Almost exactly 1 year after winning the ruling party for the first time in nearly 25 years, the new Nigerian President- Muhammadu Buhari wrote parliament to take leave to consult his personal physicians overseas. The new president had earlier declared no medical tourism for all government officials but followed recommendations from statehouse doctors to visit his long-time physicians in London The first vacation lasted from 5–10th of February, 2016. On the 5th of June the same year, President Buhari wrote to seek for another 10 days to return to London.
Nigerians were a bit understanding that the 75 year-old retired Major General needed rest and consistent medical attention until on January 21, MetroUk- a fake news website published an article claiming that the president died on vacation. This news caused lots of Social Media uproar in the country of over 180 million people and attracted people’s attention to the real state of the president. Worthy of note, however is that unlike his predecessor’s predecessor- Umaru Yar’Adua- President Buhari left no leadership vacuum as he handed power over to his vice- Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to act in his capacity.
A former Commissioner for Justice, Osinbajo’s style differs slightly from that of General Buhari. While Buhari adds his military prowess to his many political limitations, Osinbajo is purely concerned about achieving results through technocratic strategic research, legal reforms and bottom-up project delivery. Within a couple of days of acting as president, Osinbajo did some interesting things that some say have started to turn the economy right-side-up including discussing with people in the Niger-Delta, making well backed statements that improve investors’ confidence, directing Central Bank reforms, ingesting money into the Sovereign Wealth Fund and even conducting unscheduled visit to facilities and a public toilets.
Some Nigerians believe Osinbajo is performing better than Buhari while the Presidency claims the Professor is acting under the orders of the General.
On Saturday the 4th of March, 2017, Osinbajo was at the commissioning of Africa’s first Presidential Library, and like he did during his visit to the Niger Delta; just like he did when he spoke to the organisers of a nationwide protest, Osinbajo spoke to the heart of people and even cracked some jokes in the process.
Unlike General Buhari, Osinbajo either speaks solutions such as Modular Refineries or does the simple humane action of listening and understanding. His response to the organizers of a national protest “we hear you loud and clear” is just an antonym to that of his boss while referring to situations in the South- “we’ll crush the Niger-Delta militancy”. How do you crush a socio-economic problem without socio-economic solutions?
The commissioning of Chief Obasanjo’s library was an important occasion, not only for the veteran African leader but also for the continent of Africa and most importantly, for Professor Osinbajo. He needed a stage to prove to Africa and the world that he is the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that he is capable of delivering and that he is a goal-oriented technocratic diplomat.
“There are at least 2 advantages to writing history” he says… “There is a personal one- you can add a few nice things about yourself. Baba gave me an elbow when I suggested that I could not see so clearly what the grades were on his [school]Reports Card”
The atmosphere that was at the announcement of his name, a little bit tense became more humane as Osinbajo delivers the warmest and most well articulated speech I’ve seen delivered by an African leader in 2017. Following President Buhari’s retreat to treatment, the political establishment had feared that Osinbajo as Acting President could undermine the President’s authority and that of the ruling party’s leadership cabal.
Osinbajo however continuously proves that he is the right man for the job by making sure all members of his cabinet work- for instance, he is acclaimed to have held the longest Federal Executive Council meeting in the history of the administration and probably in the history of Nigeria. He seems to be stubbornly determined to make Nigeria work even under the poking noses of President Buhari’s handlers who are bent on placing political limits on Osinbajo’s capability. At Obasanjo’s ceremony some of Professor Osinbajo’s most memorable words were:
“the more selfless the giving, the better.”
Professor Osinbajo may not be an experienced partisan politician, but the results he’s achieved as a lawyer, the reforms he made, and the tactics he used leading a volunteer-based workforce at church will come in handy as he delivers the duties of his office either as Acting President or as Vice President in the Government of Nigeria. While Nigerians pray for the quick recovery of President Buhari, they hope that he’ll empower Osinbajo to function as he is now when the General returns.
Buttom Line: Former President Obasanjo is the first African leader to own a presidential library. This write-up examines the dynamics of power in Nigeria and Prof Osinbajo’s style especially as he spoke in capacity of Vice President and Acting for his ailing boss (PMB) during the opening ceremony of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library.