Recurring civility of Buhari’s Star Boy, Osinbajo wins more converts

By Tope Templer Olaiya
There’s presently no challenger; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is the undisputed poster boy of Buhari’s first-term presidency. And by each passing day, the Professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) carves a niche for himself through his conduct and carriage of rising above the ashes of a floundering administration to earn the sobriquet, Star Boy.

Long before President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated his cabinet in November 2015, one man had been primed to take that space, the former governor of Lagos State. Babatunde Raji Fashola, a.k.a. Eko oni baje, was propelled then as the poster boy of the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC) that won the hearts of many during the 2015 elections.

And when the cabinet was unveiled with the president assigning three heavy portfolios – power, works and housing – to Fashola, the coast was clear for the Lagos ‘golden boy’ to transit from APC’s poster boy to Buhari’s actualizer, but it is another Lagos ‘golden boy’ that has taken the shine and grabbed the medal of this administration’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. He is by popular acclaim the Buhari administration’s ‘Star Boy,’ the poster boy of efficiency, commitment, honesty and loyalty.

The Star Boy, Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo

Both friends and foes, young and old are left enamored by the vice president’s exemplary and humble lifestyle, especially his ebullient spirit and ability to maintain uncommon composure in the face of threats and barrages of attacks.

Tuesday’s incident was unscripted. It was the latest of the vice president’s recurring civility and addition to his expanding crest lined with badges of honour. Angry youths of Gbagyi village in Abuja had blocked the busy Umaru Yar’Adua expressway connecting the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport to protest against the alleged land grab by the Nigerian Army.

The vice president was heading to the airport on his way to Ekiti State to launch the Homegrown School Feeding Programme when he ran into the protesters at Goza village. The protesters blocked Osinbajo’s motorcade and all entreaties by his security aides to appease the youths failed. They were only disarmed and placated when the Star Boy seized the moment, alighted from his bulletproof Mercedes Benz to engage with the angry youths, by proposing to meet with their leaders on the matter and intervene with a view to finding an amicable solution.

Instantly, the people ended the protest and opened the highway for free passage. Still not done, the vice president didn’t order his convoy to squeeze through the congested road, he waited to ensure cars ahead of his convoy went on first and then got back into his car to continue his trip to the airport. Deservedly, the once incensed youths now formed a guard of honour that stretched several miles to bid him goodbye.

That was a simple but classic act of courage and leadership, which has never failed the vice president in the last four years, especially at critical periods when he mounted the saddle as acting president.

NO AIRS: Osinbajo walking down to engage with the protesters

Acting otherwise with an excessive show of force would have been expected but out of character for Osinbajo. A similar incident with a different outcome occurred in December 2015 when the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, ran into the annual procession of the Shiites Muslim sect in Zaria, Kaduna State.

The ensuing clash turned violent, leading to the deaths of over 300 sect members and incarceration of the sect leader, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife since then. It is, therefore, left to be imagined what would have been left in the wake of such obstruction if it had been the motorcade of the president and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Osinbajo left that rowdy scene, arrived in Ekiti, performed his official function but what makes the man so much loved still trailed him to Ekiti when he visited the man who served as official driver to Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The senior citizen, Pa Olajide Olabode, aged 87 and his family was visibly elated and felt honoured.

Apart from serving as official driver to the late sage, he also functioned in same capacity and had the privilege to interact with the former governor of Western Region, Oba Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi, who was also the Ooni of Ife; the former Premier, Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola and the first Military Governor, Western Region, General Adeyinka Adebayo. Pa Olabode was also the chauffeur of visiting head of states that included Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.

Before then, Osinbajo had sat on a school bench to eat with pupils of St. Michael’s African Primary School, Ado-Ekiti after the launch of School Feeding Programme.

Long before the TraderMoni social intervention scheme was launched that would see Osinbajo visit major markets across the length and breath of the country, he had also being a crowd’s man. Osinbajo in 2017 had almost caused a scare in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, when he went for a state visit.

On arrival at the airport, then acting president Osinbajo had inspected the guard of honour mounted by troops of the Army, Navy and Air Force before proceeding to the palace of the Obong of Calabar for a brief interaction. On the way, a visibly elated Osinbajo stopped his motorcade along the IBB Way to meet the cheering crowd, especially pupils of Federal Government Girls College, Calabar, who trooped out to catch a glimpse of his motorcade.

VICTORIA ASCERTA: Osinbajo being hailed by the protesters after the engagement

He not only walked a long distance just to shake hands with the crowd, an elderly woman from the throng forced her way to Osinbajo bringing freshly harvested vegetables to present to the vice president in a tray. That gesture melted the heart of Osinbajo who couldn’t help but reward the old woman with a tight hug.

Ever since then, the vice president has always been greeted by a mob wherever he goes, a situation even his security details sometimes find difficult to control.

As a polemicist, Osinbajo enjoys sermonizing. He likes to espouse on issues. As a university lecturer and senior advocate, he is in his elements when engaging on issues to win diehards to his side. As a vice president, he has taken his long years of scholarly antecedents with measured steps to tackle the matters of state that begged his attention.

He won hearts, even from unexpected quarters, and somewhat courted some enemies, with his swift response to the blockade of the National Assembly by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) during one of his stints as acting president last year.

While some of the president’s appointees have riden roughshod in their line of duty with no respect for democratic norms and ethos, Osinbajo had stood at variance from such malfeasance like a rare breed cut out from a refined piece. That was what Lawal Daura, the sacked director-general of the DSS, tried to display when he ordered his operatives to take over the National Assembly. He had a mission, to prevent the leadership of the National Assembly from holding their scheduled meeting. But Osinbajo aborted the Daura coup.

It would also be recalled that while Buhari was away on his routine medical trips, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) staged a public show. It demanded a referendum on Biafra. Osinbajo, also acting president at that time, handled the situation with the maturity it deserved.

“Nigeria’s unity is one for which enough blood has been spilled and many hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost. Many have paid for the unity of this country with their lives, and it will be wrong of us, as men and women of goodwill in this generation, to toy with those sacrifices that have been made.

“The truth is that many, if not most nations of the world are made up of different peoples and cultures and beliefs and religions, who find themselves thrown together by circumstance. The most successful of the nations of the world are those who do not fall into the lure of secession, but who through thick and thin forge unity in diversity,” he said.

Osinbajo, subscribing to this civilised tenets of democratic form of government, weaved through the thorny issue of self-actualisation, but once he reverted to his nominal role as vice president, the cart soon turned and a crackdown was ordered on the unarmed and defenceless members of IPOB, codenamed Operation Python Dance. Many lost their lives in the process.

But the vice president is not all out for the show. He brings his intellectual rigour into governance. Last week, the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, though started late due to other state assignments he anchored in the absence of the president, went on late into the night on Thursday. That was not his first time; last year when he had cause to take charge of FEC meeting, the ministers were forced to deliberate for seven long hours.

His forward thinking approach to governance has been the soothing balm in moments of crisis. Once on a tour of duty in Rivers State in 2017, Osinbajo declared that the federal government would work with illegal refineries and help convert them to modular refineries.

His approach to the Niger Delta challenge is an approach of intelligence and diplomacy, which has achieved more in the restive region than the president’s ‘command and obey’ tactics. The man approached the region with compassion and understanding, not with threats and bluster.

He physically visited and toured the region, not to canvass for votes, but actually to get a firsthand on-the-spot assessment of the issues befuddling the Niger Delta. What was the result of his avowed civility, oil production continued to rise and militancy waned.

He is an efficient technocrat in politics. Little wonder he is regarded across combustible and corrosive party lines as Nigeria’s most effective No. 2 citizen ever. He gets the work done. He is down to earth. His brainpower and people management skill more than compensate for what he lacks in a towering physique.

Where many are announced by raw physical presence only, Osinbajo only needs to speak to announce his presence: very articulate, never caught unprepared in situations needing empirical validation; always thinking on his feet and hard as granite under the harmless exterior. And when situations demand it, he is never short on quotable riposte like his anecdote of the looted empty shop and needless security over it during his sparring session with Mr. Peter Obi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the vice presidential debate.

Again, Osinbajo does not strike one as an individual who has been changed by the power of his office. He is still the same good old ‘Jebby’ that his friends called him in the formative years. He appears more comfortable with being called ‘Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’ than being tagged with the awe-inducing ‘His Excellency’ label that tends to create a distance between the leader and the led.

Nigerians won’t forget in a hurry other few incidences where the vice president has shone brightly standing the middle ground between the government and the governed. In February 2017, there had been a mass movement of Nigerians mobilized for a nationwide anti-government protest tagged #IStandWithNigeria.

The protest was championed by music star, Tu Face Idibia, but he later succumbed to threats by the police not to lead Nigerians out on the protest. The rally lost a bit of momentum when the Afro-pop singer pulled out, citing security concerns, but his call to action had received widespread popular support and several civil society organisations keyed into it.

Yet at such difficult moment when responsibility fell on his shoulder to keep the country together in the midst of economic crisis skyrocketing prices of food items, then acting president, Osinbajo, received the protesters in Abuja and said: “We hear you loud and clear, those who are on the streets protesting the economic situation across the country and even those who are not, but feel the pain of economic hardship, we hear you loud and clear. You deserve a decent life and we are working night and day to make life easier.”

That statement, which was also posted on his social media handles, poured cold water on the fire the mass movement was generating.

It was a masterstroke that even disarmed a regular critic of the Buhari presidency, Reno Omokri. He had said then: “The man speaks to Nigerians as a leader should. He does not talk at us like the president. He talks to us. I may have issues with what he says sometimes but I am still impressed by his conduct and courteousness in office. Even if you do not like him, you must respect Vice President Osinbajo.”

 

Recurring civility of Buhari’s Star Boy, Osinbajo wins more converts

 

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Reality versus scorecard in Buhari’s declining rating

By Tope Templer Olaiya
May 29, 2018, Nigeria’s Democracy Day, was planned to be another chest-thumping occasion marking the third year of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of change and 19 years of return to democracy, but it turned out to be a rude reality check for the administration.

The day began well from Aso Rock, the seat of power at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, with the president’s national broadcast, where Buhari highlighted his achievements and plans for the next year, the last of his four-year term.

Buhari said his administration came at a time Nigerians needed change, which he is delivering, especially in the three cardinal points of his administration – security, corruption and the economy. He said the capacity of the Boko Haram insurgents had been degraded by his government, leading to release of captives, including 106 Chibok and 104 Dapchi girls, and over 16,000 other persons held by the terrorist group.

He called for utmost sense of fairness, justice and peaceful co-existence ahead of the 2019 general election to have a hitch-free elections as well as a credible and violence-free process. He added that in a few days to come, he would be joined by some promising young Nigerians to sign into law the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ Bill, which he later did two days after.

Angry reactions immediately followed the Democracy Day broadcast, especially as most respondents said the president failed woefully on many fronts. Tackling the issue of insecurity, the Anglican Bishop of Okigwe South, Rt. Rev. David O. C. Onuoha, noted that far greater percentage of Nigerians live in fear of the country’s direction.

“The fears are heightened daily by news coming from the print, electronic and social media, as well as what the eyes can see about the growing level of insecurity in the land. Though Boko Haram has, according to the Federal Government, been decimated and degraded to the point that they no longer occupy territories in Nigeria, I am terribly disturbed that they are still wasting precious human lives and property. The menace of killer herdsmen and their manifest proclivity for killing people in scores, destroying farmland and sacking communities are unprecedented. That they carry sophisticated weapons, operate freely, openly and escape prosecution, is as disturbing as it is intriguing,” Bishop Onuoha fumed.

The voices from the streets also did not spare the Buhari administration. In Lagos State, citizens from all walks of life who last week told The Guardian of their hopes and fears about Nigeria, expressed dissatisfaction over the state of the nation. While they agreed that the nation had been consistent in achieving a democratic rule since 1999, they, however, chided the government for their incompetence in delivering the dividends of democracy to the people.

Despite scoring itself high on its achievements in the past three years, a new poll conducted ‘amongst 4,000 Nigerians’ last week rated President Buhari’s performance below average. According to the poll, he failed Nigerians in his three cardinal campaign promises: Corruption, Security and Economy. The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) launched ‘Buharimeter’ to track the delivery of Buhari’s campaign promises to Nigerians. According to CDD, this year’s poll was conducted in May by telephone amongst 4,000 respondents across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The poll revealed that 40 per cent of Nigerians approve of the president’s performance while 44 per cent disapprove, with the remaining 16 per cent being indifferent.

“This implies that the president is rated below average by Nigerians. The president’s approval rating of 40 per cent marks a decline of 17 per cent from 57 per cent rating recorded in the 2017 Buharimeter National Survey,” it said.As if that didn’t reflect popular opinion enough, former Vice President and presidential hopeful, Atiku Abubakar, handed President Buhari a crushing defeat in another online poll conducted by the president’s own consultant.

A flurry of polls largely promoted by pro-Buhari influencers sprung up shortly after the administration marked its third anniversary on May 29. In the first poll conducted by Mark Essien via his Twitter handle @markessien, Atiku polled 43 per cent while Buhari trailed him with 35 per cent. But in the second the poll conducted by @YNaija, Atiku polled 70 per cent versus Buhari’s dismal 19 per cent. The other participants in the poll, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu and Mr. Fela Durotoye polled six and five per cent respectively.

The poll, which commenced on May 29 and ended 11:00p.m. of June 1 asked respondents: “Which of them will have your vote, if you had to vote today?” At the end of the voting of 7,444 respondents, seven out of every 10 respondents representing about 5,210 settled for Atiku compared to Buhari’s vote of 1,414; Moghalu’s 446 and Durotoye’s 372. The outcome of the poll by YNaija, a youth blog run by Red Media, which played a major role in Buhari’s media during the 2015 elections, is a reflection of result of the latest poll by NOI/Gallup Poll, which saw Buhari’s rating dip to 41 per cent.

Against the run of play of public opinion and ratings however, the Buhari administration’s third year report/factsheet says otherwise. On the economy, the report says the economic growth is back and consolidating after the recession of 2016-2017. The administration’s priority sectors of agriculture and solid minerals maintained consistent growth throughout the recession.

Inflation has fallen for the 15th consecutive month from 18.7 per cent in January 2017 to 12.5 per cent as of April 2018; External Reserves of US$47.5 billion are the highest in five years, and double the size as of October 2016; in 2017, agriculture exports grew 180.7 per cent above the value in 2016; Nigeria’s stock market ended 2017 as one of the best-performing in the world, with returns in excess of 40 per cent; five million new taxpayers were added to the tax base since 2016, as part of efforts to diversify government revenues; tax revenue increased to N1.17 trillion in first quarter of 2018, a 51 per cent increase on the Q1 2017 figure; and N2.7 trillion was spent on infrastructure in 2016 and 2017, an unprecedented allocation in Nigeria’s recent history.

On investment in people, the Buhari factsheet listed four components of its Social Investment Programme (SIP), which have already taken off. The SIP is the largest social safety net programme in the history of Nigeria, with N140 billion released and more than nine million direct beneficiaries so far – 200,000 N-Power beneficiaries currently participating and receiving N30,000 in monthly stipends, with another 300,000 new enrolments being processed, to take the number to 500,000 this year.

Second is the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP). N15.183 billion in interest-free loans ranging from N50,000 to N350,000 have been disbursed to more than 300,000 market women, traders, artisans, and farmers across all 36 states of the country and the FCT. In November 2017, GEEP was chosen as the pilot programme for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Policy Innovation Unit in Nigeria.

Another of its SIP is the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP), covering currently, a total of 8.2 million pupils in 45,394 public primary schools across 24 states. Over 80,000 direct jobs have since been created from the School Feeding Programme, with 87,261 cooks engaged in the 24 states. Lastly is the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) with 297,973 families benefiting from the scheme, which pays N5,000 monthly to the poorest and most vulnerable households in the country.

For security, while Nigerians have lost count of incessant attacks and galloping death toll across the country, owing majorly to herdsmen/farmers’ conflict, the Buhari’s scorecard list the following: In the Northeast, revitalization of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), aimed at combating trans-border crime and the Boko Haram insurgency; resumption of public secondary schools in Borno State in 2016 after two years of closure; reopening of Maiduguri-Gubio and Maiduguri-Monguno roads; capture of Boko Haram’s operational and spiritual headquarters, ‘Camp Zero’, in Sambisa Forest; return of more than a million displaced persons to their homes and communities across the Northeast; and release of more than 13,000 Boko Haram hostages, including 106 of the Chibok Girls abducted in April 2014, and 105 of the Dapchi Girls abducted in February 2018.

The report listed successful military operations across the country: Operation Lafiya Dole, and Operation Last Hold, to defeat Boko Haram, in the Northeast; Operation Whirl Stroke, operating in Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara states, to tackle the menace of armed herdsmen, cattle rustlers, communal militias, kidnappers and other bandits; Exercise Crocodile Smile I (September 2016) and II (October 2017) to curtail the menace of militant activities in the Niger Delta; Exercise Obangame, a multinational operation aimed at securing and protecting the Gulf of Guinea; Operation Awatse, a joint operation between the military and the police, in the South West, to flush out militants and pipeline vandals; and Exercise Python Dance I (November 2016) and II (September 2017) in the South East, to tackle kidnappers and militant elements.

The government notes that its anti-corruption crusade and corruption war has been hinged on the plank of its fiscal reforms aimed at plugging leakages, one of which is the new Whistleblowing Policy. The policy introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance in December 2016 has since yielded the following in recoveries: N13.8 billion from tax evaders, and N7.8 billion, US$378million, £27,800 in recoveries from public officials targeted by whistleblowers.

The Ministry received a total of 8,373 communications on contract inflation, ghost workers, illegal recruitment and misappropriation of funds, as a result of the policy. Of this number, the Ministry has undertaken 791 investigations and completed 534. Ten are presently under prosecution and four convictions have been secured. There is also an increased oversight of MDAs. The National Economic Council (NEC), under the chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, approved the audit of key federal revenue generating agencies, with revealing results: a total sum of N526 billion and US$21 billion underpaid to the Federation Account between 2010 and 2015.

NEC has now approved the extension of that audit to cover the period until June 2017. The administration is also addressing the issue of poor levels of remittance of operating surpluses by MDAs. From remitting only N51 million between 2010 and 2016, JAMB went on to remit N7.8 billion in 2017, and is on course to remit a similar amount in 2018. How this factsheet or its impact on citizens can halt or sway public opinion from dangerously going south, thereby eroding remnants of the already exhausted goodwill of this administration, will be seen in the next eight months in countdown to 2019 general elections.

Change or Chains

Angst as Nigerians feel pains of increasing hard times
By Tope Templer Olaiya
These are not the best of times in Nigeria. Long before July 21, 2016, when the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, officially confirmed that the country was ‘technically in recession,’ it had been an arduous battle for survival for citizens, organizations and governments at all tiers.

The first half of the year was rough.

In spite of government’s assurances, Nigerians weathered the storm, bracing the challenge of petroleum scarcity, epileptic power supply amid increase in electricity tariff, removal of subsidy on petrol, hike in cost of food, goods and services, unprecedented scarcity of tomatoes, skyrocketing exchange rate of the naira to a dollar, backlog of unpaid salaries and mass retrenchment of workers.

For this man, RECESSION is not just a word

For this man, RECESSION is not just a word

Government kept repeating that the tide would turn once the 2016 budget was passed and the second half of the year would be better for the country and its citizens.

President Muhammadu Buhari eventually signed the budget on May 6, raising the hopes of turnaround with the injection of government funds across critical sectors of the economy.

With four months left in the year, it’s a stark reality of a depressed economy staring Nigerians in the face as strange things are reported daily.

Organized and petty crimes have been on the increase, unsecured pots of soup have become endangered species, sale of human blood and organs for economic reasons is rife, and frustrations have given rise to rampant cases of domestic violence, child abuse and suicide.

The hunger is so widespread that poultry farmers confess to skipping meals for their birds as the cost of feed has risen by 100 per cent.

Signs of the time: A boy eating crumbs from a pot.

Signs of the time: A boy eating crumbs from a pot.

Even in the president’s home state of Katsina recently, there was a massive scramble for unwholesome grain when the truck conveying bags of the suspected poisonous grains for destruction broke down in a village.

When persuasion failed, authorities had to engage the help of task force to retrieve some of the poisoned grains in a bid to avoid devastating consequences.

The new economic reality is affecting the lifestyle of Nigerians.

Today, an exchange of pleasantries is incomplete without the word ‘Change’ in reference to the evocative slogan that brought the present administration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to power.

The standard reply to any untoward situation in the country is ‘Chanji’, the street version of APC’s motto – change.

President Buhari takes a peep at the capital city from Aso Villa

President Buhari takes a peep at the capital city from Aso Villa

A public affairs commentator based in Kano State, Aminu Muhammad Ofs, last week recounted his experience of the times, which has gone viral on social media.

He said: “I was sitting with a guy who sells tea when an elderly man came and said ‘Give me ‘Buhari’s mixture’. Without saying anything more, the man was given some tea and small bread for a sum of N40.
I was baffled, so I asked the seller what the man meant by ‘Buhari’s mixture’. He explained that it means tea without milk plus a small loaf of bread.

“Again the next day, I stopped by a small kiosk to get a battery for my wireless computer mouse. While I was leaving, a guy came who said: ‘Give me Buhari and Osinbajo. I waited to see what he meant and the seller handed him garri and groundnut.

“I inquired from the seller, who explained that garri is the street term for President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is groundnut, while Senate President Bukola Saraki is sugar, slang for the staple foods the poor can afford.”

A drummer bows his head in agony after low patronage.

A drummer bows his head in agony after low patronage.

Before now, Lagos State was often referred to the city that never sleeps, because it is known for its hustle and bustle from dawn to dusk.

The wind of recession has blown all that away.

The bustling nightlife is disappearing in the Centre of Excellence, as the city practically shuts down and becomes a ghost town once it is 10p.m., even on weekends.

Due to the harsh economic conditions in the country, Nigerians have developed some clever methods of dealing with the tough circumstances.

Policemen take to lotto and gambling to make ends meet

Policemen take to lotto and gambling to make ends meet

According to a public opinion survey by NOIPolls, released on August 10, 2016, 97 per cent of the respondents said the recent economic realities have had a negative effect on the wellbeing of the average Nigerian.

Some survival methods discovered by the polls include cutting down on household expenses and luxury items, resorting to prayers and hoping for a miracle, engaging in subsistence farming, adjusting feeding patterns in place of the regular three-square meals.

A businessman, Emeka Obinna told The Guardian that he has had to adjust the feeding patterns of his family.
“I have a family of six, with several other dependents. That’s the only way we are managing to survive. No more three-square meals. It is either breakfast and dinner, or lunch and dinner. So, it is the 1-0-1, 1-1-0 or 0-1-1 formula I am operating now with the little resources at my disposal,” he said.

 

Angst as Nigerians feel pains of increasing hard times