I spoke to him once on the phone, but we’ve not yet met. But long before the larger part of Nigeria knew much about him, I predicted his ascension to power on August 23, 2014 in an opinion titled, “This man may save APC”. He has always carried himself with grace; and he is a man I admire. After Vice-President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, got elected alongside Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, every word he speaks thereon catches the attention of the attentive and non-attentive. Anything he verbalises publicly becomes a representation of the thought process of his principal.
I am not sure how influential Osinbajo is in the Buhari administration. It’s hard to measure his sway among the horde. What we know is that anyone playing second fiddle in any political position in Nigeria isn’t given enough props and grips on power. But this erudite Vice-President is strong. He didn’t hustle to be where he is. Divine arrangement positioned him. He has proved himself over many years in public service the value he brings to any executive table. But the game in Aso Rock is played differently. Faceless beings rule over the ruler. If cabals could sideline and scheme out the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, with relative ease and success, I can only imagine the forces Osinbajo may be contending with daily in the discharge of his duties to fatherland.
On Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at the 21st National Economic Summit in Abuja, the Vice-President made this statement: “…I find that everybody will like the rules to be applied so long as it will not apply to himself. We can’t apply the rules except we apply the rules to all of us; there should be no sacred cows… I’ve had the experience in public service and don’t mind being the tough guy. I’ve sacked people that needed to be sacked. So, there are no sacred cows. The rules will be applied anyway”. When the VP made this statement, he must have meant it. But in Buharis’ barn, are all cows equal? Are there sacred cows lurking around in sacred places in the administration?
Nigerians are beginning to ask the question if the Secretary to the Federal Government, Babachir Lawal, is not just one of the fat cats in Buhari’s veranda of power, but also a sacred and untouchable cow. He was alleged to have mishandled over a quarter of a billion naira in a grass-cutting expedition involving a company, Rholavision, in which he was a director till one year after becoming a government employee. His friends who became enemies knew this was a breach of Nigeria’s code of conduct for public officials as spelt out in the constitution. They spilled the beans on him.The Senate’s ad hoc committee indicted Lawal behind his back. President Muhammadu Buhari sets up an investigation. The one-man investigation panel led by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami SAN, met for about a month.
A few days ago, the Presidency absolved one of its own in a letter sent to the Senate. The letter said that Lawal was not given a fair hearing before the indictment. It also said neither the SGF nor the company said to have been used to perpetrate the alleged illegality was invited by the Shehu Sani-committee. Lawal is home free! We all know that the fierce game of politics is being played around Lawal’s powerful position in Buharis cabinet. We are also aware that some powerful senators want him out of that seat bad enough that they will strut to any length to get him fired. But the Secretary enjoys the full blessing of the sitting president. He is a trusted hand. When you run an intricate business like Nigeria, you need men and women you can trust. Did Lawal commit a gross infraction that’s likely to cost him a place in Buharis heart and in this government? We don’t know. And those who believe they do have not proved their case beyond an iota of doubt. The troubling aspect of the Presidency’s written response to the Senate is that it never denied that there were wrongdoings. The defence of Lawal was on technical ground. Is Lawal a sacred cow in this government?
I have in the past applauded this President for his mud-wrestling with corruption. My hope was high and my spirit was welcoming to a change in the business-as-usual environment that had historically enveloped Nigeria before Buhari came aboard. Desire is different from ability. Stories such as this only keep the hopes of many shaking about Mr. President’s ability to cripple corruption. Every cow must be one fit for the slaughter slab; none should be sacred. The surging headwind of the fight against corruption is dirty, daring, valiant, valorous, and ferocious. A good fighter should, unapologetically, be willing to make casualties of friends, not spare them. He ought to hammer erring family members; not leave them out. War against corruption must not be a respecter of persons; and some of the fatalities may be those who have helped the fighter achieve the position to fight.
Are we truly fighting corruption in Nigeria? The corruption question on the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, has not been satisfactorily answered. The gross indiscretion humming on Minister Dambazau is still hanging out there in the clouds. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, is still dogged; and there is silence about Senate President Bukola Saraki’s struggles to clear his smudged name. At their inaugurations, Dogara and Saraki promised to let the world know facts-and-figures of the National Assembly budget. Up till now, it is shrouded in purulent secrecy. I heard Lawal hates that secrecy idea; and he is hated for hating what they hate to make public. Nigeria is an intricate migraine headache. Lions and the leopards are moving about freely, and the lambs and the goats are scurrying into hiding famished. I may not agree with the qualifier; but when someone calls Nigeria a zoo, I try to sniff around to confirm if it smells like one. From the Presidential Palace to the Governor’s Lodge; from the National Assembly to the State Assembly; and from the church to the mosque, it sure smells like animal poop everywhere.
Let me cast a picture of what this fight which is daily appearing like a farce looks like now. A six-year-old little boy was pitted against the World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion in a duel. The six-year-old had the determination to defeat the champion. In the wrestling ring, he kept swinging at the strong and indomitable monster. Those who hated the champion were happy that at least someone was challenging the monster they all hated. The heavyweight champion did not have to swing a finger. He was in a world of his own. He thought to himself: “This little boy doesn’t know who he is up against; he will soon run out of gas and guts, and I the champion of them all will reign and dominate forever”. But the little boy thought that the more he swung and charged, the more the experience he acquired to fight the monster and defeat him; and the more men would applaud him for even daring to fight a champion many didn’t have the courage to fight. Well, maybe it’s true. Maybe, if the boy kept swinging for a few more years, his skill-level would increase; he would get stronger, and the champion would get older and weaker until he thawed out. But in a duel such as this; time is of the essence. The monster is killing lives and destinies. The journey ahead of Nigeria is far, my friends. And this fight is getting tougher.