Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has been in Tinubu’s camp for more than two decades. He served in Tinubu’s government in Lagos State as attorney general and commissioner for justice. His impressive performance on that job distinguished him as a man who had proved himself worthy for greater responsibilities.
Events unfolded and the opportunity came for Osinbajo when APC gave Tinubu the sole right to nominate the vice-presidential candidate of the party for the 2015 presidential elections. Tinubu himself could have fitted into the position but in view of the need for religious balancing, Osinbajo turned out a better candidate for the job in the circumstances of that time.
Tinubu’s interest on Osinbajo centred on his high intellectual credentials – which were worth investing in. He finished his secondary school education with a number of prizes. He also earned his first degree in law with a prize. He made great advances in his law profession, attaining the height of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
The man’s exceptional performance was sufficient for his entry into Tinubu’s merit list without him knowing or expecting it when the Lagos State cabinet was being formed in 1999. For the eight years of Tinubu’s reign as governor of Lagos State, Osinbajo was a member of his cabinet.
Consideration of merit in candidates’ selection and appointments is essentially Tinubu’s connecting link with his men. Osinbajo is a beneficiary of this. All too often, governments at various levels avoid merit in cabinet appointments and yet expect to achieve great things. To Osinbajo, merit cannot be avoided in any government that wants great things accomplished.
He recalls that he was able to make it to the cabinet list of Lagos State at the time of Tinubu because the Lagos strong man “looked for those that he considered the best possible materials at the time regardless of where they were from”.
Tinubu’s cabinet membership broke traditional boundaries in search of merit. He had in his cabinet Osinbajo from Ogun State, Rauf Aregbesola from Osun State and Arthur Worrey from Delta State. Other non-indigenes in the cabinet were Wale Edun from Ogun State, Lai Mohammed from Kwara State, Dele Alake from Ekiti State and Ben Akabueze from Anambra State. There were also people from other parts of the country appointed judges of Lagos State.
Osinbajo links his coming to public limelight to the existence of a leader, who picks people for positions no matter what part of the country they come from. “I did not and I had never met Bola Tinubu before I was appointed commissioner and that says a lot about the kind of individual that he is”.
He has therefore learnt great lessons under Tinubu’s political mentorship in respect of taking cognizance of the diversities of states and the nation when it comes to governance. He has imbibed the kind of thinking that makes nations great – the kind of thinking that would make Nigeria great, he believes.
It is, he said, “a type of thinking that considers all of our diverse talents; a kind of thinking that does not allow parochialism; a kind of thinking that does not allow us to say anywhere belongs to only a set of people. That is when our country would be truly great.”
Osinbajo sees Tinubu’s motivation for going this extra mile as his dogged desire to ensure a creative and catalytic public service. “He has from his days as governor of Lagos State, provided clarity of thought and pioneering vision in all aspects of governance”, he said.
He attributes Lagos’ biggest projects to the pioneering vision of Tinubu. These include the bus transport service BRT, the Lekki industrial zone, the Eko Atlantic project and the reform in the tax system that has made the state a model in internally generated revenue locally and internationally.
Osinbajo seems to quote from his lesson notes of Bola Tinubu’s school of political discipleship that Nigeria’s diversity is a blessing because “the true wealth of any nation is its human capital.” His eyes were opened to a discovery that diversity is a driver of economic growth and development.
He corroborates this with the immigration policies of the United States of America and Canada that opened their doors years back to talented immigrants from different parts of the world. He sees a direct link between the mix of talents in the Lagos State’s cabinet and the peerless progress that the state has made over the years since then.
Expounding the principle of diversity, Osinbajo preaches that the country’s diversity is not its problem and rather that Nigeria has a lot to benefit from its plurality. “It is clear that when we create spaces for migratory talents to flourish without discrimination, there is an economic multiplier that results in an ever-increasing radius of growth”.
Having been equipped with the right tools in his political kit, Osinbajo was apparently the right man for the job when a new role in national affairs downed after the formation of the APC in 2013. He was set on the job of designing and producing a manifesto for the new political party. Working with his team, Osinbajo produced what became the “Roadmap to a New Nigeria”, a document that became APC’s manifesto.
The roadmap captured Tinubu’s strategic design to floor the ruling People’s Democratic Party in the election through programmes that would alleviate the economic hardship Nigerians faced at that time. The programmes were encapsulated in the party’s call for change that sold out.