By Seyi Gesinde
There is no need to misconstrue his remarks, what Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, was saying in those viral videos where he responded to questions on whether a parallel government would be necessary in 2015 is simple: fascism should never be allowed to stand.
In simple terms, fascism is a movement that promotes the idea of a forcibly monolithic, regimented nation under the control of an autocratic ruler and government. And as many experts put it, fascism can also be a mass political movement that emphasises extreme nationalism, militarism, and the supremacy of both the nation and the single, powerful leader over the citizens.
In 2015, President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was in power. It was during the pre-2015 elections that Prof Osinbajo spoke at a town hall meeting in Washington D. C., United States and later granted Seun Okinbaloye an interview on Channels TV, where he supported his party’s positions when asked about the question of forming a parallel government. Taking a critical look at his point of view as an opposition then and the APC Vice Presidential candidate, the matters and circumstances he raised are different entirely from the Labour Party’s position and situation today.
This is it, Osinbajo explained that when a party wins and “the government decides it is going to ignore the wishes of the electorate; when the government simply decides to override the wishes of the electorate,” that is “fascism” and that is when the winning protesting party can be talking of forming a parallel government to put pressure on the fascist’s government without calling anyone out for violence. More so, the APC later became the winner of the election in 2015 defeating the sitting President, Goodluck Jonathan, and his party, the PDP.
So, referencing the March 2015 video now being virally circulated on social media mostly by the supporters of Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Vice President Osinbajo, with no verbosity, looking at his words contextually, and in a straight tense with no ambiguity, spoke against FASCISM — it should not be misconstrued or be used to score any cheap political point now. It can’t also be used to support the stand of the Vice Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, who was recently chided for his uncomplimentary statements faulting the results of the February 25 presidential election.
Datti-Ahmed said: “As it is, Tinubu did not get 25 per cent votes in the FCT, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar did not get 25 per cent votes in the FCT, Labour Party is the only one that scored 25 per cent votes in the FCT; we had 61 per cent votes. As it is in Nigeria, there is no President-elect. An unconstitutional government must never be sworn in because that will be the end of democracy. This democracy will end on May 29 the way we are going. We came third according to the figures released by INEC, but in reality, we came first. It is unfortunate, tragic that all promises that were made were dashed,” he said.
Speaking live on a recent Channels TV’s national programme, Datti-Ahmed said that the Certificate of Return INEC issued to Tinubu was a “dead certificate,” claiming it was against the provisions of Section 134 of the 1999 Constitution, which states that anybody that would be declared President-elect must win 25 per cent of votes cast in at least two-thirds of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). As such, he warned that any attempt to swear Tinubu in as the substantive President is an end to democracy in Nigeria.
Recalled, Tinubu, the President-elect, polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat PDP’s Atiku Abubakar who came second with 6,984,520 and LP’s Obi who polled 6,101,533 votes, came third. But, since Tinubu was announced the winner, both Obi and Datti-Ahmed have not stopped faulting the electoral process despite filing petitions challenging the election result at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. They insisted on the cancellation of the poll claiming it was characterised by rigging and violence.
Reacting to Datti-Ahmed on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, the Federal Government, through its Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said: “Obi and his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed, cannot be threatening Nigerians that if the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, of the All Progressives Congress is sworn-in on May 29, it will be the end of democracy in Nigeria.” Mohammed who gave the warning during his visit to Washington, United States, contended that Obi and Baba-Ahmed’s statements amounted to insurrection, maintaining that, “This is treason. You cannot be inviting insurrection, and this is what they are doing. Obi’s statement is that of a desperate person, he is not the democrat that he claimed to be. A democrat should not believe in democracy only when he wins the election,”
In the same vein, the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, who is a social crusader and human rights activist, has condemned Datti-Ahmed’s outbursts. As a voice from the civil society, Soyinka likened Baba-Ahmed’s blowups to those made by former United States President Donald Trump “with his do-or-die provocation,” describing his statements as palpable intimidation of the nation’s judiciary, saying they were “fascistic, menacing and unacceptable in a democracy.”
Then, Obi in his reaction to the condemnations, especially to Mohammed’s accusations, said the allegation that he was stoking insurrection was “totally malicious and fictitious,” asserting that he has never discussed or encouraged anyone to undermine the Nigerian state and has never sponsored or preached any action against the Nigerian state. “I am on record as always, advocating for peace and issue-based campaigns and never campaigned based on ethnicity or religion. I am committed to due process, and presently seeking redress in court. I urge those engaged in this demarketing process to stop presenting Nigeria in a such bad light,” Obi said.
Similarly, there is no need for Obi’s supporters to start trending the video recorded over eight years ago, picking on Osinbajo’s words to paint him in a bad light by claiming he too should have been labelled as treasonable. He wasn’t toeing that path and his explanations didn’t suggest so at all. Prof. Osinbajo that we know is a refined democrat, whose compositional style of operation as a leader and public servant exemplifies the protection and the upholding of the rule of law.
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Vice President Osinbajo is known to be a pure nationalist, patriot and democracy defender. And whether as a government or mass movement, he is not in any way disposed to fascism or anarchism. Throughout his life as a public servant, he has campaigned for the granting of fundamental rights to every human, most especially, Nigerians, as a national leader. And to date, he is a lone voice for the voiceless in the Buhari administration, while as the country’s No 2, he still speaks the truth to power.
Recalled on August 7, 2018, when the fully armed masked operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) invaded the National Assembly complex, shutting out lawmakers and wholly putting democracy under threat, Prof Osinbajo’s patriotism was put to bear, he didn’t let that undemocratic act go unpunished.
It was an opprobrium! And rising from this state of extreme dishonour, it was Prof. Osinbajo, then as Nigeria’s Acting President, who single-handedly rescued the situation to protect the country’s democracy. He did not wait for issues to be dragged before he ordered the termination of the appointment of the then “untouchable” Director General, State Security Service (DSS), Lawal Daura, with immediate effect. That is one of the many proofs of him being a true democrat.
So, for emphasis and clarity, back to Osinbajo’s words, the Labour Party is not the winner declared by INEC, but it came third and is in court to challenge the results of the election. Its situation is not relatable with what Vice President Osinbajo, an erudite Professor of Law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said in 2015. He was simply talking about if a democratic government won’t respect the constitution, hence, a winning party can legitimately protest against that. But the outgoing government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has said it will hand over to the President-elect and the new government and a transition committee has since been put in place. This settles it.
• Gesinde is an award-winning journalist, political scientist and social commentator.