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By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I’m sure you already know how much I love photographs and photography. And it has been said that pictures speak louder than a thousand words. Long before the coming of Facebook and Instagram, a magazine by the name Ovation International, published by some Nigerians in London, carved a niche for itself through celebrity journalism and generous use of beautiful photographs on its glossy pages. Ms Funmi Iyanda, the famous television personality has recently had cause to describe Ovation International as “Instagram before Instagram…”
When we started this brand of journalism, photographers were still treated like dregs of society, poorly paid and shabbily treated. Not anymore. Photographers have become indispensable items on the list of celebrants and events planners. Many photographers now charge millions of Naira. And we thank God for our modest contributions to the upliftment of the fortunes of that beautiful industry.
My interest in photography has never waned. I just love good photographs. And I love photogenic people. Photography is usually enhanced by affable, charming and elegant personalities. The man or woman being photographed should radiate some warmth. It makes the job of a photographer that bit much easier. Charm and charisma have helped catapult many politicians to power. I can safely bet that Barack Obama was a quintessential beneficiary of great looks through effective use of pictures. I remember how we mesmerised Nigerians during the presidential campaign of the people’s general, Major General Muhammadu Buhari. I personally posted endless pictures of Buhari setting fashion trends. He was clearly carefully repackaged as a fashionista with a mission and his complete transfiguration was a wonder to behold. His tall and gangling figure, coupled with his stern looks mellowed by the benign smile mesmerised young Nigerians who chose him above a much younger President Goodluck Jonathan. Like joke, like joke, Buhari actually became President, after defeating an incumbent. The Fulani are naturally blessed with good looks. Buhari is an eloquent testimony to Fulani beauty.
Two years after returning to power, our President is temporarily knocked out of circulation, due to no fault of his, because of his medical challenges. This unfortunate ill-health has deprived us the opportunity of enjoying his services full blast. But fortunately, the President had chosen as his Vice President, a very cerebral and God-fearing gentleman, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the equivalent of a Queen’s Counsel in England. He also shares the President’s austere visage but is similarly blessed with a calming mien which illuminates the audience wherever he, is when he breaks into that trademark smile.
You never know the capacity and capabilities of a man until given some opportunities and stringent assignments. Such is the case of Professor Osinbajo. I’m sure many must have underrated the abilities of Professor Osinbajo. The first minus for the doubters was that to them, he is not a seasoned politician but merely an accomplished technocrat. They forget that he had been a successful Attorney General of Lagos State for eight years under one of the most canny politicians that has ever graced the Nigerian polity, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Before then, he was a Special Adviser to Prince Bola Ajibola, when Ajibola was Attorney-General of the Federation. In any event, while everyone needs the political platform to attain power, leadership is more about your ability to manage people and resources. That Professor Osinbajo has worked in institutions and organisations where he has been imbibed the leadership traits cannot be gainsaid. He has variously been lecturer and Dean at the Faculty of Law at University of Lagos and Lagos State University, interspersed with service with several international organisations. The biggest shortcoming of Nigeria is that we often elevate those who have never managed people and resources to positions they never expected and can never handle. This cannot be said of the Acting President.
Since becoming Acting President, Osinbajo has continued to confound his worst critics by his sheer zeal, competence and confidence. He’s been able to rally and unify Nigerians from different parts of the country. He has played the role of the father of the nation which is what is expected of a good leader. He has risen above pettiness and parochialism. You cannot fail to appreciate his hands-on approach to issues and situations. He has certainly dissolved the stultifying tension and destructive carnage in the Niger Delta. Together with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Maikanti Kacalla Baru, he has so much succeeded in improving the situation in the Niger Delta that Nigeria is once again able to produce and sell close to its allocated share of 2.2 million barrels of crude oil daily. The impact this has had on our foreign reserves and the parallel market can be seen by all.
It is apparent even to those who dislike what is happening that the Acting President is once again moving at frenetic pace in this second stint in that role. This has without doubt increased the tempo and tenor of governance and his infectious boundless optimism and drive is spreading to every department and agency of government. His biggest achievement in this short period is in giving every Nigerian a sense of belonging. Attending the event to mark 50 years of Biafra war was a masterstroke. I sincerely doff my hat to this great unifier.
While it may be too early to see and treat Osinbajo as our Messiah, it is important to appreciate the innovation and dynamism he has brought to power in such a little time. There is no doubt that he has started well and has shown sufficient promise of good times to come. Many of our youths have regained inspiration. I’ve always said that Nigerians are not too difficult to manage or govern. We actually appreciate every little mercy we get from our leaders. It is one of the principal reasons we praise our leaders for what ordinarily should be their job and not a favour in the first place.
The good news is that Osinbajo has rekindled hope and re-ignited the massive goodwill and populism that brought President Buhari back to power. It is amazing how he’s been travelling across Nigeria and attracting huge crowds everywhere including regions that are not usually supposed to be friendly to the ruling party. What he has demonstrated, almost effortlessly, is that Nigerians want peace, hope and prosperity no matter who is in power. Nigerians are sick and tired of being manipulated by politicians who thrive by ensuring that we live in perpetual strife and mediocrity. Osinbajo’s recent trip to Cross River State was very revealing and reassuring. We saw school kids cosying up to him and getting so excited. Those pictures made my week. I pray he continues to energise Nigerians. This is a positive revolution and development in the making. But it is already making some bad people uncomfortable.
As usual, not everyone wishes Nigeria well in our endeavours. The profiteers are never happy or satisfied when things seem to be going smoothly for our long-suffering country. They are never tired of plotting evil and setting traps to those trying their utmost best to change Nigeria for the better. They mount all manner of obstacles and plant all kinds of thorns and mines in their paths and wait for them to fumble and falter. Nigeria has never been in short supply of these fiendish busybodies. And they have started their shenanigans again.
If you are on social media, you would have come across some ugly rumours being circulated against the Acting President. Their strategy is to whip up ethnic and religious sentiments, whilst at the same time beating drums of war. God forbid. They are out knocking heads and circulating profanities. I’m happy and impressed by the speed at which these hirelings are being tackled on their own turf by those who see the good and benefit of what the Acting President is seeking to achieve.
The first article which we can almost be sure is the beginning of a series of attacks aimed at challenging Professor Osinbajo and damaging his veritable credibility was penned under the sobriquet of Ismaila Farouk from Zamfara State and titled “Osinbajo is no saint, Consolidating for 2019”. This article has set social media alive and so it was with some sense of relief that I read a rebuttal by one Musa Alhassan titled “Who is Afraid of Prof Osinbajo?” which tore through the patent falsehood spewed by the traducers of the Acting President by presenting those facts that the author of the earlier article had wilfully concealed.
Never mind the name game! That is another form of distraction to give some validity to the vague and nebulous allegations made by the author of the allegations.
Starting from the opaque, it was alleged that the President has been cornering juicy contracts for himself through one of his aides in the oil and gas, power and construction sectors among others. Anyone familiar with the art of governance even during the Jonathan days would know that the Vice-Presidents office simply does not have the power or ability to manipulate contracts in this way. There are extant protocols and guidelines for public procurement and these have been tightened rather than loosened under this Government which is famed for its anti-corruption stance. Besides all multi-nationals corporations now conduct severe due diligence tests before embarking on projects in developing countries because of the stiff penalties they face in their countries if they engage in corrupt practices. Nigeria is clearly not an exception to this and Government agencies have now also taken up this due diligence creed. An aide of Professor Osinbanjo fronting for him is surely an insult and affront to this cerebral of lawyers with an international repertoire to boot. Only a puerile mind would make up such a laughable story.
Bordering on the ridiculous is the allegation that the Vice-President travels to Lagos several times a week with numerous aides using the Presidential Fleet and claiming bogus estacode. Those who know Prof Osinbajo will agree that he travels light in terms of aides that accompany him. I cannot see how anybody can claim that a Vice-President of a country is not entitled to the use of the Presidential Fleet. After the President who else is entitled to use the Fleet. If the Aircraft are available, must they be parked to rot away while crew are paid for doing nothing and government funds are wasted paying for commercial flights for the Vice-President and his team. This and the claim about bogus estacode demonstrates the warped thought process of the vilifying horde! Surely if the Vice-President is to claim estacode it can only be for himself and not for his retinue who will make their own individual claims themselves.
The more specific allegations relate to the appointment of people close to the Vice-President based on their membership of his Church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, or based on being his kinsmen or work colleagues.
In relation to the appointment of members of his Church and kinsmen, which is aimed at fanning the embers of religious and ethnic discord, the rebuttal Article clearly demonstrates that this is far from the truth and represents a fundamental contradiction in terms as Professor Osinbajo has a fair mix of Christians and Muslims as aides from all parts of the country. His Chief of Staff, who is officially designated as Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Ade Ipaye is a Muslim. There is Mrs Maryam Uwais, wife of former Chief Justice of Nigeria Mohammed Uwais, who is a Senior Special Adviser to the President but works in the office of the Vice-President. “Farouk” apparently did not get enough tuition from his sponsors otherwise he would have realised that most of the senior aides of the Vice-President are actually appointed by the President albeit on the recommendation of the President. That is why Mr Ipaye and Mrs Uwais like Dr Yemi Dipeolu, Senior Special Adviser to the President on Economic Affairs are all advisers to the President although working with the Vice-President. Similarly Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to the Vice-President was appointed by the President. If the President felt that there was something wrong with the recommendations made to him by his Vice-President surely he would have kicked. I am sure those accusing the Acting President of nepotism and maligning him in this way do not question the judgment and authority of President Muhammadu Buhari. There are also other Northern Muslims like Dr Balkisu Saidu, Gambo Manzo etc. occupying significant positions in the office of the Vice-President.
The appointment of colleagues like Ade Ipaye and Babatunde Irukera and others stems from their ability, merit and demonstrated competence. Same is true of the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Dr.Okey Enelamah who is a seasoned technocrat from the South East. Indeed, the example of Dr Enelamah shows the convoluted thinking of those who seek to denigrate Professor Osinbajo and the futility of their task! He is an appointee of the President and is not from the same ethnic group as the Vice-President. If he was the only one Minister recommended by the Vice-President out of 36 Ministers it says a lot for the unenviable and inimitable good character and integrity of Professor Osinbajo.
Let us continue to pray for the Acting President and Nigeria.