According to renowned Austrian-American management sage, Peter Drucker, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” As it were, in a period of disruption, nations live or die by their ability to envision new order, manage and adapt to change. In Nigeria’s case today, disruption, change/ diversity management and transition are unquestionably central, dominant themes.
In the more familiar political sense but more fundamental philosophical reading, Nigeria has entered a transition period: a crucial leadership transition phase. This is sparking a frenzy which cannot be decoupled from the nation’s peculiar political history.
With INEC’s scheduling of February 18, 2023 as the presidential Election Day, the jostling – both overt and covert – of who should clinch the ruling All Progressives Congress’ (APC) ticket and eventually succeed President Muhammadu Buhari is gaining momentum. The opposition PDP is not left out of the unfolding intrigues too. Subtle campaigns have begun. Consultations have heightened. Political posters are surfacing across the country urging support for some presidential hopefuls. Nigerians watch.
Significantly, rising from their recent Lagos meeting, Southern governors proclaimed a resolve that the South should produce the President in 2023 without fingering any particular political party that would produce such candidate – heightening both expectancy and some tension.
This is where the unassuming Vice President Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo, GCON, SAN, enters the fray. Although positioned by all contemporary political logic to succeed President Buhari, he has not been heard to indicate interest or share his intimate thoughts on the subject matter.
Osinbajo has been unquestionably a model understudy of the president for both terms of the Buhari administration. He is from the South and Christian. He has quietly navigated with political, professional, educational, ethical and diplomatic nous.
All considered, Osinbajo should have had his position as Buhari’s successor dusted up, spick and span. He is a professor of law who understands the economy of the country without a doubt. Though many believe he does not have a political base as protégé of the Asiwaju, but given emerging calculations, the highly insightful Jagaban needs pretty little help in adroitly reading the future.
More, having been deputy to President Buhari, close on eight years would have exposed and tutored him considerably for the big job. Although he is a Pastor the Osinbajo is certainly nobody’s fool. Each time he takes over from Buhari his impact registered loudly.
In effect, zone-wise, age-wise, knowledge-wise with economy/politics savvy and a calm, cool competence, Osinbajo snugly fits into the template of the next Nigerian leader. More discerning Nigerians quietly believe that he is the man former military president, retired General Ibrahim Babangida recently hinted at as the next president.
Osinbajo hides behind an affable hymn-singing façade, an inner steel that has seen him rise to become the nation’s second citizen. He is steeped in his party’s philosophy and manifesto and unquestionably.
Arguably, few can market the administration’s programmes better or incept/reconceptualise new strategies to transform the economy and defeat the monsters of corruption and insecurity. A glimpse into his governance style was observed when he acted in Buhari’s absence – though many believe this might have rubbed several administration hawks wrongly.
Speaking in the US, in his customary measured tones, Osinbajo on Wednesday, August 20, 2021, told Nigerians that despite people doubting if anything good would come out of Nigeria, the country will experience a new beginning. His words: “in the midst of current travails, the God of new beginnings is about to change our story. He is about to do something new. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
The Vice-president spoke at one of the sessions of The Americas Convention of the RCCG featuring the General Overseer of the Church, Pastor E.A. Adeboye, his wife, Pastor Folu Adeboye, the Continental Overseer of the Church in the American Continent, Pastor James Fadel, and other guest speakers drawn from around the world.
Vice-president Osinbajo is no less a child of providence, wielding power with alluring humility and exemplary focus. He has demonstrated with his life’s trajectory that spirituality, law and politics fundamentally address transformation of the human condition for good. To date, he unabashedly maintains this unique philosophy and footing.
An unwavering sense of loyalty and duty, rigorous erudition and professionalism, stern discipline, demonstrable integrity and almost a child-like faith in his beloved God has positioned him for higher political service in this period of disruption and uncommon turbulences.
Osinbajo has demonstrated that he is a personality and leader not swayed by extraneous emotionalism and parochial cant. For the next president these qualities are a must. Besides the statutory executive functions of the vice president which includes participation in all cabinet meetings and, by statute, membership in the National Security Council, the National Defence Council, Federal Executive Council, and the Chairman of National Economic Council, he also handles other specific duties that the president, whom he enjoys a good rapport, assigns.
As acting president, when President Muhammadu Buhari officially handed over the reins of governance to him, before proceeding to the United Kingdom on medical vacation on January 19, 2017, Osinbajo acquitted himself extremely well. This surprised many.
Besides tweaking the foreign exchange policy – a move that strengthened the Naira against the US Dollar then – his expressed position that, “Nigeria has no business with China if Aba is developed”, was widely applauded and genuinely appreciated. The incessant communal wars between Cross River and Ebonyi States, between Ebonyi and Benue States and between Cross River and Akwa Ibom States also engaged his attention. Many may perhaps have forgotten that the vice president’s shuttle diplomacy in the Niger Delta became a moderating balm.
The parameters for electing the next president do not specify sainthood as a key requirement. This humble servant-leader has never claimed he is a saint. In 2023, his choice as president would tacitly acknowledge the capacity of focused individuals to change their society for the better.
For decades, he has provided clear, pragmatic leadership in diverse life arenas. Today, Osinbajo who has now been deservedly transformed into an active, circumspect and intellectually focused national political figure can do no less. His party, the APC, recognizes this.
The position of president carries considerable weight, especially in charting the course of progressive engagement with the critical elements in a democratic mix, especially so when the occupant enjoys the total confidence of his party as Osinbajo undoubtedly does.
According to Henry Louis Gates, former leader of the African and American Research Institute at Harvard University, “People are afraid, and when people are afraid, when their pie is shrinking, they look for somebody to hate. They look for somebody to blame. And a real leader speaks to anxiety and to fear and allays those fears, assuages anxiety.”
Within the limitations of our extant peculiar political milieu, in his over six years in office and counting, Vice-president Osinbajo has spoken to national anxiety and to national fear and allayed those fears as well as assuaged the anxiety. This is his forte. Undeniably, fears and anxiety has been aplenty. It must also be genuinely acknowledged that the implicit trust and total support of President Muhammadu Buhari has immeasurably contributed to the effectiveness of the nation’s sedate Second Citizen.
Osinbajo is a professor of law, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, philanthropist and a notable spiritual leader. He was born on March 8,1957, at Creek Hospital, Lagos. He studied for his undergraduate degree at the University of Lagos between 1975 and 1978 where he obtained a Second-Class Upper Degree in Law. Here, he also won the Graham-Douglas Prize for Commercial Law. In 1979, he completed the mandatory one-year professional training at the Nigerian Law School whereon he was admitted to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of Nigeria’s Supreme Court. In 1980, he attended the London School of Economics & Political Science, where he obtained a Master of Laws degree.
An accomplished scholar, teacher, lawyer and administrator, he is one of Nigeria’s leading experts on the Law of Evidence, National and Regional Corporate Commercial Laws and Public Law. In 1981, the University of Lagos, engaged him as a Lecturer. From 1988-1992, he was appointed as an Adviser (Legal Advice and Litigation), to the then Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Bola Ajibola, KBE.
In 1994, he became a Professor of Law following which he was appointed Head of Department of Public Law, University of Lagos. Between 1999 and 2007, he was Member of Cabinet of the Lagos State Government where he served as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. From 2007-2013, he was once again employed as a Professor of Law, Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos. In 2007, Osinbajo became Senior Partner at SimmonsCooper Partners, Nigeria (a commercial law practice).
He was Staff Member, United Nations Operations in Somalia, Justice Division, UNOSOM II; Member, United Nations Secretary General’s Committee of Experts on Conduct and Discipline of UN, Peacekeeping Personnel around the globe. He was Partner in the Law Firm of Osinbajo, Kukoyi & Adokpaye.
A member of the International Bar Association and the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, he has served on the Nigerian Body of Benchers and the Council for Legal Education of Nigeria.
While in public office as Attorney General of Lagos State, he is credited with undertaking significant judicial reform in the state, addressing critical areas as judges’ recruitment, remuneration, training and discipline. He also addressed access to justice for the poor by establishing appropriate institutions in the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) and the Citizens Mediation Centre (CMC). He was elected vice president in 2015, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He is married to the love of his life, Oludolapo Osinbajo (nee Soyode), grand-daughter of the late sage and statesman, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. They have three children.
According to Charles Kettering, “The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.” In 2023, Osinbajo, in a deeper sync with his party’s mantra, is the change Nigeria needs.
▪︎Sabo Mohammed Kabir writes from Abuja.