Osinbajo: Discretion is the better part of valour
There is always presumed to be a limit to what a self-respecting public personage may allow himself to be subjected to even within the nebulous strictures of a new generational meaning of decency and of conduct deemed to be socially acceptable. Co-terminously, there is supposed to be a limit regarding how much indignity maybe unleashed on a public figure. Either way, the officeholder is not deemed to have surrendered his sense of self-worth simply because he is holding a public office at the behest of some inordinately permissive aide memoire or constitution. The public officer’s motto or credo is supposed to be noblesse oblige even as he acknowledges that rank imposes obligations.
The ironic imprint of a saint among rascals stares us glumly in the face. Se ooto ni? we query in utter disbelief. The characters in this play of up turned wits speak or use words which mean one thing to them but have foreboding meaning to those of us who are the victims of their double-speak. The office of the Vice President though projected by the grundnorm to be sinecure or an office without work, the occupier is expected to make sense of his vague instruction in the performance of his “boy-boy” chores. Like other “spare tyre” executive positions under the constitution, the office of the Vice President of Nigeria typifies the letter and spirit of a contraption designed to be the Achilles’ heel of the engine of government.
Vice President Oluyemi Osinbajo, a professor of Law, is curiously imagined as peripherally steeped in the foray and affray of politics and of politicians. Some even deem him a political neophyte or a lamb. For good measure, his position on a number of sticky national issues has given his opponents a debating point. Many from his region say they have not heard of so gross a case of abandonment of constituency and of its catechism or ruling ethic as Osinbajo is guilty of. They cannot understand how the Vice President can be game for every item under public discussion except the desideratum of the political restructuring of Nigeria. Osinbajo has intolerantly held that the search for the mechanics of devising the modus for the ease of doing business in Nigeria is superior to popular clamour for the establishment of the basis for the practice of true federalism.
This Osinbajoesque has put the proponent of the hypothesis at a tremendous dis-advantage not only among his constituents but also among all those who before now had thought of him as a new breed politician. His hitherto extraordinary personal popularity or charm has tragically waned. Osinbajo’s new-found demeanour, especially in these days of insouciant official denial or betrayal of confidences regarding promises made in the full glare of the public, bespeaks a disconnect between him and the people’s ethos. To whom may one go if not his people when in trouble? Osinbajo requires to discharge this load of raging discontent before he can do his full duty to his country, his constituency and his friends – in a descending scale. The whole question dissolves itself chiefly into “how will the people feel?” The people remain the chief judge of the situation. They cannot be ignored, lied to or otherwise dismissed without grave consequences.
This writer recognises the damage done a public officer’s reputation by mere discussion of issues about him in the absence of cold facts. It is however not courage or discretion but despicable cowardice for the office holder to deny his constituency that loves him so dearly the protection of their cherished values, their untainted world-view or the furthering of their hopes even in a pantheon of competing world-views. Further, it is gratuitous not to put them in the true picture of things. Osinbajo has wittingly or unwittingly touched the raw nerve of his people by denying their desire and denigrating their agenda as tangential to the resolution of the national question. For almost two years now, the Vice President has borne his fate alone and privately. The anguish and bitterness of opposing forces are gathering and sweeping away an avalanche of hope and promise for the future even as his foes deem his cup to be full indeed.
There is truly no self-made man. Every man is the work of another’s hand. Osinbajo is the outcome of the work of his constituency and his social relations. The mental habits, the temperament and disposition of his mentors must go too deep for facile alteration or for cavalier erasure by his own conduct or carriage. A supposed scion of the Awolowo political family (he is actually a member only by extension of the logic of family or filial ties), Osinbajo’s seemingly comfortable company with muckrakers, blackmailers, scandal mongers, scoundrels or “nattering nabobs of negativism” is denying of the Awo no-nonsense culture or his irrepressible nature of denouncing cant or insincere display of moral or religious principles. Faced with the circumstances of Osinbajo’s plight, Awo would have surrendered his immunity or amuniti, met his detractors man-to-man in the adjudicatory sphere, and allowed the most robust discussion or interrogation of the issues for the purpose of laying bare the contrived conundrum. Some reason the travails of Osinbajo as an opportunity to sap strength off a probable intention to run for the nation’s most coveted office. The prompt and emphatic action of Osinbajo should have a wonderful mollifying effect.
Many may have reached the conclusion that there is no possible relief for the embattled Vice President. They are probably correct given the no-break intensity of the assaults on his office and person. Even as justice is canvassed to be the first condition of humanity and the right to associate with all manner of men and women a canon of our grundnorm, noblesseoblige will continue to interpret as a desirable social virtue particularly in a pervasive situation of objective tension and of a rudderless or desultory leadership. We are often encouraged not to be equally yoked with them whose aim or purpose is at dismal variance to our own terms and to our faith in the centrality of justice in the affairs of men. Our expertise, our skill and our honed hands-on experience may only be rightfully deployed for the redeeming fortune of a society that ignorantly seeks refuge in or is content with meretricious gains of shifting compromises they are not for propping a rickety or rickshaw palanquin.
The artist, the social critic, the scholar (all of them endangered species) must be acutely aware of their premier position in society which position renders them open to be courted, used and discarded by usurpers of state power. They are not loved but merely endured. Osinbajo has been endured this long. Time up!
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