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Yemi Osinbajo: To be or not to be

By Alade Rotimi-John
20 April 2022   |   3:06 am
The proverbial inhibiting or restraining character of legal education, the unquestioning acceptance of the received principles of the past and a disastrous lack of political instincts

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/YEMI OSINBAJO/SCREENGRAB

The proverbial inhibiting or restraining character of legal education, the unquestioning acceptance of the received principles of the past and a disastrous lack of political instincts have all combined to conduce to the present palpable state of confusion and anxiety regarding the reported ambition of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to run for the office of President.

A studious Professor of Law, Osinbajo is imbued with the spirit and “progressiveness” of the nominally progressive party of which he is a chieftain. For sure, he is a little responsive to the creative findings of the present in spite of his cultivation of a mind possessing unusual power. It has been curiously difficult to discern the true position of Osinbajo in the light of conflicting and confusing information on a matter that ordinarily ought to be unequivocally expressed.

A usually simple or straightforward person, Osinbajo is fast learning and manifesting the wiles of politicians. In the past one week or so an inexplicable controversy has arisen regarding a finely-scripted speech-like promotional material espousing some of the virtues of Osinbajo and offering his skills and prowess for consideration as first, the candidate of his party and, going forward, President of Nigeria. Hardly had the din of this otherwise cheering piece of news abated than a cheeky, cheerless rebuttal of the earlier position surfaced in the new media and in the usually-reliable mainstream media. What however was not canvassed or denied was whether the two pieces were from the same stable. It will appear that there are at least two camps in the Osinbajo muffled presidential ambition. One side is presumably goading him to run even as another is studiously weighing the moral, psychological and empirical costs of such a venture.

Regarding the 2023 presidential election, the campaign of aspirants from the South-west geo-political zone to contest as candidates of their parties appears doomed from the beginning and they ought to know it. Long into the reasoned formulation of the zoning template, an aura of granite-like integrity had settled in on the people of the South-west zone or, for that matter, the leadership of its socio-political ruling ethic. No endorsement of Tinubu or of any South-west candidate by Afenifere, no tribute to the humanity or scholarship of Osinbajo by cheering civil society organisation and no characterisation of Olufunmilade as a progressive by those who yearn for an era of progressive, orderly development of Nigeria can alter this central fact: the Nigerian federation is skewed to the detriment of truly progressive elements or of progressivism. The country is irreparably split on every important issue of its governance – restructuring, fiscal federalism, insecurity, local government establishment, state police etc. A wise and sensitive leadership would have held the country together. For more than that, one may have hoped in vain, particularly under this government.

To compound Nigeria’s difficulties, Buhari has proved a singularly ineffective head of government. He has demurred on a number of critical or strategic options for straightening up things. He deferred the re-organisation of important institutions of the state; has been slow to set up military division headquarters for combating banditry in the North-west and, has turned a blind eye to Fulani herdsmen’s savage attacks on sleepy communities. He has insisted on being the one to hold the office of the Minister of Petroleum by himself in the face of his knowledge only of an analogue template even as revenue from petroleum is the mainstay of the country’s economy. One cannot think of what was done or what was not done without indignation or contempt. Not even the rag-tag National Party of Nigeria (NPN) of the second republic dishonour ran a more flabby and dissonant administration. Seven years into the reign of Buhari’s party, governance is in chaos. Nothing tangible has been achieved as everything is upside down.

It is against this background that we approach 2023 with all its projected incidents of fear, anxiety and confusion. Reports are rife regarding rampant restiveness among the general populace. Buhari has refused to denounce the rampaging Fulani herdsmen; has tarried to refer to so-called bandits by their proper name; has remained unbothered by the steady rising of the standards of ethnic and religious prejudices. He has, in fact, promoted the invidious policy of making ethnic origins or religious beliefs the test of fitness for public office. Strident repudiation of the Buhari’s slovenliness by Buhari’s men regarding these charges has failed to satisfy even ardent Buharists who had earlier on in 2015 swore he was the answer to Nigeria’s convoluted socio-political and economic problems. They have now identified Buhari’s methods as the manifestation of a thoroughly choreographed or well-rehearsed approach to the now amplified ethnic or geo-social problem. It is difficult to imagine how far those who are angling for Nigeria’s topmost political office are prepared to go. Shorn of Afenifere’s principled position that the rotation or zoning practice be allowed to run its full or ordained course and of the unfitness of aspirants from the South-west, the present climate of rudderlessness and upbeat bigotry does not favour the participation by persons who possess some sense of self-apprehended self-worth.

The general atmosphere is not helped by an unfortunate pervasive absence, on the part of those seeking the people’s mandate, of conviction respecting the vaunted resolution of key issues of the Nigerian question. Pusillanimity or timidity to take a position that is opposed to the status quo has exposed many aspirants as weak-kneed and unable to confront the dreadful dimension of Nigeria’s socio-economic and political bugbear. Even as the agenda for the 2023 elections appear tailor-made and has presented itself plainly, the politicians are filibustering – playing with words whose ordinary meanings are clear and unambiguous. Restructuring, for instance, has assumed a strange understanding in a mischievous attempt to hide under a finger.

The office of the Vice President which Professor Yemi Osinbajo occupies at the moment with its larger strengths and obvious weaknesses may have helped the Vice President to identify the chasm between Law and the dynamic force of politics, morality. Industry or hard work. The conservative character of the performance of lawyers in public office is glaringly reflective of the influence of powerful brokers or of their godfather appointors than of Holmes’ disdainful view of law as containing “only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics”. Many lawyers in public office display a great sense of immediate utility and less of the requirement for posterity or the demands of an enduring legacy or heritage. They are eager to get what they can and to, for instance, “win” their cases. Or what does one make of Osinbajo’s pledge to continue with the “legacies” of Buhari if he is given the chance to succeed him? This is not only laughable, it is disdainful of or insensitive to the people’s sorry plight under Buhari. What is there to pursue in Buhari’s tenure of desultoriness, unfulfilled promises and outright denigration of the people’s mandate? Nigerians are truly fed up with the Buhari administration and cannot wait for it to run down its time. They are anxious for it to depart and for its policies obliterated from the books and their memory. That is the government whose policies and programmes Osinbajo wants to continue.

One commentator has insightfully suggested that it is more real for Osinbajo to continue to live his ambition in the realm of conjectures or of suspended animation instead of a false or faltering stepping out into the autumn season.

Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs wrote vide lawgravitas@gmail.com