MINISTERS and leading members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are bracing themselves for four turbulent years as the ongoing attempts by those close to President Muhammadu Buhari step up their control of the apparatus of government.
Over the last week, President Buhari’s kitchen cabinet known as the Daura cabal has really flexed its muscles taking control of several key levers of government and this is expected to continue over the coming months. Just this week alone, the head of the civil service of the federation Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita has been sacked, the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property chaired by Okoi Obono-Obla has been dissolved and the control of economic matters have been taken away from vice president Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
In a dramatic and audacious attack on the office of the vice president, the cabal managed to get President Buhari to agree to their plan to dissolve the Economic Management Team headed by Professor Osinbajo and replace it with an Economic Advisory Council under the chairmanship of Professor Doyin Salami. Although this new body has several eminent scholars and brains like Dr Mohammed Sagagi, Dr Mohammed Salisu, Professor Ode Ojowu, Dr Shehu Yahaya, Dr Iyabo Masha, Professor Chukwuma Soludo and Mr Bismark Rewane, it will not be allowed to take any executive decisions.
All decisions in the presidency are currently being made President Buhari’s kitchen cabinet made up of Abba Kyari, Mamman Daura, Isa Funtua and Baba Gana Kingibe. President Buhari has been reduced to a figure head who just rubber stamps their decisions, sometimes not aware of the decisions he is approving.
Recently, a decision was taken to ask all ministers to route all proposals through the office of Abba Kyari, the chief of staff in the presidency, meaning that the kitchen cabinet can block any proposal they are not happy with. However, they are particularly incensed that the vice president managed to truncate their Ruga cattle colony plan despite President Buhari agreeing to it, so have decided to wage war with the vice president.
Of late, several of Professor Osinbajo’s aides have been moved out of the presidential villa and with the removal of the economic management team from under his supervision, the cabal hope that the vice presidency will now be totally ineffective. With Mrs Oyo-Ita also removed, their calculations are that nobody will be able to check or stop any decisions they make.
One source in the presidential villa said that members of the cabal are particularly bitter about the roles played by the vice president when he stood in for President Buhari, when the latter was on sick leave. Among these are the confirming of Walter Onnoghen as the substantive chief justice of the federation and the removal of Lawal Daura as the director-general of the Department of State Services.
Even when Justice Onnoghen was removed, Professor Osinbajo expressed misgivings about his trial, saying it has consequences. He had also said that President Buhari believed that there should not be interference by the executive in other organs of government.
“The vice president under-estimated the level of vindictiveness some of these people have towards him. They accused Osinbajo of sidelining them when he took critical decisions during Buhari’s medical leave because if you remember, there was a lot of drama surrounding the confirmation hearing of Onnoghen and the removal of Daura.
“They were also not happy about the issue of the presidential panel on recovery of public assets. Obono-Obla developed a life of his own in handling the assignment given to him but they thought the vice president was supposed to have checked him,” the presidency source added.
One leading member of the APC described the situation as sad and beyond mere words. He added: “Those of us within the party are onlookers in this matter.
They are turning this 2023 game dirty because how can you explain what is happening to the vice president who brought in class and finesse into government? It’s possible some persons around the president made some discoveries about the vice president’s handling of certain issues and were able to convince Buhari to whittle down his powers.
“Whatever is happening cannot be hidden for too long. Without doubt certain individuals within and outside the villa are taking advantage of the situation.”
Although Professor Osinbajo and his office have maintained that nothing is amiss, APC leaders and ministers are not fooled. They are aware of the fact that taking away agencies like the Niger Delta Power Holding Company and the National Emergency Management Agency away from the vice president’s office could open the way for unchecked and unbridled corruption.
Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, has pointed out that from the look of things, the vice-president’s office has been rendered useless, impotent and irrelevant. It, however, said it would be too early to speculate if Professor Osinbajo’s ordeal was caused by any misdemeanour on his part or if it was based on permutations ahead of the general election in 2023.