On March 8, 2018, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinabjo, clocked three scores and one. Expectedly, there have been plenty of birthday wishes. In writing this piece, I was faced with the dilemma of how to capture the essence of a man that has continued to wow many Nigerians with his loyalty to his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari; his unalloyed faith to his God as a pastor; his profound intellectual profundity and commitment in service to country.
It was in this reflection that Abraham Maslow came to mind. Maslow, a migrant Russian Jew to America, was recorded to have said; “We need not take refuge in supernatural gods to explain our saints and sages and heroes and statesmen, as if to explain our disbelief that mere unaided human beings could be that good or wise.”
Maslow was not your typical run-of-the-mill individual. He was a renowned psychologist and best known for proposing the “hierarchy of needs” to be met so that an individual can achieve “self-actualization.” It is in this regard that one gets to appreciate his insightful commentary on the place of intellectuals not just as individuals but as servants in government.
Without a doubt, there is hardly any Nigerian that is not in agreement that Osinbajo is deeply imbued with intellect. And this he has brought to bear in his role as vice president.
Nothing best illustrates his place in this administration and Nigeria as a whole as in the months that President Buhari was unavoidably away from the country on medical vacation. To demonstrate that government was not just a one-man show and there was no vacuum, the vice president criss-crossed the country meeting with critical stakeholders to reassure them of the administration’s goodwill towards all segment of the country.
At that time of holding sway for his boss, Osinbajo shuttled to the restive Niger Delta to calm frayed nerves and bring the aggrieved people and their leaders to the table. His foray in the Niger Delta yielded the adoption of the 16-point demand presented by Niger Delta leaders represented by the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), as a working document to resolve the crisis in the oil-rich region. That singularly move stemmed the looming threat to the nation’s oil and gas production and has since then ensured that our country has maintained its OPEC oil production quota.
Besides this, Osinbajo has remained a key ally of President Buhari in articulating most of the economic and development agenda of the Change administration. As head of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, it was easy to tell his desire to re-booth the economy and get things working again. Long before coming into government, Osinbajo has demonstrated his loyalty to the Nigerian people as exemplified in the Pfizer Trovan and Ceftriaxone drug scandal that claimed 11 children in the ancient city of Kano.
The vice president’s law firm was able to secure a rewarding deal amounting to $175 million (N63 billion in prevailing exchange rate) for the victims. One can only appreciate the depth of his loyalty when weighed against the relationships of some past deputies with their principal. No wonder that President Buhari tweeted early on the vice president’s birthday: “Happy 61st Birthday, @ProfOsinbajo. Thank you for being a loyal and dependable partner on this journey. I join millions of your friends and well-wishers around the world to wish you many more years of service to God, to Nigeria, and to humanity.”
It is on record that joint tickets deteriorate in the end, “undone by divergent politics, festering policy disputes—or simply human fatigue amid the strains of trying to turn what is inevitably a shotgun marriage into a love match.” But with Osinbajo, the reverse has been the case- perhaps, as a matter of providence or basically his appreciation of the transient ego of power. Whichever, it serves him well.
It is also instructive to note that no one best illustrates how power has not eroded the humanness of the Vice President than the man he first served as Attorney General, former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Tinubu in his birthday message said to wit: “This day presents an opportunity for us to thank God for the years he has given you and to pray that He provides you with many more birthdays. Your birthday also gives me the chance to tell you that the respect and affection I have for you as a brother and friend are deep and abiding. Your life has been one of commitment to the principles of justice, honesty, fairness, and equality of all people under God. You plied your knowledge of the law to advance the welfare of the common man and, thus, protect those ideals and beliefs integral to the exercise of our collective humanity. You vitally contributed to most of the landmark cases and laws passed in the state, which paved the way for the ongoing development of the state. Those same rare talents and traits you continue to live by today. You did not allow the high office to change you or dilute your humanity. Your performance and service to the nation is a source of pride to those who know you. Along with President Buhari, you have helped to show that assumption of high office does not have to lower one’s sense of morality or lessen their humanity.”
Having worked closely with the vice president, I can proudly say that his passion and optimism for Nigeria getting it right despite the present socio-economic problems do not show signs of diminishing. One could, perhaps, put this down to his avowed faith in God. As Osinbajo marks his 61st birthday and as Nigeria continues to seek for ways and means to create a country that is for all Nigerians, it will be something of cheer to expect that the good working relations between him and the president will continue to flourish. As they engage themselves in the daunting task of building a prosperous country, those futuristic ideas needed to make Nigeria achieve its full potentials will not be lacking.
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