Afenifere and its sister Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) Saturday condemned the decision of the Presidency to strip the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of some statutory and administrative roles.
The organisations said the decision to create a parallel economic council and domicile the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development would erode the authority of the office of the vice president
While the former pledged to fight any case of injustice intended against the vice president, the ARG asked him never “to succumb to any pressure or whatsoever if it is true he is being pushed in a way that he will resign his position.”
Afenifere Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin and ARG National Chairman, Hon. Olawale Oshun expressed the concerns in separate interviews yesterday, warning the Presidency against undermining Osinbajo’s office.
President Muhammadu Buhari had last Wednesday set up an Economic Advisory Council (EAC), appointing Prof. Doyin Salami as the chairman of the council.
The members of the council include Prof. Ode Ojowu, Dr. Shehu Yahaya, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Mr. Bismark Rewane.
After its constitution, the president had directed that the advisory council would replace the Economic Management Team (EMT) and would report directly to him. The office of the vice president set up the EMT to function as an economic advisory body to the National Economic Council before it was disbanded.
The Presidency had also stripped Osinbajo’s office of some vital supervisory powers over the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the National Social Investments Programmes (NSIP). The two are now domiciled in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
With these developments, Odumakin observed that the stripping of some functions from the office of the vice president “is a signal that something is wrong. However, we cannot put our finger yet on what is wrong.”
He noted that the Presidency “has not told us why Osinbajo has been stripped of those functions. At this stage, we will not cry more than the bereaved. We are watching. We do not take position based on mere speculation.
“With these reports we have read so far, there are signals to the effect that political earthquake is about to hit the town. There is no official information at this stage beyond stripping of powers from the office of the vice president.
“We know obviously certain things are wrong. When we get to that bridge, we will cross it. We still insist that we want to know all the facts because we stand on the moral high ground. If there is a case of injustice, we will fight it.
“If somebody has done something wrong, we will not say we are backing him because we are Yorubas – once it is wrong no matter who has perpetrated it. That is why we are waiting for the whole events to unfold,” he observed.
Also, in telephone interview, Oshun, former Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, faulted the decision of the Presidency to strip Osinbajo of vital executive powers constitutionally assigned to the office of the vice president.
He said even if the president had the power to set up any economic committee to aid governance, the president should not have eroded the authority of the vice president by setting up what he regarded as a parallel economic team.
He said: “If we pursue the argument that the NEC comprises mainly statutory office holders, it can still have an ad-hoc council similar to what the president has set up to advise so that at the end of the day, economic policy will be submitted to the president through the NEC under Osinbajo’s leadership.”
Oshun, thus, observed that setting up a parallel economic council “must have been intentional to cut the vice president, in a way, to size,” noting that such decision would have adverse effect on the office of the vice president.
He added that impression “is being given outside there that the vice president is under some kind of pressure or wholesome pressure, if that is true, to resign. The vice president must know that he was elected.
“The vice president can only be removed through impeachment. He must not succumb to any pressure or whatsoever. If it is true he is being pushed in a way that he will resign, the vice president should stand his ground. He has no reason to resign because he was elected.
“If he has committed any impeachable offence, those who want to remove him can go through the process. He should also insist on playing his own statutory role. The NEC can set up an advisory on finance or on the economy.
“He can also do that and submit the report to the president. Let him play his constitutional role.
“I just hope that the big division in the Presidency is not true. I also hope that both the president and the vice president can manage their difference without third party,” he explained.