Buhari remains an enigma, Osinbajo says at books launch to honour former president

Former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, standing beside President Bola Tinubu and former President Muhammadu Buhari during the presentation of books launched in honour of his former boss in Abuja, on Tuesday, January 16, 2024

After eight years of being in power, President Muhammadu Buhari remains an enigma to many Nigerians who want to understand, who he really is. Not the public persona, but who is he as a person.

This was the submission of Nigeria’s immediate past Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, who worked with President Buhari for eight years as his deputy, as he made his speech at the launch of books in honour of former President Muhammadu Buhari titled: ‘Working With Buhari: Reflections of a Special Adviser, Media and Publicity (2015-2023),’ and ‘Muhammadu Buhari: The Nigerian Legacy (2015 – 2023)’ at Transcorp Hotel, Abuja on Tuesday, January 16, 2024.

Osinbajo who congratulated President Buhari for yet another literary celebration of his “intriguing and significant life and times,” also lauded one of the authors, Femi Adesina, for writing the book, “Working with Buhari, Reflections of a Special Advisor, Media and Publicity.”

He noted, “There have been quite a few books already written about President Buhari and they cover a lot of detail, a lot of it historical and of course, several about his numerous achievements since he first came into office in 1983.”

However, he said, “But the reason why this personal account will be interesting for those who read it and I have had the particular good fortune of having read it before today, the reason why this is particularly interesting is that even after eight years of being President, President Buhari and so many books written after, still remains an enigma to many Nigerians who want to understand, who really is President Buhari. Not the public persona, but who is he as a person.”

The former Vice President, who is now a global advisor for the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), assisting the GEAPP’s mission of accelerating clean energy deployment in developing countries, commended Adesina for doing a great job, “especially in covering an aspect of the former president that is not well known, which is his sense of humour, his ability to tell a good joke and to take a good joke. His ability to laugh at himself.”

Osinbajo said, “I have a long repertoire of Buhari jokes and Femi has helped me to add a few more, and one day soon, we will launch a book this time, not “Working with Buhari”, but “Laughing with Buhari.”

Reflecting on Buhari’s soft side, in sharing one of the few anecdotes Femi Adesina wrote in his book, Osinbajo recalled President Buhari’s first day in office at the Villa, when he requested him to meet with journalists accredited to the Villa at the State House Press Gallery, after shaking hands with all the journalists, and as they introduced themselves, he had something to say to each of them, but particularly to one Juliana Taiwo Obaloye representing Daily Sun newspapers, the President said, “warn your cartoonist, warn your cartoonist, my chin is not as long as he usually makes it!”

Osinbajo also cited another instance sometime in 2019, saying, “I complained to him very bitterly about a libellous comment that was made against me and that I wanted to give him notice that I would be suing those who had libelled me.

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But the former VP said his former boss replied to him in his usual style, “Professor, Professor, don’t let these people bother you. Do you know what they did to me recently? They actually printed an invitation card that I was going to get married on a Friday at the National Mosque. You won’t believe Nigerians, there were thousands of them waiting for me at the National Mosque, waiting for me to come and get married.”

He further said, “And to tell you that President Buhari was always ready to laugh at himself, and of course, we’ve heard already from General IBM Haruna, Rtd, of how you know when he was being criticized about his journeys and all that. But the second part of that story is that Femi Adesina tells a story of how following his overseas trips which were criticized you know by the press in an opinion piece in the newspaper criticizing his travels abroad, the headline was, “When will President Buhari visit Nigeria?” And the president laughed and laughed.”

Osinbajo further recalled, “I remember sometime in 2016, just before he went on his medical vacation, I told him I wanted to visit the oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta, and that I thought a dialogue with the militants in the wake of the destruction of pipelines and other assets was a good idea. And he told me the experiences of the then Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalong, who had visited the Niger Delta some time back.

“But while agreeing with me that it was a good idea, and just as I was getting up to leave, he said with that mischievous glint in his eyes, “Don’t be the first Vice President to be kidnapped!”

“There’s a story that the President likes to tell and it is about the German Sentry and Femi Adesina recounts that story in the book and President Buhari told that story again when the Peace Committee headed by General Abdulsalami Abubakar visited him. Also on that team were the Sultan of Sokoto, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar and Bishop Hassan Kukah.

“They had come to appeal to him that the anti-corruption war should be waged within the ambit of the rule of law. The President listened patiently and then responded, “In the military, there used to be a joke about the German sentry” he then explained that when an ordinary sentry on duty at night hears any movement in the dark, he would bark out, “Who goes there?!”, advance to be recognized with his gun ready. He will then interrogate the person and if he tells an acceptable story, he waves the person off.

“But the German sentry is different, when he hears a movement in the dark, he immediately lets out a volley of shocks and then he shouts, “Who went there?” Of course, there will be absolute silence because he’s already killed the person.

“The President then explained to his audience that when he came as a military ruler, he was like the German sentry. “I packed all the people who were suspected of corruption and kept them in protective custody. And I told them that they were corrupt until they could prove themselves innocent. But now, under a democratic setting, I see corrupt people going around in Rolls Royce cars, but they remain innocent until I can prove them guilty.”

“Femi Adesina writes that on one occasion, President Buhari sent him to represent him at a book launch. And when he asked him, “So how much should I donate on your behalf? President Buhari said, “Give them a big smile and tell them that that is what I sent.”

“I hope on behalf of the authors today that those of you here will come with more than a big smile!” Osinbajo concluded.