Barely 48 hours after Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced that he will be leading delegations to the six geo-political zones to engage with youths, civil society organisations and different strands of leadership across the country in the wake of the recent #EndSARS protests, President Buhari has directed his Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari to lead another Federal Government delegation on a similar mission.
President Buhari told visiting members of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Sa’ad Abubakar III that Professor Gambari would lead senior government officials to various parts of the country “and directly engage with you as part of this process”. The traditional rulers who met with the President include the Ooni of Ife, His Royal Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II and two foremost royal fathers representing each of the six geo-political zones.
The President also told the monarchs that “we have heard the loud cries of our youth and children, and we are attending to their concerns” but “to succeed in all of this, we would require your support and voice to help amplify the message. Your proximity to the people places you in a unique position to communicate and ensure that our response is targeted and impactful”.
On Tuesday after an emergency meeting of the Ad-Hoc Committee of the National Economic Council chaired by Vice President Osinbajo, members adopted a two-pronged engagement process to hold at the zonal and state levels.
The 36 State Governors and FCT Minister are to meet with the leadership and representatives of the identified groups in their respective states. This is to be immediately followed by zonal interactions where the Vice President and members of the Committee would feature.
The committee members include Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal from North-West; Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State from North-East and Niger Governor Sani Bello from North-Central. Others are Delta Governor Ifeanyi Okowa from South-South; Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi from South-East and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State from the South-West.
It is not clear why the Presidency wants to duplicate the efforts of the Osinbajo-led National Economic Council after endorsing other decisions of the members in respect of the #EndSARS protests including the inauguration of the State Judicial Commissions of Inquiry with the Lagos State panel also investigating the October 20 shooting of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate by soldiers.
Many however say with expectations that the #EndSARS protests will have an impact on the 2023 general elections may have informed the decision to get the Presidency involved in the nationwide engagements instead of leaving it to the Vice President as it could turn out to be an effective image building platform. The Presidency has however not given any reason for its action which is seen as a strategic move against Professor Osinbajo especially that Lagos is central to the #EndSARS protest considered by the Presidency and Northern Governors as an attempt to effect regime change in the country.
The Terms of Reference of the nationwide engagement by the Osinbajo-led National Economic Council include:
i. To engage representatives of Youths, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and others, Political, Religious and Traditional leaders on employment and social safety net programmes among other issues.
ii. To engage with the Security Agencies and develop ways of delivering more control to State Governors who are the Chief Security Officers of their States;
iii. To recommend effective solutions to the rising divisiveness and propose ways of strengthening national unity;
iv. To develop a framework for the coordination of action steps to be taken by both the Federal and State Governments in response to the fundamental issues underlying the #EndSARS protests;
v. To co-opt and or invite any individual or corporate body that may facilitate the work of the Committee; and
vi. Report to Council with such recommendations as may be considered appropriate.
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