BY Jonathan Nda-Isaiah
President Muhammadu Buhari caused a stir before leaving the country for his medical vacation. In his letter to the National Assembly informing them of his intention to proceed on medical vacation, the president said the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, will coordinate the activities of the government.
The criticisms that trailed the presidential goof were legion. Osinbajo was mischievously referred to as “a coordinator of the nation’s affairs” by the opposition and mischief makers. In a country where every action is viewed through ethnic or religious prisms, some people started flying the kite that President Buhari no longer trusted his deputy.
In the midst of all the insinuations, Osinbajo said the president handed over to him putting an end to the speculations. And events in the past one week showed that whether acting or coordinating president, Osinbajo is in charge.
On Monday after flying to Anambra to attend a law conference, the acting president rushed back to Abuja to sign the 2017 Budget. It was billed to be signed at 3:00pm but had to be shifted till 4pm because of Osinbajo’s engagement in Anambra. The signing ceremony was attended by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki ,Speaker House of Reps, Yakubu Dogara with some members of the National Assembly. Osinbajo made history as the first acting President to sign the budget in Nigeria.
Some hours before the acting president signed the budget, a statement was issued by the senior special assistant Media to the president, Garba Shehu which stated that the president had directed Osinbajo to sign the budget in the interest of the economy.
Shehu stated: “Following the receipt of a full brief on the 2017 Appropriation Bill as passed by the National Assembly, and to buttress the unity at the highest level of government, President Muhammadu Buhari has indicated that it is in the interest of the nation’s economy for the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to sign the Appropriation Bill into law.
“In a letter dated June 10, 2017, which he personally signed and addressed to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the President also said he was “pleased by the joint resolution that the Executive would submit next year’s budget proposals by October 2017 and the National Assembly will conclude the Appropriation process by December 2017, so that the country can return to a normal fiscal period from next year onwards.”
After signing the budget, Osinbajo pointed out that it was an important milestone in the country’s economic recovery and growth plan laid out in April by President Buhari.
He expressed appreciation to the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as the entire leadership and members of the National Assembly for completing work on the 2017 Appropriation Bill.
He observed that the process of preparing and processing this Bill was much smoother than the 2016 Appropriation Bill, adding that on the executive side, there were no allegations of errors, or mistakes, and there was a significant improvement in the quality of the preparation, as well as the presentation.
On Tuesday, the acting president began series of consultations with leaders of thought from the North and South-east over the recent drums of war and threats of secession across the country.
When he met the Northern leaders on Tuesday, Osinbajo made his most decisive statement yet. If anyone is in doubt about whether he is a coordinator or acting president, that doubt would have been erased as he warned those persons promoting hate speeches or making pronouncements that can cause violence or disruption of lives and property in the country to desist from such divisive behaviours or face the full wrath of the law.
On Wednesday when he met with South-east leaders, he reiterated the same warning. He said, “Let there be no doubt whatsoever of the resolve of government to ensure that no one will be allowed to get away with making speeches that can cause division or violence. We will take very seriously any attempts to cause violence or to disrupt the peace of Nigeria. And we will not tolerate such.”
He further noted that after this, he will meet with religious and traditional leaders from the North and from the South-east, on Friday and Monday respectively. “And then, in the final consultation, next week Thursday, all of us, from North and South, will come together in the same room, for further engagement and consultation,” he said, adding that “I also plan at some time in between to meet with the Nigerian Governors Forum.