Questions would be asked whether the president’s predilection for foreign treatment or travels reflects his administration’s commitment to stemming the tide of medical tourism out of the country.
It was on May 6, 2016, that the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole after a tour of the new Akwa Ibom Specialist Hospital, Uyo, declared that the Federal Government would use the facility to form a partnership with the Akwa Ibom Government to reverse the flow of medical tourism abroad. Perhaps the president and his handlers didn’t get to read the newspaper clippings because within weeks the president travelled to the United Kingdom for the second medical vacation of his presidency!
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