– Deny Christianisation agenda, nepotism allegations against VP
+ Who they are, what they do for the Vice President
High ranking Muslim personalities and Islamic Organisations have absolved Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) of allegations of nepotism and Christianisation agenda being levelled against him.
In separate interviews with Muslim News, the Muslim personalities, a majority of whom work and have known Prof. Osinbajo, a Senior Pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) before his emergence as VP, debunked the claims, describing the allegations as manufactured “absurd” and “false”.
In mid-November, a write-up, entitled, “VP Osinbajo’s Stealth Christianization Agenda” authored by Dr Musbau Akinbode resurfaced on social media where he alleged that virtually all the appointments Osinbajo “influenced as a VP, and made in an acting president capacity, were to RCCG members.”
Dr Akinbode alleged that, “From planting RCCG Pastors-in-charge as DG, Budget Office (Ben Akabueze); DG, BPE (Alex Okoh) and Minister of Trade & Investment (2015 – 2019) Okey Enelamah, to appointing MD, Bank of Industry (Kayode Pitan) and Ben Ovwiosu and Akin Akinwale, (both Executive Commissioners, PENCOM), your appointment imprints reek of religious bigotry.”
“These cited cases are the high profile appointments. There are several other appointments in the middle and lower base of the triangle too numerous to mention, which you gave your RCCG brethren. To make matters worse and further reinforce your religious bigotry, during your infamous acting presidency period, you hurriedly fired Waheed Olagunju, a muslim and serving MD, BOI, and replaced him with Kayode Pitan, a Pastor-in-charge at RCCG. Laolu Akande, your spokesman is also a Pastor at RCCG.
“All the appointments you gave to Yorubas during your acting presidency were to Yoruba Christians. None was given to Yoruba Muslims”, the allegations read in part.
Findings by Muslim News show that this is not the first time the controversial article will be published online.
Earlier in March 2021, the same article was published by some online media, but it was quickly debunked by some Muslims, who are themselves close aides of the Vice President.
Despite the rebuttal, it is not clear why this article resurfaced. But those close to the VP believe that it is part of a propaganda campaign against Prof. Osibanjo, who many say might join the Presidential race for 2023.
This is not the first time such allegations will be levelled against the VP, Muslim News findings have revealed.
In June 2017, Dr. Ismaila Farouk from Zamfara State wrote an article where he also accused him of nepotism, saying that appointments made by Prof. Osinbajo into some federal agencies while acting as the President and the ones done in the office of the Vice President favoured only his church members.
In a swift reaction, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Legal Matters, Dr. Balkisu Saidu, a Muslim described the allegations as “simply laughable, untrue, unfair” and posited that the allegation should be seen for what they are – acts of “mischief-makers and peddlers of fake news.”
A lecturer at the Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto (on leave), Dr. Saidu said contrary to Dr. Farouk’s erroneous submission, most senior positions in the Vice President’s office are held by Muslims from Southern and Northern regions.
Another scenario was in October 2019, when Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed accused the VP of nepotism in his appointments. He was quickly replied by Senator Kabiru Gaya, lawmaker representing Kano South. Gaya, who advised Prof. Osinbajo to ignore detractors, urged Mohammed to check the records before speaking.
When Dr. Musbau’s article came to the fore in April and now in November, Dr. Saidu didn’t hesitate to reply it, describing the allegation of Christianisation Agenda as “extremely wicked, glaringly malicious and laughable”.
Dr. Saidu said the allegation of “Christianisation” in the appointment of some named individuals to various positions in government is indicative of either a complete lack of understanding of how government appointments are made or a deliberate attempt to distort facts and mislead the unsuspecting public.
According to her, “Save for Mr. Kayode Pitan, who was appointed by the Vice President as the Managing Director of the Bank of Industry to take over from Mr. Waheed Olagunju, who was serving in acting capacity, all the other persons named by Dr. Akinbode were appointed by the President in the exercise of his constitutional powers.
“The calibre of the persons is not in question. In terms of accomplishments, these are pacesetters in their respective industries. For example, Mr. Ben Akabueze, the Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation served more than two terms as Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in Lagos State and was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NAL Bank Plc. (now Sterling Bank Plc.). He has also served as Special Adviser to the President on National Planning.
“Mr Alex Okoh, the Director-General, Bureau of Public Enterprises, an Alumnus of Harvard Business School and former Managing Partner, Ashford & McGuire Consulting Ltd.; is a quintessential Banker and Financial Advisor, who as the Managing Director/CEO of NNB International Bank led the transformation of the bank from a comatose state into a leading commercial bank in Nigeria. He has worked with various banks within and outside Nigeria, including Nigeria International Bank Limited (Citibank); United Bank for Africa Plc.; Citibank New York; Fidelity Bank London; Swiss Banking Corporation, Zurich; and Grindlays Bank, Zimbabwe. His first tenure recorded tremendous transformation of the Bureau, leading to his reappointment by the President.
“Before the appointment by Mr. President of Mr. Okey Enelamah as the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment in 2015, the Harvard University graduate, Baker Scholar and Loeb Fellow has had a tremendous successful career in investment banking with Arthur Anderson (now KPMG Professional Services), New York and London offices of Goldman Sachs, Zephyr Management. He also founded and served as CEO of the African Capital Alliance (ACA)”, she stated.
On the appointment of Mr Pitan, Dr. Saidu said “the author is not questioning his qualification, imaginably considering his robust academic training (including at American Graduate School of International Management, Arizona, USA; London Business School; and Haggai Institute, Singapore) as well as his decades of corporate and banking experience.
“These appointments were based purely on merit. The only problem with the appointments, according to the author, was their religion. Save Dr. Akinbode is suggesting that persons being considered for appointments into government positions must denounce their religions, it is unclear why the religious leanings of the appointees should be an issue.
“Recall that similar allegations were made against appointments of equally deserving and competent Muslims with claims of ‘Islamisation’ being bandied around. Such divisive rhetoric and adverse language are dangerous to Nigeria’s unified harmonious existence and should be resisted and rejected by all,” she added.
Like Buhari, Osinbajo now accused of Secret Agenda On Religion – Aide
Corroborating Dr. Saidu’s clarification, some of the Muslim appointees of the VP told this medium in separate interviews that it is not surprising that Prof. Osinbajo is being accused of Christianisation and nepotism, the same way his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari has constantly been accused of Islamisation agenda.
Speaking with Muslim News, Hon. Gamzo Manzo, Special Assistant on Political Affairs in the Office of the Vice President, said, “If you would recall, this same allegation was frequently levelled against President Buhari. Are we now saying, while President Buhari is islamising Nigeria, his VP is also Christianising Nigeria? No, this isn’t true.
“Interestingly, the VP was among the few Christians that faulted the constant Islamisation alarm by the CAN especially during the Sukuk saga. At different Church programmes including the pastor’s conference held in November 2017, the VP defended President Buhari. If he can speak for Muslim, why can’t we also speak for him knowing fully well that the allegation isn’t true? This is what Islam preaches, fairness,” he noted.
Hon. Manzo, commended the Vice President for giving him the opportunity to serve him without discriminating against him based on his religion, Islam and tribe, Fulani. According to him, “I am not even a Yoruba. I am a Fulani from Gombe State though. I have been practicing politics in Lagos for a long time now. I was elected as a councillor in Apapa Local Government three times.
“When Pastor Osinbajo became President Buhari’s running mate towards the 2015 Presidential election, I was the first person the VP asked to relocate from Lagos to Abuja to be in charge of his campaign activities under his office as the then Vice Presidential candidate.
“After he won the election, he appointed me as his PA for good 4 years, from 2015 to 2019. After that, he reappointed me as SA on Political Affairs and I have been working with him very closely. I am not even Yoruba not to talk of Christian. I am a Muslim Fulani man. It is really surprising for some people to now be spreading news that the VP is promoting bigotry and supporting Christians over Muslims. There is no truth in that at all. If he is such a person, he wouldn’t have helped me,” he stated.
Hon. Gamzo said although he doesn’t know the people behind the false allegation, he insisted it is all about 2023.
“This is the same allegations levelled against the President Buhari, and now, they’re doing it again to a good person, Prof. Osinbajo, all because of the 2023 elections. The most interesting thing about this man is that it will be difficult for them to fault him. He is a decent politician. That is why the only way they can attempt to tarnish his reputation is to bring religion into it, with the belief that many will fall for it.”
List of top ranking Muslims on Osinbajo’s team
Muslim News gathered that, out of Prof. Osinbajo’s five Special Advisers, three of them are Muslims. They are: Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Special Adviser on Political Matters from Ekiti State; Mrs. Maryam Uwais; Special Adviser on Social Investment, from Kano State and Engr. Ahmad Zakari; Special Adviser on Infrastructure, from Jigawa State.
The highest ranking official in the VP’s team, AbdurRahman Ade Ipaye is a practicing Muslim. He is the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, who works from the Office of the Vice President from the inception of the administration and got re-appointed in 2019. Ade Ipaye is a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State.
There are also quite a number of Muslims among the Vice President’s Senior Special Assistants. They are: Ambassador Abdullahi Gwary, Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs, from Yobe State; Dr. Balkisu Saidu, Senior Special Assistant on Legal, Research and Compliance Matters, from Sokoto State; Mr. Ismaeel Ahmed, Senior Special Assistant on Social Investment, from Kano State; Dr Mariam Masha, Senior Special Assistant on Internally Displaced Persons; and Ms Lanre Shasore, Senior Special Assistant on Planning and Coordination.
In the categories of Special Assistants, there are Mrs. Olabisi Ogungbemi (Political Matters); Yusuf Ali (Power); Hon. Gambo Manzo (Political Affairs); AbdurRahman Baffa Yola (Political Matters); and Murtala Aliyu (Protocol, from Kogi State).
Muslim personalities such as Mr Mohammed Brimah; Mr Mukhtar Tijani; and Ms Lolade Abiola, we gathered, though were part of the VP’s Osinbajo’s team at various times, are no longer with the office, having moved to other endeavours.
Mrs. Maryam Uwais’ account on Osinbajo
Shedding more light on the appointments of top ranking Muslims in Prof. Osinbajo’s team, an Abuja-based lawyer and activist, Mrs. Maryam Uwais said it is absurd for people, especially Muslims, to accuse the VP of pushing some Christianisation Agenda.
Mrs. Uwais, wife of Muhammad Lawal Uwais, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, noted that she found it difficult to comprehend how anyone could accuse the VP of bias against the Muslims when the next person to the Vice President is AbdurRahman Ade Ipaye, a Yoruba Muslim from Agege, Lagos.
According to her, “We have 5 Special Advisers, three are Muslims. When he had the Special Advisers in his first term, Babafemi Ojudu and I were with him. The third person is a Christian but not a Redeemed member. Now, he added two persons for his 2nd term in office. One of them, Jumoke Oduwole is a Christian but not a member of RCCG and Ahmed Zakari, from Jigawa State. He is a Muslim and even a title holder. That is why I said it is really absurd for people to spew these allegations. Prof. Osinbanjo is tolerant and very accommodating.”
Speaking on allegation that Prof. Osinbajo, while acting as President, appointed many of his church members into other Ministries, Mrs. Uwais said, “As far as I am concerned, I have never seen him using religion as a yardstick for appointment. He focuses more on the merit of what that person has to offer. So, it never bothers me nor crosses my mind to ask what Church does the person attend when I heard that someone has been appointed. We aren’t going to government to be reading Qur’an or Bible. We are going there to serve the people with the fear of God. All I know about the appointees is that they are hardworking and have performed excellently. All of us will be accountable to God for our actions and inactions.
“I even heard some people saying I was selected because my mother is Yoruba. This is laughable because my mother is from Kano. The truth is, people just wake up, cook up a story and start sharing it, just to give their opponents bad names,” she stated.
Relating her experience with the VP, Mrs. Uwais said, “I have known the VP for long. I was called to bar in 1981 and later worked together with him on different cases even when he was Attorney general of Lagos State. I used to go to Lagos to visit and I could recall we worked together on public interest litigation.
“When he was elected VP, he invited me to come and support him on social investment. He has no problem with Islam or Muslims. I have travelled with him to different countries, including Chicago, US and Dubai, UAE; and we could be having meeting, when it was time for prayers, I would excuse myself, he would oblige and even wait for me before the meeting would resume,” she added.
He is a detribalise Nigerian – Chief Protocol
Murtala Aliyu, is a practising Muslim and one of the Special Assistants to Pastor Osinbajo in charge of Protocol. Aliyu, who speaks Arabic fluently and acquired some basic Islamic knowledge, described Prof. Osinbajo as a detribalised Nigerian, saying he is a pastor who doesn’t hold religion as a yardstick for what he does.
According to him; “Majority of his Muslim aides, including myself, have never seen him as a religious bigot. He is a very nice person and moderate personality. He supports Muslims working with him. I haven’t seen him doing all they claim he did. So, I am surprised to hear these allegations levelled against him. He has attended different Muslim functions even inside mosques on several occasions.
“I see the allegations as nothing other than politics. They accused President Buhari of an Islamisation agenda before, the same way they are accusing Prof. Osinbajo. But has President Buhari Islamised anybody since he came to power? The answer is No! It is not possible, the same way it is not possible for Osinbajo to Christianise Nigeria. So, it is all about politics and for me, I don’t see it as an issue. I don’t even bother myself at all when I see it, because it is the handiwork of his political opponents.”
Clearing the air on the allegation that the VP at a point, appointed his Church members, SA to the VP on Protocol, said, “The people appointed, are they Nigerians? Yes, they’re Nigerians. Are they qualified? Yes, they are qualified. If these two main important factors are met, the religion or tribe don’t really matter. Competence is the most important thing. Whether (s)he is a Muslim or Christian, Yoruba or Hausa, what matters is his/her qualification and being a Nigerian.”
Osinbajo, a regular visitor at Muslim fora
Muslim News gathered that Osinbajo doesn’t only have Muslims as aides in his office, he is a familiar face at different Islamic fora. The VP was a keynote speaker at the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) General Assembly held in Abuja in November 2019, where he joined other prominent Muslim leaders to preach peace and love among Nigerians irrespective of religion or tribe. The Host, and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad III called the VP “the pride of Nigeria” whose leadership qualities, he said was given to him by God.
In July, 2019, Muslim News reported that Prof. Osinbajo, a devout Christian and Senior Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) spent one of his Sundays with the Muslim community at the 4th National Discourse of The Companion.
“Hundreds of Muslim faithful who thronged the Main Auditorium of the University of Lagos, the venue of the programme, gave the Vice President a standing ovation at the event.
“Prof. Osinbajo, who was the Keynote Speaker at the event which had the theme “Food Security: Unleashing Nigeria’s Natural Potential for Self Sufficiency,” took the opportunity of the audience, mainly Muslims, to preach on the need for Nigerians, irrespective of their religion, to keep the country united,” the report, said, in part.
That was not all. In February of 2019, the VP had an interactive session with Muslim Professionals from across the six states of the South West region of the country at the Lekki Central Mosque. At the programme tagged “The Hard Talk”, the VP also used the avenue to debunk the nepotism claims, saying there are many Muslims who work with him. He mentioned some of the names – including AbdurRahman Ade Ipaye, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, among others, who according to many pundits, are hardly known within Muslim circles.
The Coordinator of the event, Mr Toibudeen Oduniyi, while speaking with Muslim News said Prof. Osinbajo is a man at home with all Nigerians irrespective of their religious belief.
According to him, Prof. Osinbajo has always and continued to respect and interact with Muslims at all levels before and after his election into office. Eminent Muslims like the Sultan of Sokoto have spoken highly of him on numerous occasions on the basis of his interaction with all Nigerians regardless of tribe, gender or faith.
“He has welcomed and engaged many Islamic organisations including The Muslim Congress, The Companion and Muslim Public Affairs Centre. He has been invited and spoken to many Muslim audiences as well. Notably, he was the Keynote Speaker at The National Discourse organised by The Companions in July 2019,” he noted.
On his personal relationship with the VP, Mr. Oduniyi said, “I have known him personally for decades and the fact that I am a Muslim has never been an issue. This is also evident going by his close association and relationship with many Muslims across the country like me. He has been magnanimous towards both Muslims and Christians, not only did he employe Muslims in his professional office, but has also employed many Muslims in his office as the Vice President.
“His Excellency has always encouraged us to practice our faith in such a way that we can all live together in peace and harmony. He treats all fairly and the suggestion that he is pursuing a christianisation or anti-islamic agenda is utterly ludicrous and lacks any basis,” he explained.
I’m a Muslim and I’ll die as a Muslim – Senator Ojudu
While speaking with Muslim News, Senator Babafemi Ojudu reiterated that he is a practicing Muslim from a sound Islamic background, saying that he doesn’t have to carry religion on his forehead for people to accept him as a Muslim.
Muslim News findings revealed that the Ekiti State-born journalist turned politician recently told a Muslim congregation that he is proudly a Muslim at the MUSWEN’s Book Launch on ‘Islam in Yorubaland held in April, 2021, where he represented his boss, VP Osinbajo.
“I am very active as a Muslim in my community. I don’t have to carry it on my forehead for people to see. Many of my siblings are also practising Muslims. Those who don’t know me want to determine my private life. It is not possible. I am a Muslim and I will remain a Muslim forever,” he said while debunking the allegations levelled against his boss, in an article that had gone viral on social media.
Ojudu, a former Senator representing the Ekiti Central Senatorial District in the Senate between 2011 and 2015, said, “I think it is malicious for anyone to call the VP a religious bigot, because I have known him since 1990. He is a friend of Muslims and Christians. He doesn’t discriminate.
“I am a Muslim myself and my grandfather is the leader of Islamic community in Ado Ekiti. Same as my father. I am a practising Muslim,” he stated.
Speaking further, “I don’t really know much about the procedure of appointment in other ministries but if members of his church got the appointment, I am sure it is based on merit. But, the allegation is part of the campaign of calumny by the politicians to rubbish his good work. You cannot say he is a thief or he is corrupt. You can’t say he isn’t competent or educated. That is why they want to use his religious belief to rubbish him. This is un-Godly to rubbish a man who has been fair to all, irrespective of tribe and religion,” he said.
MURIC warns Muslims against blackmail, character assassination
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has also waded into the controversy surrounding the recent allegation of christianisation levelled against the Vice President, warning Muslims against blackmail and character assassination.
The Director of MURIC, Prof. Lakin Akintola, in a press release issued recently, said, “Blackmail, character assassination, fake news and disinformation are not in the character of Muslims. It has never been part of us.
“Hurting the innocent is equally alien to our DNA. Instead of hanging their actions on the necks of their adversaries, Muslims own up when they are the culprits. They prefer to be punished in this world in order to escape from the punishment of the Hereafter,” he stated.
Prof. Akintola confirmed that the Vice President loves and accommodates Muslims despite being a Christian and a member of the clergy.
He called on Muslims to speak up when a Christian does the right thing.
“That is objectivity. That is fairness. That is humanity. That is Islam. Speaking up for Muslims alone but closing our eyes when a Christian performs righteous deeds is not fairness. We reject selective activism,” he added.
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