March 4, 2021

Now that Osinbajo survived his obituarists

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The past two weeks were most humiliating for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. He was systematically denuded of the power due to his office, and reduced to “VP Academics” in the eyes of the public. He is now seen as consigned to running the official errands that require putting a debonair face to otherwise unpleasant tasks. His humbling was compounded by writers who, in their bid to sympathize with his travails, ended up rubbing in the embarrassment of his situation. 

Someone decried the “…systematic and instalmental, harassment, intimidation, degradation and denudation of our dear beloved Vice President….” Another one said the “anointed man of God, and the man of the law…” does not deserve the “ugly agendum to strip Osinbajo to a political bare bone; silence his vice-presidential voice from leaving a mark in the minds of Nigerians as a jolly good fellow; and then sideline him from the team of men making crucial decisions about governance…” Then there were the simplistic that presume that “As a lawyer and pastor, Osinbajo seems not to have come to terms with the knife fights in Nigerian politics….” All these emotion mongering on his behalf seems more to me like first drafts of his political obituary. They are mocking him more than they are bringing clarity to issues. 

After I had read about a dozen of those articles, I wondered, “to what exactly does Osinbajo owe all of this mushiness? Why do we care if the APC eats another one of its own?” I am more interested in the question of the unique moral qualities that Osinbajo brings into the VP office, and which would have been threatened by his ouster. 

First, let us do away with the erroneous assumption that Osinbajo has been a victim of a savage cabal because, as a pastor and professor, he embodies values that places him above the amoral politics of the Nigerian landscape. Those who mistook him for a lamb about to be eaten by the big bad wolf of fellow politicians are not just under reading the man; they are also underestimating his capability to survive. Osinbajo might be a professor and pastor by day, but he is a politician by night. You do not last in the treacherous fields of corrupt Lagos politics, and even get seconded to Abuja as VP if you hold religious and professional ethics that make your fellow politicians uncomfortable. He could not have come that far if he were the kind of pastor that binds the devil. No, he survived because he dined with a legion of demons.

He is a gamesman seeking power just like the rest, and he embodies the traits of soullessness we attribute to politicians. If he happened to be outplayed, it is no tragedy. It is simply one of the possible outcomes of politicking, especially for an Absalom character laying out the groundwork for taking over the throne in 2023. We must keep these things in perspective so that we are not blinded by sentimentality once again. 

In 2015, one of the factors that refurbished Muhammadu Buhari’s public image was Osinbajo. The APC flouted his credentials as a pastor of one of the largest and most influential religious assemblies in the world. They told us that he was a professor of law, and that was just what we needed for a country whose soul had been ravaged by corruption. On the one hand, we would have a president Buhari whose stainless soul could brook no corruption. On the other hand, we would also have a pastor and professor who would supply both the moral and legal resources for the agenda of ethical engineering they would embark on while in the office.

How has that calculation worked out for us? Today, we are stuck with a government that is not just as corrupt as its predecessors, it is also methodically destroying the institutions that can make them accountable. They routinely disobey court orders. From Sambo Dasuki to Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky to Nnamdi Kanu, and now to Omoyele Sowore, they have scant respect for the judiciary, and they are not even hiding it. They came into office as the duo that would enforce law and order but turned out to be a lawless bunch that uses the courts as a personalized instrument of abuse. If a judgment favors them, they obey. If it does not favor them, they disregard it. It was before our very eyes Buhari justified his government’s disobedience of court orders on live TV. Their administration has harassed and imprisoned critics at a higher rate than any other civilian government.

So, tell me, of what use is Osinbajo’s professions of the law if he serves in a government that cannot respect the law? And if they can disdain the law, what moral right do they have to go after other people for flouting it? The fact that Osinbajo is there in Aso Rock, sitting pretty and surreptitiously looking away from all these travesties should tell you he was not cut from a different cloth from his fellow politicians. If they had succeeded him kicking him out, I would never have wept in my coffee for him. It was the king’s goat that ate the king’s yams, simple.

Osinbajo himself must occasionally recall that people supported him in 2015 because they want their nation’s moral universe reconstituted, and a pastor seemed like the best candidate. Today, their government has demoralized the nation and even gone further to degrade the institutions meant to hold everyone accountable. Democracy works if its institutions function, and independently too. But how can a nation’s institutions grow if an egoistic president decides to be the sole determinant of their moral paths to evolution? Anyone who looks at the trajectory of the Sowore case with the DSS and does not yet see that we are dealing with one of the most corrupt governments in Nigeria’s recent history has not yet learned the meaning of corruption. And all of these are happening with a professor of “law” occupying one of the highest offices in the land!

Osinbajo might have at least kept his seat this time, but his traducers succeeded because he is now publicly degraded. People think of him as impotent, existing merely to fulfill a vicarious delight in the Yorubas who see him as their representative in power. He now struggles against his public image because, after his recovery from the turmoil of the past weeks, he immediately grabbed the law by the hem and pursued those that fueled the fire of his emasculation. He threatened to sue those who propagated the news of his alleged corruption, but he lost me when he said he was ready to waive his constitutional immunity “to enable the most robust adjudication of…claims of libel and malicious falsehood.” Why the bluff? Why not waive the immunity already? And if he cannot legally do so, not step aside and submit himself for investigation?  

Anyway, after he is done filing the cases, I hope he can find time to return to the issues. There is a more to the FIRS story, and we deserve to know. One day, a letter by the president’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari, surfaces on the internet querying the FIRS boss on the discrepancy in their figures. Another day, the story came up that the VP allegedly took N90bn from that same FIRS to fund the 2019 election. Some of those forces were also the ones that conspired to strip Osinbajo of relevance. All of that makes some of us are curious about the connection between these happenings. Did the money that funded Buhari’s election come from FIRS? Osinbajo should tell us. He owes us an answer because just last year, he was all over the place announcing that the PDP plundered the CBN to the tune of N100bn to sponsor the 2015 elections. It is 2019, how did the APC fund theirs too? For me, those are far more important issues than whether Osinbajo is kicked to a remote curb in the southwest or not.

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