• Re: Who has Yemi Osinbajo become?
By Oluwafemi Popoola
Of late, the Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has been in the news. He has been enduring a large chunk of virulence in the linguistic parlance of those who think they control the pendulum of public discourse.
We can begin to trace his media ordeals from the speech he made at the recent mid-term retreat of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second tenure where his advice to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, was misconstrued by the media to mean he called for devaluation of Naira, to his interactive session with top officials of the Nigerian High Commission in London, where he received the bashing of his life for describing his principal as a credible person and calling for the unity of Nigeria, to the lowly and downgrading manner at which he was put to fire for not boldly standing up to his political godfather ahead of the 2023 presidential race.
Many had expected Osinbajo to duplicate the actions of former President Goodluck Jonathan towards the then kingmaker, his predecessor and political godfather, former President Olusegun Obasanjo. It was to the surprise of the nation that former President Jonathan tacitly referring to President Obasanjo, said “some elder statesmen behave like touts,” only to also later called him out, saying, his utterances against the government were scaring investors, to a recent publication in the Punch newspaper of 24th October, 2021 by one writer with a byline Sonala Olumhense under a title “Who has Yemi Osinbajo become?”
What seems to be clear is that some people somewhere either familiar or unfamiliar are on a mission to turnaround what many regard, the Osinbajo’s outstanding reputation and rising profile now that the 2023 presidential race is gaining momentum
Let’s take the said article by Mr Olumhense bit by bit, we would find out that only a prejudiced person would not agree that the writer used a tar brush to paint the Vice President as black as midnight. This, of course, explains why the writer feels a rebuttal is needed from a government official as announced in his article against his conscious misrepresentation of one of the few most respected public officers in our current dispensation which began in 1999. No wonder the Good Book says in Matthew 13:35, “But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.”
To set the record straight, I am no government official neither am I one of the Vice President’s publicists, that is even if he ever has one. But should we all stand aloof and keep quiet when Osinbajo’s good name and long standing integrity are being dragged to the mud, soiled and dripping? Or we should fold our arms when we discover some wannabe writers were having a field day pushing some negative, overly fictitious narratives that were mis-representing the legacy of the administration he represents?
As a patriotic Nigerian who daily performs my civic responsibilities, I am morally bound to rise in his defense if someone savages Osinbajo unduly, particularly when the attacker decided to spread what is not more than a malicious gossip, and lends himself to such intemperate and sentimental opinion.
Sonala Olumhense kick-started his infamous write up by applauding the #EndSARS organizers for staging a successful protests across the country to mark the anniversary of the EndSARS protests of 2020.
In a country where emotion easily overrides logic, the writer having understood that fact quickly delved into the issue of the alleged Lekki toll gate shootings of protesters by the government to sell his narrative for public acceptance.
Hear him: “I commend the organisers of Wednesday’s anniversary of the historic #EndSARS protests of 2020.”
“The mass demonstrations against police brutality, which began as a social media campaign symbolically against the murderous Special Anti-Robbery Squad, gained widespread participation by Nigerians worldwide. The protests represented a campaign against the atrocious governance of the President, Major General General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) government.
“It is a sign of hope that despite the government’s shameful shooting of protesters last year, Nigerians ignored police threats this year to participate in the anniversary.”
That is a good way to start a campaign against the government especially if you want to play some smart games with emotion of the people. And do I really blame him?
Emotive approaches to the question of reasoning and syllogism are with us still, and so is the people’s unease on the fidelity of government. The Lekki toll gate controversy still remains a mystery and has divided analysts’ opinion into two radically contrasting extremes: An extremist demonization and emotive beautification. But that is another issue for another day.
ALSO READ: Osinbajo’s integrity and the rest of them
Now, Olumhense is a columnist with the Punch newspaper, and same Punch on March 31, 2021 published a news report with the headline: “Lekki shootings: Killings of #EndSARS protesters unverified, says US report.” It read: US Department of States says it could not verify if #EndSARS protesters were killed on October 20, 2020 at the Lekki tollgate.
“The US department made this known in a report tagged ‘2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Nigeria’.
“A copy of the report was obtained by our correspondent on Tuesday.
“The report said though soldiers fired ammunition into the air to disperse protesters, the number of fatalities could not be verified.”
But in Sonala Olumhense’s desperation to execute his hatchet job, the writer ignored the fact of the matter and even sank into deeper wound exposing himself as a member of the opposition party. I do not think he has the full glare of the creation of the #EndSARS protest due to his meddling of issues together by likening the campaign to something political.
“The protests represented a campaign against the atrocious governance of the President, Major General General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) government,” he wrote.
Who would educate him that the disbanded SARS unit of the Nigerian Police force was created in 1992 and had become notorious before the present government came in. If #EndSARS protest originally was to condemn Buhari government, then why was the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore stopped from joining the protests with his #RevolutionNow Campaign? And then, he misyearn again, “The youth made something else even clearer: that the betrayal of their 2015 votes by the Buhari government would not go unpunished.” With the US report’s findings, it is crystal clear that whatever is played up again about the #EndSARS protests is a mischief to give the government a bad name as it as even attended to most of the demands.
Only on October 21, 2021 same Punch carried a report with the headline, “#EndSARS panel compensation: Lagos pays N420m, NBA faults Akwa Ibom, Ogun, Oyo, Benue for shunning payments.” And these panels were constituted yielding to the counsel given by Vice President Osinbajo to ensure justice is done.
Yet, Olumhense still wrote: “It is that sense of conviction that made last week’s anniversary so pivotal because one year later, things are far worse: governance is far more pathetic, and the country is on the verge of disintegration.” Worse in what sense? After Lagos alone has paid victims N420m compensation?
Besides, was it not the same 2015 election that the then sitting president Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat even before the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC officially announced the result when it was evident to the whole world that Mr Buhari of APC was clearly in unassailable lead.
If this isn’t confusion, then I don’t know what it is. When an argument is based on sheer ignorance. It is the funniest and most ridiculous slip to make in a debate.
The columnist did not stop there, here are the highlights of his wonky essay: “But how did the government prepare to demonstrate its response? It sent to London—not Enugu, not Ogbomoso, not Kano, and not Maiduguri—Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, armed with the ‘good’ news.”
The writer feeds its prejudice by now referencing the Vice President’s comment during an interactive session with top officials of the Nigerian High Commission in London.
He wrote: “Here was Osinbajo’s sermon: “[Buhari] is
possibly the most popular Nigerian politician that we ever [sic] had in generations…possibly the only person who can go into a place or somewhere without bossing people to gather and they will come and listen to him speak.”
“We need that level of credibility to be able to solve problems in our country. And I think because of his level of credibility, despite everything, he is still the only one that can call everyone, and even people who do not necessarily agree with him know that he is a man of his words.”
Olumhense, while reacting to the above speech of the Vice President in his own unproven allegement had this to say,
“Every Nigerian, especially Buhari’s supporters, knows that to claim he is credible and popular is worse than a joke: it is a crime. That is why it can only be committed in front of people who are programmed to nod their heads.”
“Buhari is credible and popular? Where, exactly.”
Fame rides on the crest of credibility and the genuineness of the personality that wears it. President Muhammudu Buhari has a huge followership in the country especially in the North and his deputy was only stating the obvious.
So the question to ask is: Is President Buhari the most popular politician in Nigeria? The answer is Yes. What made him so popular? His Integrity, genuineness, spartan and stainless lifestyle and the passion for the masses. (This has been made manifest through many of the various social intervention programmes under his government which is the biggest in Africa).
Has this changed? So far it hasn’t.
He continued again, “What accomplishment has he: a credible speech on his own? Can he be accused of remembering something he ever said, such as an electoral promise?…
“Did Buhari triumph over Boko Haram and we failed to notice? Are not Nigeria’s federal roads and rail and forests and farms overrun by criminals as security has collapsed in his hands?
“The longer Buhari has stayed in office, the longer has Nigeria’s list of woes grown. He may be president, but militancy, insurgency, secessionism, banditry, and violent cattle-herders now run the country. Nigeria was corrupt before and Buhari’s cabinet is the nation’s filthiest since October 1960, but so routine is corruption now that Buhari holds photo celebrations in Aso Rock to welcome recruits of the most corrupt politicians from other parties. This is “credibility”?
…”If Osinbajo said anything of value in London, it is that we are better off as one nation. Paradoxically, the Buhari he praises has actively worked against that prospect for over six years.”
Reading between the lines, Olumhense threw caution to the winds in what appeared to be a lopsided and biased appraisal of the government. His write up identified a person, the Vice President, and took a stand against him. Preposterous thinking.
It is amazing how the writer betrayed his conscience by harping only on the tempestuous side of our present challenges but failed to acknowledge even a few of salient developmental projects under this Buhari-Osinbajo government.
What about the massive train revolution, the social infrastructural development and government response to economic issues and the alleviation of threats to Nigerian economy? Why was there no mention of the various intervention programmes most especially the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) designed by the Osinbajo-Ied committee that has helped mitigate the economic challenges and the fallout of the 2020 pandemic? Why was the news of the recent 5% increase in our GDP found missing is his report?
With the obvious plunge in the sale of crude oil which is our major source of revenue and having endured a pandemic, this Buhari-Osinbajo administration in 6 years has out-performed previous administrations that could only watch as our infrastructure got decayed and rotten, even, with excess funds made in local and foreign currencies under them.
The rail system is expediting revival, the second Niger bridge has reached about 60% completion. Works are ongoing in some major highways and the Lagos/Calabar rail line has been approved. Even the blind can see certain things but not Sonala Olumhense. This is credibility. President Buhari vilified and coloured bad among the Southern Nigeria people, not too long ago travelled down to Lagos State to commission the $1.5 billion 157-kilometre Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway project for full commercial activities in Lagos, at the South-West Nigeria he is being slandered by the tribalistic opposition.
He explained that from the beginning of his administration, railway infrastructure development has been given the priority it deserves and various milestones have been reached.
Buhari said: “This vital line establishes an end-to-end logistic supply chain in railway transport within its short corridor, Lagos-Ibadan, as goods to the hinterland would now be transported by rail directly from the Apapa port Quayside straight to the Inland Container Depot located in Ibadan from where it can be distributed to other parts of the country,” Buhari said.
“We have in the rail sector, further to other ongoing railway infrastructure projects, embarked on the completion of the outstanding segment of the Lagos-Kano railway, which is Ibadan-Kano.
“The Lagos-Kano railway project, when completed, will link the Kano-Maradi line at Kano and a rail link from the Nigeria southern ports of Lagos to Maradi in the Niger Republic.”
He left with a promise to return to Lagos for the commissioning of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway already nearing completion, but which was haphazardly handled all through the the 16 years of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) representatives in Aso Rock, who produced two past presidents from Southern Nigeria where all these projects are located, but which were neglected under them.
Just last week, I stumbled upon a post on Facebook where analysis was made about an unverified report alleging that about 10 years ago, a group of investors had offered Nigeria a $10 billion investment to resuscitate our rail sector eliminating the option of loan in the deal. The package which allegedly included four Express Train services between Lagos and Abuja, Abuja and Port Harcourt to Lagos failed to materialize because it was the era of stealing and corruption.
Do I need to remind Olumhense about the extent of the corrupt and sharp practices the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said were perpetuated under the past Goodluck Jonathan administration? From only one of the numerous cabinet members, a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, the EFCC boss, Abdulrasheed Bawa, said its organisation recovered ill-gotten $153 million and over 80 properties worth about $80 million. This is not about arguing for or against any government, and not a political issues, it is the facts being highlighted.
Shall we talk about the cost of Alison-Madueke’s diamond-studded bra and golden pen bought from the misappropriated taxpayers funds which Olumhense is aware of. Corrupt public officials then were said to have demanded upfront bribes and shares. That is the difference between what used to be obtainable and our present reality. This is the credibility the Nigerian Vice President was referencing about his principal, President Buhari.
• Popoola is a political analyst, content analyser and news aggregator