On 20th of August 2019, Itunu Ajayi from Maryland USA revealed his standpoint on The Guardian about Vice President Osinbajo’s presumed silence on the incessant killings and security instability in many parts of the country.
For someone who is a 2014 Kurt Schork Fellow in International Journalism (yes, I looked him up), it was an uninformed, depressing take packed with personal bias and judgement that didn’t do justice to credit a man whose role is to deputise, support and advise the president.
This factless blasphemy by Itunu disguised in the suit of an opinion by one who prides to be a journalist is a valid reason why people’s faith in journalism is fast drifting.
Itunu’s evocative postulations give the impression of a hyper-deliberate attempt at slandering Yemi Osinbajo and undermining his achievements and contributions as arguably the most active, seen, heard and devoted Vice President Nigeria has ever encountered.
Itunu attempts to play a centrist. But too often, we confuse centrism with fairness, objectivity or common-sense truth. But centrism is none of those, it is a point of view, and it can be wrong, just as conservatism or liberalism can be; so opinions must be based on accurate information, sound logic, and expressed respectfully.
He wants us to believe, without any certitude, that Osinbajo is not deeply concerned about the current state of the country because of his own misinterpretation of events.
He consciously forgets to mention every instance the Vice President has spoken out on issues of insecurity in the country, every time he has condemned wrongdoing by enemies of our state, every time he has paid a solidarity visit to victims and reminded them that government cares, and would not forget them – passing the message of relieve and hope to the victims.
He consciously denies the truth to his readers when he pretends not to know that President Buhari has the ears of his number two man, and they, whether we know it or not, meet time without number to discuss issues of national interests.
In his essay, the writer consciously strips the Vice President off his constitutional capacity through deliberate ignorance of the roles and responsibilities that flow therefrom, but thereafter goes ahead to hold him liable for those functions that are not even his.
He then attempts to severe his office from the Buhari government, as if they are not one, and that the two elected leaders should act in discord. The story forces its readers to digest misconstrued analysis as facts and struggles to beg for empathy by connecting it to the general displeasure of nationwide killings.
What makes it absurd and ridiculous is that he thinks and believes that the President and his Vice are not troubled about the insecurity or working towards seeing the end of the menace. Nothing could be more far from the truth.
There is no political leader who prays for disability knowing it would injure his name, or who is in a place of power would do nothing to end such. And this in fact is the least expected.
Since he assumed office in 2015 as President Muhammadu Buhari’s deputy, VP Osinbajo has played an increasingly prominent role in Nigeria’s government and his accomplishments are incomparable to any other Vice President as they surpass by far.
Not too long ago, former President Obasanjo had disclosed that his deputy, Atiku Abubakar, complained about taking on too many responsibilities as the nation’s number 2 citizen in their days of power.
That is in contrast with the reality today; Vice President Osinbajo not only chairs the National Economic Council which works with several parastatals to identify problems, recommend and execute solutions regarding economic development, poverty alleviation and foreign exchange policies, he also oversees the National Social Investment Office which facilitates empowerment schemes aimed at students, traders, farmers, enterprises and bottom of the pyramid population.
The Social Investment Office boasts of the largest social investment ever attempted in Africa. And it is succeeding. It feeds almost 10 million pupils in public schools; it has provided entrepreneurship and skill based jobs to 500,000 previously unemployed graduates; it is giving cash to Nigeria’s poorest families in the hinterland communities to improve their welfare and livelihood.
But Itunu is in haste to lash out on the Vice President and his office that he forgets these, as well as the administration’s ongoing plans on establishing a sustainable herding system across the country through the National Livestock Transformation Plan – which Vice President Osinbajo oversees – that would put a sustainable end to clashes between herders and farmers and the consequent killings.
He also misses out on the fact that the Buhari – Osinbajo administration is re-engineering the country’s national security architecture to help combat attacks led by Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), farmer-herder clashes and other unfortunate bandits.
His failure to mention the times the Vice President has visited families of victims, visited areas of attack to assess the impact and report to his principal is evident of Itunu’s deliberate mischief and shortfall of honest intentions.
Recall that on 26th of June 2019, Osinbajo interacted with The Council on Foreign Relations in the USA and extensively talked about the current state of ISWAP, challenges rocking the administration and ongoing efforts to completely deal with the insecurity.
He has also led the consultations and meetings – especially in the south west – seeking an end and solutions to the kidnappings and killings. He is largely responsible for the peace we see in the South South today; the absence of a hitherto raging militancy is courtesy his back and forth in the region in 2016 where he met and dialogued with the leaders there and constantly assuring Nigerians of the Federal Government’s commitment to continue to give priority attention to the operational requirements and welfare of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
He seats as the Deputy Chairman of the Security Council which means he has a voice at the highest points whenever issues of security are brought up. Are these items of silence, or is Itunu just simply deaf?
It is without doubts that he has brought value and and function to his office, as manager of the economy and other assignments given to him. The Vice President’s pace of action has been commended by many Nigerians and international bodies prompting suggestions that he should continue playing the major roles in the government.
According to the writer, Professor Osinbajo’s call for alliances across faiths and ethnicities to wreck national threats hindering the country’s unity and coexistence is enough concrete reason to accuse him of lackadaisical attitude and noiselessness.
I am left to wonder if a birthday ceremony is the best place to give a detailed proposition on how the government plans to successfully tackle security challenges. It is no coincidence that even before now, the Vice President has always addressed cooked narratives by opposition that the presidency is protecting killer herdsmen and Boko Haram members as a desperate ploy to promote ethnic and religious suspicion.
Without doubt, Itunu’s phoney claims are inaccurate, abandon objectivity and suspend sense of fairness, declaring judgement in his own court of reasoning. This haste to demonize the Buhari administration is agenda-driven, not Information-driven.
Richard Ogundiya is a journalist and researcher based in Lagos