Last week travelled faster than light, figuratively speaking. Its very first day opened with gunmen said to be Nigerians who reside in South Africa dastardly attacking St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Anambra State. Twenty-four hours thence, a typical Nigerian drama played out. Ageless Charly Boy and a handful of citizens who didn’t look anything like “Area Boys,” of whom he’s renowned to be the godfather, gathered in Abuja to whimper against the prolonged absence of President Muhammadu Buhari. Thankfully, the week ended on a high.
That fateful Saturday long chosen by the opposition People’s Democratic Party to begin the process of bringing its dry bones back to life, the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government quickly activated what in broadcasting is called counter-programming. It rushed in a high-powered media delegation, comprising Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, his colleague, Garba Shehu, SSA Abike Dabiri, et al, to star in the never-ending mockumentary shooting in London and showing in Nigeria.
Rather than dwell on something that’s an old normal in Nigeria, let’s flash back to Charly Boy and Company. Numbering no more than 10, they had come to whisper their 3R’s ultimatum for the President, who is convalescing in London, to return and resume or resign. But, as we’ve come to see time after time with this administration, overzealousness on the part of security personnel and decision-makers culminated in very-bad rather than very-good. The world again witnessed our shot-in-the-foot culture of highhandedness. Two journalists doing their legitimate job were manhandled and the tiny crowd of so-called anti-Buhari protesters were tear-gassed.
The tear gas, condemned nationwide as a sledgehammering on a fly, caused quite some panic when the protest leader, whose sobriquet belies his grandfather age, momentarily fell under its “anointing”. The police made it an anti-climax by explaining that they forcefully dispersed the peaceful demonstration because miscreants were about to hijack it. Okay o. In Nigeria, that explanation, complete with Charly Boy’s allegation that police dogs were also released on them, is something considered funny, not serious. Ditto the shamelessness of hurriedly concocting a counter-demonstration in favour of the President.
Whoever is pressing these buttons doesn’t know enough or doesn’t love the President. There are lows Nigeria had sunk to that Nigerians had thought the Buhari presidency would never remind them of. Cynics might even choose this juncture to contextualise that visit to the President by Minister Mohammed and his entourage. What was that meant to achieve? Was it to enable Nigerians hear the extremely brief audio of the President’s voice, the only element absent in all previous episodes?
It is an ineffectual strategy (for lack of a better word) to stage cabalistic visits to a democratically-elected leader, who is understandably absent. Those empty banter and photo ops stress out the old man for nothing. Secondly, the visits annoy the masses. The talismanic approach of a 15 or 30 minute live or recorded television interview with the President would have cost far less in terms of money and impact on his fragile health.
My grouse about Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is embedded in the foregoing. Since May 7 when the President began his second medical leave in London, this has been a different Acting President. The hyperactive man we saw in Round One having a ball and being totally in charge has been replaced by his somewhat indifferent self. In fact, each passing day reinforces my question: how truly vibrant and dynamic is Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN?
In the run-up to the 2015 election, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, SAN (himself a law teacher of over 30 years), appeared frequently on my network radio programme, Bush House Nigeria, to discuss the Buhari/Osinbajo candidacy. I turned to him to understand if the Acting President is occasionally this stone-cold. He regaled me with how “intelligent, hardworking, outcome-driven, mentally-and-spiritually balanced” Prof. Osinbajo, who began as a law lecturer at University of Lagos, is.
Ojukwu, former deputy director of the Nigerian Law School and head of the Enugu Campus, explained: “Prof. Osinbajo, SAN, taught law for over 35 years; was Special Adviser to Babangida’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Bola Ajibola, and brought massive law reforms; a feat he replicated when Tinubu made him Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Lagos. His eight years set off what’s today the economic independence of Lagos State. You remember when Obasanjo held back Lagos allocation but the state galloped on? He’s the man that gave the governor a tax regime that remains a winning formula to this day. He knows what he’s doing”
Unfortunately, that excellent sales pitch for Prof. Osinbajo only worsens matters. Not deploying his utilitarian profile and knowhow in glaring situations convinces me that something is wrong somewhere. Is there truly a cabal that won’t allow this Redeemed Pastor to rule freely? Or is he haunted by that “Coordinator” nomenclature the President’s mail to the Senate bore? If he has the President’s support as the latter’s wife alluded to the other time (we were told the President even sent back some ministers and their files), isn’t now the time for the Acting President to “arise and shine”?
It is in everyone’s best interest for Prof. Osinbajo to hit the sky flying again. Apart from being a vaccine against posterity memory loss, performing optimally (eg., undertaking on-the-spot interventions as we saw in the Niger Delta) would douse these anti-Buhari and rising regional tensions. The Acting President, a Christian for that matter, not visiting Ozubulu personally and allowing the twin crying shame of last Monday let down his fan base. He may have been sent to Aso Rock for such a time as now.
God bless Nigeria!