By Alifa Daniel, Abuja.
The federal government is ramping up support for Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, in the face of growing speculations in Abuja that a high-wired political negotiation is going on , should President Muhammadu Buhari decide he is unable to continue as the country’s chief executive as a result of a yet to be disclosed ailment.
Government spokesmen continue to deny anything is wrong with the president, insisting that he is on leave, and using the opportunity to medically check himself out.
Not so for many watchers who don’t have any concrete evidence of a sick president other than what Nigeria’s fertile rumour mills churn out.
everyday.ng learnt that amidst what the acting president’s handlers believe is a desperate attempt to pin a corruption tar on their principal, the office of the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, issued a statement Monday, saying there have been a series of misleading information circulating and being given prominence in the media regarding “some purported provisions” in the 2017 Budget proposals.
Senator Udo Uoma’s spokesman, Akpadem Jamse, wrote further in the statement: “This development has been going on for some time now, the latest being the false statement to the effect that a provision of N250 million has been made for the construction of a Gate-house in the Vice President’s quarters. That information is completely false and unfounded.
“There was indeed no such provision even in the 2016 Budget of the Federal Government nor is there any such provision in the 2017 draft budget currently being deliberated upon by the National Assembly.
“It will be recalled that after the 2017 Budget proposals were submitted by His Excellency the President to the National Assembly, the Ministry announced that the proposals would be put up on the websites of both the Ministry and the Budget Office. Details of the proposals are on both websites.
“Members of the public are therefore encouraged to check these details before repeating allegations, which may be completely false.
“In view of the persistence of these allegations, the Director General of the Budget Office, Mr Ben Akabueze, will be addressing journalists on Thursday to give further corrections and explanations regarding the provisions of the 2017
A prominent Senator, known to be close to the National Assembly Leadership, especially one of its operatives seeking to angle for a place in the presidency, if an opening exists, is generally fingered as the source of the information targeted to tar the Vice President.
Analysts have suggested that the health challenges of the President is throwing up a huge drama of political intrigues, adding that the decision of Osinbajo to twice shelve his trip to Ondo goes beyond the weather spin being used.
The word, cabal, has been thrown around so much in the last few days that most political watchers are wondering if the rumour mills are not right about the President’s ailment. One suggested that the power brokers be careful because it may be a political strategy by the feared cabal to draw out opponents of the Buhari presidency into the open, for him to return to neutralise them before 2019.
But the fear of the invocation of the doctrine of necessity by the National Assembly is causing discomfort among powerful forces.
In a shocking disclosure, a governor, Nasir el Rufai of Kaduna State, who has been considered a member of the cabal in the Aso Villa agreed there was a cabal, but he was not just part of it.
He told senior journalists: “It is not correct to say I am part of those that influence things in the Villa. Am I very close to Buhari? Yes. I worked very closely with him in the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change) when everyone had given up on him. I know him, I know how he thinks and he trusts me. He knows that I am driven by public interest. Do I participate in federal decision making? I don’t.
“I am too busy addressing Kaduna problems to be part of it. When I am called for an opinion or when I happen to be around, and I have an input or if I see something going seriously wrong; I drive and go and see Mr. President I have heard A, B, C, D.
“I don’t think it is not right, you should consider doing C, D, E. I do that and I drive back to Kaduna. My primary assignment is Kaduna. I am not involved in the Federal Government. People like to say and attribute so much to me, and sometimes it is good for me, it gives me a larger than life image. Is there a cabal?
“There is always a cabal. Even in your own newspaper houses, there is a cabal. Nobody can run an institution without a coterie of two, three, four trusted people. There is always a cabal; the issue is whether it is a positive or a disruptive cabal. Am I a member of the cabal? No, I am governor of Kaduna state; I work for Kaduna state 24/7.”
But there are speculations that the cabal is “pushing for the nomination of Bukola Saraki, the current Senate President, as Vice President, as a condition for Osinbajo to ascend to the Presidency, in the event of a decision by the president to take care of himself and not allow a de ja vu”
The source adds: “The problem here is, Osinbajo is very reluctant, even to a point of uncomfortable, working with Saraki, a man he considered to be corrupt, but unqualified, to be Vice President.
“Mr Osinbajo does not want someone with a case at the EFCC. And if he insists on this, the Cabal, may find an alternative in Mallam El Rufai, the current governor of Kaduna State. He has emerged in the last 48 hours to be a major player among inside the Cabal.”
Mr. Laolu Akande, Osinbajo”s spokesman, was in a meeting and could not speak when he was reached. He sent a sms to say he could not excuse himself.
Saraki has denied these postulations, saying he enjoys his present office, but the speculations would just not go away, more so when he was allegedly sighted again, this time by The Guardian, in the Abuja House in London where the president is believed to be staying.
A former president is already being accused of asking the Vice President to look east wards in the South, or the Middle belt (North-Central geo-political zone), if his successor must be a northerner; but this option appears unlikely because of the far reaching implications for the unity of the country.
A political watcher however thinks that the frenzy that has engaged northern politicians is who will be deputy to Osinbajo, because they believe such a person will be President in 2019.
“That is why they were the first to begin all the rumours about the president’s demise before the social media latched o to it and made it a trending matter,” he added.
“The undoing for el Rufai is how he has managed the Southern Kaduna crisis with his talkative nature which scares christians. Also, many point to the way that he has been known to betray his benefactors with his kiss and tell tendencies,” he voluntered further.
One prominent South-West politician, Chief Bola Tinubu, is believed to be involved in the unfolding drama, but his specific role remained unclear Monday.