As the fraud allegations leveled against Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, continue to make waves in the polity, some eminent Yoruba leaders have warned against any arbitrary attempt to stampede the embattled number two citizen out of office.
A chieftain of the Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, speaking with Sunday Sun advised that constitutional procedures be followed in unraveling the circumstances leading to the alleged mishandling of public funds, warning that “they should not rubbish him because they want to rubbish somebody from the South in anticipation of 2023.”
His words: “I don’t want to dabble in a matter I don’t know much about. The matter is within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). And the man that hires can fire. All that I can say is that he (President Muhammadu Buhari) should not do anything that is unconstitutional to remove the vice president not matter whatever he is accused of. He must follow constitutional procedure. The allegations they are making against him are within the view people who are in his government. All I can say is that there are certain constitutional procedures to follow in carrying out investigation. They should not rubbish him because they want to rubbish somebody from the South in anticipation of 2023.
“Whether or not he needs to waive his immunity in order to sue those who want to rubbish him is his own personal affair. All I am saying is that whatever will be done to him, it should be done constitutionally. Whatever he is accused of doing, it should be investigated constitutionally. There must be no arbitrariness in dealing with whatever accusation that is leveled against him.”
This is even as the newly elected Yoruba Leader, Prof Banji Akintoye, raised the alarm over the moves by some powers to treat Yoruba race as slaves.
He said: “Yoruba are in a terrible situation in Nigeria because the travail Osinbajo is going through show that we are now becoming like slaves in this country. So, we need to dig ourselves out of it.”
While urging restraint until full investigation into the alleged mismanagement of funds is carried out, he decried how the Buhari administration had been treating people from a particular section of the country as sacred cow, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
He fumed: “There are people among those controlling the Federal Government who have a lot of heavy questions to answer, but they were protected by the powers that be.
“The important thing is for us to find out exactly what is happening, because all we are hearing is just like a smoke, but we don’t know where the fire came from. There cannot be smoke without fire. Although we don’t know where the fire is, we can see the smoke all around.
“We have been hearing a lot of negative things about the vice president. So, whatever may be happening to him now demonstrated that, whoever is not part of the people who control the Federal Government of Nigeria is only allowed in the Federal Government on surveillance and tolerance. So, the person can be kicked out whenever they like.”
However, in his own reaction, General Ishola Williams (rted), an anti-corruption crusader, urged the vice president to step aside, while making good his words to sue those behind the spurious allegations.
Commenting on the issue in an interview with Sunday Sun, Williams said: “For me, if the vice president knows he has done something wrong, as one of the founders on an NGO called Integrity, he should just step down quietly instead of being removed. But if he is sure that he hasn’t done anything wrong, then, of course, he should stay there.”
He further stressed the need for the vice president to clear his name of all the allegations. He argued: “Under normal circumstances, when such issues like these come up, the people in the public like us don’t really know the inside story. In this case of the vice president being involved in certain areas in which funds have been allegedly misused, it shows that accountability is not yet part of our culture. For instance, in the case of NEMA in which he was the chair, he is in the best position to be able to control whatever amount of money is being spent in that organization.
“But we don’t know the whole story yet except what we read in the newspapers. Sometimes ago, the National Assembly asked the DG of NEMA to explain how funds were disbursed and he was correct to say that ‘you can’t expect me to spend that kind of money without the chairman and the board knowing.’ It is logical, it is a common sense. But the vice president has kept quiet on that.
“For the recent one in which Timi Frank, the former deputy publicity secretary of the APC, has accused him of taking so much amount of money from the bailout funds to Lagos, gave part of it to the party and kept the rest, one does not know where the truth lies. But then, Frank has challenged him to sue him on the allegation. Already, he has said he is going to waive his immunity to be able to sue anybody. He (VP) is going to do so. For now, we need to sit-down-look until the case starts. And since it is not going to be in the secret, I hope Mr Frank is not going to open Pandora box.”
While admitting the possibility of the scheming for 2023 in the raging controversy, Williams maintained that it would be difficult for Buhari’s government to function effectively without Osinbajo, describing him as intellectual arm of the presidency.
“Since we are in a world dominated by politics, any step that is taken by individual can easily be interpreted as part of the scheming for power. And as one of the leading candidates for 2023 from the Southwest, you cannot dismiss such insinuation.
“But it is in Buhari’s interest that Osinbajo should stay there because Osinbajo is the thinking arm of the presidency. He is the intellectual arm of the presidency and I am sure the president understands that. So, he won’t let him go like that. It doesn’t matter whether the cabal is putting pressure on him to do so, he will not let him go,” he posited.
Also lending credence to the call for prosecution of those individual’s raising the allegation, Senator Ayo Arise advised the vice president to do everything to save his integrity so that he could come out clean of the mess.
He said: “He cannot be charged as a vice president. I don’t know what the law says about his constitutional rights as individuals. If a person begins to malign his character, does he need to waive his constitutional immunity before those people are sued, I don’t know. He is a lawyer; so he knows better. But I think that whatever it’s worth, what the man is selling is his integrity. If a person takes that away from him, then what is left? Is it money that he is looking for? Nothing! When you look at it, he is not a poor man, after all, the little declaration he made, and as a SAN, the sky is the limit. It is not impossible that one or two errors could have been made when you are in that position. But it cannot be in the magnitude that we are reading. If it is true, it goes beyond what people can give excuse for. If two per cent of what is said turns out to be true, people like me will come out to criticize him. Everyone will be totally disappointed.
“But for that character that we know, he cannot be involved in that kind of theft. He is not an illiterate. How can he go about doing things with that kind of reckless abandon? Why are we criticizing other people that are doing it? So, it cannot be true. For him to come out clean, he needs to get somebody to sue those people. And he is already making effort to do that.
“The only thing some of us are selling is our integrity and our names. If you are looking for money, you can get richer than Dangote at this our age. It is a pure set up. So, he must defend his name. It is totally irresponsible for people to come out to just say things. I am really depressed with this kind of thing. We must wait for investigation for us to understand what the truth is. It is really mind-boggling and worrisome. I think he needs to come out, he needs to defend himself. He does not have to give up his immunity, but somebody needs to go to court and stop this thing,” he said.