Since President Muhammadu Buhari travelled to London, United Kingdom penultimate Thursday, a lot has happened. As of the time he was leaving the country, the Vice-President (sorry, Acting President), Yemi Osinbajo was in Davos, Switzerland where he was leading Nigeria’s delegation to this year’s World Economic Forum. He cut short the trip and arrived the country a few hours after Buhari left.
Some of us rushed to the Villa early on Friday to be sure that we did not miss any action as Osinbajo would be resuming in his office as the Acting President. But that did not happen. The Professor of Law proceeded to Ibadan, Oyo State capital from his Akinola Aguda House residence for an event that took almost the whole day.
Because of a new rule that stopped some of us from driving beyond the Pilot Gate, I was trekking the about 300metres distance back to the gate in the evening with some colleagues after almost all offices had been closed when we saw Osinbajo’s convoy entering the Villa. Those who thought he would retire into his residence after the Ibadan trip got it wrong. He still kept some appointments in his office.
The Acting President met with the nation’s service chiefs. He used the opportunity to receive update and briefings on the situation in The Gambia. After that session, Osinbajo again met separately with some ministers. The purpose of the meetings was also to receive briefings on developments in their respective ministries.
Saturday started like every other day up until towards evening when a rumour started spreading like a wildfire that the President had passed on. My first disposition to the report that was trending on the Internet was that the death of a sitting President of Nigeria could not be kept in secrecy for too long. I had difficulty in calling and asking presidential spokesmen on phone whether it was true that their boss had joined the saints.
My trouble was further compounded by the fact that they had earlier told me that since the President is on vacation, they too had proceeded on break and would not want to react to any issue. I came up with an idea. I forwarded the link of the report on the Internet to their e-mail boxes and waited for their reactions. While I was waiting for their response, I started receiving Twitter alerts indicating that they had responded to the false reports on the social media. Of course, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, later replied by email with just one word: hogwash.
As it turned out, the hogwash (apology to Adesina) did not end just like that. It continued throughout this week with new dimensions being added to the news daily. At a point, the authors came up with the claim that some power brokers, including state governors, had met and asked Osinbajo to resign to pave way for the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, a Northerner to become the President.
Interestingly, Osinbajo carried on with his official duties throughout the week without showing any sign of intimidation. I kept my eyes on him and his office at all times, thinking I would discover something extraordinary but that did not come to pass.
On Monday, he presided over the Second Quarterly Presidential Business Forum held at the old Banquet Hall of the Villa. He returned to his office later and again held series of meetings. Tuesday was not also different. The Acting President took part in the media launch of the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Clinics at the same venue before returning to his office for other engagements.
On Wednesday, Osinbajo presided over a meeting of the Federal Executive Council that had almost all ministers in attendance. Again, I deliberately arrived very early for the meeting, looking out for intrigues that might play out. As of 9.45am, only the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal; Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonaya Onu; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru; Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed; Minister of State, Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri; and the Minister of State, Health, Osagie Ehanire, had arrived for the meeting.
Other cabinet members joined them later. Coming a day after Buhari’s letter vindicating the SGF earlier accused of corruption by the Senate was read on the floor of the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, ministers gathered around him in what I saw more like a “victory rally.” Photojournalists were busy doing what they know best up until the SGF, in his usual style, told them it was enough.
At the end of the meeting, Osinbajo was joined by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and some ministers as he made his way back to his office. They stopped briefly on the corridor in front of the Press Gallery as they chatted and laughed loudly. I did not see any tension. The Acting President returned to his office for other engagements.
Thursday was also full of activities for him. He attended a function at the Nigerian Defence College, Abuja in the morning and proceeded from there to Aba in Abia State where he flagged off the MSMEs Clinics.
I must include here that despite the rumour doing the rounds outside on the President’s state of health, Buhari’s latest medical trip is not generating too much anxiety in the seat of power unlike in the case of his two previous medical vacations. Maybe there are things people outside are seeing that are not open to those inside.
Unveiling the acting Vice-President
Although some of his aides have been introducing him as “Acting President and Vice-President” at functions, it is assumed that Osinbajo has temporarily vacated the seat of the Vice-President since he stepped into Buhari’s shoes in acting capacity. In that case, there will be no hassle if a new Vice-President is named also in acting capacity.
Who then can become the nation’s Acting Vice-President? I am sure that no matter how many times you attempt to provide an answer, you will definitely get it wrong. But I will give you the answer according to the revelation made by Osinbajo himself.
It was at the media launch of MSMEs Clinics on Tuesday that the Acting President unveiled the Acting Vice-President who, according to him, was named during a meeting of the Presidential Enabling Business Council which he chaired before attending the launch.
Buhari had established the council that has as its objectives to identify and implement reforms that will improve the business environment in Nigeria, and thereby improve Nigeria’s ranking in the annual World Bank Doing Business global ranking.
Osinbajo said, although jokingly, that a minister was named the Acting Vice-President during the meeting. The lucky one, according to him, is the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah! He was reacting to the manner in which Enelamah praised him (Osinbajo) to high heavens during his opening remarks when he let out the information. He however did not tell us what informed the choice.
I am sure Enelamah did not come up in your guesses when I raised the question. Enjoy your weekend.
By Olalekan Adetayo