I am delighted that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has entered the fray for the presidential ticket of the APC. His candidature presents the potential for some answers Nigerian democracy desperately needs.
Two decades ago, Professor Osinbajo served in the government of one Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the current National Leader of APC who is also running for the ticket. Some of the children who were born at that time may vote for the first time in 2023.
Of course, we only hope there will be an election. I doubt that even the Vice-President believes there will be one: the most significant achievement of his administration is that Nigeria has descended into the category of the unsafe and insecure. Of course, should he emerge the APC candidate, he will campaign safely in an official government bubble despite its being an unofficial activity, but everyone knows that for voters and election officials, the challenge will be different.
And that is the principal problem which confronts Osinbajo: his candidature is trapped between ridiculous and incredulous. In his declaration, he claims to have thoroughly known Nigerians in the past seven years, having travelled widely and been with most of them.
“I stood where they stood and sat where they sat,” adding, “I believe that the very reason why the Almighty God gave me these experiences, these insights, and these opportunities, is that they must be put to the use of our country and it’s great peoples.”
I will not challenge Osinbajo’s faith; that is between him and God. But I will confront his presumptuousness and arrogance. His government worked to make Nigeria increasingly unlivable.
He anchors his presidential quest on Buhari, a man he describes as “a true Nigerian patriot, a servant of the nation in war and peace, and a man of integrity,” and positions his effort as being to “complete what we have started.”
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But of which nation is Buhari a patriot? Perhaps Niger, which he does not hesitate to serve, or the United Kingdom, where he enjoys squandering Nigeria’s scarce resources on himself? Certainly not Nigeria, where he is a remorseless nepotist who pens obituary and birthday messages in place of statecraft.
A patriot is a man who makes sacrifices for his country ahead of himself and would give his all for her. Buhari is no such animal.
Integrity? It is not claiming to be something that makes you that thing: it is being so much of that thing that everyone identifies you as being that. You cannot be honest and hypocritical at the same time, and Buhari is a hypocrite.
A man of integrity is a man of his word, but the past seven years prove that Buhari is a man of many words but not of his word. A man of integrity is one who is not afraid to hold out his hands so people can see he has neither blood nor fecal matter on them. He is one who is not afraid to open his front door to demonstrate that he has nothing to hide.
How did Buhari reward Nigerians for buying his propaganda about how he would combat corruption? The moment he got into office, not only did he “cleverly” refuse to declare his assets publicly, but he also began to assemble around him the nation’s most corrupt men and women.
“As far as the constitution allows me, I will try to ensure that there is responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country,” he had promised at his inauguration. “For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.”
It was startlingly untrue: He ducked the public disclosure of his assets, ducked compelling his ministers to publicly disclose theirs, ducked his ‘First 100 days’ promises, and scandalously ducked naming the nation’s top kleptocrats as he had promised. And that is how Nigeria commenced its descent into ungovernable, the world’s poorest and hungriest, with death and distress everywhere.
Integrity? The Fifth Schedule of the constitution affirms that a public officer shall not ask for or accept property or benefits of any kind for himself, stating that “the receipt by a public officer of any gifts or benefits from commercial firms, business enterprises or persons who have contracts with the government shall be presumed to have been received in contravention of the said sub-paragraph unless the contrary is proved.”
And yet, within weeks of taking office in 2015, Breaking Times, an Abuja newspaper, fearlessly identified the new Nigeria leader as the owner of a lake front N2.1 billion mansion in Asokoro, near Aso Rock, providing lavish pictures of activities at the property. The report was neither denied nor was the newspaper sued.
Similarly, in 2018, Buhari accepted a N45m gift from a shadowy organisation called the Nigeria Consolidation Ambassadors Network (NCAN), which paid for his APC presidential primaries forms. NCAN then conveniently—and triumphantly—disappeared into the shadows.
In other words, Buhari indicated he was open to presidential gift-receiving, contrary to the constitution. How do we know what else he has collected in the past seven years, and from whom? Nigerians and members of the international community are left to make up their minds whether Buhari simply does not care about Nigerians or about the constitution.
Among those watching eyes is the United States. EVERY year that Buhari has been in office, it has said in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights: “Although [Nigerian] law provides criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption, the government did not consistently implement the law, and government employees, including elected officials, frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government, including the judiciary and security services. The constitution provides immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for the president, vice president, governors, and deputy governors while in office. There were numerous allegations of government corruption during the year.”
The Buhari government has never contradicted this indictment. The truth is that to describe the impact of the Buhari administration merely as a “failure” is an act of self-deprecating generosity. The appropriate term for their work is “betrayal.” Former President Goodluck Jonathan did not perform as abysmally as this when Buhari demanded he resign.
In other words, concerning Nigerians, Osinbajo has not “stood where they stood and sat where they sat,” but with Buhari. If he wins the presidency, will he denounce the betrayal of which he was a part, as an honest starting point?
Clearly, it is because Tinubu knows how rotten Nigeria has become that he has found no reason why he should seize it as he has Lagos State. It is why he immediately dismissed Osinbajo as a ‘bastard,’ declaring: “I have no son grown enough to declare [for president].”
VP Osinbajo may never become President, but with Buhari to his right and Tinubu to his left, it is an act of courage for him to have determined he must run.
But if Osinbajo claims loyalty to God, he is the one who is now on trial.
This column welcomes rebuttals from interested government officials.
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