Published On: Fri, Sep 27th, 2019

Immunity waiver offer: Can Osinbajo set precedence in anti-Corruption fight?

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is obviously in the eye of the storm following allegations of misdeeds raised against him by opposition figures bent on smearing his reputation.
Perhaps the saying ‘politics is a dirty game’ may have begun to sound meaningful to the energetic and vivacious ‘Man of God’ in politics who has won the admiration of the people for his fierce loyalty to his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, and his hunger for delivery of good governance to the people of Nigeria.
As a result of the avalanche of criticisms against the Buhari’s administration, even from the pulpit, the Vice President may have come to the realization that perception and reality are parallel in government.
Only recently at the burial of Mrs Moroluke Fakoyede, mother of the Secretary to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ola Olukoyede, in Ekiti state’ a clergy accused government officials of self-centredness alleging that only those in power and their cronies are enjoying patronage”
Osinbajo, in his response said there were saboteurs and fifth columnists working against the plan of the Federal Government to develop the country. This statement raised a lot of questions as to who are those saboteurs and fifth columnists? Are they inside or outside of government? Are they identifiable? These have given rooms to insinuations that there are certain elements in government working to whittle down Osinbajo’s influence with a view to deflating his rising profile in the polity.
Many pundits have the Vice President’s visibility and activities in government were meant to prepare ground for him to contest the Presidency by 2023. They reason that those power mangers in the corridor of power are not particularly pleased with his rising political profile.
According to this school of thoughts, Osinbajo must cut to size in time by ensuring that they cause disaffection between him and his boss. The best way to do this will be to tar him with the brush of corruption.
Another believe that Osinbajo’s ‘sins’ while performing his duties as the Acting President for several months while his principal was away in London on medical vacation may have begun to hunt him. His traducers have resolved to have their pounds of flesh and now is the auspicious time to do just that, they claimed.
Osinbajo, who has been able to earn the trust of his boss in about five years they have been working together, is now being accused of wrong doing bordering on corruption which the Buhari’s administration abhors.
Even though there have been several denials otherwise, there is widespread belief that things are no longer at ease between the President and his vice considering latest Buhari’s moves indicating that Osinbajo is being divested of some powers.
First was the scrap of the Economic Management Team (EMT) used to be chaired by the Vice President and the creation of Economic Advisory Council (EAC) now being charged by Prof. Doyin Salami by the President. The Council was specifically mandated to report directly to the President.
The withdrawal of the Social Investment Program (SIP) from the supervision of the Vice President’s office and domiciled under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development was seen by many as a further proof that all may not be well in the Presidency.
The leaked memo querying the drop in remittances from the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) headed by Babatunde Fowler, who is perceived to be close to the Vice President, by the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President has been variously interpreted as a vote of no confidence in Osinbajo.
But the most intriguing development that has kept tongue wangling was the allegation raised by the former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, who dumped the party at the twilight of the 2015 general elevtion.
Frank had alleged that Osinbajo sourced about N90 billion from the FIRS to finance the Presidential election in the South-west and mismanaged same. According to Frank, sources in the Presidency availed him the information. He added that the Vice President got into trouble with his boss when he could not account for the N90 billion when asked for breakdown by his boss.
But the FIRS in its response denied the allegation by describing it as “mendacious, wicked, malicious and a calculated attempt to smear the image of the Service and that of his Excellency, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo”
Apart from this, the newspaper which reported the news had since tendered an apology to the Vice President for dearth of evidence to support the report. Curiously, Frank who employed derogatory language to describe Osinbajo had dared him to sue him. He claimed he was in possession of evidences to buttress his claims.
In order to prove his innocence, Osinbajo on Wednesday set a precedence by saying that he was ready and willing to waive his immunity to allow unfettered investigation into the allegation.
In an unprecedented tweet which promises to be a step further in Buhari’s crusade against graft, Osinbajo said “In the past few days, a spate of reckless and malicious falsehoods have been peddled in the media against me by a group of malicious individuals. The defamatory and misleading assertions invented by this clique had mostly been making the social media rounds anonymously.
“I have today instructed the commencement of legal action against two individuals, one Timi Frank and another Katch Ononuju, who have put their names to these odious falsehoods. I will waive my constitutional immunity to enable the most robust adjudication of these claims of libel and malicious falsehood.”
But lawyers have raised some reservations on whether the Vice President could on his own decide to waive his constitutional immunity to prosecute those he alleged to have defamed him.
Nevertheless, the public must also be conscious of the fact that the Vice President himself is a learned person, a Professor of Law for that matter. It is expected that he must have looked into the provisions of the law before coming up with the offer to waive his constitutionally conferred immunity to prove his innocence.
Dragging his accusers to court to provide proof of their claims, especially when Frank is insisting that he had evidences to back up his claims, will set the records straight.
Considering the weight of the allegation against his personality, some legal minds have urged the Vice President to step aside so that he could get into the legal trenches with his accusers.
The question here is: will Osinbajo move a notch higher by stepping aside so as to engage Timi Frank and Katchi Onanuju in a legal battle? Doing this will of course set a precedence in a country where no one ever contemplates such to prove his/her innocence.
Apart from the Vice President, the management of the FIRS, which had already threatened legal action should the story not be retracted by the sponsors within 24 hours, will do well if it walks the talk by heading to the court of law to get redress. This of course will stem the trend of false information capable of causing disaffection in the polity. It is only by doing this can Osinbajo’s battered image and that of the FIRS be restored.

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