Sources close to the vice president said since the latest developments in the presidency started, he has received calls from his mentors and loyalists within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to quit his position if he realises “the current developments in the presidency are attempts to humiliate him”.
“Since these developments started, a lot of concerned Nigerians have expressed their concern that the vice president should resign in order to avoid further humiliation. I think that is the intention of those behind the plot too. They want to frustrate him into quitting but I don’t think he (Osinbajo) will do that, at least not for now”, a credible source in the presidency said.
Trouble began last month when the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, issued a memo to Babatunde Fowler, chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), requesting him to account for significant variances in the budgeted collections and actual collections by the agency.
Though Fowler, who is a long standing associate of Osinbajo, replied the memo, many believed it was attempt by the presidency not to renew his term.
Also, President Muhammadu Buhari directed his new ministers to channel all requests for meetings with him through his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari. Many Nigerians kicked against the move, saying that should have been delegated to Osinbajo, who is the number two man in the government.
On Monday, President Buhari dissolved the Economic Management Team (EMT) headed by Osinbajo and raised another, the Economic Advisory Council (EAC).
The new EAC, which reports directly to the president, will be chaired by an economist, Prof. Doyin Salami.
While Osinbajo has no role in the new economic team, it was also gathered that he may no longer be in charge of the Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) of the current administration, as the TraderMoni and other SIPs will now be handled by the new Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs.
Another presidency source also confirmed that the staff of the vice president will be reduced in the days ahead “in a cost cutting measure”.
A lot of political analysts have said the latest move is targeted at whittling Osinbajo’s powers ahead of the 2023 presidential election as the cabal in the presidency is scheming towards retaining power in the North after President Buhari may have completed his eight years rule.
However, the presidency has kept mum on the issue and efforts made to speak with media aides of the president and some leaders of the APC proved abortive as they declined to speak on the matter.
Speaking on the latest developments, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), said the setting up of the Economic Advisory team will not in any way reduce Osinbajo’s powers.
“Honestly, I don’t see the development in that light. There should be an independent Economic Management team who are economic advisers to the president, it has always been like that. What Osinbajo is doing, his job under the constitution, is chairman of National Economic Council which involves all the governors of the states.
“This new one that was established is to ensure that there is no lacuna. This one is a policy-framing body, they frame policy and recommend to the government. I think that will not affect Osinbajo’s day-to-day responsibilities as head of the Nigerian Economic Council which has a lot of work on implementing policies at the federal and state level.
“My view is that this new group will strengthen Nigeria’s economic power house and capacity to meet our national challenges. It does not remove anything from Osinbajo. He still retains all his constitutional authorities as the chairman of his economic body”, Sagay said.
On his part, Junaid Mohammed, a Second Republic lawmaker, said while there is no rift between Osinbajo and Buhari, loyalists of the vice president should desist from raising false alarm where there is none.
“Osinbajo has performed for the country and for Buhari because of the president’s physical infirmity since he became president. Osinbajo could not have carried out those roles without the permission and authority of the president, his boss. If there is anything wrong in the course of doing his job, it is the responsibility of the president and not the media to call him to order.
“If the two most important people in the country have a problem between themselves which I don’t believe they have, it is the duty of the party to resolve any issues they have. But of course, I am aware that some people who claim to be close to Osinbajo are busy raising false alarm which does not exists,” he said.