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    Osinbajo and the parable of spare tyre politics

    Ismail Omipidan

    The saying, “Reject every form of corruption which divest resources from the poor,” by Pope Francis, appears apt in situating the recent sermon by the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to Nigerians on how to tackle corruption headlong.

    In the last one month, he’s been seizing every available space and opportunity to tell Nigerians how he believed the corruption of the last five years destroyed the country’s economy.

    Although, unlike Pope Francis, he is not a Catholic, Osinbajo has nonetheless distinguished himself as a pastor in Nigeria, with a track record of excellence and exemplary leadership, thus making his political sermons plausible in the ears of most Nigerians.

    Only recently, at the Bola Tinubu’s 10th Colloquium, Osinbajo, again held the audience spellbound when he declared that no matter the antics of the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) government would continue to talk about the corruption allegedly perpetrated under the former president,

    Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

    This is just as he said the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was determined to change the narrative of Nigeria, known as a country where corruption was perpetrated with impunity.

    Osinbajo, who described corruption as an existential problem for Nigeria, said: “Let me say that when we began our journey in 2014, our party, the APC, was determined to change the dominant narrative about our country. We were determined to ensure that the notion of a country rich in natural resources and even richer in human capital but being destroyed daily by grand corruption and the impunity of the looting of public resources, had to change.

    “So we decided on two things; one, to invest heavily in agriculture to create jobs in the hinterland, provide enough food locally and for all in the urban areas and I’m sure with our agriculture programme, many will agree is already a success.

    “In fact, Mr. President told a story of his own village where people use to lease out farms but now nobody is leasing out their farms anymore, everybody is on his own farms. The most interesting part of that story is that, not only are more people now going to Hajj, they are now marrying more wives.”

    According to him, the administration embarked on a social investment programme to the tune of N500 billion, which he noted was the largest pro-poor programme in the history of Nigeria and the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, just to give the poor people hope.

    He noted that this was done despite the fact in 2015 when they came in, oil prices fell by 50 percent, just as the country’s production fell from over 200 million barrels a day to less than 700,000 barrels a day, and that sometimes even 500,000 barrels per day.

    Focusing on the testimonies of the beneficiaries of the Social Intervention Programme (SIP) on the occasion, the vice president noted that they were the practical evidences of the programme’s success, insisting that such a feat was possible because “if you do not steal the resources of the people, you can spend it on projects that concern the people, it is as simple as that.”

    He went further to say, “we have seen today the empirical evidence of the successes of the programme and we have listened to several of the testimonies and stories…200,000 jobs for undergraduates involved in the N-Power, 300,000 more waiting to be employed, 7 million children being fed daily in 22 states so far, beneficiaries of micro credit loans going to about 300,000 and almost 700,000 household benefiting from conditional cash transfer.

    “As for our fight against corruption, we realise as Mr. President said that if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us. Corruption is an existential problem for Nigeria.

    “Let me pause here to reiterate, that from what I have seen in government in the past few years, the corruption of the previous five years destroyed the economy.

    “Every time we talk about corruption, our opponents say, ‘don’t talk about it, just do your own, don’t talk about it.’ The Yoruba have an adage, ‘when the conversation comes to a matter of tales, the frog will say let us skip that, don’t talk about it.’ We will talk about it. The reason we will talk about it, is that we must let our people know we cannot afford to go this way again, never again should we allow this system where people take the resources of this country, and steal the resources of this country, used the resources against the people and at the same time they want to continue in rulership.

    “The second is that we as a party and as your government must show the  difference between us and the previous government that impoverished the nation,” the vice president added.

    Explaining why he believes that the current government was more accountable than the previous one, Osinbajo, whose office directly supervises the administration’s SIP, further said “let me give you an example, in 2014, when oil was $100 and $114, the actual releases of capital for three ministries – power, works and housing when they were three separate ministries, in total was N99 million, transportation N14 million, agriculture N15 million.

    “Compare that to the actual releases to the same ministries in 2017 when oil prices were between $50 and $60 a barrel, it was N450 billion, N80 billion for transportation, N65 billion for agriculture, totalling N560 billion, in a time where we are earning at least 50 percent less than we were earning before. What is the reason why this is possible? It is possible because if you do not steal the resources of the people, you can spend it on projects that concern the people, it is as simple as that.

    “I will give one more example; $3 billion was lost to something called, the Strategic Atlantic Alliance Contract in NNPC. The people simply took the oil and never paid back. The same $3 billion which is in trillion of naira, the minister of finance sat with us at the Economic Management Meeting, and we were proposing the following roads for the same $3 billion Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road, 2nd Niger Bridge, Enugu-Port Harcourt road, East West Road, Shagamu-Ore-Benin road, Kano-Maiduguri Road, Abuja-Lafia-Akwanga-Keffi Road, Lagos-Abeokuta Road, all for the same $3 billion. That is why the criminal looting of this country cannot be allowed to continue,” Osinbajo declares.

    A useful spare tyre

    Nigerian politicians have in the past likened the role of Vice President and that of deputy governor to a spare tyre of a vehicle, which is only deployed when any of the tyres are bad. For Osinbajo, however, his hands appear full. His first acid test came when he was made acting president, at a time Buhari was out of the country to attend to his ill-health. His stabilising role in the Niger Delta during the period is perhaps responsible for whatever peace the government enjoys today from the region.

    Apart from supervising the SIP, he chairs the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), charged with the sole responsibility of removing “critical bottlenecks and bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria,” and to “move Nigeria 20 places upwards in the World Bank Doing Business Rankings.”

    By September last year, the World Bank ranked Nigeria 145th of 190 countries of the world in its latest report of Doing Business 2018.  Nigeria scored 52.03 points, which was slightly above the African Regional Average of 50.43 points, moving up 24 places in the rankings. Significantly, the country was also reported to be among the top 10 reformers globally. So far, the vice president has demonstrated that he is indeed a “spare tyre that is useful” whose role in the Buhari’s administration goes beyond the preaching of political sermons.

    Early last month for instance while in Lagos, he seized the occasion to dispel the allegations that the Buhari government has failed in the development of the Niger Delta area, insisting instead that the Federal Government was doing its best in the region, while continuing regular dialogue with Pan Niger Delta Forum, (PANDEF).

    “We began to dialogue with all the groups in the Niger Delta and we hold very regular meetings with PANDEF, which is the umbrella body. We also hold regular meetings with many of the groups in the Niger Delta and they are all actively involved with us.

    “I don’t know whether you are familiar with the Maritime University.

    The Maritime University has taken off, you know. Only a few days ago, the announcement was made that they are eligible for JAMB.

    “Also, look at modular refineries, 38 licensed modular refineries investors have indicated interests (10 of the licensed refineries are at an advanced stage of development). One, of course, has started in Bayelsa; another is being shipped in at the moment.

    “There are about three or four different engagements with modular refineries operators. So we are putting that together, and one of the critical things with modular refineries is that we are trying to ensure that, first of all, it is private-sector driven. Government has to provide the licenses, but also there is community involvement; communities also have a stake in the modular refineries. So we are doing that as well. We are working very hard on that.

    “If you look on our website on all of the Niger Delta issues, we have almost a blow-by-blow account of what we are doing, including the Ogoni clean up. I think there is a lot going on. You can’t address all of the problems at once. We have provided plenty of information. We have Inter-ministerial meetings where the different stakeholders meet constantly with leaders of the Niger Delta,” he added.

    Again, in February this year, at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Otun-Ekiti, Ekiti State, at the burial ceremony of Pa Daniel Olajide

    Adebiyi, he told the congregation that his role in the Buhari’s administration was to add to the integrity, do the right thing and push the government in the right way.

    While reminding the congregation that he was probably the first born-again Christian and pastor to be elected as Nigeria’s vice president, he said: “I believe very strongly that there is a reason for my being elected as vice president, and possibly the first born-again Christian, the first pastor to have been elected as vice president. God is not the God of accident. He understands expertly what He wants to do.  My role there is to add to the integrity, to do the right thing and make sure that we push our government in the right way.

    “This is a golden opportunity for us as Christians. When the two of us agree on anything, the Lord our God will bring it to pass.  Agree with me that our country will be great and our country will be great.”

    He said the government was desirous to do everything necessary to bring peace everywhere, “whether it has to do with herdsmen or not. I was talking at a security summit hosted by the National Assembly on clashes and security situation generally and we said there that what the Federal Government is doing is to make sure that nobody can take land and give it to anybody.”

    The post appeared first on The Sun News.

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