OPINION: Osinbajo Unlike the Biblical Daniel By Shaka Momodu

Of late, the Pharisee called Professor Yemi Osinbajo has been on a roll with his scalding attacks on the immediate-past government. Many are wondering if his pleasant posture when he was the acting president was an adopted persona for personal political gain. Now, as the 2019 election approaches with all its permutations, amid the failure of his party to deliver on its electoral promises, his attacks have grown in intensity. He wants to be seen as some sort of hero and the personification of virtue and ethics for a new Nigeria. But he is not.

He was perhaps also eager to impress his principal – and the world to believe this government is transparent, prudent and abhors corruption. Osinbajo has become the new messenger of a message stymied by its own apostle. He wants everyone to believe he is tough. Unfortunately, the reality also is that he is not. The truth is that our vice-president is a spineless professor.

His pastoral calling and erudition, he had reckoned, would sway his audience as he breathlessly recounted in public events how the previous government stole the nation blind. But his sanctimonious posture about the saint-like character of the Buhari government is undermined by the public evidence of malfeasance going on under their watch. To be honest, Osinbajo initially projected a patina of professionalism in a motley crowd of confused politicians and earned some public applause and praise as the elixir in the mix.

His populist visits to airports, markets and filling stations, even though were publicity stunts, were refreshing and momentarily soothing to the feel, as cosmetic as they were to the underlying problems of mismanagement and the lack of maintenance. But all that seems to have given way, revealing a less-than-noble image of a man too imbued with his own self-righteousness. His jubilant regurgitation of huge amounts of money stolen by others while ignoring the loud evidence against his own party men is a telling testament to the fact that the so-called man of God is not a man of truth. I had been reluctant to call him out on his actions, because of his peculiar circumstances and out of respect for his pastoral calling. But his hypocrisy was getting bigger by the day.

How did things get to this point?

Well, there is a proverb in the land of my fathers that when an otherwise intelligent person mixes with too many clowns, over time, it will become difficult to differentiate one from the other. Osinbajo makes the truth messy in his quest to label others. If he was not ashamed of the two partisan looters’ lists his government released recently, then I make bold to say Osinbajo cannot be trusted as a fair arbiter of truth. And when next he stands on the pulpit preaching the word of God, I will flee the venue. Remember, the Bible warns us to be careful that towards the end, many false prophets will come and will perform miracles in God’s name.

His recent public outings appeared deliberately and desperately designed to shore up the sagging image of his party and its narrative. And to achieve this, Osinbajo deployed pointed hyperboles and pathetic hypocrisies to drive home his message of “they are corrupt, we are clean”. The irony here is that those still on trial over humongous looting of the treasury but switched from the “party of the corrupt, the PDP to the party of the saint, the APC”, were suddenly given the deodorant treatment. In Osinbajo’s world of dual morality, these ex-sinners are not looters and their loot cannot be used to build schools, hospitals, provide potable drinking water and construct roads, build bridges etc. As the Americans would say, gimme a break!

If people were easily taken in by a bait-and-switch campaign in 2015 to get the APC elected, I can assure Osinbajo that he has to try harder this time around. Why? Because the supposedly penniless man of integrity (was he really penniless in the first place?) who was trusted to right all the wrongs has proved to be a total disappointment on all fronts. The man has surrounded himself with the putative culprits of the system who are still offending. Osinbajo’s pastoral morality which had served as a cover for hypocrisy would fail.

Ordinarily, Osinbajo is a man who would have been after my own heart. He approximates Nigeria’s new-breed leaders many yearn for. But he appears to have been sucked into the old ways of doing things by his long association with his godfather; unlike the biblical Daniel who when he found himself in a similar situation, displayed an excellent spirit (Daniel 1:8). Osinbajo lacks the critical distance needed from the past because he is inextricably tied to the apron strings of Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State. Until Tinubu’s regime is probed (I am waiting patiently for that day) for a full accounting and he (Osinbajo) emerges unscathed, I will be reluctant to roll out the red carpet for him. For those who don’t know, Osinbajo served as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice for eight years when Tinubu held sway as the governor of Lagos State.

Even more crucial to my grouse about Osinbajo is that he lacks the gumption of a leader and a redeemer he postures to be. He failed the leadership test when under his watch as the acting president, a coalition of northern groups, Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, issued a reckless six-month ultimatum to people of Igbo extraction living in the North to vacate the region before October 1, 2017. What did he do? Nothing! In short, for a long time, he failed to make any comment on the issue. When he finally did, he was appeasing, pleading and making general statements about the need for unity. That single incident injured my estimation and respect for the vice-president.

I expected him to order the immediate arrest of those who issued that statement to send a powerful deterrent message to narrow ethnic agitators in the country that he would not tolerate their challenge. He would have acted against those folks with the full arsenal of the coercive force of the state and the heavens would not have fallen. Having seen that the acting president lacked the ability to enforce and deter, the guys who issued the ultimatum started to stroll about the country unhindered. If they were testing Osinbajo’s will to act, they clearly won.

I don’t know if members of the Buhari cabinet think highly of him either. If they do, then it certainly didn’t look that way when he was the acting president. Remember how the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, casually dismissed Osinbajo’s endorsement of the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu’s continuous stay as the anti-graft agency’s helmsman, as his personal opinion? Because according to him, “The fundamental consideration about the alleged statement is the fact that at no point ever did the Federal Executive Council sit down to arrive at the decision in one way or the other as far as the issue of nomination or otherwise is concerned.”

When Osinbajo was the acting president, a large chunk of the $25 billion contracts were awarded by the GMD of NNPC, Maikanti Baru without going through due process, nor was the approval of the board obtained. It is a measure of how “highly” top officials of this government regard him that even while presidential authority had been transferred to him as the “coordinator”, Baru would sneak out of town to take contract papers to Buhari who was at the time marooned in a London hospital to sign.

Osinbajo has so far failed to utter any statement of condemnation (until this week’s killings in Benue) of terrorist-Fulani herdsmen as they continue the mindless killing of innocent people all over the country. I don’t know how this man-of-God pastor sleeps at night knowing that the elected government he serves in as the number two is a government that attaches more value to the lives of cows than that of humans. I hope one day when he returns to the pulpit to preach the word of God, he will not have cows as his congregation. Remember the Benue State government had accused him of failing to act when as the acting president, the state government alerted him of a plot by terrorist-Fulani herdsmen to unleash violence on some communities in the state. He however denied he was notified.

Sometime last year, Osinbajo in his attempt to impress his boss amid the groundswell of agitation for the restructuring of the country, derided those protesting against their marginalisation by this government. This was how he put it: “It is also not true that those who make marginalisation charges are altruistic. Often what they are saying is I am marginalised, appoint me.”

I was shocked to the marrow by that statement. Really, I asked myself, how can the cry of maginalisation caused by the deliberate policies of this government and the subsequent clamour for restructuring of the country to make it work better, suddenly translate to seeking appointment from this government. What an insult from Pastor Osinbajo! Is this what small power does to even men of God? Why was he so willing to stake his reputation on another man’s conscience?

We saw this before in 2015. Babatunde Fashola, the then governor of Lagos State was all over the place campaigning for Buhari. He lured many to believe the many lies told about the leadership prowess of Buhari to deliver. Today as a minister, Fashola has lost his voice and credibility. Shortly after he handed over power in Lagos, he was found to have misused public money on an industrial scale – including inflated contracts to dig two boreholes for a whopping sum of N139 million, upgrade of his personal website for N78.3 million, and sundry malfeasance. Osinbajo is treading the same path as the new poster boy of 2019 to re-elect Buhari even in the face of his glaring failure. He is desperately blaming others for Buhari’s colossal failure. He has so far failed to tell Nigerians what Buhari has achieved in three years to deserve a second term other than to say the previous government stole this and that amount.

Now to the very critical point: By now everybody knows the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) looted public treasury to finance the 2015 election. Osinbajo has repeatedly stated this much in his public statements. But what Osinbajo has not ventured to tell the public is how the All Progressives Congress (APC) raised money to finance the 2015 campaign. Charity they say begins at home. If Pastor Osinbajo wanted to succeed in his campaign against corruption, he should have started the cleansing with his party and then apply the same standards to all others.

Only recently, the INEC admitted the Edo and Ondo governorship elections were heavily corrupted and that victory went to the highest bidder. Need I remind Osinbajo that his party, the APC, won the elections? The question is, where did the money used to procure the mandates come from? A man who runs from the truth will eventually find out he’s got no place to go.

Oh, I just remembered. Someone whispered to me that Osinbajo may have prayed and fasted for seven days, thereafter, the heavens opened and money in different currencies, particularly the U.S dollar and British pounds poured forth and filled Osinbajo’s house – and this was used to finance Buhari’s election and the APC’s wins in the two states.

Not long after his unfortunate job-seeking remark, Osinbajo declared that Buhari’s appointments were in favour of the South. It was one more instance when our so-called man of God stood facts on their heads. In case he did not know, the heads of the entire national security positions in this country are under the firm control of one ethnic group.

Now, let’s imagine for a moment that Osinbajo was not a part of this government; would he have muttered all this nonsense? I guess not! One last word for the pastor vice president, no man has ever succeeded in separating himself from his shadow.

 

The Republic by Shaka Momodu first appeared on Thisday Newspapers.

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