The Presidency yesterday debunked claim that there is a powerful force in the Presidential Villa that controls the government, arguing that the President is in firm grip of his government and that no one is more powerful than him in Aso Rock.
In a statement clarifying reports that President Muhammadu Buhari had sacked 35 aides of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, declared: “The President is in absolute control of his government. The media should stop attributing non-existent powers to some people. There cannot be anyone too powerful for President Buhari to control.”
On the news making the rounds about the sack of Osinbajo’s aides, Shehu said Buhari only ordered the reduction of the vice-president’s aides to save the cost of governance.
The presidential spokesman said reports that the sack of the vice-president’s aides was proof of a rift between the president and his deputy were untrue, insisting that their relationship was not only excellent but also built on trust.
He also denied claims that the decision to lay off some of the Vice-president’s aides was a deliberate attempt to undermine his personality, reaffirming that the relationship between both men remained cordial and will jointly lead Nigeria to a glorious future.
Shehu confirmed that the decision to lay off some of Osinbajo’s aides was part of the decisions of the administration to downsize what it described as the over-bloated workforce in the presidency.
Shehu, who said the move did not affect the office of the vice president alone, added that some of the aides of the president did not equally make it back to this second term administration.
He emphasised that the move was aimed at reducing the cost of governance with a view to enhancing service delivery and in reaction to a general belief among the populace that the presidency had an over-bloated workforce.
According to the statement, “The presidency wishes to confirm that there is on-going, and unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s seat of government, arising from which a number of political appointments have either been revoked or not renewed in the second term.
“The exercise, which has been ordered by the President, is to streamline decision-making, cut down multiple authorities and reduce the cost of administration. It is also an appropriate response to the general perception that the presidency has an oversized and bloated workforce which acts as a drag on efficiency.
“As may have been noticed by discerning members of the public, a number of political appointees among the few that served in the office of the President were not returned for the second term.
“The office of the Vice President, His Excellency Yemi Osinbajo has, in compliance with the directive of the President, equally been shed of a number of such appointees.
“In carrying out these exercises, the overriding objective is to save taxpayer money and deliver needed service to the public. As far as the President is concerned, there is no scope for an excuse for administration after getting a huge mandate to run the country for four more years.”
Shehu stated that those insinuating there was a rift between the two leaders had their own ulterior motive, which he said only fuelled such insinuations, explaining that the president has always had fewer staff than the vice president, and the move to downsize Villa staff had commenced for a while.
The President’s aide emphasised that the move was not targeted at the vice president as widely reported. “In the light of this, the Presidency wishes to strongly deny rumours of a rift between President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The relationship between the two leaders remains excellent and trusting. Together, they will script a glorious future for the nation.
“The media reports of a soured relationship are originating from the minds and mouths of mischief makers, who are desperate for entertaining stories from the Aso Rock Villa with which to titillate the public. This ulterior motive is the basis of the wrong interpretation given to the recent exercise in the Presidency.
“There has been a streamlining of staff going on for a while. The President has always had fewer staff than the Vice President, and there were always plans to reduce the number of staff at the Villa.
“The streamlining was not personal or targeted to undermine the Vice President’s office, as the so-called insider sources quoted by the media appear to make it seem.”