This week, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Deep Offshore bill–a piece of legislation that will mean more money for the federal government and more petro-dollars to lubricate a wasteful bureaucracy.
“Nigeria will now receive its fair, rightful and equitable share of income from our own natural resources for the first time since 2003.
“All attempts to amend the law on the distribution of income have failed. Until today. A combination of complicity by Nigerian politicians and feet-dragging by oil companies has, for more than a quarter-century, conspired to keep oil taxes to the barest minimum.
“Today, this changes. For the first time under our amended law, 200 million Nigerians will start to receive a fair return on the surfeit of resources of our lands. Increased income will allow for new hospitals, schools, infrastructure and jobs,” a giddy Buhari said afterwards.
President Muhammadu Buhari signs Deep Offshore bill into law in London, with Chief of Staff Abba Kyari (Twitter: @BashirAhmaad)
The subtext of this story however, is that Buhari appended his signature to the document in London where he’s on a “private visit.” Which other president signs a landmark domestic bill in foreign territory?
Buhari’s Chief of Staff, the ever powerful Abba Kyari, was with the president, pointing his finger to the right dotted lines.
The argument that Buhari could well have instructed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to sign the document in his stead back home in Nigeria, without asking his CoS to fly to London for the honours, resonates with me and is a valid one.
In a season when rumors have been making the rounds that a cabal within the presidency–which some say is headed by Kyari–has been doing everything to undermine Osinbajo, Buhari and his team should have known better than to sign the bill in London with the same Kyari in tow.
President Muhammadu Buhari (right) shakes hands with his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari (left) [Presidency]
I do get that the president is still in charge wherever he goes and that by not transmitting a letter to the national assembly asking his deputy to function in an acting capacity on the grounds of being incapacitated, he retains his powers wherever he goes.
However, for a presidency that has been belting out a tune of cutting waste, surely Kyari’s flight and hotel bills and those of the retinue of staff who probably accompanied him to London just to sign a bill, could have been put to better, altruistic use?
In the final analysis, the Deep Offshore bill is one Osinbajo could easily have signed without all the London fanfare and distraction.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo deliver speech at an event [Twitter/@NGRPresident]
If the presidency wants the world to believe that Osinbajo and Buhari are still a tag team, then it has to get the optics right. If the presidency wants to make the world believe that Osinbajo’s powers haven’t been whittled and the nation’s number two citizen hasn’t been emasculated and sidelined in the power corridors, then it’s got to do better and send out the right message.
The London bill signing ceremony was really bad optics for Buhari, his presidency and the cabal that everyone now knows almost kicked Aisha Buhari out of the villa.
It should also worry Nigerians that their president who says he wants to fix decrepit healthcare and abolish medical tourism, can’t even trust the doctors back home to fix his health.
How many presidents of other countries visit Nigeria for the purpose of tending to their health?