Updated: March 5, 2021
The Vice President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo is a professor of law, and when on December 6, secret service agents invaded a court of law to arrest a New Jersey-based activist who had been released on bail a day earlier, triggering pandemonium in the court premises, and leaving the judge with no other safe option but to take cover, Mr. Osinbajo was not well pleased.
Just days before the incident, he had planned to personally receive an award for his achievements in the area of justice reforms in Lagos state where he was a commissioner of justice.
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But, the chaos in the court premises on December 6, and the silence and justification by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari so enraged him he skipped the event all together, and offered an explanation in a statement his office sent to TODAY NEWS AFRICA on December 9.
“I am extremely grateful for the recognition and award of the “Integrity Specialty of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism’s Anti-corruption Defender Award of 2019” to me.
“The award, I note, is for our Justice reform efforts in Lagos State. I had accepted the award with pride on behalf of the excellent Justice Sector team we had.
“However, two reasons explain my absence. First is that I am currently in Abu Dhabi for an international meeting under the auspices of the government of the UAE where I am the keynote speaker.
“Second, in view of the developments on Friday in the Sowore case, I think it would be insensitive and inappropriate to attend the ceremony.
“Please accept my heartfelt apologies and extend the same to the other members of the organizing team. God bless you,” he wrote.
Activist journalist, publisher and politician Omoyele Sowore was arrested on August 3, 2019, after he called for a social revolution in Nigeria because of poverty, inequality, corruption, and several other vices that have kept most Nigerians in abject poverty and without the basic things of life.
But, the word ‘revolution’ so enraged the Buhari administration that the Department of State Services arrested him and a comrade and charged them with various crimes, including treason.
On December 5, the judge issued an ultimatum to the DSS. He was released later that day and rearrested in court.
In a statement early this week, the government justified the court invasion, saying that Sowore was planning to overthrow the government of Mr. Buhari, a retired Major-General and former military dictator who just weeks to the recent presidential election sacked the head of the supreme court and accused him of corruption.
Unconfirmed reports said Mr. Buhari was afraid he would be disqualified by the court due to his inability to provide the secondary school certificate he had listed in his application for the job, a basic requirement for the presidency in Nigeria.
He had come up with various explanations, including that his certificate was lost when his house was attacked in 1985.
On Tuesday, the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, an organization in Lagos, which trains journalists in some ways and monitors the media landscape in Africa’s most populous nation, apologized for the confusion surrounding Mr. Osinbajo’s inability to attend the award ceremony.
Mrs. Motunrayo Alaka, the Executive Director/CEO of the organization, said in a statement the VP was right while they were wrong.
“WSCIJ accepts the statement from the Vice President’s Office as the true position on its intended award to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.
“An in-house communication gap caused the difference in the use of language and we accept responsibility for this.
“The WSCIJ stands by its intention to award the Vice President the Integrity Specialty of its Anti-Corruption Defender Award.
“The board however shares his decision to excuse himself this year based on recent happenings”.
Still, public relations aside, Mr. Osinbajo’s statement marked the first time he had publicly spared with the presidency.
President Buhari’s mandate would end in 2023 but already, many are wondering who would replace him.
Reports in recent months have repeatedly said Buhari has been attempting to strip Osinbajo of his powers, sacking several of his aides, and refusing to hand over to him when he traveled recently on a private, personal, visit to London, a violation of the Nigerian constitution.