Osinbajo: VP who raised governance bar to emerge Nigeria’s standard to beat

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN

By Seyi Gesinde

It will go down in history that Nigeria’s immediate past Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, is a leader who brought finesse and transparency to public service and connects the most with the Nigerian people. He is a problem-solver too, which is one of the unique skills he brought to government. No wonder, on many disputed issues, whether tribal, commercial, religious or political, Prof. Osinbajo’s advice was invariably sought locally and internationally.

Let’s look at some instances: as the Acting President, precisely on Monday, January 16, 2017, VP Osinbajo began a tour of the restive oil communities across the Niger Delta, where he visited Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers State, with a determination to comprehensively address the Niger Delta crisis. Nigerians are aware of the peace initiatives of the previous governments that failed to end the attacks on pipelines and oil and gas platforms, as a result of which oil production in the oil-rich region was significantly reduced by 2016.

It is though on record that the administration of the late former President Umaru Yar’Adua introduced the amnesty programme which his successor, former President Goodluck Jonathan, built upon, yet, it didn’t finally solve the age-long problems. But, with Osinbajo visiting and identifying directly with the belligerent factions of militants and stakeholders alike, eventually, his statesmanly politesse became a clue long-awaited for a feeling of lasting peace and prosperity to be experienced again. Niger Delta is now peaceful. Thanks to Osinbajo the national conciliator.

Another one, the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), which has metamorphosed into a bill that immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari recently signed into law, is a product of Prof Osinbajo’s creative thinking and work. He came about the initiative in 2016 not long into his assumption of office — that was roughly after a year of work, his brainchild was already a tangible reality bailing millions of Nigerians out of their economic quagmire and life of hopelessness. The timely introduction of NSIP as the largest social welfare protection programme in Africa, was all Nigeria needed to overcome the challenges that came with its recessed economy coupled with the Covid-19 pressure on both the national and personal finances.

On the foreign scene, he has made his mark too. With the heavy indebtedness of many African nations, including Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, to salvage the debt burden, as a leading voice in the United Nation’s agenda for a green environment to reduce toxic pollutants from land, water and soil, in September 2022, Osinbajo, addressing a global audience in the US, proposed a Debt-For-Climate (DFC) Swap deal to ensure a just energy transition for African countries.

Speaking at the Centre for Global Development in Washington D.C, U.S., to seek global partnerships and support for Nigeria’s recently released Energy Transition Plan (ETP), which he inaugurated as the Vice President, Prof Osinbajo said, “Debt for climate swaps is a type where bilateral or multilateral debt is forgiven by creditors in exchange for a commitment by the debtor to use the outstanding debt service payments for national climate action programmes.

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Osinbajo’s ingenuity was since applauded by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, and other stakeholders who saw it as another clue which could help Africa in climate funding to meet the 2060 target. Also delivering his keynote address at a high-level international meeting on Africa Carbon Market Initiative (ACMI) hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City, U.S., in December 2022, he stressed the importance of building the carbon markets architecture in Africa.

Prof Osinbajo said that participating in the carbon market would not only offer Nigeria and Africa the opportunity for growth, industrialisation and job creation for its teeming population but will also provide the right incentives for clean energy and climate action. He informed that the carbon market pipeline could create 30 million jobs in the next decade, with the potential to create more than 100 million jobs through climate-aligned projects by 2050. This also came from the Vice President’s problem-solving skills.

It is obvious, with the quality of his representation, home and abroad, PYO is an achiever who has elevated the Office of Vice President (OVP) formerly looked down upon as a spare with no defined role in nation-building before he assumed office. Now, the story has changed he has made that same office a pivot for national and international development. So, in a modest comparison with his predecessors, Prof. Osinbajo completely stands out among all of whom have occupied the office from the First to current Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.

They may be unique in their respective tenures, but, talking about who is the most visible, outspoken, with essential deliverables, that is Prof Osinbajo. He has not even left office he was already internationally engaged by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, to lead the Commonwealth group to observe the June 24 general election in Sierra Leone, as the chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Group.

Concluding with Scotland’s words: “I am grateful to Yemi Osinbajo for accepting my invitation, to undertake this important area of our work in deepening democracy across our Commonwealth, despite his busy schedule and overseeing a seamless transition of his government. As a senior statesman from the region, Osinbajo understands in depth the challenges across West Africa and I am confident he will lead a brilliant team.”

As we can see, the accolades keep coming for a leader who has served his country meritoriously. Prof Osinbajo is completely a very rare kind! Imagine, he even hosted Senator Kashim Shettima, as an incoming Vice President in his office and took him around, introducing him to the job before it starts. A leader per excellence, I wish other leaders in Nigeria can emulate PYO’s lifestyle. Truly, he is an exemplar of success, a progressive and true patriot, whether politically or in public service, and generally, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, SAN, has written his name in gold.

Fondly called Star Boy by youthful admirers, Prof Osinbajo’s extraordinary performance has lifted the status of this same formerly colourless Nigeria’s VP’s office — he has completely placed it in the spotlight plus many applauses he brought into the office nationally and globally, such that on Monday, May 29, 2023, after raising the governance bar, he left the office emerging Nigeria’s standard to beat in public service.