If Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo is acting president, it stands to reason that his wife, Dolapo, should also be acting First Lady; the only snag, however, is that unlike the substantive president who has been sidelined by illness, the substantive First Lady, as far as we know, is hale and hearty and fit as a fiddle.
We cannot match likes with unlikes and what God has joined together, let no illness put asunder; which is why, I think, Aishat Buhari appears to have, for now, stepped aside from her public engagements.
She has her husband to nurse, no doubt; even though presidential spin doctors will have us believe the man is not ill. Moreover, it is reasonable if she will not like to distract the acting President by behaving like the Imelda Marcos and Mrs. Mugabe of this world. We have had our own fair share here.
Take it or leave it, this is one aspect of the Muhammadu Buhari administration that appears to be working perfectly from the outside; insiders will have tales to tell, anyway. And yours truly is one of those who think Osinbajo was damn too self-effacing and not forceful enough as a deputy; even though I admit that deputies in these climes are treated as the spare tyre of a brand new car (tear rubber) that is hardly put to use.
Osinbajo has been the Acting President of Nigeria for over a month now; in fact, going to two months.
A two-week vacation for Buhari has not only dragged, it has also attracted endless but needless controversies. In issue is whether the president is ill or not; the nature of his illness; and, then, the duration of his stay abroad. Nature, as they say, abhors a vacuum. The presidency of a country is a critically important post that cannot be left vacant.
Thank God for little mercies, the kind of lacuna that the late President Umaru Yar’Adua allowed when he, too, took ill, had been bridged by Buhari, thereby allowing for a seamless transfer of power to Osinbajo, even though on a temporary basis – which all the more makes it tricky because the acing President must watch over his shoulders.
If he is boisterous, he runs the risk of being accused of over-ambition. Has he been waiting for this? In fact, had he been praying or wishing for it to happen? And if he is sluggish and does not make an impact, not only could he be ruined politically, the administration as a whole will suffer for it.
Maintaining a balance, if this is possible, appears the best option. Osinbajo has been visible, especially with his trouble-shooting in the Niger Delta. He has signed many bills into law and presided over not just the weekly Federal Executive Council but also a National Council of State meeting.
His comportment had been generally viewed as positive and his speeches moderate. He has been building bridges rather than burning them. With his Henry Kissinger-style “shuttle diplomacy”; it is safe to suggest that even if he does not take back the goodwill that Buhari squandered, he is not likely to make matters worse in the restive Niger Delta and Igboland. Osinbajo may also not be a cudgel-wielding dictator if his response to the recent protests against the government by civil society groups is anything to go by. Not only did he defend the people’s right to ventilate their grievances, he also told the protesters “We heard you loud and clear”.
If it is not easy for Osinbajo as he walks this tight rope, it can be no less difficult for many other people who have to intermittently cast unsure glances in two directions – London’s and Osinbajo’s. The name of the game is survival. Everything possible must be done to send the message loud and clear to London that they remain “loyal”.
For, anyone whose loyalty is doubted at this critical juncture may pay a steep price for it if and when Buhari returns. Yet, care must be taken not to unsettle the acting President. What if...? Those who say the country cannot but suffer in such circumstance are not far from the truth.
How daring can we expect Osinbajo to be in his precarious situation? How far-reaching can he go in tinkering with the programmes and policies of the administration?
I read an interview recently of Gov. Umar Ganduje of Kano in which he put down the rift between him and his predecessor and erstwhile political associate, Rabiu Kwankwaso, to problems such as these.
Sycophants on both sides are always on hand to knock heads. Therefore, this impasse must quickly pass so that everyone can know where they stand and, more importantly, where we are going.
Like Aisha, wife of the acting President, Dolapo, has also frozen herself out of action. Since her husband began to act, I have not heard of her, not even once, prompting me to wonder whether she, too, is not acting First Lady! Don’t you think she needs to support her husband? I suspect the Osinbajos must have decided to err on the side of caution rather than throw caution to the wind for momentary gains as some thoughtless fellows would have done.
Our history records that powerful leaders of yore had a lot ruined for them as a result of the rivalry between their wives. Long-standing friendships crumpled and hitherto close friends and political associates became bitter foes. One of the major reasons why the First Republic crumbled and the military staged their ruinous incursion into our national life had been put at the doorsteps of wives who chose to knock the heads of their husbands.
Chinua Achebe, author of “Girls at war”, would have titled that “Wives at war”. And it was a costly war at personal as well as national levels. I agree with George Santayana that we must learn from history if we are not to repeat its mistakes.