On Monday, an edgy presidency knocked the curious governance comparisons of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo by several stakeholders who scored him above ailing President Muhammadu Buhari, as “mischievous”. LOUIS ACHI examines this quirky, unfolding political drama
In a third world country defined by high-octane political intrigues, economic and socio-cultural contradictions, matters that carry the weight of the current ‘dilemma’ woven around President Muhammadu Buhari’s extended medical vacation in the UK are indeed taken very seriously.
It will be recalled that on January 19, 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari wrote the National Assembly, notifying the legislature of his 10-day leave and temporary transfer of power to Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo. Senate President Bukola Saraki read Buhari’s letter and also forwarded to the House of Representatives. The leave was between January 23 and February 6, making it 10 working days, the President told the lawmakers through the letter read by Saraki at plenary. It represented the third time Buhari transferred power to Vice President Osinbajo to act as president, since the two leaders were inaugurated in May 2015.
The first time was in February 2016 when Buhari embarked on a five-day vacation and the second time was in June 2016 when he went on a trip to the United Kingdom for medical for treatment of what the Presidency called ear infection. A formal notice to bicameral legislature to apprise the lawmakers of his intention to go on leave and handover power temporarily to the vice-president complied with Section 145 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution. In taking this measure, Buhari essentially plugged a potential power vacuum and headed off the kind of constitutional crisis once witnessed when late President Umaru Yar’Adua travelled for treatment in 2009.
On February 5, 2017, Buhari again wrote to the National Assembly informing it of his desire to extend his leave. The extension, he said, was “in order to complete and receive the results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors. The President had planned to return to Abuja this evening, but was advised to complete the test cycle before returning,” a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had clarified.
According to Adesina, “The notice has since been dispatched to the Senate President, and Speaker, House of Representatives. Mr. President expresses his sincere gratitude to Nigerians for their concern, prayers and kind wishes.” Significantly, the statement did not say when Buhari would return. Against this background, the temporary, constitutional transfer of power to Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo (now acting president) subsists.
Comparisons: The backlash…
In exercising the duties of acting president, Osinbajo, a soft-spoken professor of law, brought a sharply contrasting style and panache to this brief thereby, unwittingly provoking governance comparisons with his ailing principal from a diverse stakeholders’ base. That Osinbajo is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s close protégé has hardly helped the alleged nervousness being felt by Northern hawks and minders of Buhari.
Hitting the ground running as acting president, Osinbajo has amongst other things, supervised the implementation of a new foreign exchange policy that has managed to strengthen a rapidly sliding naira. The government has also announced a reduction in attacks on oil and gas infrastructure in recent weeks, cuts that trail Osinbajo’s tour of the Niger Delta and talks with community leaders. Perhaps not surprisingly, many Nigerians perceive those decisions as swift and firm, and have compared them to Buhari’s alleged unhurried, imperious response to prickly national problems.
Matters apparently got to a head on Monday when the presidency itself formally reacted to the perceived growing popularity of Osinbajo. Presidential political adviser