All may not be well with the ‘ad-hoc’ cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari as fillers from the Presidency indicate an unhealthy power tussle between an elected member of the President’s cabinet, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and an unofficial one in the person of Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
A few weeks back, our investigations reveal, the tension between Osinbajo and El Rufai came to a head when Governor El Rufai insulted the Vice President in a meeting at the Presidential Villa in Aso Rock, and Osinbajo reacted by denouncing El Rufai and walking out of the meeting, which had President Buhari presiding.
According to inside presidential sources, El-Rufai is widely regarded as the unofficial vice president in the Buhari administration.
A top source within the Buhari government, who spoke with The Trent on condition of anonymity disclosed that “Buhari prefers to have a fellow Northerner as his right-hand man”.
“He did so as military head of state and is uneasy with Osinbajo who is (Bola) Tinubu’s boy,” the source revealed.
“As you know, if the position of veepee was appointed and not elected, Buhari would never have appointed a Southerner, a Christian for that matter to be his VP,” the source explained further. “The President, clearly, prefers and places more trust on El Rufai as far as matters of governance are concerned. El Rufai has played a key role in some of the President’s appointments. He nominated Amina Bala Zakari for appointment as Acting INEC Chairman forcing Buhari to go against Jega’s earlier decision and planted his chief of staff who is also the founder of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, Hadiza Bala Usman inside President Buhari’s recently constituted Anti-Corruption Advisory Committee.”
Further investigations reveal that the Kaduna Governor and other Northerners in Buhari’s kitchen cabinet have little regard for Vice President Osinbajo. Behind closed doors, they dismiss him disdainfully as “Tinubu’s puppet”.
Other sources in the Presidency confirmed to The Trent that had it not been for the Constitution which mandates the Vice President to be present in meetings of significance in the government, going by the aggressive push of the Northern bloc in the Presidency, Osinbajo would be left out of all high-power meetings, a scenario that happened twice in the first month of the new administration.
The Trent had reported exclusively in June 2015 that Osinbajo was locked out of a high-powered security briefing on the orders of Buhari. In attendance was the then, National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki and the top brass of the military led by the erstwhile Chief of Defence Staff, General Alex Badeh (Rtd).
Following our report, there was a frantic effort by APC social media activists to push back with denials until Osinbajo was locked out of another security meeting, still on the orders of Buhari within a fortnight.
A senior APC official in one of the South West states said, “You would recall that immediately Buhari was sworn in, he locked out Osinbajo from a security meeting. They tried to deny the news reports until it happened again in less than two weeks. The APC online propaganda engine was used to plant doubt in the minds of Nigerians, especially party faithfuls, that Osinbajo did not have to be at the President’s security briefings. Some even went as far as suggesting that since Osinbajo was a lawyer and as such, he did not have the wherewithal to process security information.
“But that is balderdash! Jonathan and Sambo are not soldiers, they both attended security briefings together. Obama and Joe Biden are not soldiers, yet they both attend security briefings. Recall the famous photo of Obama and his security cabinet in the situation room directing and monitoring the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden? Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton were in the room.
“It is sad what is happening to Osinbajo in this government. Buhari needs to be told this is a democracy and he could not win his way to Aso Rock without the South West,” the official concluded.
Osinbajo vs El Rufai
Our reporter also spoke with a top political activist in the All Progressive Congress (APC), who confirmed that there is a power tussle between the Kaduna governor and Osinbajo, but maintained that Osinbajo had the upper hand.
“El Rufai is an intellectual rodent when placed side-by-side with Prof Osinbajo. He is always trying to prove that he knows more than the veepee, many times attempting to dismiss Osinbajo’s contribution before Buhari,” he revealed. “What people like El Rufai forget is that he is a product of a quota system that celebrates barely adequate people as champions, while Osinbajo emerged from a competitive academic environment. They are no match. El Rufai tries too hard.”
Osinbajo Pushed To The Wall
An informed source in the Presidency narrated a disturbing incident to our reporter, which happened a few weeks ago.
He words: “So, it happened that in a meeting of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet in Aso Rock, Governor El Rufai in trying to disagree with Osinbajo’s contribution raised his voice and insulted the VP in the meeting. To everybody’s surprise, Osinbajo got upset, told El Rufai off and told the President, ‘I am an elected Vice President of this country, I will not sit here while an ordinary governor insults me in your presence. I deserve some respect.’
“Osinbajo, then, stormed out of the meeting angrily, leaving the President and others present stunned.
“Still not done, El Rufai who was ruffled by the unexpected action of the veepee told President Buhari, ‘If he had respect for you, he would not have walked out on you.’
“Mr. President responded coldly and quietly as the scene unfolded, and was mute as Governor El Rufai tried to deflect blame for what happened.
“When Buhari remained silent and said nothing after the childish outburst by El Rufai, everyone got the message that the meeting would not continue without Osinbajo. Some people excused themselves to go to Osinbajo to beg him to come back to the meeting. The Vice President, reportedly, told the peace-makers he would not return to the meeting unless El Rufai came and apologised to him.
“El Rufai sat quietly after Buhari’s rebuff, feeling like an overzealous son whose father was displeased with. That was how the meeting ended. At some point, a visibly disappointed Buhari also stormed out of the room, leaving El Rufai with egg on his face.
“All is not well in Buhari’s kitchen cabinet. El Rufai has been uninvited from Buhari’s meetings since that incident,” the source concluded.
Editor’s Note: Following this report, Buhari’s media team issued threats to The Trent and our President and Executive Editor which we documented, READ: The Disappointing Response By Buhari’s Presidency To The Trent. Our Editorial Board issued a statement on these threats, which you may READ: Buhari Presidency’s Response To The Trent: Our Position. We stand by our story. We believe our sources to be credible.