Osinbajo and the burden of public office

2 months ago 30

AN allegation is a charge or claim that someone has done something illegal or wrong. But the fact that an allegation has been made does not make it true. There was this story the other day about a woman who went to the market to make some purchases and a female gari seller alleged that the woman had stolen her N2, 500 since the woman had been at her kiosk when the money went missing. Despite protestations of innocence by the woman a mob stripped her, beat her to pulp and a man in the mob put an iron rod in her privates. Eventually, the gari seller found her money as she had forgotten that she kept it under a particular bag of gari. The gari seller simply vanished from the scene and the woman was rushed to a hospital. Unfortunately, the poor innocent woman died – a victim of a false allegation. So, it is imperative to ask questions and try to discover the facts about any allegation rather than bay with the mob, so to speak. For some time now I have observed that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been a victim of a host of allegations. As a public analyst I decided to try to discover the facts about the allegations and what I found out was quite interesting.

At one point in time there was the alleged N100bn Alpha Beta scam and a newspapers did a story that alleged that SimmonCooper Partners, a law firm in which Osinbajo was a founding partner, was linked to the alleged tax fraud. But was that true? The vice president resigned his membership of the firm in 2015 after he was elected into office in line with international best practices. SimmonCooper wrote the newspaper that was the purveyor of the story and declared with facts that the law firm had never been company secretary to a company that was said to be of interest in the matters concerning Alpha Beta. The said “SimmonCooper” in the documents that formed the basis for the report had an address that was out rightly false. The real SimmonCooper Partners was at the time a popular law firm with a well-known address and would certainly have no reason whatsoever to give a wrong address. Concerning the said tax scandal, nothing by any stretch of facts connected Osinbajo to the matter but it was peddled as a product of an “investigative report”.

Some other time ago, one Timi Frank went to town with an allegation – to wit, that Osinbajo collected N90bn from the FIRS for his party(APC) for the 2019 electioneering campaign. For one, the FIRS in response made it clear that it had not in any single year received up to N100bn per annum as cost of collection from the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee. Certainly it would not be plausible for FIRS to shell a whopping N90 bn to a campaign as was suggested by the said Frank when the FIRS obviously did not have it to give in the first place. It is a fact that you can’t give what you don’t have. In any case my checks revealed that FIRS budget and expenditure pass through the Budget Office and the Ministry of Finance before such are presented to the National Assembly for appropriation into law. And also, taxpayers’ payment go straight to the Federation account domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria and FIRS cannot touch a Kobo there has it has no constitutional right to so do. But still the obviously false allegation peddled for some time.

It is on record however that some media houses apologised to Osinbajo and retracted their stories when they discovered what Frank peddled were misleading assertions. Eventually Frank got sued by the vice president for spreading lies. However, till date he has no iota of evidence to prove his claims and has not explained to Nigerians why he made the false allegation. Another accusation that came Osinbajo’s way was that he was using the Federal government Tradermoni programme for vote buying and also that there were no records of beneficiaries. The accusation was peddled by Sahara Reporters. I found out that for a start the Ministry of Budget and National Planning was in charge of all matters regarding financing, budgeting, procurement, and disbursement of funds allocated and released for the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP). The office of the vice president was only responsible for policy formulation and monitoring of the NSIP and was not in any way involved in financial transactions or disbursement of funds. The Bank of Industry later revealed that a digitized record of NSIP beneficiaries was intact as against the peddled allegations. I found out also that although Tradermoni was started close to election period, it did not amount to vote buying as it was budgeted for and it impacted 1.9 million poor people in its first phase and many beneficiaries had no reservations testifying openly such as market men and women across the country.

At another time the VP was accused by a certain Jackson Ude of Pointblank news of collecting 4 bn from Ibrahim Magu! However, the erstwhile chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) despite his travails at the time, refused to back up the allegations. Magu made it clear that never at any time did he make such claims. In any case, for what reason will Magu have to give Osinbajo N4bn naira? Another allegation that was bandied at Osinbajo was that he had a Christianization agenda” by one Dr. Ismaila Farouk and Dr. Musbau Akinbode and that he favours his Yoruba ethnic stock in appointing people in his office. But it was Balkisu Saidu, a Muslim, a northerner and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Legal, Research and Compliance matters who debunked the baseless allegation. Her words: “Vice president Osinbajo is as authentic as he presents – he is a humane, compassionate, detribalised patriotic Nigerian in a fair, honest, transparent and accountable manner.” The Emirs of Daura, Lafia, Gombe and even the Sultan of Sokoto have also borne testimonies of Osinbajo’s pan Nigerian views and patriotic zeal at various times.

Another allegation against Osinbajo was the so -called 33bn NEMA fraud. After a lot of huffing and puffing by quite a number of persons, especially the likes of Femi Fani-Kayode, Reno Omokri and others on how Osinbajo was allegedly fingered in the NEMA fraud scandal, when I laid my hands on the House of Representatives report which was a product of painstaking investigative hearing where all concerned parties where invited, I found that Osinbajo was not by a scintilla of evidence to blame for what happened.

If anything, the report made it obvious that Osinbajo was not involved at all in any NEMA fraud. And even the House of Representatives had to make it clear they had not indicted Osinbajo in any way concerning the matter.

The issues concerning IPOB and Fulani herdsmen were areas some persons made allegations against him. Some persons alleged in the social media that Osinbajo made statements threatening that IPOB must be “crushed by fire by thunder”. Butit was clear from the language that it was not in the character of Osinbajo to make such a statement the way in which it was said he did. What I found that Osinbajo said regarding the issue of IPOB was: “In all our previous engagements with Northern and South-Eastern leaders, we all came to the consensus that Nigeria is stronger and better together.” And on herdsmen and related killings: Osinbajo said: “We must condemn killings of any kind. It doesn’t matter whether these killings are by herdsmen killing villagers, or whether it is villagers who in one way or the other have killed others, including herdsmen. I think it is important that we condemn these killings. There is no reason at all why anyone who commits these offences will escape.” At other times, Osinbajo was deliberately quoted out of context. For example, misleading reports appeared in a section of the media purportedly made by him in New York and attributed to him on the security situation in Nigeria.  The reports had quoted him as saying that. “Kidnapping in Nigeria is exaggerated and not entirely new.” But I found out that there was nowhere in the Osinbajo’s remarks at the town hall meeting with the Nigerian community did he use the word “exaggerated”; even by implication. But a section of the media went to town to allegation all the same. There was also the case of Obono-Obla, a former presidential aide who made allegations that Osinbajo was behind his ordeals in the hands of the ICPC and to wit that Osinbajo was persecuting him for being loyal to President Buhari! But I found documents that showed gross violations that led to Obono-Obla’s sack. Even a court foiled attempt by Obono-Obla to stop investigation into charges of certificate forgery.

In view of that reality of allegations that a public officer can suffer as we have seen, public office may well be a burden. Public office comes with status, influence and authority and unfortunately, over the years, Nigerians have seen public officers abuse and debase their status, influence and authority such that many a Nigerian today is a perpetual cynic ready to believe any allegation no matter wild against any public officer. But such allegations are not always true as we have seen. There are intentional false accusers and the unintentional false accusers. The intentional false accusers are driven by narcissism and are willing to destroy anyone else’s life for the sake of attention. These ones could also be driven by negative emotions such as envy, bitterness, revenge, inordinate ambition or hatred. Typically, these accusersare compulsive liars, and their narcissism stems from a mental disorder. Those who elect to use public office to their own benefit also belong to this class. They cannot imagine altruism, patriotism and love of country in others. So whenever they see an individual that points to the reality of altruism they are thrown into a psychic state such they will do anything to destroy such a person. The unintentional false accusers also have a psychic situation too but they may not be driven by selfishness but rather ignorance. But willful ignorance however is a dangerous thing. It is better to seek to confirm allegations before taking action based on it. The very nature of public office will attract intentional false accusers and unintentional false accusers to make allegations time and again against public officers no matter how patriotic such a one may be. It is but the burden of public office. What is important is for public officers who have suffered from allegations to be strong and courageous as they pursue the public good and they should also keep their honour at all times.

The difference between developed and developing nations is that of power elite size, the degree of professional specialization and informed awareness. The Osinbajos of this world in our clime represent these values for our nation and they should be encouraged by all well-meaning persons to keep the flag of public service flying for successful development of our country instead of being battered with unsubstantiated allegations time and again.  The Nigerian political class should move away from making allegations against each other to fool the citizenry. Successful development requires good politics which has no room for continually making false allegations against hard working and patriotic public servants like Osinbajo. Good politics and the resultant cohesion between sub-elites as represented by different political groups or parties improve prospects of development activities in any nation. I guess we all agree Nigeria needs to develop now more than ever before. And fast too, if you ask me.

  • Ogah, a public affairs analyst, writes in from Abuja
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