Wednesday GUEST COLUMNIST by Amaechi Agbo
In Nigeria and indeed Africa, a name is not just identity; it is a destiny.
This was why a foremost African writer of blessed memory, Chinua Achebe said that in Igboland, parents give names to their children based on the circumstances surrounding their births. And such names would go with the children in determining their destiny in life.
Nigeria’s 4th Vice President, Oluyemi Oluleke “Yemi” Osinbajo, born 8 March 1957, is one man whose entire life has revolved around his first name “Oluyemi.” Oluyemi colloquially shortened to “Yemi” is a traditional Yoruba name which means “God has given me satisfaction”. And indeed, Professor Yemi Osibanjo must have become a child of satisfaction to his parents when he was born over six decades ago. The joy of his parents must have reached its climax thus the name.
A Pastor by calling and lawyer by training, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was the Pastor in charge of the Lagos Province 48 (Olive Tree provincial headquarter) of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Ikoyi, Lagos before his inauguration into office as the Vice President of Nigeria on May 29, 2015.
A man content with what he has, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo rose to the citadel of his legal career when he became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, yet he still carried on with his pastoral calling.
When in 2014 President Mohammadu Buhari nominated him as his running mate to the 2015 presidential election, he was not “a popular name” in Nigeria’s political lexicon. Making President Buhari to aver that “I never knew Osibanjo,” before the nomination.
Today, the President has been the one pouring encomium on his second in command for his unrivalled humility and loyalty to him, and to the Nigerian project.
President Buhari does not only trust Osinbajo, he has assigned the law professor and church pastor the task to oversee the economy as the Head of the Economic Team. In fact, sensitive offices and strategic positions within that sector including the Chief Economic Adviser to the government are domiciled under the Office of the Vice President. In more than two occasions, President Buhari has officially, through legislative mandates, handed over power to Osinbajo to act as Nigerian President.
Vice President, Professor Osinbajo has demonstrated unquestionable loyalty to President Buhari in his utterances and actions.
In tandem with the style and language of his boss, Pastor Osinbajo has consistently re-echoed the message of the administration on war on terror and the aggressive anti-corruption campaigns.
As a loyal public officer, Osinbajo has embarked on local tours and hosted several meetings towards addressing economic and socio-political challenges. The deliberate efforts, even while his boss was away, helped to strengthen the currency, boosted oil production and stabilized the polity. On these occasions, he would highlight that he is a representative of the President. Recall last year when he travelled to the Niger Delta to appeal against militancy, Professor Osinbajo said he was there as an emissary of Buhari to offer “a new vision” for the oil-producing region.
It was in appreciation to his uncommon humility and loyalty to him and the Nigeria project, that President Muhammadu Buhari during the VP’s 61st birthday celebration described his VP as a loyal and trustworthy partner.
In his goodwill message to him, President Buhari said “Happy 61st Birthday, @ ProfOsinbajo. Thank you for being a loyal and dependable partner on this journey. I join millions of your friends and well-wishers around the world to wish you many more years of service to God, to Nigeria, and to humanity.”
The loyalty of VP Osibanjo to his boss, President Buhari has been an uncommon one unlike what was obtainable during the reign of the PDP. President Olusegun Obasanjo and his estranged Vice, Atiku Abubarkar were never birds of the feather, as they had a very frosty relationship during their time together in Aso Rock; a distrust that still permeates the veins of the two leaders today.
Four days after the President left for the UK last year, Osinbajo was at the palace of the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumin Usman where he told Buhari’s kinsmen that the president treats him as his son. The acting president was in Katsina State, Buhari’s home state, to inaugurate the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) clinic.
“One of the reasons why I feel very much at home in Katsina State is because this is the state of our president, President Muhammadu Buhari, who has taken me more like a brother. In fact, sometimes, more like a son than a vice president.”
“The amount of responsibilities President Buhari has given me shows he seriously believes we can live together as brothers. I pray the Lord will preserve our President to continue to lead as the nation has voted him to do. He seriously believes in Nigerian unity,” Osinbajo had stated.
VP Osinbajo during his time as the Acting President of Nigeria, signed three executive orders which significantly changed the ways government businesses and operations were conducted in the country. The orders, signed on May 18 last year, promote transparency in the business environment and are designed to facilitate the ease of doing business in the country, support local contents in public procurement by the Federal Government and timely submission of annual budgetary estimates by all statutory and non-statutory agencies, including companies owned by the Federal Government.
During his acting capacity, the Vice President always consulted with his boss to the point of going to London when President Buhari was on medical leave to seek his opinion on appointments of individuals into key government positions. He remained loyal to the President.
With his boss’ approval, Osinbajo approved appointments into various parastatals, agencies and commissions on May 27, 2017. He named Ali Usman chairman of the National Pension Commission (PenCom); Funso Doherty, the Director-General of the commission; and Manase Benga, Zaki Magawata, Ben Oviosun and Nyerere Ayim as Executive Commissioners of PenCom; Dikko Aliyu AbdulRahman, the chairman of the Governing Board of the Bank of Industry and Mr. Olukayode Pitan, the bank’s Managing Director as well as Emeka Nwakpa as chairman of the Governing Board of the Consumer Protection Council.
On May 29, the then Acting President delivered a nationwide broadcast to mark the country’s Democracy Day and the second anniversary of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. The acting president, on May 30, signed two bills into law in order to facilitate access to affordable credit for Nigerians. They were the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act 2017, otherwise known as Collateral Registry Act, and the Credit Reporting Act 2017.
Last year, the President implemented the report of the three-man presidential panel headed by the Vice President that probed the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke.
The panel investigated Babachir for alleged violations of law and due process in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on the North-East; and Oke, for the $43.4m stashed away at a residential apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos. The President summarily disengaged the duo after they were indicted by the report.
Osinbajo’s loyalty to the President, and the President’s trust in him tell a good story of how leaders must work together. There is so much to learn from the excellence this relationship has achieved. No bickering, but mutual respect and shared understanding of roles. This bromance is unprecedented in Nigerian politics and is worth emulating. Even for leaders outside the political realm.
•Amaechi Agbo is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja