Until the leadership of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) wittingly and most irresponsibly injected itself in the 2023 elections, I had not been so vehemently opposed to Pastor Yemi Osinbajo’s candidacy.
I had believed it was good for our nascent democracy ifeveryone who thought they had something to contribute to the development of our nation had the opportunity to offer themselves for service. I had thought it was the very definition of the presidential system of government that we have embraced. I had thought if the selection process was free and fair, winners would have earned their mandate and losers would have tested the limits of their popularity. All the different factions would have then buried their hatchets, kissed, made up, come together as one and fought the opposition for the main prize. That’s democracy.
Like everyone else, I had my own ranking. My most favorite politicians were Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (APC), Ondo State, and Senator Fatai Buhari (APC) Oyo State. If Akeredoluwere running for President, I would have supported him over any other politician in the country. If Buhari was running for governor, I would support him over any politician in Oyo State. I just thought those two individuals were shining examples of hard work, the kind that we need in our politics. I soon found out that Akeredolu was not interested in running. And I removed him from my presidency list. My list, in descending order, was now Alhaji Ahmed Tinubu, Alhaji Raji Fashola, Dr. KayodeFayemi and Pastor Osinbajo. Once I realized that Fashola was also not likely to run, I removed him from my list.
Pastor Osinbajo was always the last on my list because I thought he had the least experience in governance and in politics. As vice president for so long, I thought even the Chief of Staff (CoS) and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), though not in presidency succession line, had more “executive”power and experience than him. I thought they saw more of the government than him. I thought the vice president post was not designed to be a training post for succeeding the president. It was designed as a principal position to succeed the presidentimmediately, in the event the president position became vacant. Therefore, even if a vice president had spent 16 years there, he/she would still not have grown in the job and consequently not have had the experience that even a one-year governor of any state in the Federation would have had. Ditto for deputy governor.
And Osinbajo himself indirectly conceded this fact when he sought to exonerate himself from culpability in the failings of the Buhari administration. His surrogates (and later himself)began to remind Nigerians that the Constitution did not assign too many responsibilities to the office of the vice president. True. And if true, then the vice president cannot claim executive or presidential experience.
So, for me, he was the least qualified on my list. The least qualified, yes. But nonetheless, qualified to run as are millions of other Nigerians.
But when the RCCG jumped in and overtly (and covertly)sought to make the presidential election a task for electing a pastor, a priest, a clergyman, I took Pastor Osinbajo off my list completely. We have a country already tottering at the precipice of prebendal and ethnocentric abysses; we cannot afford an outright religious crisis that the election of a cleric (of any faith) would engender.
Imagine the North fielding a Sunni Sheik; or a Wahhabi Sheik, or a Shi’a Sheik as presidential candidate of a major political party. Let’s put a name to this hypothetical question: Think of Sheik Ahmad Gumi as presidential candidate of either APC or PDP. Would the South not be in an uproar? Would the entire Christendom not cry Islamization? A pastor is the equivalence of a Sheik! A pastor is the equivalence of an Imam! Think about that again. Christians may not think a pastor is as dangerous as an Imam or Sheik but it is! It is so in the minds of northerners. It is so in truth, no matter who you are. Other than Vatican City, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and I think Yemen, no other country in world practices theocracy. The optics of a practicing pastor as president of Nigeria will be unacceptable to the rest of Nigerians and will signal the beginning of the end of the country as a secular State.
Muslims have led Nigeria. Christians have led Nigeria. And they have all been accepted by Nigerians of faiths other than theirs. Electing a cleric of any faith is a bridge too far for me.
True, those who made Osinbajo vice president, literally one heartbeat from the presidency, knew he could potentially become president if something were to happen to the president. But that “accidental scenario” is easier to imagine and sell to adherents of other faiths than an outright, in-your-face move by the RCCG to put a pastor in charge of Nigeria.
One other reason I took Osinbajo off my list is how he handled the roll-out of his campaign. Those who accuse him of betrayal are not too far off the mark. I know that some in the Yoruba intelligentsia which used to extol and chorus “Yoruba Omoluwabi Ethos” and formed all sorts of Whatsapp groups to promote the Yoruba heritage are now suddenly discounting the ethos of trust, candor, bravery, forthrightness, gratitude, respect, and selflessness when they pertain to how Pastor Osinbajo went about his ambition.
They started by watering down or completely dismissing the role purportedly played by Tinubu in elevating Osinbajo from relative obscurity to prominence, first as a commissioner in Lagos for eight years, and twice as nominee for vice president. Which commissioner in Nigeria today does not hold that position first by the grace of God, and then by the grace of his/her governor? How does that behavior promote gratitude?
I was not in the room when Osinbajo was being nominated for vice president and so cannot say whether he promised anything to anyone or any group. But I know that the southwest political stakeholders on whose back he rode to Abuja did not surrender their brains to Tinubu in 2014. I know it was not Tinubu’sunilateral decision that Osinbajo became vice president nominee. Tinubu had to have consulted others. I know that Baba Bisi Akande and all the governors at the time played a role. I know that other key politicians played a role. But I also know that the one person whose refusal could have truncated his nomination was Tinubu. If Tinubu had demurred, Buhari would have deferred. If it was about finding a Christian to balance the ticket, Fayemi was more qualified and more deserving of the privilege. Akeredolu was more qualified and more deserving of the privilege. And there were many others.
But God used Tinubu to facilitate his nomination and now he has embarked on this ungrateful revision of how he became influential.
Again, no. I am not saying he is not qualified or not entitled to run. Heck, I am qualified and entitled to run for any office in the land. But if I were in Osinabjo’s shoes, I would, about two years out, have gone to see Baba Akande first, and broached the subject with him. Whatever Baba Akande said, if I wasdetermined to run anyway, I would have then taken it to Tinubu, letting him know I had spoken to Baba Akande.
“Oga, I am most grateful for all that you have done for me. I know you have been preparing all your life to seek the presidency. But because of the privilege that you and others gave me, I have been exposed to the job and I think I can do a better job there. I have also prayed about it and God has told me to proceed. I know that if you support me and give me more feathers for the wings that you and God gave me, I will win and the glory will go to you, the rest of our team in the southwestand ultimately to God. Can I cunt on your support sir? I know this is a difficult ask, but I must ask you.”
Whatever Baba Akande and Tinubu said would not have mattered if I was determined to run. I would have given Tinubua couple of months to think it over and returned to him for a final answer, after which I would begin to put my structure in place. I would begin to meet with all stakeholders, starting with the southwest, letting them know I have intimated both Baba Akande and Tinubu of my plan.
Nobody then would have been able to accuse me justifiably of betraying anyone. The country is ours…all of us. No one person or group owns the country. Nobody is a slave to anybody. No one has a monopoly of knowledge and vision on how to move Nigeria forward. We are not going to defer to any emperor or lord of the manor. Tinubu and others can contest but I am contesting too. I have done my due diligence, not only as a Yoruba Omoluwabi but as a decent human being, a pastor, a man of God.
To the best of my knowledge (and I have been asking those who should know for almost a year now since it became apparent that Osinbajo wanted to run), no such conversation took place between Osinbajo and Tinubu or Osinbajo and Baba Akande.
To be sure, all stakeholders, including, of course, Tinubu and Osinbajo and Buhari, knew more than a year ago that Osinabjowas planning to run. You can’t keep that kind of a thing secret anywhere in the world, let alone Nigeria.
For emphasis, let me repeat one more time: Pastor Osinbajo has the right to run for any office in the land and he has not betrayed anyone for exercising that right. But he has betrayed the Omoluwabi ethos expected of someone to whom so much was given freely.
His kind of surreptitiousness betray (pun intended) untrustworthiness, lack of candor, cowardice, shiftiness, ingratitude, disrespect and selfishness – all characteristics that the Yoruba intelligentsia have told us make an Omoluwabi; all characteristics that should be abhorrent/abominable to a man of God.
And to make matters worse, he unleashed his attack dogs on Tinubu in debilitating preemptive strikes that have been going on for, at least, two years now. Some of us knew who was behind the attacks because they tried to recruit us. If that came from Fayemi or Amosun or Akeredolu or Ajimobi, it would have been political sports to me. But coming from a man wearing a toga of religion? It totally turned me against him.
Finally, and I have alluded to this in some of the earlier paragraphs, there is nothing, absolutely nothing consequential to which Osinbajo can point as an achievement in the seven years he’s been vice president and which we can use as yardstick to measure how he’ll perform as president. We have records of what Fashola, Fayemi, Amaechi and others have done. The few assignments that the president tasked him to carry out all ended in unmitigated fiascos.
Pastor Osinbajo is the most unqualified candidate for President in 2023.
By Biodun Ladepo
Ibadan, Oyo State