Seun Bisuga: Osinbajo’s long standing integrity and why we should ignore the lies

So one renegade reporter began spewing some lies about the Vice President last week but what Nigerians know about the impeccable integrity and unquestionable character of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is not a new subject of public discourse.

On July 3, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari said some flattering words about his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. It is not the first time he has showered praises on Prof. Osinbajo or lauded him for his integrity on the job.

The latest offering of commendation came following the declaration of Nigeria as polio-free by the World Health Organisation. “This is to express our profound appreciation for your leadership of the Presidential Taskforce on Polio Eradication and Routine Immunization. The declaration of Nigeria as a Wild Polio free country is the result of your effective coordination of the Nigerian Polio eradication program through the Presidential Taskforce on Polio Eradication and Routine Immunization, Federal Ministry of Health and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency”.

While some might argue that it is commonplace for a boss to shower praises on his deputy, others will tell you that it has to be earned and I think the latter is true. But Osinbajo’s long history of integrity was not built overnight.

In 1999, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu had just been elected Lagos governor and he needed a man with a stellar, impeccable record to lead the legal reforms in Lagos. At the time, he did not know Prof. Osinbajo and had never met him but the recommendations from neutrals to pick the Vice President as attorney general was overwhelming. It was not just his unmatchable brilliance that caught the eye but his integrity.

He was subsequently appointed Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General. During his time as attorney general many reforms where undertaken including the establishment of the Office of the Public Defender, fiscal and legal restructuring among other notable things but something else also happened. This encounter was recounted by Richard Akinnola, renowned lawyer and journalist.

According to him, many years ago, when Osinbajo was the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos state, he revolutionised the infrastructures of the Lagos judiciary with new modern buildings. So one day, the main contractor, a foreign one very popular in Nigeria (name witheld), came to meet Yemi Osinbajo to show appreciation.

The officials of the contractor gave him an offer as they normally do to Nigerian government officials as show of “appreciation” after a lucrative contract. They asked him to give them a location where they could put up a structure for him as personal house, to show appreciation. Osinbajo didn’t say anything.

He dialed the intercom and invited his Solicitor-General, Fola Arthur-Worrey. As soon as Fola came, he asked him to show the contractor the site of the new court library the ministry had wanted to build but put in abeyance due to paucity of funds.

He asked the contractors to follow Arthur-Worrey to show them the site. The officials of the contractor were shocked. They apparently were encountering such a government official with such integrity for the first time.

But Osinbajo’s integrity has swelled since then. As Vice President and acting President, he has rejected uncountable amount of offers from oil companies, multinationals, etc that many stand in awe of him, often describing his actions as ‘rare’.

Politicians, religious and traditional leaders have at different times offered their thoughts on the personality of Prof. Osinbajo. Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, once described him as a man of integrity, praying that he continued to grow in wisdom, when Prof Osinbajo celebrated his 60th birthday in 2017.

Speaker of the House of Representatives also described him as a honest person. “Apart from being a reliable human being, the VP is one of the most honest people I have come across in my life. I make bold to say that the VP has qualities worthy of emulation by other Nigerians.”

Osinbajo’s integrity has also endeared him to traditional rulers. Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, paid a glowing tribute to Prof. Osinbajo at the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) in 2019.

“He has leadership given to him by the lord God Almighty, it is a trust and responsibility and he is here in his capacity as VP and we invited him to give the keynote speech as VP of Nigeria and he accepted to be here,” the Sultan said.

Former Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II once told Prof. Osinbajo to consider Kano his ‘second home’, this is similar to what many other monarchs have said to him across the country.

The Emir of Daura, Alhaji Farouk Umar who holds him in high esteem described him as the most honest Nigerian leader. “I want to specifically commend the Vice President for his loyalty, his commitment and dedication towards the transformation of Nigeria to its present state. We are fully aware of the situation President Buhari and his deputy, Osinbajo, met the country but today, things are changing for the better because of their efforts.

“This is attributable to the excellent working relationship between President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo. Prof. Osinbajo is the most honest person and leader Nigeria has produced in recent times.

“His relationship has remained cordial with Buhari largely because of his honesty, I commend you, Vice President. I am particularly happy with the Vice President for the way he has shown loyalty to President Buhari, Daura Emirate is extremely grateful, for your commitment and confidence transforming Nigeria despite the challenges.”

The respect Prof Osinbajo commands has resonated among the Christian community especially with regards to politics. Ask Pastor Sunday Adelaja, founder and senior pastor of the Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations, a megachurch based in Ukraine and he will tell you that, “I dare say that I personally do not know any other Christian leader in Nigeria with the kind of impeccable reputation, character and integrity as that of Professor Osinbajo.”

Revered Bishop Francis Wale Oke shares a similar sentiment. The president and founder of Sword of The Spirit Ministries International says Prof Osinbajo is incorruptible. “The VP is always reaching out to Christians leaders on the need to support President Buhari; he is too loyal to a fault. So, those plotting his downfall through orchestrated campaigns should fear God. This man is not corrupt,” he said.

Renowned professor of law, Itse Sagay said this of Prof. Osinbajo. “The Vice President is an incorruptible man of God, a man of high moral standing who is as clean as a whistle. He will not appropriate any money that doesn’t belong to him to himself.

What about internationally? How do people view the Vice President? Joel Rainey, a US-based pastor who has never met urged Nigeria to lend United States the services of Prof Osinbajo for four years.

Prof. Osinbajo is indeed a man who places his good name above silver or gold. I will leave you with this quote from his opinion orginally published in The Guardian-while an employee of the then Federal Military Government-on Tuesday, November 4, 1992 titled ‘A Matter Of Honour’ in which he brought his courage to bear by urging former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida to keep to his word and handover government as promised.

Then a Special Adviser to former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Bola Ajibola, Osinbajo wrote, “It is for this reason, that those who say that government should extend the transition programme or refuse to handover in a chaotic situation, must stop this call to denigrate a solemn vow of the rule to the ruled. That unscrupulous politicians could frustrate a carefully-planned six year transition must mean that an additional few months of planning cannot be failsafe. It follows therefore that government must select the option that make its exit possible on the agreed date. This is the way of honour.”

Osinbajo said that even though he was a Special Adviser in that same government. Eventually he had to resign soon after as the powers that be were uncomfortable with such courage and moral clarity.

This is why Nigerians, by and large, understand that when fake news merchants and political schemes concoct lies designed to tarnish Osinbajo’s sterling reputation, it’s all a futile attempt. The Vice President is known by his good fruits already, his image will survive the ongoing 2023 murky permutations and schemes.

Seun Bisuga is a journalist, social media analyst and political commentator. He can be reached on Twitter @bisuclef
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