The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, remains the closest adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari and is not fenced by any ‘cabal’, the presidency has said.
The presidency was reacting to a newspaper report on Sunday that following the return of Mr. Buhari after a 103-day medical vacation in London, the ‘cabal’ had staged a comeback, which culminated in the purported sidelining of Mr. Osinbajo.
The ‘cabal’ is a term used to refer to a group around the president which is believed to wield enormous powers.
But the presidency, in a statement by Garba Shehu on Sunday evening, described the report as untrue, ascribing it to “‘persistent rumours and speculations,’ with no other objective but to generate hatred and disgust against these hardworking people.”
“To begin with, it is absolutely nonsensical and absurd to write that in one week of the President’s return, the Vice President has been sidelined,” Mr. Shehu said.
“Quite to the contrary, the Vice President remains the confidante and the closest adviser to the President.”
Mr. Shehu also hinted that the Chief of Staff to the president, Abba Kyari, has refused to collect a monthly N200 million his predecessors were used to.
“This is money freely spent because they were not required to account for what they did with it,” he said.
Read Mr. Shehu’s full statement below.
Over the past few months, some media organizations have published a stream of allegations against some persons around the President attributing them to “persistent rumours and speculations,” with no other objective but to generate hatred and disgust against these hardworking people.
As the good Nigerian public can imagine, little time would be left for other tasks more beneficial to the entire nation, if the Presidency were to respond to every single fable published by the free Nigerian press. However, in the process of advancing their suspicious anti-Buhari agenda, whoever is behind these allegations knowingly or unknowingly has cast some of the most ridiculous aspersions on President Buhari’s competence as a leader of a great country.
To begin with, it is absolutely nonsensical and absurd to write that in one week of the President’s return, the Vice President has been sidelined.
Quite to the contrary, the Vice President remains the confidante and the closest adviser to the President.
He has attended all the President’s engagements all through the week with the exception of two: one, the VP was away to Taraba State and two, the Juma’at Muslim prayer because he is a Christian.
It is difficult to understand what anyone wants to achieve peddling such falsehood that the President, himself a former military general and Head of State and Commander-In-Chief is subject to undue influence and manipulation. It is both ridiculous and inconceivable.
As someone who works very closely with President Buhari, I can testify to how my years of experience as a newspaper editor are often put to the test by the sheer thoroughness with which the President edits every single document brought to his desk. Every memo, statement, speech, is subject to his intense scrutiny, right down to the placement of commas and full stops. Therefore, alleging that President Buhari signs memos brought to him by government officials or a so-called cabal without reading them, immediately casts doubts on the credibility of the ubiquitous unnamed sources that the reporters of these articles quote.
But, of course, the President cannot do everything. He cannot micromanage every task. That is why he needs close officials, whom he trusts, who will be willing to offend others in the process of ensuring his own safety and wellbeing, and the advancement of his vision for Nigeria.
The attacks on Malam Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to the President, COS have been levelled with such imperiousness that they must no longer be laughed off as crazy. The COS is like the headman of all the President’s political appointees. He has direct responsibility for multiple levels of staff working for the President. Part of his role includes liaising with ministries and parastatals, so that he can have a full awareness of the issues being discussed whenever these groups meet with the President. It goes without saying that anybody who occupies such office has impeccable credentials of total loyalty to the President. Clearly, some consider this oversight role as a usurping of the President’s powers, and it is their misunderstanding of the situation that some media organisations have swallowed hook, line and sinker.
Under this administration, as the ones before it, the office of the Chief of Staff is a branch of the President’s office. There are no power centres here. The only power centre is that of the President who is sensitive to grassroots level administration which the Chief of Staff must ensure.
For Abba kyari, there is no life after work. He is available to the President 24/7.
President Buhari is working day and night to steer Nigeria through these trying times. There are important issues in the hand of government such poverty reduction, turning around the economy, creating jobs, fighting corruption and terrorism, railway, agriculture, roads, power and rural and urban development that there simply is not enough time to be spent answering baseless allegations in the media. As he builds a new foundation from the mess left behind by previous irresponsible governments, the President cannot do it alone. He needs the absolute loyalty of his COS, he needs the acumen of government officials, he needs the courage and understanding of the Nigerian people, and he needs the support of institutions such as the media.
Publishing poorly-researched allegations and trying to pass them off as investigative journalism or as news may lead to more newspaper sales or to more clicks on a website; but they will also, in the long run, slow down the growth and development of our country, which right now requires the absolute focus of President Buhari and his carefully-selected team to build the Nigeria of our dreams.
Unfortunately, this is the path The Punch has chosen and there’s no one to help them but themselves.
It is appropriate at this point to dispel the false notion the anyone has tried to undermine the Vice President when he acted in the absence of the President.
This, I must say with all emphasis, is utter falsehood.
As Acting President, Vice President Osinbajo enjoyed the support of the Villa Staff and the entire cabinet. Otherwise he would not have succeeded and earn the praises of the President. These are just a few among the false and illogical accusations making the COS larger than life, with the aim of pulling him down. No Chief of Staff including this one can create hurdles for a president and survive the next day. The roles and duties don’t warrant the kind of falsehood being spread.
When the President was away on the medical vacation, the Chief of Staff rallied the Presidency behind Professor Osinbajo because he knew that his boss, President Buhari expected nothing less.
A careful assessment of some these allegations with a rational mind will show that there is an orchestrated campaign to smear the COS and indirectly the President.
If I can speculate on the matter, I will say that the problem Malam Abba Kyari has with most people is that he, like the President he serves, will not throw money at people in order to please them.
As COS, Malam has refused to keep cash imprest and has turned down a monthly grant of N200 million customarily given to the office. This is money freely spent because they were not required to account for what they did with it.
Journalists with questions to ask concerning the President and the Villa administration are please welcome approach both the Special Adviser, Femi Adesina, Laolu Akande or myself. Where we don’t have your answers, we are ready to obtain as much as we can, the correct responses to your enquiry.