Sunday, April 18, 2021 12:00 pm
Dr Balkisu Saidu
Before the permeation of social media, I was one of those who believed in and re-echoed the popular saying that “the only way to win with a toxic person is not to play.” To this end, I found silence to be a very potent tool in dealing with some extremely wicked and deliberate acts of provocation exhibited through concoction and spread of falsehoods and apparently implausible stories.
I have since realised that, in this day and age of fake news and cyber propaganda, it is important that lies and misinformation, no matter the motive of the initiator, are countered and records set straight. Amongst the recipients of the falsehood could be some innocent consumers who will benefit from having true facts presented. Allowing fake news to linger may create the impression that there could be some element of truth in what was propagated.
It is for the foregoing reasons that when the write up credited to one Dr Musbau Akinbode titled “Osinbajo’s Stealth Christianization Agenda”, which has been circulating of recent in the social media, was brought to my attention, I opted to respond. Although no date was ascribed to the write up, it appears to be a rehash of several baseless allegations made in the past against the Vice President, many of whom have been debunked with apologies issued by unsuspecting media houses misled into publishing some of the concocted stories.
The new twist in Dr Akinbode’s write up is the allegation that the Vice President is implementing a “Christianization” agenda and in that wise none of the appointments made by the Vice President from persons of Yoruba extraction were given to Yoruba Muslims. This allegation reminded me of a similar baseless claim made in 2017 by one Dr. Ismaila Farouk, which Akinbode referred to, alleging that the selection of personal staff of the Vice President was skewed in favour of “his Yoruba ethnic group.”
Those fuelling the orchestrated and surreptitious narrative immediately backtracked when confronted with facts and a long list of Northerners, from tribes other than Yoruba, working in the office at the time including, among others, Mrs. Maryam Uwais (Special Adviser on Social Investment, from Kano State); Ambassador Abdullahi Gwary (Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs, from Yobe State); my humble self (Senior Special Assistant on Legal, Research and Compliance Matters, from Sokoto State); Mr. Ismaeel Ahmed (Senior Special Assistant on Social Investment, from Kano State); Mr. Bege Bala (Special Assistant, BPE, from Kaduna State); Abdurahman Baffa Yola (Special Assistant on Political Matters); Mrs. Susan Chagwa (Special Assistant on Household and Social Events, from Adamawa State), etc.
Certainly, some of the listed allegations made by Dr Akinbode are objectionably and glaringly malicious and even laughable, unlikely to be believed by any discerning follower of the rise and actions of the Vice President. For example, the Office of the Vice President is like a mini-Nigeria. The level of diversity accomplished in the office reflects all segments of the society – geo-political, ethnic, religious, gender and youth representation.
It is therefore inconceivable for anyone to suggest marginalisation or, as Dr Akinbode puts it, “Christianization” in appointments and religious bigotry. To the specific point of appointment of Yoruba Muslims, Dr Akinbode may wish to know that, even amongst his personal staff, no less than ten Yoruba Muslims were appointed to work for the Vice President including his next in command and the highest-ranking officer in the Vice President’s office, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. AbdurRahman Adeola Ipaye. Other Yoruba Muslims who work, at various times, in the office include Distinguished Senator Babafemi Ojudu (Special Adviser on Political Matters); Dr Mariam Masha (Senior Special Assistant on Internally Displaced Persons); Ms Lanre Shasore (Senior Special Assistant on Planning and Coordination); Mrs. Olabisi Ogungbemi (Special Assistant on Political Matters); Yusuf Ali (Special Assistant on Power); Mr Mohammed Brimah (Special Assistant on Job Creation); Mr Mukhtar Tijani (Special Assistant on Power); Ms. Lolade Abiola; and Mr. Akanni Rahman.
A leader known to suspend meetings to enable Muslim participants perform prayers; known to rescue Muslim orphans and provide them with shelter and educational opportunities that safeguard and promote their religious practices; known to host Breaking of Ramadan Fast (Iftar) with Religious Leaders and Muslim communities from across the country; known to timeously intervene in the resolution of thorny inter-religious issues with potential for escalation can certainly not be said to be promoting any particular religion.
Also, the allegation of “Christianization” in the appointment of some named individuals to various positions in Government is indicative of a complete lack of understanding of how Government appointments are made or a deliberate attempt to distort facts and mislead unsuspecting public. Save for Mr. Kayode Pitan, who was appointed by the Vice President as the Managing Director of the Bank of Industry to take over from Mr. Waheed Olagunju, who was serving in acting capacity, all the other persons named by Dr Akinbode were appointed by the President in the exercise of his constitutional powers.
The calibre of the persons is not in question. In terms of accomplishments, these are pacesetters in their respective industries. For example, Mr. Ben Akabueze, the Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation served more than two terms as Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in Lagos State and was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NAL Bank Plc. (now Sterling Bank Plc.). He has also served as Special Adviser to the President on National Planning.
Mr Alex Okoh, the Director-General, Bureau of Public Enterprises, an Alumnus of Harvard Business School and former Managing Partner, Ashford & McGuire Consulting Ltd.; is a quintessential Banker and Financial Advisor who as the Managing Director/CEO of NNB International Bank led the transformation of the bank from a comatose state into a leading commercial bank in Nigeria. He has worked with various banks within and outside Nigeria including Nigeria International Bank Limited (Citibank); United Bank for Africa Plc.; Citibank New York; Fidelity Bank London; Swiss Banking Corporation, Zurich; and Grindlays Bank, Zimbabwe. His first tenure recorded tremendous transformation of the Bureau leading to his reappointment by the President.
Before the appointment by Mr. President of Mr Okey Enelamah as the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment in 2015, the Harvard University graduate, Baker Scholar and Loeb Fellow has had a tremendous successful career in investment banking and with Arthur Anderson (now KPMG Professional Services), New York and London offices of Goldman Sachs, Zephyr Management. He also founded and served as CEO of the African Capital Alliance (ACA).
Clearly, even on the appointment of Mr Pitan, the author is not questioning the qualification of Mr Pitan, imaginably considering his robust academic training (including at American Graduate School of International Management, Arizona, USA; London Business School; and Haggai Institute, Singapore) as well as his decades of corporate and banking experience.
These appointments were based purely on merit. The only problem with the appointments, according to the author, was their religion. Save Dr Akinbode is suggesting that persons being considered for appointments into Government positions must denounce their religions, it is unclear why the religious leanings of the appointees should be in issue. Recall that similar allegations were made against appointments of equally deserving and competent Muslims with claims of “Islamisation” being bandied around. Such divisive rhetoric and adverse language are dangerous to Nigeria’s unified harmonious existence and should be resisted and rejected by all.
The Osinbajo I know has been nothing but absolutely and uncompromisingly loyal to his principal, earning him several public and private commendations and additional responsibilities from the President, including the management of the Economic Sustainability Plan, credited with facilitating the “unexpected exit” of Nigeria from one of the worst recession cycles to hit several nations of the world. The man, Osinbajo, seeks no accolades. It is therefore not every action taken by him in support of persons facing challenges that will end up on the pages of newspapers. Just because Dr Akinbode is unaware of these interventions should not be a basis for dehumanising the Vice President.
Additionally, it is evil and reprehensible to drag the person of Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo into whatever malicious campaign the author is mounting against the Vice President. This is a humble and compassionate woman, who has conducted her humanitarian and philanthropic activities in a well-guided and detached manner away from any Government activities. It is unacceptable to have persons of integrity be subjected to such ridiculous acts of scathing and baseless attacks. Clearly, the purpose of this is to cause annoyance, hatred, and ill will against the family of the Vice President. Luckily, Nigerians can see through these malicious, baseless, smear campaigns, mounted by dishonest and shady individuals.
While the main preoccupation of the Vice President is the discharge of the mandate resoundingly given to their ticket under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, may I remind Dr Akinbode that power is not in the hands of any individual to give or take, but in the hands of Almighty Allah; and He bestows it upon whom He wills. Please refer to the Holy Qur’an, Chapter 3 (Surah Al-Imran), Verse 26.
I sure hope and pray that a time will come when Dr Akinbode and his likes will realise that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is as authentic as he presents – he is a humane, compassionate, detribalised patriotic Nigerian, who is committed to the service of Nigeria and Nigerians in a fair, honest, transparent and accountable manner. And, while we spare time to respond to these and similar unfounded allegations, the Vice President never allows mischief-makers and peddlers of fake news to distract him from his main preoccupation: service to Nigeria.
*The author, Balkisu Saidu,* is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Legal, Research and Compliance Matters, Office of the Vice President. She writes from Abuja.