By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
Vice President Yemi Osibajo has come a long way since he subtly burst into political limelight as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice between 1999 and 2007 under the administration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in Lagos state. Petite of stature, his mien belies his intellectual clout and natural intelligence.
As Commissioner, he was quite business at the Supreme Court as the government grappled with the fierce opposition mounted by the former president Obasanjo administration to upstage the Tinubu-led government on several fronts including the withholding of the local government funds following the creation of local councils in the state. Those close to him and watchers of the administration he served said he was one of the intellectual pillars of the Tinubu administration. Not surprising, he became Tinubu’s personal counsel on leaving office.
His political views were virtually unknown, and as a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church, he preferred to skirt the fringes of politics surreptitiously, until candidate Muhammadu Buhari nominated him as his vice presidential candidate, which they subsequently won in 2015 and he became the vice president. Surprisingly everything about him seemed to have changed, many say for the worse.
Not a few of his supporters are disappointed by this performance and conduct in office in the past four years. Beside the brief period he acted as president when the president was away on medical tourism, when his activist political engagement with several discontented groups in the different political regions, which to a large extent soothed frayed nerves, he has put every foot wrong. It is such a confounding and perplexing identity crisis for many people.
Worse still has been his relationship with his primary constituency as a pastor. His nomination had initially divided the Christian fold but many people were prepared to give him the benefit of doubt. The worsening political and economic situation in the country has seen him in increasing running battle with the Church as they strained to make their voices heard on the state of the nation.
Many had expected a robust vice presidency, one that would give steam and sinew to the administration’s policies and give direction when there is error of policies. This expectation was justified given Osibajo’s long experience in governance, his intellectual background as a lawyer and scholar, and the fact that he served in an administration that espoused progressive views; but most especially as a pastor. But events around him, and his politics have cast a long pall and looming shadow as to the real Osinbajo.
Many commentators have voiced their disappointments at the way Osinbajo has sacrificed his progressive antecedent and moral standing to act as Buhari’s ‘Joseph Goebbels’, even as a pastor.
This frustration many people with him, according to BusinessHallmark checks, has to do with the difficulty in reconciling the untruth and litany of falsehoods associated with Osinbajo in defending Buhari and his calling as pastor and a progressive.
In a widely read piece, a popular columnist with Premium Times, Bayo Oluwasanmi tarred his image in Osinbajo: Serial liar; Buhari’s brain, propagandist, interpreter of Buhari’s maladies, said:
‘As expected, the New York lie propagated by Osinbajo had erased all respect and credibility he once enjoyed. He has become a vice-president who is manifestly unreliable and untrustworthy”.
Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere spokesman said, Osinbajo is a big disappointment. “The region has retrogressed. What they are doing is to put money in the hands of their cronies. What is the essence of a Vice President from the region when the occupant of the position is now a glorified Baba Oloja, who is going all about to distribute Trader Moni to campaign?”
For many, the crux of the matter is what they see as Osinbajo’s overzealousness in defending the indefensible failings of this government and particularly the president insensitive and divisive politics and policies; in trying to paper over the blatant errors and falsehoods of the Buhari administration.
Not too long ago, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was in the US on a 4-day visit. At a town hall meeting in New York with the Nigerian community, while responding to questions and comments, he said:
“With respect to general kidnapping which we have seen in parts of the country, again, this is not entirely new. In fact, some of the kidnapping stories you read or listen to are simply not true anywhere, some are fueled by politics.” This comment came at the time kidnappings and banditry were at nadir, yet, the vice president could afford to be mealy-mouthed about it.
“The New York fiasco was unnecessary; as professor of law and experienced scholar he could have mitigated the disaster by simply telling the international community that Nigeria was working out the solution”, Hassan Saliu, professor of International Relations, and former Dean, Social Science, University of Ilorin told BusinessHallmark.
“It has become part of Nigerian politicians to murder facts, as lying in politics cuts across political parties and political beliefs. Lying is basic qualification for the profession of politicking. We know politicians are wretched liars. But vice-president Osinbajo is in a different category. He is a pastor of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
“As of August 2018, RCCG has branches in 198 countries of the world with five million members. For Osinbajo to have denied daily kidnappings in Nigeria by Fulani herdsmen terrorists is political heresy,” declared Steve Aluko, a human rights activist in a chat with this newspaper.
Nigerians find it impossible to reconcile the sheer frequency, spontaneity, and seeming irrelevance of Osinbajo’s lies. Osinbajo, in the views of many seems not to be lying to protect his reputation. Rather, he’s taking bullets for his boss – President Muhammadu Buhari, for no apparent reason or justification, except perhaps, his ambition to succeed him.
In his own assessment, Dr. Akinola Metunji of the Department of Psychology, Kogi State University said, ” Osinbajo lies on behalf of a government whose integrity and credibility had dissolved four years ago like ice in a 90 degree summer weather. No doubt, Osinbajo lies in order to be a loyal servant to a Fulani.”
“Each time Buhari is in a deep mess, Osinbajo comes to his rescue with flagrant truth-stretching to outright flat-out falsehood. Osinbajo as Baba Go-Slow motion’s brain, propagandist, and interpreter of Buhari’s maladies, will not only parrot his version of the truth, but convincingly argue as if in the court of law, to knock down a troubling national issue that we all know is true and verifiable”, was the submission of Fehintola Dada, a House of Representative aspirant in Kogi State.
In many ways, Osinbajo resembles Spiro Agnew, former United States’ vice president.
As vice president, Agnew was often called upon to attack the administration’s enemies. In the years of his vice presidency, Agnew moved to the right, appealing to conservatives who were suspicious of moderate stances taken by Nixon. In the presidential election of 1972, Nixon and Agnew were re-elected for a second term, defeating Senator George McGovern and his running mate Sargent Shriver. Agnew repeatedly lied on behalf of President Richard Nixon until Watergate consumed them. He was also a lawyer like Osinbajo and committed Evangelical.
Newsrooms have often wrestled with how to characterize the misinformation Yemi Osibajo spreads since he became vice president when his eyebrow-raising statements tended more toward “pants on fire” than true. This challenge is only intensifying with his second time vice presidency, backed by an administration eager to provide “alternative facts” when the actual facts don’t flatter the president.
Osinbajo has been embroiled in so many disputes over truth that it’s difficult to know where to begin. “If falsehood, like truth, had only one face, we would be in better shape,” the philosopher Michel de Montaigne famously wrote. “But the reverse of truth has a hundred thousand shapes and a limitless field.”
When President Buhari was away on medical trip, Osinbajo acted as president, and his actions endeared him to the people across geopolitics and religion. He traveled across Nigeria, including the restive Niger Delta to calm frayed nerves occasioned by what many commentators regarded as Buhari’s divisive politics and governance style.
As the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he is expected to oversee the economic planning team and report, as well as make recommendations, to the president who takes the final decision. Because of his legal background and antecedents as a commissioner for justice in Lagos state for eight years, many expect that he will contribute a great deal to the much needed reform of the economy and judicial system at the national level. But that has not happened as the government only obeys court order that suits its temperament and discountenance those ones they don’t like.
President Muhammadu Buhari sent a written declaration on May 9 2017 to the president of the senate and House of representatives on his decision to embark on a medical trip, the letter was read on the 9 May 2017 at plenary of both houses, respectively. Vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was conferred the acting president during president Buhari’s medical leave
On 7 August 2018, Osinbajo fired the State Security Service boss, Lawal Daura for illegal invasion of National Assembly by armed and masked operatives of the department. Daura was been replaced with Mathew Seiyefa. Most people applauded his action. But they later disappointed as his appointee was subsequently removed bu Buhari on his return.
Osinbajo’s action has tended to go against the grain of his constituency- the Yoruba that stand for restructuring and good governance. He has often been criticised by the Afenifere, a pan Yoruba socio-cultural organisation for his uncomplimentary comments that tend to cover-up the gross inadequacies of the administration.
Osinbajo SAN, GCON was born into the family of Opeoluwa Osinbajo on 8 March 1957, Creek Hospital Lagos. Osinbajo is married to Dolapo (née Soyode) Osinbajo, a grand daughter of Obafemi Awolowo. They have three children – two daughters, Damilola, Kanyinsola and a son, Fiyinfoluwa Osinbajo.