“Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”
–Harry S Truman
The Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, in his last trip to the US unintentionally provoked icy distemper of his Southwest people, when at a town hall meeting with Nigerians in the Diaspora in New York; he allegedly said “kidnapping stories on social media are false and fuelled by politics.”
Though the alleged statement was immediately followed by a quick rebuttal, the outrage of public outcry has continued unabated, putting the erudite professor on the spot. Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, in particular, condemned the perceived insensitivity of the Vice President to the rising spate of banditry and kidnapping in the region and elsewhere in the country.
Rising from its meeting held in Akure, the Ondo State capital, the Spokesperson of the group, Yinka Odumakin, in a communiqué made available to newsmen, said that Osinbajo trivialized an issue that has given the people of the Southwest and other zones cause for concern.
“Meeting frowned at this unfortunate comment by the Vice President who shames the Yoruba people with his very cheap politicking with the lives of Nigerians. He should kneel before his God and ask for forgiveness for violating ‘Thou shall not lie’ commandment,” the Yoruba leaders said.
But in a swift reaction, the Vice President, said that he was misquoted in his speech during his meeting with Nigerians in the U.S. A statement by his Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity), Laolu Akande, said: “Our attention has been drawn to misleading reports in a section of the media purportedly made by and attributed to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) on the security situation in Nigeria, in New York.
“For the purpose of clarity, and the records, it is pertinent to state that Prof Osinbajo was entirely misquoted and his words taken out of context in the said media reports, especially those that quoted him as saying that ‘kidnapping in Nigeria is exaggerated and not entirely new.
“Nowhere in the Vice President’s remarks at the town hall meeting with the Nigerian community did he use the word ‘exaggerated,’ not even by implication.”
Beyond what Osinbajo said and what he did not say, the naked truth is that the present government is already too overwhelmed by the security challenges in the country whether in the form of Boko Haram insurgency, banditry or kidnapping.
Several statements credited to the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, whose responsibility it is to coordinate the operation of the various security agencies to see an end to the current insecurity, are strong enough to make anyone cringe in despair. At one time, he was quoted to have allegedly said that Boko Haram was providing humanitarian assistance to some communities in Borno, a report he quickly dismissed as propaganda.
In another instance, he accused the soldiers of not showing enough commitment in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents and also refuted the same saying: “I never said in any comment that troops lack commitment. I was wrongly quoted and quoted out of context. Some even went beyond that to quote me that I said troops are cowards.”
This raises question about the seeming tardiness of President Muhammadu Buhari to yield to the demand for the creation of state police to empower the governors to deal with peculiar security situations in their domains. And why he has also refused to alter the security architecture of the country to inject new ideas into the system instead of the blanket approval he gave to the reappointment of the Security Chiefs.
As threat of bandit and kidnappers continues to cause every community sleepless nights, people are tired of the story from the Federal Government that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated” or “technically degraded.” It doesn’t give any ray of hope.
As, indeed, elsewhere in the country, the litany of recent kidnap cases in the Southwest is a clear testimony that government is not getting certain things right. So, it naturally provokes anger when people hear the authorities say that politicians are sponsoring banditry, kidnapping and other criminal activities in the country.
In one way or the other, literally everyone knows one person or the other who have had a bitter taste of criminality going on in the country. What they want is solution and not a statement justifying the seeming inaction of government. From Kaduna to Lagos, Kano to Maiduguri, Aba to Port Harcourt, no road is safe anymore for travelers. In most cases, soldiers and policemen have to run for their dear lives, not the criminals who have AK 47 dangling on their necks. It is that bad.
In reality, Osinbajo wouldn’t have been spared of verbal attacks either, even if he had told his audience in New York that things were bad at home. He would have been accused of de-marketing Nigeria as his boss did when he told the British Prime Minister that there was corruption in Nigeria. But just as the erudite professor was struggling to get out of the quagmire, the Secretary General of the Mayetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Baba Uthman Ngelzarma, roused another rabble, claiming that the Office of the Vice President was helping the herdsmen to create Ruga settlements across the country. In a similar rebuttal, Osinbajo dismissed the allegation, saying “contrary to claims reported in sections of the media, the establishment of Ruga settlement is not being supervised by the Office of the Vice President.” Yet, the question remains whether or not he can come out of the storm unscathed.
Before his foray into politics, Osinbajo had a successful career as law lecturer at the University of Lagos, where he rose to become a Professor and Head of Department of Public Law. From 1988 to 1992, he was an Adviser (legal advice and litigation) to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Bola Ajibola. From 2007 to 2013 Osinbajo was once again employed as a Professor of Law.
After the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013, Osinbajo was tasked, with other notable Nigerians, to design and produce a manifesto for the new political party. This culminated in the presentation of the “Roadmap to a New Nigeria”, a document published by APC as its manifesto.
He was subsequently tipped as running mate to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) in the 2015 general election and became Vice President following the victory of the party in the presidential poll. He has just been sworn-in for another term of office along his boss. They both owe the nation the responsibility of finding solution to the security challenge confronting the country. Time is now for them to summon courage to do the needful.