For a government that has been dubbed lethargic in its first two years, Acting President Yemi Osibajo in the last few months was a kick to life and has brought a modicum of calm to the raging storm of citizen opposition to the APC government. His actions and words appear to have given a human face to the Buhari government otherwise considered by a recession-traumatised citizenry to be insensitive to their suffering and strong-arming the opposition with its war on corruption. While it may not have influenced the public opinion of the APC government, Osinbajo’s visibility, no doubt, mellowed public hostility against the government.
However, in a country of a byzantine political ecosystem, and climate of vexing power politics, it is not farfetched for Osinbajo’s recent visibility to be misconstrued as subtly Machiavellian. In the past weeks, there had been grumblings, veiled as passing opinions and with a vitriolic undertone.
When at last it came, the hail of criticisms––harshly accusing him of consolidating his power base ahead of the 2019 election––was a viral online polemic by a Dr Ismaila Farouk.
The opening paragraph of the diatribe accused the Acting President of ‘tactical’ nepotism and cronyism that has seen key strategic cabinet positions filled by people linked to him.
“Contrary to the widely held belief that Vice President Osinbajo, a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and a Professor of Law is above board, a forensic analysis of his activities since he assumed office reveals that the VP has consistently abused his office, negating the principles of Federal Character and has systematically favored members of the Redeemed Church and his Yoruba tribe.”
It particularly knocked Osinbajo for the appointment of Dr Okey Enelamah as Minister for Trade and Investment––noting that the latter was his Deputy and later successor at the RCCG, Banana Island, Lagos. The Vice President was also indicted for the appointment of “his RCCG Brother” Alex Okoh as DG of the Bureau of Public Enterprise.
The long and short of it was that the VP is surreptitiously embedding his lackeys in positions of authority in violation of the principle of Federal Character, in key institutions like INEC and NNPC to the Non-Career Ambassadors and critical Regulatory Agencies.
According to the statement, “While Nigerians were trying to come to terms with the shock of Pastor Enelamah’s nomination, VP Osinbajo took a step further in his nepotistic disposition in the setting up of his office and selection of personal staff.
First, he chose his former colleague at the University of Lagos Ade Ipaye who was also his Special Adviser while he was Attorney General of Lagos to serve as his Chief of Staff. Unsurprisingly, Ade Ipaye hails from Ogun State, the VP’s State of origin. He went on to relocate Laolu Akande, an indigene of Ogun State who was hibernating in New York to serve as his Media Adviser. For his Chief Economic Adviser, he appointed Ambassador Dipeolu also of Yoruba extraction.
The VP didn’t stop there, of his 10 Principal Officers in his office, 9 are from his Yoruba ethnic group. In his quest to perpetuate his ilk in government, the VP has capitalised on the magnanimity of President Buhari’s implicit confidence in him to plant his Yoruba and RCCG brethren in key agencies of government.”
Senior Special Assistant, Media to the Acting President, Laolu Akande, declined to comment. There are nonetheless others who spoke against the storm precipitated by Farouk. One of such rebuttals online by an anonymous called it “a bunch of deliberate and wicked lies against a man of God who has come to support and serve,” citing the tirade as “an abortive attempt to disparage the truly beloved, humble VP.”
Eminent Nigerians wade into the smouldering controversy, giving their constructive and weighed opinions.
According to Abubakar Tsav, former commissioner of police, Lagos state “Osinbajo has been very active as Acting President working very hard, with zeal, dedication and utmost efficiency and this is commendable. However, the recent appointments he has been making alarm me. Those appointments are very narrow and sectional. Those appointments will create division and sow seeds of ethnic discord.
How can Osinbajo appoint more than 80 per cent of his personal staff from South-West? Not only that, names of Yoruba also feature prominently on the list of appointments he made into parastatals. Again, most of these appointees are Christians. This is unacceptable. Osinbajo should realise that he is now a national figure.
“Although Osinbajo is humane, he should be more liberal, and try to be pan-Nigerian in whatever he is doing. With the public outcry against him on this issue, I think he should do the needful. He should realise that what he has done on this appointments issue is not good for his own image, for the interests of the country, and it is also inimical to the growth and development of democracy in this country.”
On his part, Ola Ishola-Williams, a retired army general said
“Osinbajo really disappointed me. Look at the way the lady that used to be at PENCOM was removed. The lady was removed when she has not completed her tenure. She was unceremoniously removed.
Even at that, what I had expected was that the replacement for her should have been somebody from her geo-political zone, but that didn’t’ happen, Osinbajo now appointed a Yoruba to fill the post. That is bad.
Politicians should be careful, they should be sensitive to the feelings of others. It is very sad that Osinbajo is following the footstep of Buhari on issues relating to appointments. He should not copy Buhari at all, because this is how Buhari also concentrated all appointments in the North, and also favour Muslims in government appointments. Osinbajo should revert those appointments and follow due process. I even believe that some of these appointments should be given to professionals. Professionals should be recruited to run these parastatals instead of appointing politicians who are given the positions not based on merit.”
Alhaji Balarabe Musa, second republic governor of Kaduna state said: “I will comment appropriately when I see it in prints. It has happened before. For instance, this culture of WAZOBIA all the time, and people are not ashamed of it. When the president comes from the North, you see him marginalising the Southeast when the president comes from the South-west, you see him marginalising the North, even when the president comes from the South-south you will not see the Southeast getting its fair share. That is why some people who are honest are saying that this time it has to come from the Southeast to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging and for national unity. So, let us test them and see if it will be the same thing from those from the North, Southwest and South-south.
“It doesn’t make sense to surround yourself with people from your area; it doesn’t provide you with security. With the exception of Gowon and Murtala Mohammed, others didn’t give equal opportunities to people from other parts of the country. That is what Nigerians who are concerned should put their heads together to stop.”
Dr Junaid Mohammed, second Republic member of the House of Representatives in his reaction said “the way and manner Osinbajo made the recent appointment goes to prove that in the event of Osinbajo succeeding Buhari, we are going to have the same problem of nepotism, clannishness, cronyism and religious bigotry.
“Buhari doesn’t know the difference between cronyism, clannishness and religious bigotry, but the one by Osinbajo is determined and being done to pursue and favour the Yoruba agenda in Nigeria.
This untenable and unacceptable and he should be reminded in very clear terms that he has failed legitimately, he was not elected. He is nothing but a spare tyre and he still remains that.
“I understand (I have not been there though) that since Buhari came to power if you go to Osinbajo’s office it is Ogun dialect that is spoken there. In addition also, all the key appointments, even those not made by Buhari, as he was not in an office, he insisted on his own Yoruba people. Is that the kind of Nigeria we want to build?
All this goes to show that Nigerians were unfortunate to have Buhari as a leader, because if Buhari had been a leader there won’t have been all these problems, but because he is not in charge of the Presidency, it has been hijacked by the cabal, and Osinbajo is trying to hijacked what remains of the presidency. His actions are condemnable.”
On his part, Alhaji Shettima Yerima, President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), said “a lot of government officials behave like that. When Buhari was making his appointments, some of us shouted and told him that this would not augur well with the nation, and we are thinking of how to unite the country to avoid any reason for people to be making agitations. What Osinbajo is doing is not different from what Buhari is doing whereby all appointments go to Daura village.
“This won’t help us, we must begin to see that the right thing is done and begin to consider other people and give each person a sence of belonging. When you see agitations coming from some quarters, it is not that they want to go; it is that they are not given the sense of belonging.
Why should somebody a professor of Law, former commissioner, a pastor of a highly reputed church like the Redeemed Christians Church of God, will descend this low to appoint only people from one side in a multi-ethnic society.” Prof. Ishaq Akintola, executive director, Muslim Rights Concern, however, defended Osinbajo saying he did no wrong.
“Personally, I have not seen Osinbajo doing anything wrong. It is unfortunate that many Nigerians have become professional critics.
Why are they condemning Osinbajo? Are they expecting him to recruit people he doesn’t know to work with him? Are those people he appointed that people are now condemning him for not competent to do the job?
It is natural that when you are a boss, you recruit those you know and trust to work with you. The attack on Osinbajo is not justified at all. It is very unfortunate that rather than appreciating Osinbajo and commend him for the good work he is doing, Nigerians are not appreciating him. Osinbajo is working very hard. Those attacks on him can’t be justified at all.
“I’m a Muslim but I can’t blame Osinbajo if he gives appointments to Christians mostly. It is natural. If a Muslim is occupying the same position, that’s what he will do exactly. You know in Nigeria we don’t trust each other. We have mutual distrust for one another. Until we have a new orientation in our personal inter-personal relationship, this type of issue will continue to come up.”