Osinbajo: Nigerians are in love with acting president, you can't blame them
Nigeria's acting president is on another round of charm offensives and he's earned all the love coming his way.
Each time President Muhammadu Buhari embarks on one of his now routine medical vacations, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo wins more fans for himself and the administration.
On Friday, May 26, 2017, Osinbajo sauntered into the Garki market in Abuja, waving at traders who couldn’t stop cheering at his every move, explaining to a fish trader why inflation is still a thing and what government is doing to address her narrow profit margins and dishing out guffaws this way and that.
No, this isn’t Barack Obama we are talking about here or some European leader.
This is Nigeria’s most powerful man at the moment—handed the responsibility of calling the shots only because his boss is nursing an undisclosed ailment.
Earlier, Osinbajo had played host to students from various schools in Abuja, showing them around his office and applauding one student who answered a question correctly.
Osinbajo’s Friday displays were well received by Nigerians across social media who immediately cited them as the exemplar of empathy they always yearned from leadership—especially during a biting economic recession.
And they are right.
Once voted into power, Nigerian politicians forget what it means to connect with the people.
They hide behind tinted car windshields and gun-toting security officials who dare the rest of us to come any closer.
At functions, they perch on ‘high tables’ and disappear into air-conditioned state-of-the-art automobile before the event draws to a close.
You only get to see them on TVs and on the pages of newspapers, ‘blasting’, hectoring and lecturing—unfeeling, uncaring and unsmiling.
Which is why Osinbajo’s display of optics in governance is earning him wide applause, even from the harshest critics of the administration.
Sad that he only gets to assume the spotlight when his boss is away.
However, it says a lot about the quality of leadership in Nigeria’s governance circuit when the people hail what should be normal behavior from their political leaders.
Obasanjo was gruff in public, everyone immediately saw through Jonathan’s boyish grin and dance steps, Buhari can’t pay a visit to a restive Niger Delta region to save his life, Abacha menacingly glared at the rest of the country from behind dark, sinister spectacles and IBB's gap toothed grin was the biggest farce this side of the Atlantic.
But here is Osinbajo, dishing out a genuine smile this way and that, charming our folks and guardians in the marketplace, finding out how much pepper costs and inviting school kids to know what it feels like to govern a country from behind his office desk.
What’s there not to love?
It was carefully crafted optics; staged to coincide with the second year anniversary of the Buhari administration at a time when public confidence in leadership remains at abysmal levels.
It was staged for maximum impact.
And the fact that this writer is devoting column inches to talk about it all, should tell you that the impact was bang on target.
It also tells you that leadership isn’t rocket science and that if he surrounds himself with the right kind of advisers, Buhari’s insignia of a cold former military ruler could be yanked off without TB Joshua’s supernatural powers.
Leadership is essentially about the 'little' acts.
Leadership is about some sort of emotional connection with the led.
It’s also worth noting that Osinbajo has always been this way.
During the electioneering campaigns of 2015, Osinbajo was most comfortable while working the crowds at town hall meetings, in shopping arcades and in commercial buses.
That he retreats into the shadows when Buhari is around is worth taking note of.
But the man we saw last Friday isn’t the fake Osinbajo. It’s who he is.
It’s who he’s always been.
Pentecostal pastors like the acting president live off the feel and yell of an audience.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, he’s only an acting president who will retreat into the shadows whenever the president chooses to make a return home.
This life is really a pot of hot beans.