In the aftermath of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, then President George W Bush, while touring the affected zone and ignoring the botched federal response to the disaster, said to Michael Brown, the boss of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” The victims of the hurricane, some of whom were sheltering in the New Orleans Superdome for days without food and water, would have had a different view. “Brownie” would resign 10 days after Bush’s ringing endorsement.
As thousands of Nigerian children face starvation in refugee camps, where they have fled from Boko Haram violence, as many villagers have been driven from their homes due to Fulani herdsmen violence in many parts of north-central Nigeria, as the number of jobless Nigerians increases with each cohort of graduates finishing national youth service with no hope of work, as many lose their jobs with an economy going south, many Nigerians seem to be trying their hands as GW Bush tribute acts. The chorus is that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who has been acting president in the absence of the ailing President Muhammadu Buhari, is “doing a good job”.
I heard it again this morning in a conversation with an old school friend. He claimed Buhari’s absence for about a month was not important since “there was no vacuum” and Osinbajo was “doing a good job”. When asked what this “good job” involved, he replied along these lines: “everyone knows he is doing a good job, of course, he is doing a good job, are you saying you don’t know he is doing a good job?”
It appears everyone apart from yours truly “knows” Osinbajo is “doing a good job”. Even some sections of the foreign media have also become echo chambers for the “good job” phenomenon. The “good job” Osinbajo is allegedly doing did not start with the current Buhari absence. It was also a familiar refrain during the president’s 49 day absence earlier this year.
So what is Osinbajo doing in Buhari’s absence? It is probably prudent to mention that Buhari has set the bar so low that an improvement on his non-performance is hardly an achievement. It is also relevant to note that the vice president was much-heralded as the brains in that ruling combination. He was meant to be in charge of economic policy, but his praise-singers were quick to blame Buhari for the bad times, of which there have been many, and quick to give credit to Osinbajo for any semblance of improvement.
Osinbajo has neither come up with any policies different from what was happening in Buhari’s presence, nor made any significant contribution to the lives of ordinary Nigerians in his boss’s absence. All he has done is show up at more places than the president. Buhari has not visited the Boko Haram ravaged northeast, the southeast or the Niger Delta since he came to power two years ago. Osinbajo has, in the president’s absence visited all those regions. The vice president has also been to markets, airports, conferences, meetings, weddings and funerals.
As a lawyer, professor of law, and pastor, Osinbajo is also a much better public speaker than the president. So he talks a good game. In a government of no substance, presentation and propaganda have become as critical as oxygen. In this light, and following two years of catastrophic failure to meet the hopes of Nigerians and the euphoria that greeted the regime’s ascension to power, the propaganda machinery of the regime has gone into overdrive about the “good job” Osinbajo is doing.
Like they bought the notion that Buhari, the presidential candidate was a messiah sent to fix Nigeria’s problems, many Nigerians are buying this remix featuring his smooth-talking deputy as the saviour. Like the Buhari claims before the presidential (s)election, the claims about Osinbajo “doing a good job” are not based on evidence, rationality or critical thinking.