Normally, I try to warn myself not to be taken for granted by the actions and shenanigans of the political elite in Nigeria, but the emergence of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) as running mate to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari on the APC Presidential ticket excites me greatly because of his antecedents as a man of principle/integrity and a first class brain. I am not a card carrying member of any political party but when the news filtered out that he was being considered amongst an array of equally competent individuals as a possible running mate on the APC Presidential ticket, I knew that a fresh insight was about being introduced to the political space – an element capable of changing the political equation in our country forever. I have always been excited at the prospects of our politics being dominated by the power of ideas, power of action, and ability of the power of ideas and power of action to be galvanised into concrete policies and laws for the transformation of our country. The entry of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) indeed represents a positive beginning in the realisation of these ideals.
I first came across Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) as a final year law student of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos in 1986. He was my lecturer in the Law of Evidence who made tremendous impact on the entire class for his sheer brilliance and mastery of the subject. Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) would come to class armed with just a pen and take on the whole class for nearly 3 hours, making copious references to authorities and cases off head, with uncommon exactitude that can only be associated with his rating as a GENIUS. In no time, he won many converts and admirers including my humble self. So much was the impact of this extraordinary Nigerian on my classmates that when it was time for us to choose our supervisors for our final year projects, I had no difficulty zeroing in on the choice of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN). I wanted to tap from the anointing. No doubt Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) is an intellectual of great standing.
The rating of the eminent Professor as an intellectual prodigy is still relevant at the University of Lagos even as I write this piece. As a lecturer in the Faculty of Law, I was privy to a discussion of some final year law students of the Faculty some months back who had a very interesting encounter with Prof. Osinbajo. The students were indeed impressed with his delivery that they vowed never to miss any of his classes.
This may have shown that the Prof is not in this race for lack of some other meaningful engagements. He may perhaps have accepted the nomination because of his passion for service and the need to offer his talents at the service of the nation, in the true spirit of patriotic sacrifice.
Prof. Osinbajo is also a First class debater and endowed with tremendous advocacy skills that is rare to find in this clime. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria who also attended Igbobi College, Yaba narrated to me sometimes ago in a private discussion on how the eminent Professor used to dazzle in Debate competitions involving Igbobi College and some other institutions in Lagos where “Jebby” (for that was the nickname of the erudite Prof) to the admiration of all as the lead speaker of the institution.
The other attribute of this gentleman that one can readily recall is his integrity and humility in spite of his many accomplishments. He was also perceived as generally accessible by the students who could knock at his door even at short notice and be sure of being given attention and treated as human beings. I can confirm that he left the ivory tower to serve as the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice of Lagos State under the Bola Tinubu administration for 8 years with his integrity at the University intact and unblemished.
I can also attest to Prof. Osinbajo’s high sense of professionalism and sense of justice. I recall what happened when I had to approach him for assistance to facilitate the medical treatment of Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi abroad, when it was becoming difficult to get the authorities in Abuja to endorse the trip. Appraising the situation objectively, notwithstanding the fact that the Prof was the prosecutor in the case he had surprisingly endorsed his approval to the request to allow the General travel for the urgent treatment, only extracting a guarantee from me that the General would return. Indeed, as a gentleman, the General did return to the country at the end of his medical treatment abroad. The incident may have revealed the attribute of Prof. Osinbajo as a thoroughbred professional who believes in the rule of law and the protection of the rights of others.
What about the reforms that Prof. Yemi Osibajo (SAN) carried out as the Chief Law Officer in Lagos State during his tenure? Reforms that became a model of distinction for other states in the rest of the federation to emulate, for the enhancement of the quality of administration of justice in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Again, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) made his impact in the Justice sector in a manner that convinced the stakeholders that he is a candidate for higher responsibilities.
This may not be a coincidence after all. I know on good authority that Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) at birth received the blessings of the late sage, Chief. Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory. One of the old pictures adorning the sitting room of the Osinbajos is a picture taken with the Late Chief. Obafemi Awolowo cuddling the young Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) in his arms. This chemistry that he shared with Awolowo owing to the close relationship between the Osinbajos and the Awolowo families of Ikenne was later to be fortified by marriage in that Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is presently married to a granddaughter of the Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo named Oludolapo. Some have argued that the spirit of the Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo may have had a hand in the choice of Osinbajo as the running mate on the APC Presidential ticket. Whether this spirit will catapult him to the seat of power remains to be seen.
But speaking seriously, I know the erudite Professor who is also a respected pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God would rather prefer to be catapulted to the seat of power by the spirit of Jesus Christ.
Now who is Prof. Yemi Osibajo (SAN)?
In the months ahead, and particularly in the build-up to the campaign for the 2015 Presidential elections, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) may be missing in action in the courtroom as a brilliant advocate (a factor that is generally acknowledged) but if his well-known advocacy is deployed in enriching the polities of ideas and action, Nigerians should indeed be ready for a swell time. One thing that I can guarantee is that Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) will never be associated with the politics of mudslinging, calumny and abuse in propagating the ideals of his political party. Given the fact that the candidates of the ruling party PDP are also tested gentlemen, one can say for certain that this time around, our elections and the campaign would be dominated by ideas rather than politics of abuse.
Welcome on-board Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN). A GENTLEMAN’S GENTLEMAN.
BY Wahab Kunle Shittu.
WK is a lawyer and lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Unilag