Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari embarked on a 10-day medical vacation while the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo became the Acting President. In this piece, JONATHAN NDA -ISAIAH chronicles the performance of Osinbajo so far.
For the second time this year, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo is Acting President. The first time was in February when President Muhammadu Buhari embarked on a five-day vacation. The move then to make Osinbajo the Acting President was hailed by many as a victory for democracy and adherence to the rule of law.
In a country where there is mutual suspicion between the President and his Vice President, and in some cases governors and there deputies, Buhari handing over to Osinbajo was seen as a right step in the right direction confirming the president ‘s trust in his vice.
It is instructive to note that even at the state level, there are instances where the governors travel out of the country for days or weeks and don’t hand over to their deputies. In some cases, they even hand over power to the secretary to the state government. The mutual suspicion between governors and their deputies have been said to be one of the reasons why since 1999 less than 5% of deputies have succeeded their principals.
Nigerians will not forget in a hurry the case of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua who travelled abroad for medical reasons and his Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was kept in the dark. It took the now famous doctrine of necessity by the Senate under the leadership of David Mark to make Jonathan the Acting President.
So, it was a breath of fresh air when in February, Buhari wrote to the National Assembly informing them of his decision to embark on a medical vacation handing over the affairs of the nation to Osinbajo.
Analysts recall that Osinbajo as acting President in February was uneventful as watching paint dry as nothing really changed. It’s a practice that governors usually visits the President to inform him of activities and challenges going on in their states.But during Osinbajo five days as acting President, no governor visited the seat of power as the Presidential Villa was virtually deserted by politicians.Events showed that it was just a change of nomenclature with the status quo remaining.
So, last week when the Presidency released a statement saying that Buhari was going to London on a 10-day vacation during which he is scheduled to see Ear, Nose and Throat doctors, it was expected that Osinbajo would be made the Acting President.
However, this time around things were indeed different as the Acting President acted like the commander-in-chief. On Monday, last week, Osinbajo met with a delegation of the European Union led by the EU Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr. Michel Arrion where it was said that releasing the names of persons from whom the federal government has recovered looted funds and assets may jeopardize ongoing investigations. Osinbajo also explained to the EU delegation that the federal government is engaging leaders and people of the Niger Delta regarding the spate of attacks on oil installations in the area, an act he stated amounts to economic sabotage. But besides reaching out to the people in the area, government is also beefing up security, he assured.
According to him, the focus of the Buhari presidency ‘is to ensure that the man on the street in the Niger Delta receives the benefit from all that is available there,’ while calling on the leaders in the region to be accountable to the people.
On Tuesday, 10 governors visited the Presidential Villa. In the morning, he met with governors of oil producing states and service chiefs at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Governors who attended the meeting were Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia),
Dickson Seriake (Bayelsa), Odom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Adams Oshiomhole (Edo).
The service chiefs in attendance were General Gabriel Olonishaki (Chief of Defence Staff), Lieutnant General Tukur Buratai (Chief of Army Staff ) and Vice Admiral Ibok Ette Ibas (Chief of Naval Staff).
Also, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali and Minister of State Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru, were in attendance.
The meeting was to discuss the situation in the Niger Delta, and forge a common strategy to halt what is considered by both federal and state governments as acts of economic sabotage by the militants.
At the end of the meeting which lasted over two hours, it was made known that the federal government is proceeding on a collaborative strategy with the governments, communities in the Niger Delta region and other relevant stakeholders towards tackling the situation holistically.
Disclosing this at the end of the meeting, Delta State Ifeanyi Okowa who briefed State House Correspondents said the meeting identified the need for synergy between the federal and the state governments as a very important step going forward.
Elaborating on the collaboration, Governor Okowa said “one thing that we have identified is the synergy between the federal government and states is very important and this meeting has actually revealed a lot of issues and we believe that the collaboration between the Federal Government and States would help us to tackle the issues in the Niger Delta”
He said “we have taken a lot of decisions which we think will help us to mitigate what is going on currently in the states particularly in Delta and Bayelsa”, reiterating the belief that “we are going to find a solution very soon”.
Still on the outcome of the meeting, he added that it was decided that military presence in the region should be de-escalated, though it was agreed that the forces should be kept to provide security and presence while government begins immediate engagement process with the communities in the affected areas.
Later on that Tuesday,Osinbajo inaugurated a National Rice and Wheat Task Force to set up targets that will yield comprehensible and self-evident results in rice and wheat production in the country.
According to him,”What we are trying to achieve is that agriculture is our main stay and we are trying to evolve a strategy for our economy, a strategy for employment and a strategy for feeding our people.
Osinbajo said the need to feed our population is the focus of the Buhari administration. “Rice and wheat is our main focus, and making sure that in one year we can show the world that we are serious.”
Members of the task force include Governors of Kebbi State Senator Abubakar A. Bagugu, Dr. A. U. Ganduje of Kano State, and Engr. David Umahi of Ebonyi State. Others are the Minister of State for Agriculture Lokpobiri Heineken, the President of Rice Farmers Association Mallam Aminu Goronyo and the President Wheat Farmers Association Saliu Mohammed.
On Wednesday, he presided over the Federal Executive Council Meeting where the economy was reviewed and it was decided that the release of N350 billion into the economy be fast tracked so that capital budgets will take off.
The next day ,the acting President launched a strategic implementation plan of the first of its kind National Home-grown School Feeding Programme, one of the 5 social investment schemes of the presidency.
He also said that the constitutional and philosophical underpinnings for the N500B Social Investment Programmes of the Buhari presidency is a mandate without which the inalienable right to life guaranteed Nigerians by the Constitution becomes meaningless.
Vice President revealed that the scheme would indeed bring real change to the lives of over 20 million children nationwide, adding it would equally “create the multiplier effect on the local economies in communities where these schools are located by boosting agriculture, entrepreneurship and employment”.
Stating four major benefits of the programme, he said it would: improve school enrolment and completion and cut current dropout rate estimated at 30% while reducing child labour and improve child nutrition and health;
Others include; increase local agricultural production and will create jobs which would invariably lift families over the poverty line into a bright future Osinbajo who spoke about Federal Government’s responsibility to part-fund the scheme stated that it has also secured technical support for the scheme. He praised the development partners, financial institutions educational institutions and civil society groups for their support and assistance.