By Festus Adedayo
Anyone who has access to a political barometer will see clearly that Aso Rock is quaking at the moment. The dusts the quake is provoking is so huge that it can block nasal passages. You only need to make use of the barometer and become Johnny Nash instantly. Nash? John Lester “Johnny” Nash, Jr. was an American reggae and pop music singer-songwriter who was best known for his 1972 hit song he labeled I can See Clearly Now. In the song, Nash acknowledged his erstwhile inability to visualize critical occurrences but proclaimed thereafter that, “I can see clearly now the rain is gone// I can see all obstacles in my way//Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind//It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day.
In the last few weeks, there have been snippets of very disturbing news sneaking out of the Nigerian seat of power. They are indicative of the fact that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been under the buffeting of his boss, Muhammadu Buhari. The snippets, though seemingly hazy, are very glaring to those who understand the tone and tenor of presidential seat of power dissonances in a Third World like Nigeria. Most times, the dissonance does not obey the geography of such, all over the world, especially in mature democracies. It could be triggered by inane, mundane and very illogical indices. It could even be an insignificant, incorrigible and absolutely irresponsible allegation as the occupiers of the seats’ mutual spousal disagreements. In most cases however, the dissonances are founded on projected power calculus and perceived rupture of this calculation. The victim does not have to deliberately hurt the calculus. When the projections of power are shaken, they are stimuli for taking very sweeping jabs at the lower occupier of power seat.
When Buhari went on his earlier UK search for health remedy to an undisclosed ailment, it was a top gossip in the seat of power that Osinbajo, engrossed in a prayer session with his Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) accomplices in his home state of Ogun, and frantically being prayed for, for God to make him president by one of the pastors who starred at the prayer session, didn’t know that a strong ally of Buhari – unbeknown to the ally that such “prayer coup” was ongoing – had entered their midst, innocently there to pay obeys ance to the VP. Still with their eyes closed, the prayer warriors nearly prayed that the ground should swallow them when, upon opening their eyes, they saw the president’s ally with them. If you were praying the VP into the office of the president, with the VP shouting thunderous “Amen” to your prayer, weren’t you praying for the boss’ death? That was the first infraction against the laws of power the VP was said to have committed. And one of the reasons Osinbajo hounded and still harangues the ally till today.
The second foot Osinbajo reportedly hit against the stone was said to be his role during Buhari’s AWOL shuttle to his infirmary. That Walter Onnoghen, allegedly primed to package Buhari inside a judicial casket during the 2019 elections, emerged acting Chief Justice of the Federation through his acting pen angered Villa power apparatchik, so much that they imputed a political Judas into Osinbajo’s act. The removal of Lawal Daura, erstwhile Director-General of the Department of State Services on August 7, 2018 also rankled these owls. If Osinbajo stepped on their mamba’s tail by this act, he fiddled with their lion’s tail subsequently when, at a conference of Online Publishers Association of Nigeria (OPAN), he unabashedly said that, before Saturday, January 12, Buhari was not aware of Onogohen’s trial. What this did was to populate and give official imprimatur to the belief that Buhari was just a mere scarecrow decorating the patio of Aso Rock. As if wearing Omoyele Sowore’s activists’ bandana, the VP also told whoever was behind the Onnoghen trial that, “It has consequences such as we have today, such that people say how can such an important person be subjected to trial without the Federal Government.” More stinging to this set of people known as the cabal, was the fact that Osinbajo sidelined all of them in his decision-taking during the period, was already strutting hither thither like an accursed turtle-dove which, to them, added to the coup-prayer session, was an apparent indication that he was sure Buhari wouldn’t come back and the clock was ticking for the cabals at the Villa.
Unforgiving and vengeful as the power vultures surrounding the president can be, they swallowed this rheum, even past the electioneering period. When they were sure that the VP believed it was peace and safety, they unleashed their dragons. The first in tow was the disbandment of the Economic Management Team (EMT) that he previously headed and its replacement with an Economic Advisory Council (EAC) under the chairmanship of Prof. Doyin Salami. Buhari was not done in his castration of his VP, he instructed him to thenceforth seek approvals for all the agencies under his suzerainty. Osinbajo was chair of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), National Boundary Commission, Border Communities Development Agency and the Niger Delta Power Holdings Ltd. Bothered by the impression that this calibration of a man who was aiming that if fate smiled at him, he could be a Buhari in 2023, his aides began a move to robe an Omoye whose madness, the Yoruba say, had reached the market-place in her disgraceful nakedness.
The most recent in the list of artillery fires shot at the VP is the removal of his aides, 35 in all. The ding-dong over the authenticity of this claim has been baffling. While government loyalists initially claimed that opposition was merely crying wolf, the press ferreted out the list. While the VP’s aide denied that there was a sack, Garba Shehu, his counterpart with Buhari, claimed that there was indeed a rout but it was in “our interest” – the people of Nigeria, that is.
On Thursday night, the VP aide had tweeted, “a list circulating in the media on the so-called sacked presidential aides is not genuine and ought to be ignored,” while his colleague, after a long-winding and circuitous merry-go-rounding, in one breath submitted that “the Presidency wishes to strongly deny rumours of a rift between President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo,” but in another breath, said that, indeed, “there is, on-going, an unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s seat of government, arising from which a number of political appointments have either been revoked or not renewed in the Second Term,” but that it was in our interest as a people, so as “to streamline decision-making, cut down multiple authorities and reduce the cost of administration,” and that “the office of the Vice President, His Excellency Yemi Osinbajo has, in compliance with the directive of the President, equally been shed of a number of such appointees.” As a parting shot, strictly for the birds, Shehu had said, “The streamlining was not personal or targeted to undermine the Vice President’s office, as the so-called insider sources quoted by the media appear to make it seem.”
There are some issues of national concern in the shrouded brickbats between the VP and his boss. One is that, the two officers of the presidency are as dissembling and riotous as the lack of locus among their bosses, as well as the messages they communicate. If you take the dislocations in their messages as symptomatic of the presidency, then you would be acquitted by logic if you submit that the Villa is currently a house of commotion.
Common sense is on sabbatical, especially in the release by Shehu. If the presidency had been cutting cost, how many aides were relieved of their jobs in Buhari’s office? Nigerians will like to know. If they had been relieving people of their jobs, “cut(ting) down multiple authorities and reduce the cost of administration,” how come that a few weeks ago, the wife of the president got, according to her, unsolicited, six more aides in the offing? If you go to the brass-tacks, you will even discover that the said sacked aides of Osinbajo were just offerings to the gods of nepotism and cronyism. You would find on that list the names of children of friends and all that, who, professionally, are just emerging from diapers. Until this purported sack, Nigerians didn’t know that there was such a Babelian number of aides attached to one man. Since Buhari is the maigaskia, can he come clean with the people who purportedly voted him into office and tell them how many of such aides their national sweats sustain their voyeuristic excitements at the Villa? Since they have a website at the Villa, how come this list is not there? This is how low Nigeria has sunken under her current taskmasters.
This most pitiable sight in the sorry equation at the Villa is the VP. A very sound academic, I still remember one of the students he supervised her PhD thesis, now a professor of law and SAN, who waxes lyrical whenever talks come to Osinbajo’s academic excellence. Upon coming to Aguda House however, Thomas Jefferson’s eternal quip, to wit that, “whenever a man has cast a longing eye on (an) office(s), a rottenness begins in his conduct” becomes very apt to describe his actions. He has given intellectual abetment to Buhari’s draconian governance, carried his can of spittle smilingly and frightened off his own kinsmen in the course of doing all that. Now that he has entered the belly of the dragon, Osinbajo has these people behind him seldom. The situation became so bad that a man with such lustering academic laurels tumbled down to becoming a butt of jokes all over, described unflatteringly as VP in charge of condolence matters and VP academics.
The most cogent lesson in the trial of Brother Osinbajo is the need to build home base. Rolling into the fifth year of his vice presidency, except for an army of recruited Alsatian dogs on Twitter paid to bay for blood and bark at genuine concerns over his groveling before a cow so as to eat beef in 2023, Osinbajo is as bereft of a base as floating ojuoro and osipata – hyacinths – on the river top. Those waiting to clear their 2023 river of such hyacinths are finding it so easy to shovel Osinbajo off their space.
If you ask me, however, I will queue behind Osinbajo. The few sparkles of governance Nigerians have had thus far came from him when Buhari was infirm and vacillating in the UK. Nigerians know that Buhari is just a ceremonial figurehead who “does not know” and has no whiff of what is going on in his surroundings. That hogwash from Shehu, to wit that, “the President is in absolute control of his government,” that “the media should stop attributing non-existent powers to some people” and that “there cannot be anyone too powerful for President Buhari to control” should be the most laughable cant Nigerians have heard this year.
Osinbajo should continue to pray to his God. If he comes out unscathed, he will be our modern day three Hebrew boys. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, that these people are have sold their souls to Mephistopheles for a farthing. They have ordered him thrown into a fiery furnace.
Fashola and the quid prod quo of our roads
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, last week, joined the list of government fat cows who exhibit crass disdain for the plight of their people. In a chat with State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Fashola said reports that the state of Nigerian roads was pitiable, was a mere hype. The minister, while maintaining that Nigerian roads were not in the kind of bad shape as often narrativized by the people, said this while asked to justify the huge amount of billions voted for construction of Nigerian roads yearly and the terrible state they still are. “The roads are not as bad as they are often portrayed. I know that this is going to be your headline, but the roads are not that bad”, he said.
Fashola’s speech infelicity found a corollary in an earlier gaffe from the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sani Nanono. Nanono had said that there was no hunger in Nigeria, contrary to the claims of the people and that food was very cheap to buy in Nigeria. He made this known while briefing the world as part of activities to mark the 2019 World Food Day in Abuja. He even said that the level of self-sufficiency Nigeria had attained was such that she would feed her neighbours without batting an eyelid.
“I think we are producing enough to feed ourselves. I think there is no hunger in Nigeria; there could be inconveniences. When people talk about hunger in this government, I just laugh. In this country, it is fairly cheap to buy food” he said.
That Fashola had joined this club of indiscretion is the most disheartening of the story. Lauded for his infrastructural strides as Lagos State governor for eight years, it was a big let-down that the minister could sound so removed, so insulated from the plight of the people. If he didn’t know, at a conservative estimate, 90 per cent of Nigerian roads are in very sorry states. That the roads are in very troubling states, becoming grooves where Nigerian blood are sacrificed almost every other hour, is not as worrisome as the fact that they have become veritable avenues for governors and ministers to siphon public money into indecipherable bottomless pits, some kind of Donald Trump’s quid pro quo, if you like, between the interests of their purses and the welfare of the people. Roads are constructed today and in a few months, they become craters. Nobody carries the can, nobody is queried and society lives happily ever thereafter.
Methinks these statements from those who are supposed to serve us are manifestations of the low estimation of these men of us and the disconnect they suddenly feel from us the moment they become Honourable this and Honourable that. These men don’t go to the market to buy foods but feast on government largesse, seldom travel on Nigerian roads but fly in choppers and jets to their destinations; their children don’t go to public schools but join their contemporaries in Ivy League universities in Europe and America; how then can they feel our plights?
The truth is that Nigerians are hungry, more than they have ever been and Nigerian roads are horrible, killing citizens daily. The earlier Fashola reversed from this barren road trodden by David Mark during the Ibrahim Babangida regime, the better for him. It is a road filled with craters, potholes and leads to acrimony from the people.