by Akin Osuntokun
I was once a fan of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. They don’t come to office better prepared. And he lived up to the billing. And then he did not, and then he did…..
Enthused the BBC: “A former law professor, the vice-president comes across as quiet, unassuming and hardworking. But he is an eloquent and jovial person, who is usually seen with a smile on his face. Last year when Mr. Buhari went on medical leave, his deputy took some far-reaching economic measures to prop up the country’s currency, the naira. There was a scarcity of US dollars at the time, which is needed by importers. So he asked the Central Bank to inject millions of dollars into the market to help stabilise the naira on the foreign-exchange market.”
Unlike the BBC, my admiration of him is not infinite. And the departure point for me was his escalating penchant for the gross exaggeration and delusory self-celebration of the embarrassingly below par achievements of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. He has this provocative way of stretching and embellishing facts and sometimes given to outright falsification especially when he seeks to paint a contrast with their hapless predecessor. The penchant is particularly galling when the overwhelming evidence indicates that the Buhari regime fares no better or fares worse in key performance indicators. There should be a limit of the extent to which character excess-(such as proclivity for demonisation and lies against another regime) is deemed tolerable in a Vice President who wears his elevated Christianity status as a badge of moral authority.
The joke is of course on his principal whose routine and regular absence from his desk has become a study in how poorly he compares to the governance performance standard of his deputy. Little wonder at the contemporary Nigerian quirk of wishing and hoping for more frequent and longer absences of the President as a panacea for the order and good governance of Nigeria. The case is even more pathetic when it is realised that Osinbajo himself is no leadership rock star but then Nigeria doesn’t need superlative leadership to get going.
The BBC case against Buhari continues: “The previous week, Osinbajo took the huge step of sacking the controversial head of Nigeria’s spy agency after a siege of parliament by men in masks, who turned out to be operatives from the Nigerian equivalent of the FBI. Critics have long wondered why President Buhari, who appointed him, has failed to take action against Mr. Daura. By contrast Mr. Osinbajo did not delay. He took the figurative bull by the horns, calling Mr. Daura’s actions ‘unacceptable’ and “a gross violation of constitutional order, rule of law and all accepted notions of law and order.”
Yet gratifying as the Osinbajo regency is, there really is nothing extraordinary about his rescue mission interlude-the celebration of which would have caused consternation and wonder in any country with less poor governance standards. The major extrapolation from this interlude is the utility of serving to underscore how untenable Buhari’s leadership and bid for second term has become. Of equal essence is how the interlude has highlighted the obstructionist and cog in the wheel negative potential of the President for the prospects of Nigeria.
Would Osinbajo, for instance, have handled the gangster collusion of the Nigerian police in the orchestrated brigandage of seven Benue state house of assembly members purporting to suspend twenty two other members (and serving notice of impeachment on the governor), in the manner his principal did? Would a President who saw nothing wrong in this build-up be roused to moral indignation and commensurate action at the additional consummation of the trend towards fascist subversion of the culture of the rule of law?
Bear in mind that the Benue State outrage was the immediate backdrop to the departure of Buhari for another mysterious trip to London-prompting the pertinent question, what was his response to the outrage? The response came in a formal statement that was a remarkable exercise in escapism, mockery and abdication. The President chose that moment to rub in the dysfunction of Nigerian federalism-which, in his understanding, precludes him from intervention in state matters and that those of us finding fault in his inaction (tacit connivance) should be advised accordingly.
From this typical precedent-of willfully looking the other way when confronted with grave and fraught national situations (or when French President Emmanuel Macron begins to talk about the Fulani militia crisis); and a penchant for affecting authority helplessness when his goons run riot, the logical presumption is that Malam Lawal Daura would still remain untouchable at his SSS post daring his boss to rein him in. Was he not in the habit of writing to countermand the recommendations of the President to the National assembly? And then Mr Osinbajo would be required, once again, to clean up the mess with ponderous professorial logic and the unfailing distraction spell of pressing Goodluck Jonathan to service. And since the Nigerian public has an insatiable appetite for dirt on the previous dispensation, no concoction is too salacious to savor and none too questionable to accept.
Here is a typical scandal mongering by the master interlocutor himself-meticulously calculated and calibrated at inducing the imagination to run riot “In one single transaction, a few weeks to the 2015 elections, sums of N100billion and $295million were just frittered away by a few… Corruption that completely makes nonsense of even what you are allocating to capital projects. We saw from the presentation of the minister of finance that N14 billion was spent on agriculture in 2014, transportation N15 billion, so the total spent on infrastructure in those three years were N153 billion and in two weeks before the elections, N150 billion was essentially shared. So, if your total infrastructure spending is N150 billion and you can share N153 billion, that is completely incredible.’
To keep the trademark culture of sham self-righteousness alive and burning, President Buhari returned from London last week and unloaded with a characteristic whooper ‘most Nigerians are expecting that we are going to jail more of the thieves that brought economic problem to the country. I think that is being expected of me and I will do it’.
Uttered at his inauguration on May 29, 2015 and against the background of overblown reputation for integrity, this fanciful claim of patent rights to anti-corruption might have a ring of reality to it. By the equal measure of his real time performance and body language on corruption (since 2015) such chest thumping bragging rings totally hollow and ridiculous but consistent with a governance profile of being long on deceit and falsehood and falling critically short on truth and integrity.
And we don’t need to look far to illustrate the point. A most conspicuous and proximate example-of action speaking louder than rhetoric, was provided by the President himself. It is the story of Buhari and Akpabio. It is the story of how the Presidency of the former have been hawking absolutions at the point of conversion from the opposition party faith to the new faith of the Buhari writ large APC. Is there a consistent and logical thread between prioritising Akpabio as your VIP guest (all the way to London) and then arriving a few days hence to Nigeria with a renewed mission statement of jailing looters?
The common position of all the stakeholders at the governorship elections in Ondo and Ekiti states is the redefinition of elections as bidding rounds of political stock exchange in which the highest bidder prevails. And as we are condemned to accept-those bidding rounds went to APC. As a student of political science including course 202 on political\electoral behaviour and culture, I get inevitably confronted with the question-is there a positive correlation between the heightening of public service corruption and the intensification of the culture of purchasing elections? Is it plausible for a genuine anti-corruption dispensation to be accompanied by the escalation of the culture of ‘it is a matter of cash’?
Just when you think the political degradation can’t get worse, then it all bottoms out-when people who look like you and I and used to behave like the average omoluabi suddenly snap and run awry. It is difficult for me to project the contemporary Governor Abiola Ajimobi from the same personality I encountered at close proximity a few years ago. At the burial ceremony of Chief Omowale Kuye, I suddenly found myself at the centre of a commotion while trying to exit the crowded hall. I was surprised to discover that the commotion centred on me. Feeling embarrassingly self-conscious, I looked around to discern what the fuss was all about. Without fully realising how I got there I discovered I was standing right in the path of Mrs. Ajimobi followed by her Governor husband and their offended entourage. The couple calmly took the situation in their strides and ensured that overzealous security aides got the message. Even though I did not deliberately obstruct them, their mature disposition roused respect and obligation to apologise in me.
How do I reconcile this display of high culture, noblesse oblige, with a Governor who subsequently got convinced that the best legacy he could bequeath to Ibadan tradition was the desecration and subversion of a traditional institution that has served the proud ancient Yoruba military sanctuary city rather well. Why fix it, if it ain’t broke? The personality free fall continued with the unconscionable, loud and distasteful display of classless opulence at the wedding festival staged for their son in the midst of grinding mass poverty in Oyo State (the consciousness of which poverty should be the topmost guide to the conduct of an elected chief public servant). And the moral regression proceeded with the mean spirited gubernatorial hooliganism of a preemptive demolition of an iconic monument; a symbolic testimony to the indomitable spirit of mankind to rise and triumph over physical and psychological limitation. I am quite familiar with the history of this worthy object of Ajimobi’s depraved fury and no one similarly familiar with the location can surmise any public extenuation of the governor’s act of brigandage; a deliberate megalomaniac act of first selecting a target and thereafter shop for reasons to demolish it.
- This piece was written by Akin Osuntokun/Thisday