To many analysts, the position of vice-president is more of a spare tyre than the high political office it is. But, Prof Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) has endowed the seat with visibility and honour. Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU writes on the activities of the loyal deputy and the cordial relations between him and President Muhammadu Buhari.
Since the Second Republic, Nigeria has produced five vice-presidents – Dr. Alex Ekwueme (1979-1983), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (1999-2007), Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (2007-2009), Namadi Sambo (2009-2015) and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) (2015 till date). However, observers agree that Osinbajo, legal scholar, priest and technocrat, is a deputy with a difference.
He has two main priorities in government. The mess of 16 years created by the Peoples Democratic Party PDP) should be successfully cleared. Also, Nigerians should team up with President Muhammadu Buhari to lay a new foundation of national prosperity and progress. The message on the lip of Osinbajo is that Nigeria will surely recover.
In the last three years, the dynamic, hardworking and loyal vice-president has been assisting President Muhammadu Buhari in the task of navigating the ship of state. The former university don and Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice is more than a spare tyre. At his disposal are the weapons of incisive wit, knowledge of the economic problems, understanding of the heterogenous country and sense of patriotism. In recent times, he has become the administration’s anti-corruption curator. The president and vice president are on the same page in the anti-graft war. The anti-graft battle is becoming increasingly challenging as corruption is fighting back. But, he is confident that corruption will not eventually kill Nigeria because the progressive administration will not allow it.
“When you fight corruption the way we re fighting it, corruption is going to fight back. But, we are determined,” Osinbajo said during the 10th Bola Tinubu Colliqouiun in Lagos.
For Osinbajo, governance is not business as usual. Good governance is not a tea party. The challenges are being tackled. Yet, new ones are staring the country in the face. President Buhari made four promises-economic revival, security, anti-corruption war and job creation. To Osinbajo, government has been steady in fulfilling these cardinal promises, despite the constraints. The government has alleged that trillions of naira were stolen by privileged functionaries under the past administration. If the resources are available, Osinbajo said much burden would have been alleviated. The stolen funds would have been creatively used for people-oriented projects across the six geo-political zones.
The vice president has lamented that when the country was making huge money from crude oil, less was achieved, compared to the when the price of oil has crashed in the international market and activities of vandals in the Niger Delta have crippled production. He has urged the bewildered country to take solace in the fact that there is a lot to show for prudent spending under the Buhari administration.
Irked by the fetival of looting, the vice president said that there is no country in the world that will allow its resources to be plundered and still expect its economy to be economically viable. “Corruption is an existential problem for Nigeria. From all I have seen in government in the past three years, the corruption of the previous five years is what destroyed the Nigerian economy, ” he added.
The vice president’s style of engagement has brought government closer to the people. He has maintained a constant and consisted communication channel with Nigerians, who are nevertheless impatient about the prospect of economic recovery. For example, his visit to the Niger Delta has doused a measure of tension. Today, government is being applauded for the Ogoni Clean-Up, the setting up the Maritime University and modular refineries. He is also the coordinator of the working group trying to tackling the farmers/herdsmen crises. Government is busy fighting the infrastructure battle. Through the programe of economic diversification, increased funding for agriculture has led to job creation. Government is not relenting in fixing the power and rail sectors.
As the coordinator of some of the economic activities designed to alleviate the suffering of the masses, Osinbajo has lived up to expectation. Through proactive economic reforms, Nigeria has now achieved a leap in terms of ease of doing business. Also, concrete achievements have been recorded in the area of reviving the small and medium scale enterprises through financial aids. Human capital development is a priority of the Buhari administration. In this area, Osinbajo is a driver of change. The safe school project and other initiatives driven by HEVP have received commendations from stakeholders.
Many factors aided the choice of Osinbajo as the running mate to Gen. Buhari in 2015. But, the greatest factors are his competence, integrity, ability to deputise without undermining or subverting his principal, integrity, impeccable character and his antecedent as Nigerian with a national outlook. As the deputy president, he has not allowed power to use him. The proof of his loyalty end exemplary leadership came into fore when the president was on a medical trip abroad for over 100 days. Osinbajo held the country as one united and indivisible entity, thereby earning the appreciation of his boss.
He had emerged as the vice presidential flag bearer, not from the point of view of being an Ogun State indigene or a former Justice Commissioner in Lagos State. He became the running mate on the strength of the convincing argument that Buhari needed a decent, loyal and hardworking Christian Nigerian from the Southwest to meet the inevitable and non-negotiable criterion of the ethnic-religious divide.
His nomination was received with jubilations, not only in the Southwest region, but across the federation. But, in particular, the nomination has implications for the Southwest. It marked the beginning of a synergy between the larger North and the politically conscious and economically developed Southwest. Since 2007, the Southwest had been complaining about marginalisation. Thus, Osinbajo’s nomination promptly restored a sense of belonging to the six states. On account of the Buhari/Osinbajo joint ticket, the region became more committed to the All Progressives Congress (APC) agenda for change in 2015. Also, across the 36 states, the elite gravitated towards the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket. Both men were perceived to be tested, trusted and courageous, in terms of devotion to public good.
Both Buhari and Osinbajo paraded intimidating credentials. At 73, the former military leader was on the soap box in 2015. With the 56s year-old Osinbajo beside him, the joint ticket was a blend of old age and youthfulness. Buhari, a committed Muslim from the North, and Osinbajo, a Christian cleric from the Southwest, were strengthened in their determination to challenge PDP President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the Southsouth, and his deputy, Vice President Namandi Sambo, a Muslim from the North, to a duel. There was parity as far as ethnic and religious factors, which politicians have successfully incorporated into contemporary politics, were concerned. The line of demarcation wass the differential qualities of the APC and the PDP tickets. Therefore, Nigerians took Buhari and Osinbajo seriously.
Buhari stood for honour and discipline as a leader. He is simply incorruptible. Osinbajo has been committed to the strengthening of democracy through his judicial reforms as Attorney-General and Justice Commissioner. He is an advocate of the protection of the temple of justice from the vulgarities of political life and societal vices.
Buhari/Osinbajo ticket in 2015 represented a rare Muslim/Christian ticket. It dwarfed the Jonathan/Sambo Christian/Muslim ticket, owing to the complaints about the 16 years of looting, misrule and boredom. The battle for Christian votes was be interesting. Apart from legal advocacy, the church is also Osinbajo’s constituency. The charming and charismatic lawyer is not a nominal Christian. He has a mass appeal in the Christendom as an exemplary preacher and doer of the word. Like Buhari, Osinbajo is morally predictable and excellent.
From 1999, Osinbajo has been a loyal, dependable and silent labourer in the progressive vineyard. His legal counsels, administrative acumen, uncanny capacity for research, understanding of the workings of government and sense of calmness and balance have been acknowledged by the academia, the bar, the bench, the government and the political class he has served with his best of ability,
Many believe that Osinbajo came into limelight, following his appointment as the Attorney-General and Commissioner. But, he has been around for a longer period. Ubder the Babangida administration, he was a Special Assistant to the Federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Prince Bola Ajibola. As a university teacher, he has taught promising Nigerians from the six geo-political zones, who still perceive him as a mentor and role model. As a university don at the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo and the University of Lagos, Akoka (UNILAG), he was a great scholar. His intellectual stature reflects in his teachings, rigorous research and seminal contributions. The diminutive scholar is a six feet of intelligence. The orator is good in debate. But, he always avoided scandals. When LASU was engulfed with protracted crises, which threatened a peaceful atmosphere for teaching and research, he refused to take sides in the divisive and highly destabilising crises. Osinbajo retraced his steps to UNILAG.
As a lawyer, Osinbajo was not in the mould of luminaries who indulged in trivialities. He is a thorough prosecution lawyer, who does not indulge in the politicisation of sensitive cases to make a political capital out of litigation. He has often shunned financial inducement by unscrupulous elements to subvert the state in litigations involving the government and enemies of progress.
His assets are the power of ideas and imagination, organisational acumen, and steady inclination towards reforms. Brilliant, professionally assertive, focused, and loyal worthy causes, Osinbajo had hidden talents, which were unraveled by his involvement in politics and governance in the past. Many believe that he had added value to the progressive administration at the centre.
In fact, Buhari and Osinbajo share common traits and ideas about how a developing country should be run by visionary leaders. Osinbajo’s thoroughness, modesty, aversion for graft, belief in the role of law in human development and passion for people’s welfarehave made him and Buhari a perfect match. The law profesor is averse to primitive accumulation. It is indeed a mark of humility that, despite his achievements as a scholar, legal luminary and priest, Osinbajo has kept a low profile. Like Buhari, his public service career has been devoid of scandal. His colleagues inthe Federal Executive Council have descr5ibed him as a man of impeccable character, honesty, discipline and integrity.
These may be the reason both the president and his deputy have been partners in progress. Unlike the Obasanjo administration, there is no acrimonious relationship between the President and the Vice President. Since the duo do not have skeletons in their cupboards, and they are not in government to enrich themselves, Nigeria have been better for it.
But, it is not yet uhuru. The president and his deputy still have a lot to do in the area of security. More should be done to build on the past achievements. Also, the economy is still recovering at a snail-like speed. According to observers, if there is improved security and the economy is revived, Nigerians will heave a sigh of relief.