by Frank Ijege
Let me start with the story of a poor man who married into a rich family. He didn’t have anything as a man but was loved all the same by the lady. Even though her family objected to her choice of a partner, they caved in due to her insistence. She married him and made him the centre point of her life. He became the coordinator of her affairs and remained answerable to her, with her family as the ultimate influencer. He barely took any decision without referring and deferring to her. There was a time he took some decisions concerning her affairs which didn’t go down well with her family, they teamed up and harassed him, reminding him of whose son he is; the son of a nobody. As a result, he avoided taking any decision. In fact, he lost his confidence to think, let alone decide.
During the first medical vacation of President Muhammadu Buhari in January, he transferred power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as the Acting President. The Acting President swung into action; bringing a vibrancy that was lacking in the administration. He visited different parts of the country including the Niger Delta, met with their leaders and sought for a peaceful resolution to the problem of militancy. The naira gained strength against the dollar, with a number of positive steps taken, which earned the Acting President accolades and praises all around. Although he kept attributing the successes recorded within that period to the president who was in London, his popularity and fame grew among Nigerians, which did not go down well with some people.
The president returned and power reverted to him. He resumed work and things returned to status quo, taking the usual snail pace until 7 May 2017, when he hurriedly travelled back to London, few hours after meeting with the Chibok girls who had just been released from Boko Haram’s captivity since 2014.
Since 7 May was a Sunday, the president’s letter was transmitted to the Senate on Monday, 8 May 2017. In that letter, the president chose to use the phrase ‘coordinator of the country’s affairs’ instead of Acting President. From the wording of that letter, it was obvious that those who felt that the Vice President had stolen the show from the president during his stint as the acting president did not want a repeat of that, and were determined to cut him to size. They chose to work on his psyche by calling him “Coordinator”!
Although that phrase does not possess the capacity to contaminate the meaning and intent of section 145 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, or the status of Professor Yemi Osinbajo as Acting President, one cannot say it has not affected him psychologically. What we have seen in recent time is an acting president who is shy and reticent; slow to take decisions and quick to dish out unsolicited smiles in the midst of pressing issues. The agility we witnessed during his first stint as acting president seems to have evaporated.
The actions of those in government have not helped him in any way. While deliberations on the 2017 budget were still on in the National Assembly, Presidential Adviser on Legislative Matters said the budget once passed, would be transmitted to the President in London for signing.
A newspaper also reported on Sunday 18 June 2017, that people were taking files to the president in London for signing.
As a result of all these, the acting president has lost his steam, and that is bad for the country. Although there is no vacuum in the presidency, there is a leadership vacuum. This is as a result of the unwillingness of the acting president to act.
It is really an irony that individuals who nearly brought this country to a stand-still because power was not transmitted to the then vice president, Goodluck Jonathan after his boss travelled on health grounds, are the same stock frustrating the acting president today even though power has been transferred to him. It says one thing: the motivating factor for some of our political leaders is, and has always been their interest. To protect their interest, they can do anything, even the unthinkable!
Goodluck Jonathan as acting president faced the same thing as acting president. He chose to be cautious because he didn’t want to be in the bad books of the cabal that held sway during the days of late President Yar’Adua’s. Unfortunately, after he became president, he carried on with that mentality and it cost him dearly. The rest, like they say, is now history
Professor Yemi Osinbajo must rise to the occasion and assert his authority as acting president. As long as the president remains in London, he remains in charge as acting president with the full powers of the president. Being power or authority-shy will only cause more harm for this administration.
With the absence of the president, fate has placed the chance of this administration continuing beyond 2019 on his shoulders. The earlier he realises that, the better for all of us.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Follow @ynaija on Twitter