Monday, January 12, 2015

The Man Osinbajo by Bola Omoteso

Since the emergence of Yemi Osinbajo as the vice presidential candidate of the All Peoples Congress (APC) there has been a lot of speculation about him in the media, social media and chat rooms. Nigerians have been so jaded with politicians that when they come across someone who genuinely cares they remain skeptical.

Yemi Osinbajo was brought up in a strict Christian home where moral values were emphasised with no fear or favour. Stealing was corruption and you never got away with it. As an effect of this upbringing, Yemi excelled as a student. He won contests in debating while in secondary school one of which was the African Statesman Intercollegiate Best Speaker’s Prize. At the University of Lagos where he graduated with a second-class upper degree in law, he tutored 3rd year students in Evidence. This he began while still in his second year. Evidence then was open to both second and third year students.

Osinbajo has a brilliant mind and has used it to further the rule of law beyond the shores of Nigeria. When Justice Bola Ajibola was head of the law school at UNILAG, Yemi was a lecturer in the faculty. He always voiced his opinion on issues even when it went against the grain; this he did to the consternation of members of the faculty. But to the surprise of many, when Prince Ajibola was appointed as member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, he sent for Yemi Osinbajo, the lawyer who went the extra mile and made valuable contributions to the law department. Obviously Justice Ajibola did not want a yes man.

When Senator Bola Tinubu became governor of Lagos state, based on reference, he asked Yemi to be his attorney general. Yemi demurred on the grounds of being from Remo. But, Tinubu insisted saying that would not be an issue considering that Yemi had been a resident in Lagos for over 10 years. This is not a stand alone case as Tinubu also appointed Mr. Ben Akabueze to serve as commissioner. Many seem to have forgotten that before this role, Yemi was a special adviser to the Nigeria’s attorney general between 1988 and 1992 and went on to become the ethics adviser to the board of the African Development Bank.

The rest as they say is history. Yemi reformed the judiciary. At the time he was appointed, most Lagos courts did not have functioning fax machines, stenographic equipment or even computers. Paint was peeling off the walls of the esteemed judiciary. There were no air conditioning, suits could be filed with a paltry 500 Naira and judges earned 67,000 Naira annually! It was pathetic. That was the sorry state of the judiciary in Lagos. The judiciary was reformed and renovated under Yemi’s leadership. As part of the reform, lawyers now intending to be judges go through examinations. Little wonder he served two scandal-free terms. This should have been a major story in the news but Yemi is not one to score cheap goals by motivating such stories, with a role where service was required.

The Justice Research Institute (JRI) of which Maryam Uwais, the principal partner of Wali-Uwais & Co and consultant to UNICEF, OSIWA, World Bank and DFID and Femi Falana the former president of the West Africa Bar Association and civil rights activist, are board members was co-founded by Yemi in 2005.

The JRI, which boasts of a library and retreat facilities is a justice policy and research centre located in Lagos. It is affiliated to the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Akoka. He established it as a private-public sector think-tank and educational resource for the operators of the justice system. It has become the most reliable source of data and critical information on the justice sector in Nigeria.

In his assignment as a pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Yemi has used the gospel to help the poor and the downtrodden. Much is said about his parish at Banana Island (Olive Tree) but most people may wish to know that he was Pastor of RCCG Jesus House at Ademola street in Ikoyi for years before he was posted to Olive Tree. At Jesus Centre, the church birthed six NGOs one of which was used to effect kidney transplant for the underprivileged. A lot of these transplants were done locally at St. Nicholas in Lagos not India.

We need people at the helm of affairs who understand the plight of the common man. Yemi, who visits area boys under the bridge, has a mission to Makoko and has sponsored the education of many less privileged children, knows that first hand.

Just like a battered woman is wary of every well-meaning suitor, Nigerians have become so inured to compromising politicians. As such, it is difficult for them to conceive that there could be a genuine one out there.

A man who has led an upright life all his years will not abandon it for a pit of gold or oil block. Character is what we need in our leaders. Their antecedent will tell us how they will behave in office.

Bola Omoteso is an IT consultant 

No comments: