Prince Tony Momoh, a former Minister of Information, is one of the national leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The former National Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on the alleged plot to remove Vice- President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo by a powerful cabal in the Presidency. Excerpts:
As one of the national leaders of the APC, what is your take on the news making rounds of an attempt by some powerbrokers to remove Vice- President Yemi Osinbajo?
The Vice-President is busy doing his job and nobody is planning to remove him. How can anybody say they are planning to remove him? What offence has he committed?
(Cuts in) Which cabal? People are just playing politics. As far as I am concerned, there is only one Presidency, not two; the President and the Vice- President. Since 1999, there has not been a smooth working relationship between the President and Vice- President like we have now between Buhari and Osinbajo. So, what is the proof that they want to remove the Vice- President or reduce his powers? Is it because of the Economic Advisory Team set up by the President? What is wrong with that? He did that to smoothen operation and to ensure that we move to the Next Level. In the struggle to fight corruption, unite the country and to address the country, any decision taken to improve the status or the level of achievements of the programme that the administration has cut for itself, why should that be misinterpreted as an attempt to remove the Vice- President or to undermine him? Is the Vice- President no longer the Vice- President? Why are people so mischievous? Who are the cabals they are talking about?
Are you saying there is no cabal in Aso Villa?
What is the name of the cabal? Is there any group called cabal? After the President, we have the Vice- President and then all other staff there are personal staff. We have the Chief of Staff, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the Ministers and Special Advisers. These people are there to help the President who is the only person on whose table the buck stops. If you look at the constitution, every person is working to enhance the work of the President. They do the work assigned to them by the President and there are some offices too that the constitution itself assigns. So, I really don’t know what people mean by the word ‘cabal’. If by cabal, they mean a group of political appointees who are powerful enough to create problems for the advancement of government, that is natural in the management of affairs of men. But the fact is, how much elbow do you give them to operate? When they operate to such an extent that they become a nuisance, then one must call their bluff. So, who is this cabal that people are talking about? Is it the Secretary to the Government of the Federation? Is it the Chief of Staff ? Is it the Permanent Secretaries in the Ministries that constitute themselves as cabals or the Ministers? Are these cabals outsiders in government or is it the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria that is the cabal? Is it the national chairman of the party that is the cabal or members of the National Working Committee? Are they political or financial cabals? Are these cabals faceless? People are just speculating. The Vice-President and the President are together. They have never quarreled and there is no cause for them to quarrel. The fact is that at the end of the day, the buck stops on the table of the President.
But what if the rumour about Osinbajo’s removal now comes out to be true?
You think it is easy to remove the Vice- President. During Obasanjo’s time, they tried to remove Atiku, did they succeed? Atiku as Vice- President even stood on the platform of another party to contest because the position of the Vice- President is a constitutional one. There is a procedure for accepting that position and there is a procedure for removal or for leaving that position. Why are people just giving the impression that the office of the Vice- President is like that of a houseboy who can be sent packing anytime?
In the present administration, who do you think is more powerful between Vice- President Yemi Oinbajo and Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff?
How can the Chief of Staff be powerful than the Vice-President? The Chief of Staff is a personal staff of the President while the office of the Vice-President is a constitutional one. Do you see the role of the Chief of Staff in the constitution? He is a personal staff of the President. When the President is going on vacation or indisposed, he writes to the National Assembly handing over to the Vice- President, why can’t he handover to his Chief of Staff ? The Chief of Staff is a person who moderates the movements of the President. He is the one who schedules the President’s affairs. Everyone who wants to see the President must pass through the Chief of Staff because he is like a gatekeeper to the President. From morning till night, he is at the beck and call of the President and should be the person who is closest to the President. Is that what makes him powerful than the Vice-President? The Vice-President also has a Deputy Chief of Staff who serves him. Anybody who wants to see the Vice-President must pass through the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff who is the Chief of Staff to the Vice –President. Even me as a person, I have my own Chief of Staff. If anyone wants to see me, he goes through my Chief of Staff.