By Bolanle Bolawole
I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it, for I shall not pass this way again. – Stephen Grellet
Some days ago when I watched, on social media, a post of the immediate past vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and his wife alighting from an aircraft with just two or three persons around them, and the caption said that was the VP returning home after eight years as the country’s Number Two citizen, I was aghast; in fact, I was gutted! Not that I was a fan of the ex-VP anyway and for no personal reasons. My mind quickly raced to the tumultuous welcome that was accorded Osinbajo’s boss, the immediate past president, retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari , on his own return to his own people in Daura, Katsina state. But then, and thank goodness, it turned out, according to another social media report, that the embarrassing report of Osinbajo’s lonely home-coming, like a chicken beaten silly by the rain, was not just a hoax but also the handiwork of some “bad belle” people intent on casting the ex-VP in very bad light. Osinbajo, like Buhari, we were told, was also very warmly received by his own people on his own home-coming. For both Buhari and Osinbajo, that is how it should be. No leader is through and through good and none is through and true bad or evil. The saying of the elders is that no matter how bad a person might be – let the whole, wide world forsake him – there will still be someone who will stick with him through thick and thin. Who that person is, is what no one can tell.
Everyone in positions of authority makes some smile even as they cause many to weep and gnash their teeth; they make some rich even as they cause many to sink deeper into the miry clay of poverty. There is no denying the fact that the administration of Buhari and Osinbajo sowed tears and sorrow everywhere but they must also have put smiles on the face of a few. Under them, Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world but the other side of the coin is that many became stinking rich under them without as much as lifting a finger. The humongous corruption enterprise supervised and condoned by their government mortally wounded the country but made some emergency billionaires and trillionaires. That is why it is called different strokes for different folks. I am certain you know too well that crowds are rented here. So, the crowds welcoming anybody home could have been rented. I am sure you know the same Buhari has been booed and stoned in many parts of the North during his presidency and, after his exit, Miyetti Allah, whose Grand Patron he is said to be and whose excesses he condoned, has denounced him as the worst thing to have ever happen to them! So much about home-coming!
And it reminds me of Lenrie Peters’ poem, Homecoming: “…Too strange the sudden change/Oft the times we buried when we left/The times before we had properly arranged/The memories that we kept…” After having “paced the world”, Lenrie Peters longed to return to his old home and was nostalgic when he eventually did but I am not sure Osinbajo longed to return to his after an eight-year sojourn in the inner sanctuary of power and privileges at the Presidential villa in Abuja; otherwise, he would not have wanted to stay on and become president! Well, it can be argued that no rational human being gets so close to the seat of power like Osinbajo did who would not be tempted to want the seat for himself. It is human. It is legitimate. It is a reasonable expectation, especially if we think the goal achievable. The urge to go for it, as they say, is most likely to be fired the more if we believe we have something to offer and if we see lack of capacity in our principal. If, as Number Two, we try to fill in the gap but are rudely put in check, we may be convinced to make an effort to step into his shoes and make a difference. This played out in the case of Osinbajo and his principal, Buhari. The VP’s talents and capacity were left to rot. He was humiliated. His advice, offered behind closed doors, I suppose, might have been ignored. He might have been a mere traveller in the corridors of power while all that the outside world saw was the razzmatazz of power around him. Like the proverbial chicken which labours and sweats but its feathers would not let anyone notice, Osinbajo might have laboured silently without anyone seeing his efforts. Yet, he might have meant well. We saw flickers of that on the few occasions he was allowed to step in as acting president before the door was slammed in his face for no reason other than that he showed promise. He thereafter accepted his lot with equanimity and philosophical calmness, as they say. But looking back now, does he rue dragging the APC presidential ticket with his erstwhile boss and benefactor (?), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
In all of his time in the presidency, was Osinbajo bold, timid, treacherous or diplomatic? Was he compromised and shackled by one thing or the other? Is he satisfied with his contributions as VP and convinced of the decisions he took? We waited and longed for him to stir. We sighed and moaned when he did not. We cried and yelled. We berated and lambasted him but he remained unmoved, even stoic; he ignored us like he himself was ignored. It was as if he, too, was disdainful of us. There must be things Osinbajo knew that we did not. I only hope that it was not the demons of the Presidential villa that one-time presidential spokesperson, Dr. Reuben Abati, has spoken ceaselessly about, that stole Osinbajo’s mojo. Thank God now that he is out of the villa, Osinbajo can recover. His memoirs will surely make an interesting read. I am sure you know they get wiser once they get out of that villa. They enter it sane; lose their senses, sensibilities and sensitivities while there. They regain it and become normal human beings and begin to see things and talk like reasonable human beings, like you and me, once they step out of the place. This happens not only to presidents and vice presidents; it happens also to presidential spin doctors. It happened to Reuben Abati himself! Our brother, Femi Adesina, just got released from the same stranglehold!
Now is the time for Osinbajo and others like him to take a good rest, which they deserve, having exited the lion’s den in one piece, and take time to rue missed opportunities. What will they do differently given the same opportunity again? They may not have another opportunity but it is important for others, especially those coming behind, to learn from their experience. That is one way society is nurtured. If you find anyone who says he will do the same thing all over again if given another opportunity, know that you have just found a fool! Nothing is so perfect that it cannot be improved upon if one is given the opportunity. Make your best better. No one knows this better than a writer. If you read a piece you wrote a million times over, you will always have an improvement to make on it.
My checklist for Osinbajo includes the following: As a professor of Law, he is a member of the academia; so, when the Academic Staff Union of Universities was on strike for eight months, what role did Osinbajo play? What advice did he give the government in which he was the Number Two, for whatever it is worth, and what support did he give to his colleagues in academia? How did he feel about the turn of events? Did he feel let down by the government of which he was a part or did he feel disappointment in his colleagues? Now with the benefit of hindsight, how does Osinbajo feel about that unfortunate ASUU/FG saga? Will anyone say that Osinbajo abandoned that constituency of his? As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Osinbajo’s ought to be a strong voice on legal matters in the Muhammadu Buhari administration but Abubakar Malami, Buhari’s Federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, appeared as the man that held sway. The Buhari administration picked cherries when it came to court judgments to obey and which to spurn. That government violated the fundamental human rights of Nigerians at will. Did Osinbajo’s stomach turn at each turn? As a senior pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Osinbajo was deemed to have represented Christians in the Buhari administration but at no time in the history of this country than under the Buhari administration were Christians so victimised, murdered, butchered, driven out of their homes, churches torched, pastors kidnapped and slaughtered. To make matters worse, Boko Haram, the bandits, and Miyetti Allah unleashed mayhem and top government officials defended and backed them! Who heard a whimper from Osinbajo? Did he speak out but we did not hear it? What were Osinbajo’s feelings for his fellow Christians? Looking back now at those sordid events, does he think he could have acted differently? Osinbajo and Buhari left Leah Sharibu with Boko Haram; they also left office without bringing the killers of Deborah Samuel to book: When Osinbajo looks back now, how does he feel about these events? Could he have acted differently or did he put in his level best?
I can go on and on! Osinbajo is Yoruba but what did his vice-presidency attract to Yoruba land? We saw the avalanche of projects that Buhari – or Buhari’s body language – attracted to his home state of Katsina; even the East had the second Niger Bridge completed under Buhari. The Lagos/Ibadan expressway is still ongoing since 1999 or whatever; the Sagamu/Ikorodu road along the Lafarge Cement axis is a death trap; the Lagos/Abeokuta road is hell on earth. Can anyone point at one project that the South-west benefitted from Osinbajo’s tenure as VP? Yet, it is to the same South-west that Osinbajo returned after his time out as VP! True, then, is the saying “Ile l’abo simi oko”! Home is home, sweet home! The late Cote d’Ivoire president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, said “home is where, when you go there; they take you in” So the Southwest has no choice but to take in Osinbajo, just like it took in former President Olusegiun Obasanjo, both of whom – ironically from the same section of the South-west – gave their people the short end of the stick.
Maybe we need to ask Dr. Reuben Abati whether some demons were also at work here!
*Bola BOLAWOLE lectures on task before President Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Mr. Bola Bolawole, will, on Tuesday, 13 June, 2023 deliver a lecture to the creme-de-la-creme of the University of Ibadan community on the task before Nigeria’s newly-elected president, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Tinubu assumed the leadership of Nigeria as President and Commander-in-Chief of its Armed Forces on Monday, 29 May, 2023.
Titled “The task before Nigeria’s 16th Head of State”, the lecture is one of the activities marking the 31st anniversary of the Resurrection Morning Star Society of the Chapel of the Resurrection, University of Ibadan. It comes up at the Chapel Hall of the university at 4.00pm.
The programme of events begins on Monday, 12 June, 2023 with visits to charity homes and breaking of fast with worship at the Chapel’s committee room.
Other activities include the induction of Resurrection Morning Star Society new members and the induction of the incoming executive members.
On Thursday, 15 June, 2023, medical outreach and health talk come up at the Chapel Hall, with anniversary thanksgiving rounding up activities on Sunday, 18 June, 2023.
The Guest Lecturer, Mr. Bola Bolawole, was, at various times, also PUNCH newspapers’ chairman of the Editorial Board/Deputy Editor-in-chief; and THE WESTERNER newsmagazine’s Managing Director/Editor-in-chief.
1n 2006, he was appointed National Director, Media and Publicity of the Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa Presidential Campaign Organisation; in 2011, he was named member of the media subcommittee of the Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Presidential Inauguration Committee. In 2022, he was appointed spokesperson for the Gov. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel presidential campaign council.
Mr. Bolawole writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is an Area Pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
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