Seun Bisuga: Between Prof. Osinbajo and Abba Kyari

April 26, 2020
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Millions of Nigerians hold a wrong perception about the relationship that existed between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the late Mallam Abba Kyari up to the extent that many still strongly believe that Mallam Kyari took Prof. Osinbajo’s role in the meeting that held with Siemens in Germany.

I understand that some people are defiant to new knowledge but it’s important never to disapprove of the facts, it’s like telling kids that Santa Claus is a ruse, they just won’t believe you until they outgrow it.

Let’s start from the very end. Why did Abba Kyari go to Germany instead of Vice President Osinbajo? I have heard this question on numerous occasions and I blame this ignorance on the fact that 95 per cent of Nigerians almost never read anything in details, let me put it more appropriately, they only read the headlines.

On 7th March 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed and constituted the Power Sector Reform Coordination Working Group with The VP, Prof. Osinbajo as head of the committee.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna was vice chairman while Mallam Kyari who was also a member of the Group, because he was coordinating the President’s German Government/Siemens initiative to improve power supply.

Other members of the group are Minister of Power, Mr Saleh Mamman; the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed; Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele; and Special Adviser to the President on Infrastructure, Ahmad Zakari, who is the secretary of the group.

By the composition of the Group, Mallam Kyari was supposed to be in Germany to lead the German Government/Siemens initiative and he must have upon his return to Nigeria briefed the President and Prof. Osinbajo who is the head of the Power Sector Reform Coordination Working Group.

But many ignorant self-appointed social and political commentators including delusional leaders and speakers would have deceived many to believe that Kyari usurped Osinbajo. But this is not the only spin they have put on the relationship that existed between the duo.

There are claims that Vice President Osinbajo was used by the so-called cabals during the 2019 campaign and dumped afterwards when in actual fact, the Buhari administration simply decided to institutionalize the National Social Investment Programmes.

Again, let’s separate the chaff from the wheat. The NSIP schemes derive from a 2014 campaign promise by the Buhari administration strongly championed by the Vice President. The programme which should have kicked off long ago, was stalled because of the love lost between the executive and the 8th national assembly.

This was a time when budgets were passed in June or July and programmes like the NSIP were stalled. When eventually it took off, it quickly and easily became the biggest social safety net schme in Africa.

After the 2019 elections, President Buhari established the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development thus institutionalizing the NSIP which is one of the best things to happen to Nigeria. Now, irrespective of what political party is elected to power, the social safety nets shall continue.

Nigerians often misunderstand the roles and functions of the Vice President of Nigeria. Let me set the record straight and please let’s take note of this. The executive functions of the Nigerian vice president according to our constitution includes participation in all cabinet meetings and, by statute, membership in the National Security Council, the National Defence Council, Federal Executive Council, and the Chairman of National Economic Council.

The vice president may take an active role in establishing policy in the Executive Branch by serving on such committees and councils, the power of the Nigerian vice president’s office depends upon the duties delegated by the president, besides the constitutionally defined roles.

One key role the constitution accords the Vice President is that of Chairman of National Economic Council. This should put in context the job Prof. Osinbajo has done and the relationship he enjoys with President Buhari. It explains why he gets quite a bit of the concentration on economic matters.

There is no gainsaying that Prof Osinbajo is the most impactful Vice President Nigeria has ever had, and it’s fair to also say he is the one Nigeria has called upon in his capacity to do or say things that does not reflect in his job description.

So then it’s not surprising that Nigerians often aggregate to him the powers he does not have. Just because he is a pastor, does not mean that he will comment on a rape allegation in a Nigerian church, that is ludicrous. There are others who have called on him to comment on court judgments especially those handed down by the appeal court or sometimes, the Supreme Court. Nigerians yearn for Osinbajo the lawyer or law lecturer or Senior Advocate of Nigeria to speak as if he is a TV analyst or an interpreter of judgments.

Still surprising they are yet to nominate Osinbajo the husband and father to speak on domestic related issues!

Nigerians must acquaint themselves with the constitution and we must stop giving in to conspiracy theories driven by some elites who seek to ensure that the Buhari administration is constantly grappling with one fake news or another.

This should also go beyond this administration. We should know when to direct our grievances at the Service Chiefs or the IGP. When we should hold State Governors or the local council chairmen accountable and when we should demand transparency from these officials. It is not always about the President or the VP.

This is not to say that at one point in time or the other that Osinbajo and Kyari may not have had a disagreement or difference in opinions. Where people have a common goal to make their nation and its citizens rise to a better pedestal there would definitely be ideological or tactical differences though the goal remains the same. The tongue and the teeth sometimes grapple, so it is very probable that they had one or two such differences but not to the dimension that the public have been made to believe by groups/people who have put out falsehoods just for their own mischievous purposes. In a regular football game you sometimes find a coach and player dissenting on a particular action of the game but their common resolve is to win that game irrespective of those differences they may have.

It is therefore pertinent to note that we all should be guided accordingly those we choose to believe or find out what their true intentions are.

The conspiracy theories did not end there. Reports claimed that Mr Kyari had sacked 35 aides of the Vice President and that the President was fully aware. This claims were in furtherance to denting the relationship that existed between the two men.

While the media was agog with this fake news, the President was in London. Upon arrival, he was asked why he sacked the aides of the VP, to which the President responded that no such thing happened that they were simply redeployed to other ministries and NSIP was institutionalised. Today, the fact is that not one aide of the VP is out of job in the Buhari administration, not to talk of 35.

In the age of social media, one might need to employ the age old tradition of taking feuding reports with a pinch of salt. These two men have been described by the president to be loyal patriots and Nigerians can only have been proud to have them as the vice president and chief of staff.

Let me end it this way: to imagine that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a distinguished retired general who has been head of state before would allow an unelected senior aide of his to take the constitutional place of his elected deputy and VP of the nation is ludicrous! President Buhari is way more sophisticated and he continues to show that the VP is the VP, while the aide is the aide. Nigerians should also understand this.

*Bisuga is a public affairs analyst and journalist. He can be reached by via Twitter @bisuclef

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