Osinbajo does not seem to me like one who will be enamoured by power to recant his comments and do doublespeak on issues.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came into office with a bagful of integrity. It has now come to light that former governor of Lagos State and leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, wanted to pair with President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 presidential election, before some party members told the duo that Nigeria has moved light years away from 1993 when Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, both Muslims, flew the flag of Social Democratic Party and won the election but never got power. When it became evident that the proposition would not fly, Buhari told Tinubu to nominate his replacement. That was how Osinbajo came into the picture. His performance as attorney-general and commissioner in Lagos during the reign of Tinubu put him in good stead for the job. He has been one of the shining lights of this administration. He is a clear indication that Tinubu has a knack for fishing out talents as he did in the assemblage of great minds in Lagos during his tenure as governor. He has since held Lagos in a tight political grip, a hold that has seen the state governed by smart, high-performing governors.
Osinbajo has sparked light every time he acted as President of the country. In one of those instances, he went to the Niger Delta and tried to make the agitators lay down their guns and allow oil flow into the coffers of Nigeria’s central till. Everyone knows that it is the single most important product that funds the nation’s reserves and, indeed, our budgets. In that trip, he ordered oil companies to move their headquarters to places from where they dug up the oil that kept their bank balance brimming with petrodollars. The implication was that Exxon-Mobil, the American firm that has done well in offshore exploration, should move its head office from Lagos to Eket, Akwa Ibom State, and the rest should put their office where their money is, as it were. It was a subtle way of restructuring, given that the tax those firms pay should indeed swell the internally-generated revenue of the states in question. It would assuage some of the numerous agitations of people of the Niger Delta, who feel short changed because they seem to be the monkeys that work in a nation of baboons. When he acted for President Buhari in 2017, Osinbajo had directed the minister of state for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, “to engage” the oil firms amid repeated calls that they move to the real source of their wealth. Little or nothing has come out of that engagement, if indeed there was any, because the spokesperson of the Pan-Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF), Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, said the oil companies are making no move in that direction. If the Niger Delta was the custodian of its resources in a restructured nation, the companies would move there, willy-nilly.
There is no compelling force on the matter and, perhaps the Vice President made the promise and order at a town hall meeting in Akwa Ibom at the time as a public relations stunt for the administration. There were voices from within oil circles that dismissed the directive as unenforceable, not because it was not a step in the right direction but because the oil firms are too ‘powerful’. It may well be so given that the call for their relocation has assumed the fate of the Second Niger Bridge in the South East as a campaign promise every candidate dangles at the people. If the region has full control of the oil wells, oil firms cannot hide behind the protection of power-brokers in the central government to maintain the perpetual lip service to that age-old demand.
Yet the Vice President says Nigeria does not need restructuring in a geographical sense in an ironic departure from the campaign pillar of the APC. He said the problem besetting the nation is not restructuring as being suggested in many quarters. His senior special assistant on media and publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, released a statement wherein he quoted Osinbajo to have said the foregoing while fielding questions from Nigerians in a town hall meeting in Minnesota, the United States of America, on Sunday.
‘The problem with Nigeria is not a matter of restructuring and we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into the argument that our problems stem from some geographical restructuring. It is about managing resources properly and providing for the people properly, that is what it is all about,” he was quoted as saying.
The Vice President, therefore, believes in retaining the almighty central government to which all resources must flow. He believes in an almighty President who has over 40,000 appointments to make, one vested with so much powers they verge on being infinite. Little wonder politicians fall over each other in the race to clinch the presidency. But the APC had restructuring at the root of its bid for power. It gave a semblance of reality in setting up the el-Rufai committee. Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State headed a committee of the party on the matter. In Junem Osinbajo still held on to the party’s stance while addressing traditional rulers at the palace of Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adejugbe, ahead of the governorship election in the state. In August last year, the Vice President denied reports that he had described those clamouring for restructuring as political jobbers. He, at that time, described the debate about restructuring as an important one. In a statement at that time, he said, “The debate for restructuring is an important one and the calls for restructuring cover a wide range of legitimate and constitutionally valid issues…”
Now the Vice President has changed the narrative. The debate is no longer as important as it seemed in the past. He said from the Ibrahim Babangida era to the immediate past regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the nation had earned $982.8 billion from oil but the infrastructure in the land is a far cry from such humongous sum. His argument actually supports restructuring in a manner that would divest power and resources from a central pool. Osinbajo does not seem to me like one who will be enamoured by power to recant his comments and do doublespeak on issues. I hope the Vice President would not recant his party’s stance on state police, too. I hope he was misquoted.