On the evening of Saturday July 25, the MV (Merchant Vessel) Wakashio grounded on coral reefs in the south-east of the Indian Ocean tropical island of Mauritius. The ship, a Japanese-owned but Panama-registered bulk carrier designed to transport unpackaged goods such as coal or grain, was empty of cargo but had an estimated 200 tons of diesel and 3,800 tons of heavy fuel oil onboard. The ship sat for over a week before cracks emerged in its hull.
Nigeria’s VP Osinbajo letter of response to The Africa Report
Open discussion and debate is key to the editorial credo of the Africa Report and we welcome all reactions – critical and otherwise – to our journalism. And we strive to represent the widest range of opinion in our publication.
On 23 June, The Africa Report published a detailed analysis of the career and political networks of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who chairs the Economic Sustainability Committee and played a leading role in developing Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
After rising to head the Law Faculty at the University of Lagos, Osinbajo was appointed Attorney General and Commissioner for Lagos State government form 1999-2007. Osinbajo went on to play a key role in the formation of the All Progressives’ Congress which won national elections in Nigeria in 2015 and 2019, before being appointed Vice President in 2015.
VP Osinbajo’s office has taken issue with some of the points raised in The Africa Report analysis.
In the spirit of open debate, we are happy to publish this response, written by Arukaino Umukoro, Special Assistant, Communications, in the Vice President’s office.
Nigeria’s VP Osinbajo: Does he have friends in the political elite?
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, wears many colourful hats: Father, cerebral lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, professor, academic of repute, public servant, former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, senior pastor, and number two citizen of Nigeria as Vice President.
One can say a lot about what Osinbajo means to Nigeria, but the salient truth is the man is a gift to the nation. And at this juncture of our journey into nationhood, Prof. Osinbajo has been given, alongside President Muhammadu Buhari, the huge responsibility of leading Nigeria into a better place than it was before the Buhari administration came into being in 2015.
As Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice in Lagos State for seven years, Osinbajo led various significant reforms that shaped the Lagos State judiciary for the better. Thus, for a seemingly reputable publication like Africa Report to pontificate on Prof. Osinbajo’s legal and political network or any network as a basis to gauge his influence is a popularity contest built on sand.
The Africa Report is riddled with beer parlour gossips and mere speculations on the issue of Alpha Beta LP contract. The Vice President did not have any interest and was not involved in the activities and operations of the company that won the Alpha Beta LP contract.
Also, there was no issue of accountability or that Prof. Osinbajo “escaped potential trouble due to the Alpha Beta controversy” as the report wrongly insinuated when Prof. Osinbajo resigned his position as a partner in Simmons Cooper upon assumption of Office as Vice President in 2015.
The Vice President, throughout his stellar career in public service, academia and clergy, has proven himself as a man of integrity, honour, strong character and values.
The VP’s relationship with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is known to be a cordial one, and one that has spanned decades. Osinbajo was Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice when Asiwaju was Lagos State Governor.
It is an open secret that Tinubu backed Osinbajo to become Vice President; who wouldn’t, considering the stellar role the VP had played in reforming the Lagos State judiciary, among other strides, as a public servant and professor?
But for the article to claim that “it was rumoured in the Federal Capital Territory that Tinubu insisted on going to all meetings with Osinbajo, and pushed for his nominees in government, much to the chagrin of President Buhari and the cabal” is another beer parlour gossip by Africa Report!
Moreover, there is no truth to the report’s claim that there is a rift between Tinubu and Osinbajo, or that Tinubu is no longer the VP’s ally. Unlike the article’s claim, both Osinbajo and Asiwaju remain close to this day.
Again Tinubu, just a few days ago, effectively punctured the report’s claim that the former Lagos State Governor’s fight with Osinbajo stems from Tinubu’s alleged desire to run for the 2023 Presidency.
In Tinubu’s own words, he said, “To those who have been actively bleating how the President’s actions and the NEC meeting have ended my purported 2023 ambitions, I seek your pity. I am but a mere mortal who does not enjoy the length of foresight or political wisdom you profess to have. Already, you have assigned colourful epitaphs to the 2023 death of an alleged political ambition that is not yet even born.”
The height of Africa Report’s mischief is to claim that “One of Osinbajo’s main problems is his difficult relationship with President Buhari.” The VP and President Buhari enjoy a cordial and mutually respectful relationship. For the sake of emphasis, there is no rift between the President and the VP. On several occasions, the President has publicly commended the VP for his loyalty and dedication to the administration and his service to the nation.
It is even clear to a blind man that the report seems to have channelled the now stale desperation in some quarters to create a non-existent division between the President and the Vice President.
The report’s touted replacement of the Osinbajo-led Economic Management Team with the Economic Advisory Council by the President as basis of its agenda is even a flawed one, since the EAC would obviously also reference the work of the EMT which has since done a yeoman’s job in its efforts to reposition the economy.
Again, the report claimed that the President replaced the Osinbajo-led Economic Management Team with the Economic Advisory Council. But it was the same President who appointed Osinbajo as head of the Economic Sustainability Committee which drafted the N2.3 Trillion stimulus plan for the nation’s economy. Recently, on June 24, the Osinbajo-led committee’s Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan was approved by the President and the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
It would be recalled that the VP was asked by Mr. President to chair the ESC to develop a clear Economic Sustainability Plan in response to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On receiving the Committee’s report from the VP, President Buhari stated that, the recommendations in the plan would help in developing “a truly competitive economy that can support our people and secure our future.”
“I congratulate the Economic Sustainability Committee for completing this critical national assignment in good time,” he added.
Among other objectives, the Sustainability plan will also help to create more jobs, boost the economy by providing support for small businesses and prioritising local content and manufacturing. The NESP is a 12-month ‘Transit’ Plan between the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and the ERGP-successor-plan currently being worked upon.
Prof. Osinbajo’s reputation is not in doubt, and his achievements as a public servant, pastor and Vice President are in the public space. Nigerians from all walks of life definitely appreciate a patriotic leader who has brought government closer to ordinary people.
Osinbajo brings that quality of compassion into political leadership and governance, he goes to meet the people where they are: bridging the gap between the government and the people.
Wherever he goes, it is clear that people see him a man with a deep sense of patriotism and passion to serve the people and find ways to improve their lives.
The Africa Report’s conclusions on the race for 2023 also missed the mark, again. It is not about 2023. The Vice President is fully focused presently on his service to the nation and the Buhari administration’s objectives to improve the economy, and the lives of Nigerians.
On a final note, the legacy of the man fondly referred to as pastor-prof is one that will definitely transcend politics and political sentiments.
It is one that feels the pulse of the people. Just as an article succinctly put it, “Osinbajo’s deep connection with people goes deeper than the surface. It is neither for the camera or for the klieg lights or for photo-ops, just the epitome of a man whose life and career has been built on the foundations of championing social causes well before his university days, and giving back to society through his talents, skills, and resources.”
That kind of influence is worth a thousand political, legal, religious and social networks.
Special Assistant, Communications,
Office of the Vice President,
Federal Republic of Nigeria