Pulse Opinion Osinbajo is exactly the kind of friend you want in your corner

President Buhari and his Vice Osinbajo are the definition of relationship goals; and Nigeria could be the better for it.

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President Muhammadu Buhari with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday, August 21, 2017 play

President Muhammadu Buhari with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday, August 21, 2017

(Facebook/Sumner Shagari Sambo)
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Few weeks into President Muhammadu Buhari's latest medical sojourn, I wrote a piece comparing the leadership styles of the President and then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.

You could have inferred from the piece that I preferred the leadership style of the latter as did most Nigerians at the time.

Hours after the opinion article was published, I received a Whatsapp message from a top presidency aide who works in the office of the Vice President.

"Jude, this kind of article isn't going to help us or anyone", the aide lectured. "Buhari and Osinbajo are a team. Don't get it twisted. There's nothing Osinbajo is doing now that Buhari didn't ask him to do".

Professor Yemi Osinbajo and President Muhammadu Buhari play Osinbajo and Buhari compare notes (Politicsonline)

 

"I know that", I fought back. I am not one to allow government aides decide the slant of my OP-EDs and they all know not to cross the line.

I continued: "But this is my opinion and you'd agree that most Nigerians prefer the warmer Osinbajo to the sometimes cold and stiff Buhari. With all due respect, Sir, I have the right to my opinion..."

The aide wasn't about to back down. "Jude, I am not interfering with your right to free speech, but I just thought to let you know that there is no basis for comparison. Osinbajo and Buhari are a team. One complements the other".

Of course the piece wasn't taken down and you can actually read it here. But the position of that aide was re-enforced via another midnight phone call when I did yet another piece extolling Osinbajo's more modern approach to governance when juxtaposed with Buhari's.

President Muhammadu Buhari (left), Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma (middle), and Yemi Osinbajo (right) play Buhari, Osinbajo and Udoma go through budget (Presidency)

 

However, even I couldn't have missed how much of a team player Osinbajo was between May 7, 2017 when he was named Acting President and August 19, 2017 when Buhari returned to Nigeria after spending 103 days in the United Kingdom on a medical vacation.

In April, when I joined a select group of online editors to interview Osinbajo at the presidential Villa, everything he said could well have been said by Buhari. Most, if not all Osinbajo's sentences commenced with the pronoun "we".

"We'll re-send Magu's name to the senate for confirmation...our war against corruption isn't failing...we are committed to stamping out corruption..we'll rescue the remaining Chibok Girls...we...we....we".

Osinbajo arrived his Aguda House living room venue of the interaction not as the Vice President, but as a member of a team that was handed the mandate to oversee Nigeria's affairs in March of 2015.

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo welcomes President Muhammadu Buhari play Osinbajo welcomes Buhari at the airport (Twitter)

 

While Buhari was away, Osinbajo made sure to leave no one in doubt that he was only pursuing an agenda jointly agreed between himself and the retired General. Every one of his public speeches wasn't complete without a reference to Buhari. "As President Buhari used to say..." he'll add, just in case you were beginning to have funny ideas.

He always aligned his position in those speeches to Buhari's.

Even as de facto Commander-In-Chief, Osinbajo read Nigeria's democracy day address from a different position in the State House.

In July, when rumours began to swirl that Senate President Bukola Saraki was plotting to shove Osinbajo aside and become President in Buhari's absence, the Acting President maintained a dignified silence and went about his job as though nothing was amiss.

He must have also instructed his staff not to respond to press enquiries concerning the development because one day I pressed another top ranking Osinbajo aide to either refute or confirm the rumours.

"Jude, you too like wahala. Just go and sleep abeg", this aide told me before laughing long and loud and  veering the conversation to more mundane matters like the best pepper soup joints in downtown Lagos.

President Buhari with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo play Buhari pumps fist in the air with Osinbajo in a vice grip (Presidency/Twitter)

 

The message from Team Osinbajo whilst Buhari's medical sojourn lasted was simple, each time I pressed over the phone: "We are a team".

When in April, I asked Osinbajo pointedly if there was any truth to reports that a cabal was working behind the scenes to undermine him, he laughed so loud and hard before answering: "Cabal? Honestly, I don't know who these guys are. A cabal is supposed to be secretive...I don't know them..."

As rumours persisted that Buhari was becoming too incapacitated to govern, Osinbajo, one aide confessed, instructed his team not to give fillip to the story by way of a comment or press statement. "The President is recuperating nicely and will soon return home", was the official line.

ALSO READ: I am extremely happy President is back in good health - Osinbajo

One day, I incurred the wrath of another Osinbajo aide when I called to find out if President Buhari was ever going to return home and if there was truth to reports that an advance team was making its way to Nigeria from London.

"Jude", he warned, "why are you always looking for trouble where there's none? Has the president ever returned to the country without a statement from Femi Adesina or Garba Shehu (Both are Buhari's spokespersons)? If you want a quote, call Adesina".

When I rang Adesina's mobile, I got exactly the same line. "When Buhari is going to return, you'll get a statement from me", Adesina hectored before hanging up.

Adesina is often brusque and truculent in matters like this.

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo welcomes President Muhammadu Buhari play Osinbajo points the way as Buhari arrives Nigeria after 103 days in London (Twitter)

 

Nigeria has had a variety of Vice Presidents with unique characteristics. There was Namadi Sambo who was unassuming but content to remain ineffectual, there was Goodluck Jonathan who was as naive as he was boyish, there was Atiku Abubakar who was overly ambitious, mischievous and aggressive; and there is Osinbajo who is part of a team and is handed his fair share of work as a critical member of that team.

And he knows it.

Osinbajo knows that Buhari--who is on the wrong side of 70--doesn't have the energy to traverse the States of the federation for instance, so he's happy to take on that role as a team player. He's ready to fly to another part of the planet to represent Buhari at short notice.

He loves to chip in his bit as part of the team because it was exactly what he signed up for.

Buhari is lucky to have Osinbajo watching his back and staying loyal.

You can see the chemistry they both share from the images out there. It's telepathic chemistry. Each has got the other's back. It is said that they are often seen cracking so much jokes until their ribs ache; and laughing at the other's expense before delving into official matters of State.

President Buhari and his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo before the medical trip play Buhari and Osinbajo share a joke (saharareporters)

 

It's a brotherhood out there at the Villa.

When Buhari touched down last Saturday, he held Osinbajo's hand in a vice grip before pumping a fist in the air. That picture was more than a gesture. It was a symbol of a bond no rumour can excise.

A symbol that even if the rest of the world dismisses his capacity to bounce back from his now frequent bouts of ailments, the Pastor in Osinbajo wouldn't.

There's that Bible verse of a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Osinbajo is that friend to Buhari. It's relationship goals 101 and Nigeria could be the better for it.

Yes, calling them a tag team is right on the money.

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