The Osinbajo imperatives

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Evil men are forever in bondage of their schemes. Just when they think victory is within their very grasp, that ever-patient Omnipotent simply declares otherwise. It is sometimes no more than a blink of the eye. So to speak. All of a sudden, the variables just change. A man whose aspiration was no more than a life in academia has power thrust upon him without even the slightest effort. Yet, many abound in those stained corridors who have twisted knots to no end for the exact same thing. To simply watch how the varied machinations of these sort of people often come to naught is to put it mildly: awe-inspiring. Who would have thought such mischief possible from just a word. “Co-ordinate” in place of “act”: who knew? Of course, the law is clear. Following the letter by the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, to the legislature declaring his intention to proceed on medical leave – the second one this year already, power transfers automatically to his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo. But the drafters of the letter already knew that. So why did they do it? The shadowy figures probably wondered if anyone would notice. How about we test the waters to see what we can get away with, they probably reckoned. Well now, they know. It is not likely that the president had the time or the strength to bicker with his clearly mischievous aides over the wording of a simple letter. The ailing leader is excused.

Act without fear
With such mischief about though, it has been suggested in some quarters that the life of the acting president might be in danger. Complete nonsense. Prof Osinbajo is not any safer being guarded by his kinsmen than he is by those of his principal. His enemies are not fools. But if they could just guide his hand, slow it perhaps and our destinies in tandem, that may be just right for them, say. Courage beckons on Prof Osinbajo. He must embrace it. Should he act with the needed firmness, he may even come to earn the respect of those who are counting on the stereotype of the faint-hearted Yoruba man. With power now placed by Divinity in the hands of one who has the twin blessings of salubrity and diligence, and might actually be able to do some good with them, even the slightest compromise by the one so chosen would be the greatest betrayal. The acting president must act with dispatch to fix some of the rubbish that has been festering due to the failing health of President Buhari; who could not attend to many government business consequently. It is widely believed a lot of official memoranda which required his approval were either not brought to his attention or even when they were, he could not attend to them.

Ordinarily, a president should not have to personally approve everything. In the American or British jurisdictions, some of these are delegated to the chief of staff or cabinet secretary. And such mundane tasks like the signing of greeting cards, routine letters and so on are done using a so-called “autopen” programmed with the president or prime minister’s signature. That type of leeway would be prone to unimaginable abuse in the Nigerian context, however. Still, it is unbelievably astonishing how some very inconsequential activities require the approval of a Nigerian head of state. A still existing command-and-control structure inherited from the military is partly why. Unsurprisingly, the healthiest president might still find the office a little overwhelming. Even so, Mr Buhari was not able to consider even the very important ones, it is believed. Unfortunately, there have also been actions emanating from the so-called “presidency” in his name that seem alien to his character and thus he probably did not approve of. To have to reverse these likely presidential usurpations whenever he became acquainted with them would have been problematic; especially as the erring officials are believed to be some of his closest. This understanding probably motivates their daring. With Mr Buhari now rightly taking care of himself in England, such mischief would be hard to pass by Prof Osinbajo. Thus, the president’s close aides may be reluctant to give Prof Osinbajo a free pass this time around: during Mr Buhari’s penultimate medical leave, the heavens simply poured rain on the second house. Understandably, the occupants of the first house cannot soon forget the lessons that the drought brought with it: shall we not hold the heavens this time with such conjurations as “co-ordinate” or whatever, some smart aleck probably mused. Well, good luck with that.

Be quick, firm and transparent
Prof Osinbajo’s imperatives this week are as follows. Firstly, he must sign the 2017 appropriation bill without delay. For sure, there would be someone who will likely come with identified “paddings” in the budget: truth can be deployed towards mischief as well. Such issues (if they arise) should be handled through back channels. Time is of the essence. Secondly, swear-in the two new ministers recently confirmed by the Senate at cabinet on Wednesday. Thirdly, deploy the about forty-three already languishing ambassadors-designate. Fourthly, the acting president should relieve the suspended government scribe, Babachir Lawal, of his appointment. (That is, if it has been found that he indeed corruptly enriched himself with humanitarian aid meant for internally-displaced persons in the northeastern part of the country.) Doing these for starters would hardly be reckoned as “co-ordinating” or any such nonsense.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz.

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