The ridiculous assertion by President Muhammadu Buhari that 35 aides attached to the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, were not sacked; but merely “redeployed” simply stands logic on its head as it contradicts earlier claims by the Presidency that the aides were disengaged as part of the “ongoing, 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overhaul of the nation’s seat of government, arising from which a number of political appointments have either been revoked or not renewed in the second term” and to reduce government expenditure. Fielding questions at the airport, after his return from a 15-day “private visit” to the United Kingdom, Buhari said: “They said certain people were sacked in the Vice President’s office. We just created a ministry and we re-organized, and people are giving it political dimension. It is unfortunate.”
Buhari’s explanation, however, did little to douse speculations that relations between him and Osinbajo have hit an all-time low as the president is believed to have tacitly endorsed efforts by the cabal to methodically whittle down the vice president’s influence and render him irrelevant. Details have emerged showing that Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari was behind the sacking of the 35 aides. A presidency source told Huhuonline.com that the affected aides already had foreknowledge of their ignominious sack but were urged by the VP to tarry on, until Kyari returns from his visit to see the president in London. This is because Osinbajo had hoped Buhari would reverse the decision. The source said Osinbajo was shocked when news went viral on social media that Buhari had approved the sacking; even as the VP’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, insisted the sacking of the aides was “fake news.” Before news of the sack filtered, some of the aides had their access tags retrieved at the gate. As they reported for work, security personnel checked their names against a list and seized the tags.
But another view from Presidency sources who confided to Huhuonline.com; was that, the president was lying through his teeth because Buhari was well aware that the sacking of the 35 aides was political and a part of the measures taken by the Aso Rock cabal to render Osinbajo irrelevant. “What is happening in Aso Villa is an attempt by the President’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari to grab power, and tussle with the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, whose influence is causing the cabal sleepless nights especially, because of his rising profile ahead of 2023,” the source maintained, adding that the cabal is hell bent on cutting the VP down to size; evidence by the number of privileges he enjoyed in Buhari’s first term which have now been withdrawn.
According to Villa sources, Buhari caved in to pressure by the cabal even though it was the president himself who approved that appointment letters be issued to the sacked aides in August. In a rather bizarre move, the president had previously asked Osinbajo to seek presidential approvals for senior special assistants, special assistants, personal assistants and technical assistants for agencies under his supervision and had moved the National Social Investment Program (N-SIP) from the vice president’s office to the newly created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Investment. Besides, Buhari also replaced the Economic Management Team chaired by Osinbajo with an Economic Advisory Council led by Prof. Doyin Salami which reports directly to him.
In, refuting claims of any rift between Buhari and Osinbajo, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, noted in a statement that the exercise was to cut down the cost of governance, adding: “The exercise, which has been ordered by the President, is to streamline decision-making, cut down multiple authorities and reduce the cost of administration. It is also an appropriate response to the general perception that the Presidency has an oversized and bloated workforce, which acts as a drag on efficiency…In carrying out these exercises, the overriding objective is to save taxpayer money and deliver needed service to the public.”
Another Villa source told Huhuonline.com that Buhari was merely speaking from both sides of his mouth, explaining that if the president was against the sacking of the aides, he would have rejected Kyari’s proposal. “Kyari plans Buhari’s schedules and is one of the president’s closest advisers. His influence was stamped on stone during the retreat organized by the presidency for ministers-designate. While declaring the retreat open, Buhari declared: “All communications and appointments from you (ministers) to the presidency should be routed through the Office of the Chief of Staff as it is the normal (procedure) in this presidential system. Ministers now queue in his office to see Mr. President,” the source said.
Totally at variance with the altruistic reason advanced by the Presidency, is the fact that more than half of the sacked aides were donor-funded, including donors from well-known international development agencies from the United States and the United Kingdom, the Villa source added. In fact, sundry claims that the VP’s office was too large, with the number of aides put at over 80, has also been debunked by officials of some of the donor agencies. The argument according to Villa sources is that the quantum and weight of the programs managed by the VP’s office, demands a larger staff strength than was available.
“Take the Social Investment Programs (SIP) for instance, the budget is N500b, covering N-Power job programs with half a million graduates involved, and the National Homegrown School Feeding Program with about 10m pupils in 33 states, and others. “What about supervising the Niger Delta Power Holding Company, with at least 10 power plants across the country? The source asked rhetorically, adding that it is also the VP’s office that supervises the Federal Government’s interests and shares in all the DisCos in and several other agencies like NEMA, DMO, NIPSS, the border communities’ agency, as well as the National Boundary Commission etc. What kind of staff strength do you need to run such programs with half a trillion Naira budget,” the source asked rhetorically?
The source added that there are other functions that the VP performs statutorily and constitutionally, like the National Economic Council (NEC) that comprises all state governors and the Central Bank Governor, the only constitutional venue where states and the Federal Government interact on a whole lot of issues. Continuing the source said many aides in the VP’s office working on reform programs like PEBEC, have actually been attracting continental and global recognitions for the Buhari administration, including from the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and many local awards.
Informed Villa sources explained that Buhari cannot feign ignorance of the situation because back in August, the president himself approved the number of aides assigned to work in the Presidential Villa as different from those deployed to work in other ministries outside the Villa. “It had been decided that all presidential aides working on the SIPs will be transferred to the new ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. Buhari also approved that other aides will be redeployed from the OVP to ministries relevant to their portfolios. It was therefore intriguing that the same group of aides whose appointments were approved by the President are now being disengaged altogether, without any kind of wrongdoings on their part.”
Barely 24 hours after reports of the disengagement of 35 aides in the OVP, Villa sources revealed that a public shouting match erupted between Kyari and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustafa, who was ordered by Kyari to write disengagement letters for all the presidential aides that the President had earlier approved to be relocated outside the villa to ministries. The source noted that Buhari was under intense pressure from prominent APC leaders to rescind the decision since the aides had not been officially notified but had learnt about their sacking only from media reports.
The sources explained that the disengagement letters were intended to forestall a reversal, which the President was contemplating following the backlash over the summary dismissal of the VP’s aides, who were expecting to be transferred out of the Villa. “This explains why some of the names of the aides were leaked and then Kyari asked one of the Presidential spokespersons to issue a statement on Friday confirming the sacking of aides in VP offices, who were meant only to be relocated outside the Villa,” said the source.
Another Villa source disclosed to Huhuonline.com that after sacking 35 of his aides without even notifying him, the cabal followed up their humiliation of the VP with a sinister plot that was hatched to prevent Osinbajo from representing Buhari at last week’s ECOWAS summit in Niamey, Niger Republic. It was revealed that President Buhari had instructed the VP to represent him at the meeting, but attempts were made by the cabal to instead send the Foreign Affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, but the plot was scuttled and foiled.
It has become glaring to a miffed nation that despite attempts by Garba Shehu and other presidential spin doctors, that there is no rancor between the two leaders, the contrary obtains. Both the Presidency and the ruling APC party have continued to deny the existence of any rift between the President and the office of the Vice President. But no one has satisfactorily explained why Buhari travelled to the UK, ostensibly for medical checks, without transmitting power to the VP as stipulated by the constitution. As if that was not enough, the President assented to the sacking of the VP’s aides and signed bills into law, which were ferried to him outside the shore of Nigeria.
“What Osinbajo is passing through might last throughout the tenure of this administration. It appears that he has fallen out of favor with powers that once embraced him,” Villa sources noted. Having spent the first four years filled with enthralling benefits associated with his high office, Osinbajo seems to be going through the valley of the shadow of presidential politics, which could be as harrowing as death.
The same vice president, whom his principal, Buhari, entrusted with so many tasks, is now being vilified and degraded by the same Buhari whom he has continued to serve with undivided loyalty; this is indeed unfortunate.”
However, the shocking aspect of the entire scenario is that President Buhari knew he was not telling the truth when he told reporters at the airport after his unscheduled return from London that he didn’t sack the VP’s aides; and that the aides were merely redeployed. If Mr. President is honest in describing as “unfortunate” the political interpretation given to the issue; then Buhari should issue a more forthright statement disavowing the disengagement letters written to the 35 aides by Boss Mustapha. Buhari must now openly come to the defense of the VP, in the face of the multiple calculated attempts by the cabal to embarrass Osinbajo’s office.