Osinbajo: Creating a prosperous and safe nation through the rule of law

VP Yemi Osinbajo

By Mustapha Ogunsakin

On May 12, 2022, Nigerians woke to the rude and shocking news of the murder of Deborah Samuel, a 200 year student of Home Economics at the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto. Deborah was accused of insulting the Islam Prophet Muhammad on her Classmate’s WhatsApp platform. Before anyone could help, she had been stoned to death, her body drenched with Petrol and burnt.

The whole country was still engulfed with sorrow of this gory and needless death when another man, Sunday David-Imoh was burnt to death in Lekki, Lagos by some commercial motorcyclists over a one hundred naira change. David-Imoh, a sound engineer, met his untimely death because of a hot exchange over a paltry sum.

Two weeks earlier, a couple, both soldiers,Master Warrant Officer Audu Linus and Private Gloria Matthew had gone to Owerri, Imo State in a happy mood. They wanted to solidify and solemnize their relationship and become husband and wife. Marriages in African culture are usually beyond union between two people. It is a union between families, peoples, and even countries. Soldier Linus reportedly hailed from Benue State while Gloria was from Ikwerre Local Government, IMO State. Both were gruesomely hacked to their death.

The three disheartening cases mentioned above shows clearly that the fault lines amongst the diverse peoples of Nigeria has widened to dangerous proportions. The three shows the people in their very bad states. The Sokoto burning is religious, the Lekki one is economic, while the Imo State saga is ethnic- the things that ought to be the strength, has become weaknesses, and Achilles heel of the nation.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo SAN referring to these ugly incidents on Tuesday in Abuja said: “We must create a country that works for all- a peaceful and secure society founded on law and order and the rule of law; a society that enables commerce and values productivity, so that large and small businesses can grow and provide jobs and opportunities for millions of young people, a society where no one is left behind”.

The Vice President made these remarks when he was honored with the Leadership Person of the Year Award 2021 by Leadership Newspapers at its Annual Conference and Awards ceremony.

Indeed, a look the ‘The Plan’, Osinbajo’s program me of development for Nigeria had as its first statement: “Yemi Osinbajo will unify the nation as one cohesive yet diverse unit. People will not be discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity, religion and gender”.

How does he hope to achieve this? By “ensuring justice and promoting
healing and restoration for injured communities and people”.

Osinbajo is a firm advocate of law and order, and believer in the rule of law. For him, this world will be a better place if everyone obeys the law. But obedience to the law does not come cheap. It comes with hardwork, serious advocacy, investment in the people, and the instruments of the administration of justice system.

Several years before be became Vice President, Prof Osinbajo set up a not for profit non governmental organization named Justice Research Institute (JRI). Justice Research Institute (Ltd. Gte.) JRI is a public/private think tank on justice policy and research centre established in 2005. JRI is affiliated with the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Akoka, and the Public Interest Network, New York, USA. JRI is a national leader for sourcing data and critical information on the justice sector in Nigeria. JRI designs and implements capacity building programmes for Justice sector institutions and actors. The institute also provides research, resources, and communication support to the government for advocacy and reform in critical sectors. JRI aims to be the most reliable source for data and critical information on the justice sector in Nigeria.

He also founded The Orderly Society Trust in 2007 with his wife, Oludolapo to honour the memories of Isaac Opeolu Osinbajo (1919 – 1996), his father, and Oluwatoyin Osinbajo (1962 – 2006), the late wife of his junior brother, Akin, for whom various aspects of the organization’s aims was a passion.

OST seeks to assist in overcoming the challenges of creating an orderly society by promoting initiatives which support:
The Rule of Law – By recognising and celebrating in creative ways, judicial courage and resourcefulness, promote research and ideas on speedier and fairer justice delivery, and judicial independence.

OST also advocates transparency and accountability by supporting public and private anti-corruption initiatives, assisting in building the capacity of community based organisations to fight corruption, promote ideas and research on enhancing transparency in government procurement and services, and strategies to establish accountability in systems and processes.

The trust particularly focuses on dissemination of ethics of integrity, patriotism, respect for civic obligation and etiquette to youths by bridging the gap between privileged youths in private schools and their counterparts in public ones.

Osinbajo has therefore been prophetic in his approach to solving societal problems, using his strength in area of comparative advantage- the rule of law, without ever having an inkling that a time will come that his will occupy a high office, or compete for the highest office in the land, the Presidency. Fate and passion prepared him for times like this!

It was these drive to solve societal problems and challenges that pushes him to successes in the areas that he had served, whether as Personal Assistant to the Attorney General of the Federation, AG Lagos, or his various assignments with the United Nations.

An erudite scholar, his successes during his eight-year sojourn as AG are attested to by the legacies he left behind, all of them still visible today. He is probably the best Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice that has ever served in the state since its creation.

For the first time in the history of the country, Osinbajo repositioned the ministry from a government agency, to that of a citizen-focused department of justice by establishing policies and programs which promote access to justice, especially for the most vulnerable groups. These created confidence in the teeming people who were attended to regardless of race, ethnic background or religion. The primary criteria is residency in Lagos. This approach further made it easier for citizens to obey the rule of law. They practically experienced that their government is not only interested in sending them to prison, but also defends them and cater for their welfare.

However, for Osinbajo, the achievement of the past is nothing compared to the challenges of today. He prophesized more than 15 years ago that the most important issue in the administration of justice is law and order, security and the credibility of the criminal justice system. But unfortunately, Nigeria’s law enforcement capacity has not demonstrated either for will or the imagination to tackle the swiftly escalating law and order concerns. “The sheer number of high profile homicides that remain unresolved leaves everyone wondering how many less publicized crimes ever get resolved. The criminal process is another challenge. Many criminal trials, especially where the accused person can not afford quality legal defence, are stalled by interlocutory applications and stay of proceedings – Trials simply go on forever,” he said.

He said further: “I think that the major problem we have now is that we have a law enforcement system that is showing itself to be incapable of maintaining law and order. That, for me, is a major crisis we have. Part of the reason is because we insist on the federal police system. That is a major part of the problem and it is a structural problem. You cannot post a man from Katsina State to come and police in Ebonyi State where he doesn’t even understand the language. If a man is supposed to be a law enforcement agent, he must understand the local language, the local way, the culture and all of that. How can you even know if he himself is being conspired against let alone resolving conspiracy? And that is why all over the world, policing is community-based, it is local. If policing is not local, it is ridiculous; it cannot achieve its objectives. So, the question is not whether we want state police or we don’t want it, it is the only sensible thing to do. You cannot have a situation where you import policemen from one place to come and run affairs somewhere else entirely different.
“My take on this whole thing is that, what we need to have is a Federal police system, a national police force or federal police that takes care of federal crime and cross-border criminality. And then each state must have its own police force, including the local government;

“In a society where there are many graduates who have no work, there is no reason why you should say that the entry level for the police force is school certificate holder. Policing is a very serious issue. You can’t become a constable in England unless you have gone to university. So there is no reason why you can’t have that kind of people; let our entry level be graduate level. Then each state can be as innovative as it wants to be. If Lagos State, for instance, wants to train its own policemen very well and set a standard, let them set the standard, so people can compare them with the police in other states,” he said.

It is crystal clear that if elected President, Nigerians will not only be safe and secured, they will enjoy obeying the law and as a nation, create themselves an enabling environment for their own prosperity.