When Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was picked as the running mate for the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) in December 2014, very few people outside Lagos State had ever heard of him, as he was not a high-profile politician with the highest post ever held being that of a commissioner.
But Nigerians soon cottoned to him as they were impressed by his impressive achievements: a professor of law who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and a senior pastor with one of Nigeria’s largest churches, The Redeemed Christian Church of God. In fact, he was a motivation for many to support that party ticket with the hope and belief that their presidency will be one of partnership between President Muhammadu Buhari and his vice.
After Nigerians’ experience with the Jonathan administration, the importance of picking a running mate who was competent and possibly ready for leadership had become very apparent, as the holder of that office is just a heartbeat away from the top job itself.
In the less than two years of this administration, Vice President Osinbajo has had a quite healthy dose of being in the spotlight, and thankfully, there have been no reports of friction between him and his principal. Every time the president is going on vacation, he hands over the reins of government to him. The Vice President has also on numerous times represented Nigeria at international forums and spoken there as well.
Unlike his boss, Vice President Osinbajo appears significantly more open to having young people work with him in sensitive positions such as his Special Adviser on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Special Assistant on Legal Matters, Rule of Law Advisor, Digital Asset Manager and his Power Advisory Team.
This is a stark contrast to the appointments of President Buhari whose youngest minister is 49, and has less than five aides that are under the age of 40. In a country such as Nigeria where the bulk of the population are youths, appointments of young people into government is heart-warming as it increases their participation in governance and prepares them for bigger leadership roles down the road.
One admirable thing about the Vice President is that he is measured in his speech and articulate in his views. His staff almost has nothing to fear from him making unguarded statements that they will need to do damage control afterwards.
However, his recent appearance at the “Africa Rising” panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland gave many cause for worry. When asked what were Nigeria’s plans to restore investor confidence in the country and reverse its economic situation, the Vice President went on a ramble about how talks with militants in the Niger Delta region were underway in order to boost oil production and the proposed launch of a National Economic Recovery Plan, the details of which are still not known.
Those answers were the exact opposite of how he has always been perceived as a man of cerebral excellence as he was grasping for straws there. While he might have just been echoing the views of his principal, that performance did him no favors.
In his current stint as Acting President, he has been quite active in launching the Medium, Small and Micro Scale Enterprise (MSME) Clinic to assist MSME owners resolve administrative challenges facing their businesses. He also set up a task force comprising of government ministers and officials across ministries with the objective of addressing structural issues that contribute to the high cost of food items, such as transportation and preservation.
It is still unknown how much influence the Vice President wields within Aso Rock, but his recent action of sending in the name Justice Walter Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation as Chief Justice of Nigeria after President Buhari had dilly-dallied on it for months shows quite some decisiveness.
We believe there is still a lot more to come from Vice President Osinbajo and we hope that the Presidency brings out the best in him.