2023: BAT/PYO and mentor-mentee conundrum

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By Ayo Akinyemi

In whispers, it is whistling. In hushed tones, it is shrieking. It is roaring in the rumour hemisphere that the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, desires to be a presidential candidate in 2023. Although he is yet to declare pointedly his interest in the coveted position, the vibrations are too piercing and sonorous to ignore.

Yes, the lion himself is yet to roar, one can say boldly, without any tint of equivocation, that Professor Yemi Osinbajo (PYO) has the inalienable right to nurse the ambition or desire. In a more developed and saner clime, having been Vice-President for two terms under the incumbent President, he deserves the offer of first refusal.

Expectedly, counter-voices and counter-forces who have aggregated the silence of PYO on the burning issue as acquiescence have been querying the morality of PYO eyeing the seat of President in 2023, a position in which his ‘mentor’ and former principal, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT), has declared undisguised interest.

Is the brouhaha over the moral justification of PYO’s aspiration, with the open declaration by BAT of a “life-long ambition” to be the President of Nigeria, justified, viewed through the prism of objectivity with untainted spectacles?

It may sound uncharitable or reek of trappings of ingratitude to employ sophistry or explore semantics in the appraisal of a mentor and mentee in the relationship between Tinubu and Osinbajo.

The New Pocket Oxford Dictionary defines “Mentor” as “An experienced person in an organization or institution who trains and advises new employees or students.”

New Seventh Edition Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary puts it in the following words: “An experienced person who advises and helps somebody with less experience over a period of time.”

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The Chambers Dictionary, 10th Edition, defines “Mentor” as “A wise counsellor; a tutor; a trainer; a more senior or experienced colleague appointed to help and advise a junior employee.”

It goes further to define “Mentee” as (non-standard) “A person under the direction of a mentor, especially in business.”

In the plain, simple, elementary definition of the word mentor, is the former governor of Lagos State a mentor to PYO? Is Osinbajo in the same context a mentee of Tinubu?

The indisputable fact, without any tint of ambiguity, is that, in his capacity as governor of Lagos State, BAT appointed PYO as attorney-general and commissioner for justice in his cabinet for eight years. It was an opportunity that exposed PYO to the inner workings of government. It opened his eyes to the intricacies of governance, intrigues embedded in partisan politics and complexities involved in keeping the machinery of government in motion. Sincerely, it was a priceless experience not obtainable in books, practical experience beyond the confines of university walls.

Encompassed in the governor-commissioner relationship of the twosome are elements of mutual respect that recognised the superior in the enterprise, and symbiotic benefits. I found instructive the following submission on Page 280 of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations: “…Yet, the best pliots have needs of mariners besides sails, anchor and other tackle.”

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The summation of the quotation, by inference, is that Tinubu, as an embodiment of superlative characteristics, cannot by himself alone be an excellent governor. He needs others who are also endowed and capable in their own rights in his cabinet to actualise his dreams, vision and mission in government to make a success of the onerous assignment as governor.

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In the words of the avatar, the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo: “Only the deep can call to the deep.”

One uncommon virtue that stands the Asiwaju out of the pack is the divine grace to identify and assemble worthy men of quality into his team. The bottomline, therefore, is: One has to be outstanding, brilliant, knowledgeable, thorough, meticulous, articulate and, in totallity, highly cerebral, to qualify for a place in the inner chambers of Tinubu.

It boils down to the fact that, ab initio, in the estimation of Tinubu, in 1999, Osinbajo (with his fascinating and intimidating credentials) was prima facie qualified to occupy a seat in the inner chambers of his administration.

And, to the glory of God, PYO proved his mettle as a professional, an egghead in jurisprudence. To his eternal credit as attorney-general and commissioner for justice is the landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the management and control of local government funds, in the case between Lagos State Government and the Federal Government, following the creation of new local governments in Lagos State by the Tinubu administration and subsequent seizure of revenue allocation from the Federation Account to Lagos local governments by the Obasanjo-led Federal Government.

In totality, PYO justified the confidence reposed in him from outset by his principal, BAT, whom he served diligently with passion, with absolute, unflinching loyalty in his eight years as commissioner in his cabinet, and in subsequent years as one of the dependable and reliable brains in his think tank. Those equating the desire of PYO to throw his hat into the ring to contest the 2023 presidency as betrayal or disloyalty to BAT, his former principal, who is equally interested in the ticket, should find something else to say.

A word for trumpeters of the Yoruba aphorism: Erin kii fon, k’omo re fon (The elephant and the calf should not trumpet at the same time).” They require knowledge. The aphorism is now classified as Asipa owe (a proverb in error, a wrong notion).

The joy and pride of the mother elephant is for the calf to trumpet when she trumpets to affirm the perfect state of being of the calf, and for communication. Only a lifeless calf will fail to trumpet when the mother trumpets.

Advocates, propagators and ventilators of hate against Osinbajo putting a wedge of disharmony between him and his respected, adored benefactor should put themselves in PYO’s orbit. What would they have done in the circumstance?

For them, I plead words of exhortation from the Scripture: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

As for Tinubu, he should raise his head high and feel fulfilled that one of his ‘boys’ has grown enough to rub shoulders with him, with due respect. To him, I commend one of the compositions of the Juju maestro, King Sunny Ade. “B’o ti wu ki a l’ola to l’aye; k’Oluwa je k’ola omo wa ko ju tiwa lo.”

The sky is wide enough for all birds of different shades, shapes, colours and sizes to fly without any hinderance, without collision.

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