2023: Permutations a distraction, Osinbajo hasn't declared interest in presidential race

By Etim Etim

As Nigeria celebrates the 2021 Democracy Day, the debate is raging on many social media platform as to how Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, should respond to the challenges in the country. But the discussions have overlooked an important constitutional point: A Vice-President does not exercise his own power independent of the President; and no matter how strongly he feels about a policy, it would be politically dangerous for the country should he break ranks with his boss. No doubt, the job of a VP under a Presidential system is probably the most frustrating in the world, even when the occupant understands his or her role clearly.

But despite the encumbrances, VP Osinbajo, in the last six years, has made a huge difference in practically every important agenda of this administration such as the Social Investment Program, Economic Sustainability Programme, Micro Small Medium Enterprises Clinics, Technology and Innovation Programs of the government.

Take the ESP as an example. This program was designed by the VP and a team the President put together last year to protect the economy against the negative fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic. President Muhammadu Buhari asked the VP to serve as its Chair.

So far, there are over 465,820 beneficiaries of the Payroll Support element of the plan and many other beneficiaries of the Artisan Formalization Support Track of the Survival Fund under the ESP. In all, over 1.5million beneficiaries will be impacted.

For the most vulnerable, the Osinbajo led team launched a Cash Transfer Scheme facilitated through a wholly technology-based approach called the Rapid Response Register with plans to give one million households N5,000 monthly Cash Transfer for six months.

The Social Investment Programmes (under VP’s Office up till 2019) covered over 12 million direct beneficiaries nationwide, and this included Homegrown School Feeding Programme in 35 States feeding 9.9million children. More than 107,000 cooks are engaged to prepare these meals for the school children. Think of the jobs created for the cooks, the market created for the farm products, the added nutrition to the school kids and the enhanced school enrolments.

In the N-Power scheme, over 500,000 graduates have been employed, in addition to over 2.3million market women, traders, artisans and farmers across all 36 states of the country and FCT, under Government Enterprise & Empowerment Programme, GEEP. More than three million poor and vulnerable households have registered on the National Social Register and more than one million families are currently benefiting from Conditional Cash Transfer.

The administration has given unprecedented Support to MSMEs in the country. For example, the MSME Clinics have been held in 27 States, twice in Ebonyi, across the country including the FCT.

Over 400,000 MSMEs have so far participated in the MSME clinics nationwide securing significant support for their businesses. About 300,000 new business names have been registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission at a reduced 50% price of N5000, down from the normal N10, 000. Besides under the ESP almost 250,000 new businesses have been registered free of charge especially from young people.

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In addition, seven One-stop shops have been established for MSMES in Cross River, Kwara, FCT, Abia, Bauchi, Osun and Plateau States.

The federal government has also launched Shared Facilities for MSMEs in Oyo, Bauchi, Benue and Lagos. This is to allow MSMEs which do not possess the financial capacity to own their equipment the opportunity to go into a fully equipped cluster-style facility to pay a token to use such equipment. This makes it possible for the small businesses to tap into economies of scale.

In the area of technology and innovation, Prof Osinbajo has also made significant contributions. He could be seen inspiring young people all across the country in that sector and mobilizing international technology giants to make things happen in the country.

The VP’s involvement in tech brought about the following:

Microsoft opened an African Development Center in Lagos in 2019 employing engineers building Microsoft products for global use. This was as a result of the meeting the VP had with the leadership of Microsoft on the 10th of November, 2015 where Microsoft promised a significant presence on the African continent and Nigeria in particular.

Google Inc. in July 2020 announced plans to establish its first Google Launchpad Space outside the United States in Lagos.

Facebook, in September 2020, made public its decision to open an office in Lagos as part of its planned expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa. This should materialize this year.

HUAWEI on the other hand last November promised the Vice President that the company will position Nigeria as a technology centre for the African continent and give more jobs to young Nigerians.

The business community has also acknowledged the administration’s initiatives on Ease Of Doing Business. The work of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (inaugurated by President Buhari in August 2016) and the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat has resulted in Nigeria moving up 39 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings since 2016. In the last three years, Nigeria has twice been adjudged one of 10 Most Improved Economies in the Rankings. Even though there have been some setbacks, no one can say by being there pushing for the reforms relentlessly, the business community is not better served by a VP such as Osinbajo.

As a constitutional lawyer, the VP is an active advocate and enabler of Rule of Law in government. While he is not the Attorney-General it is clear that for his own responsibilities, he has often stood for the rule of law and in the interest of all Nigerians, regardless of ethnicity.

It was Osinbajo (then as Acting President) who fired the former DG, SSS, when he violated the sanctity of the National Assembly and violated the Nigerian constitution. Osinbajo defended democracy and described the invasion as an assault on Nigeria’s democracy that should not be tolerated. There has never been a more vocal edification of democracy in Nigeria from a sitting government official in Nigeria, especially from the government in the center.

In the early days of the administration, it was Osinbajo that the President tapped to embark on a peace-keeping mission across the Niger Delta states. He met with stakeholders and people in the region to ensure that peace and stability are maintained. This ended the series of pipeline explosions, restored the maximum oil productivity and helped terminate the 2016 recession.

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Today, the Niger Delta people are grateful for the take-off of the Nigerian Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State. The University was granted approval in January 2018 by the National Universities Commission to commence undergraduate degree programmes effective 2017/18 session. Academic activities started on April 12, 2018. President Buhari approved N5 billion in take-off grant for the Maritime University.

The National Livestock Transportation Plan is also a creation of NEC, which is chaired by the VP. Members include State Governors. I should note that NLTP is completely distinct from the now-suspended RUGA. The RUGA initiative was suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2019. The VP had publicly and rather courageously rejected RUGA and instead articulated the NLTP which has six pillars through which it aims to transform the livestock production system in Nigeria, including through ranching along a market-oriented value chain while ensuring an atmosphere of peace and justice.

Furthermore, Osinbajo through another initiative ensured the provision of solar power to markets around the country such as Ariaria in Aba, Sabon Gari in Kano, Sura in Lagos as part of the energizing economies initiative of the Rural Electrification Agency. He also commissioned solar power plants in Universities such as Alex Ekwueme University, in Ebonyi and Bayero University.

By all standards, I think Prof Osinbajo has been the most influential, consequential and impactful Vice President in our history. It is quite painful to some of us that the huge achievements of this administration and the immense contributions of some like the VP have been pushed to the background by security challenges. It is the little failures that seem to have drowned out the big successes, but quitting in the middle of the game is never the attribute of the bold and courageous. Prof. Osinbajo should weather the storm rather than leave in frustration, after all Nigerians elected him alongside the President. If he wins some confidence from the President but loses out in other areas, it is just the way life happens.

This is therefore not the time for Osinbajo to quit. The nation needs him in the years to come. His influence is good in the circumstances, that is the balance.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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