Osinbajo: Buhari use him now before we lose all of him
BY KEN UGBECHIE , JUNE 7, 2021
Buhari is encumbered by not-so-deep intellect and old age with its attendant debilities but both of these are complemented by Osinbajo’s deep intellectual profundity, brilliance and younger age which reflect in his physical fitness and mental acuity. This combination is not a liability in a workplace where there is team work culture.
Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law is Nigeria’s vice president. He came to office in a blaze of academic and professional accomplishments. Serving in the Lagos State cabinet, lecturer at the university and a successful private practice in law.
He is the type you would describe as rounded professional, fit and proper person, a square peg custom-made for a square hole. A man of such estate and station deserves a huge swathe in the theatre of operations of governance. Reducing him to a passive, shadowy actor in the theatre is doing harm to the concept of leadership. Men of his clout and class should never be mere spectators or fading silhouette in any assembly especially in a leadership-challenged community, like Nigeria.
Unfortunately, contemporary Nigeria has had a quirky leadership history. There’s been a somewhat surreal dissonance between the president (Commander-in-Chief) and the vice president. If they do not disconnect in intellect and mental aptitude, they do in physical fitness. Never has Nigeria had in recent history a president and his vice who are both intellectually and physically endowed, who operate at same knowledge frequency or share same cerebral values.
Track back: President Shehu Shagari and Vice President Alex Ekwueme. The latter dwarfed the former in exposure, intellect and chutzpah all of which are essential in leadership. Ekwueme functioned just as any vice president in Nigeria: a spare tyre only momentarily relevant when the substantive tyre blows out or is being replaced on account of diminishing tensile strength and elasticity. What Shagari lacked in intellect ought to be complemented by Ekwueme’s wide knowledge bandwidth. Added to both men’s humility and peaceful disposition, the nation ought to have profited much but that never happened. Those close to Shagari capitalised on his good natured simplicity to create and widen a gulf between them. The locusts feasted on Shagari’s seeming weakness to engage in a roller-coaster of corruption symbolised by 10-percent kickbacks, over-invoicing of contracts and pervasive graft in the civil service. At the end, the loser was the nation. Their inability to galvanise their respective strengths for the cause of good governance was all the bait the military needed to intrude into the leadership space. Setback!
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his deputy, Vice President Atiku Abubakar rode to office flaunting street smartness and cognate public service experience. Obasanjo, a stupendously lucky creature, towers above Atiku in intellect but Atiku is endowed with superior business sense. That was about the most powerful pairing but the nation never gained much from this near-perfect leadership chemistry as the duo spent their second tenure feuding like cartoon characters, Tom and Jerry. Obasanjo and Atiku are both courageous leaders, men capable of taking tough decisions but their strength, courageous spirit and pluckiness were discharged in their interminable war of attrition that marred governance and divided the polity.
The Muhammadu Buhari, Yemi Osinbajo pairing is yet another chemistry of divergent extremes. Buhari is encumbered by not-so-deep intellect and old age with its attendant debilities but both of these are complemented by Osinbajo’s deep intellectual profundity, brilliance and younger age which reflect in his physical fitness and mental acuity. This combination is not a liability in a workplace where there is team work culture. Osinbajo can adequately make up for Buhari’s deficiencies.
To be fair, the Buhari in office today is not the same Buhari that stamped his authority on the nation in his days as military leader. Then, Buhari was rock solid fit with a ramrod straight gait, a domineering taut frame and a ruthless zero-corruption, zero indiscipline philosophy which instilled order on the larger Nigerian society. He was a man on top of his game and he practically gave a wide berth of power to his lieutenant, Tunde Idiagbon, himself an equally if not more ruthless disciplinarian.
At that time, age was on Buhari’s side. His military sturdiness was writ large. His strength was unfailing. But physical strength fades with age. It’s the natural order for all men. Even the president once admitted that he could no longer do some of the things he used to do on account of old age. This is where you should expect him to leverage on the strength and youthfulness of his deputy, Osinbajo.
President Buhari is perceived to have performed far below expectation because he failed to make use of the qualities which Osinbajo brought to the Presidency. The insecurity hounding the nation, the belly-up economy, fractious polity and social discontent asphyxiating the country all bear direct link to the weaknesses, both mental and physical, of Buhari. This is the time the president must deliberately mainstream Osinbajo’s obvious sterling leadership courage, mental adroitness and intellect into the business of governance.
Buhari needs Osinbajo to make a success of his government. Six years after, it’s hard to tag his government a success. There is a pervading culture of disorder, indiscipline, impunity, primitive stealing of public funds and insecurity in a manner never before witnessed. Adjunct to these is a broken economy gasping for breath and withered on all props. Buhari appears helpless, detached from reality.
Now, he needs Osinbajo. Buhari needs Osinbajo’s raw audacity, courage and resoluteness. He needs his scholarship. In the 21st century, leadership requires a certain level of scholarship. If anything, Osinbajo has proven that he can lead, that he has guts and that he’s a man of courage. In August, 2018 when he was acting President at a time Buhari travelled to London on a ‘short leave’, Osinbajo showed that he can lead. He sacked the Director-General of DSS after masked personnel from the DSS barricaded the National Assembly, preventing lawmakers, staff and journalists from accessing the complex. It was a rage against democracy and Osinbajo swiftly took action that restored sanity. He fired Lawal Daura, a kinsman of President Buhari. During that short period, Osinbajo ‘caused’ the naira to significantly appreciate against the dollar. Naira was on a free fall but he arrested the depreciation. Whatever wand he used in concert with the CBN is commendable. We need such wand now.
The first six years of Buhari is not impressive, in fact, it’s been a disaster and a harvest of pain and anguish. Even his fiercest defenders have lost their kick because the hyper-inflation and insecurity that attended and still attend his government have caught up with all Nigerians in a manner too telling to conceal. Buhari still has two years to make amend, to right the many wrongs that signposted his administration. It’s obvious he cannot effectively lead the nation. Now is the time to draft Osinbajo, a man who has demonstrated both action and temperance, to play a more active role in governance. When Buhari was Buhari, the present feast of public treasury looting, harvest of insecurity, and the general air of ‘nobody is in charge’ could never have arisen. But age with its baggage of ill-health has dealt a heavy blow to our Buhari and eroded his capacity to be Buhari. He needs his younger, smarter and more active deputy to push back the encumbrances that have cantilevered into his path of becoming one of the best leaders out of Africa. For now, he ranks among the worst. Nigeria needs Osinbajo now before we lose all of him.
First published in Sunday Sun