Yẹmi Ọṣinbajo and Buhari's government in exile/

One thing I admire about President Muhammadu Buhari is his army career. He is perhaps the only one known of Nigeria’s military top brass that actually fought Nigeria’s external enemies. Others became Generals by killing fellow Nigerians in coups d’état and civil war, or by fighting other peoples’ enemies in distant lands in WW2, the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and others.

In the late seventies and early eighties and especially during the Shehu Shagari led Second Republic, it became fashionable for the country’s less powerful but obviously unwise neighbours to provoke conflict with Nigeria by attacking Nigerian people, soldiers, installations and interests. It became so bad at a time that the leading opposition politician at the time, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, declared that “good neighbourliness can be taught” to Nigeria’s insolent neighbours.

Major General Buhari, then GOC of Nigeria’s Northeast sector, apparently took Awolowo’s advice literally as he (Buhari) taught the Chadians a lesson that they are not likely to forget in a hurry, when they foolishly abducted a number of Nigerian soldiers under his command.

Some of his critics said later, a claim seemingly validated by the way President Shagari summarily removed him from that command, that Buhari carried out the apparently singular punitive action against Chad to embarrass President Shagari and to discredit Shagari’s government, in order to justify the coup that he (Buhari) subsequently led. But as far as I am concerned, Nigeria today could well do with such embarrassments especially in the Bakassi region where the Cameroonians continue to incursion into Nigeria and kill Nigerians with impunity. I mention the foregoing in case anyone is in doubt of the assertive character of Nigeria’s current President.

A cornerstone of the principle of passing power to a Vice President when the incumbent becomes indisposed, in an elected democracy, is to ensure that the making of ultimate executive decisions does not fall into the hands of unanswerable and unelected officials. Unelected officials like Aso Rock Chief of Staff, military Chiefs of Staff, Attorneys General of the Federation, National Security Advisers and others. Not to talk of allowing Presidential power to fall into the hands of unelected, unappointed, and according to Hajiya Aisha Buhari erstwhile unemployed, blood relations. Where both elected members of the Executive are so indisposed,the Constitution confers the responsibility on the President of the Senate by hierarchy.

This principle of retaining power in the hands of elected leaders of a country is founded on the fact that appointees are not beholden to the national constituency. They made no electoral promises and do not have any to keep. Most importantly, they did not take the Presidential oath.

Nothing illustrates this better than the case of President Jimmy Carter’s controversial White House Chief of Staff, Hamilton Jordan. In 1979, Jordan was accused of snorting cocaine on a visit to New York’s chic nightclub, Studio 54. Even though the special investigator could not bring charges, Americans believed that Mr Jordan violated public trust. Jordan replied, “The President is my only constituency”.

It must be clear by now to even the casual observer that there is a concerted and orchestrated effort to tell the whole world that Vice President, currently Acting President, Yẹmi Ọṣinbajo is generally not in charge of Nigeria’s affairs and specifically that he is not the one taking decisions in Aso Rock despite his Constitutional prerogative and obligation to do so.

Unfortunately, while a lot of noise is being made about the political tug of power, hardly anyone appears to be concerned that a significant principle of our democracy is being violated by power hungry politicians including, and judging by events of the last few days spearheaded by, President Muhammadu Buhari himself. Despite efforts of his image makers to lay the blame of the current imbroglio on a faceless cabal, President Buhari has demonstrated some notable power mongering tendencies.

An example is when he allowed himself to be dragged back home from his first medical holiday in the UK, reportedly against the better advice of his doctors. We probably would have a hale and hearty President by now but for that imprudent move.

Another is when President Buhari re-worded or allowed the re-wording of his notification letter to the National Assembly, concerning the role of Ọṣinbajo, from Acting President to Co-ordinator. It is clear that President Buhari intended Ọṣinbajo to be less than the man in charge as stipulated by the Constitution. Every intrigue and drama around the Presidency since then has fed and bolstered this anomaly.

Only in the emasculating set-up created by President Buhari could an appointed Attorney General repudiate the directives, and second guess the policy statement, of an elected Acting President as Mallam Abubakar Malami did on at least two occasions.

Perhaps to recover his clout, the Acting President decided to embark on a journey to see his ailing principal face to face, reportedly without planning the trip with the so called cabal. However, going by Osinbajo’s rather lame statement that Buhari is recovering fast and would be home shortly, it is anybody’s guess whether Mr Osinbajo actually saw the President or spent the full one hour he claimed he did with Buhari.

Contrast that with what many consider to be a retaliatory humiliation of the Acting President, as the cabal promptly fired back by despatching its own handpicked entourage to Buhari, and who were granted a showcase lunch and photograph with the visibly recovering President. Other visitors including some Governors, his wife and other relations have since been photographed with a visibly recovering President Buhari. The message is clear. Ọṣinbajo is on his own. That is what Attorney General Malami had actually said in nearly as many words.

The issue, however, is that hardly could all of these happen without President Buhari’s initiative or approval.

Nigeria’s structural problem has never been the type of political system we adopt, but the fact that the country’s rulers always refuse to play by the agreed rules when the chips are down, as now. From the look of things, President Buhari might need even further convalescence time when he returns to the country. Should that be the case, is he going to lie on a bed in Daura and leave the running of Nigeria to unelected officials and unappointed relations?

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