Steve Harvey, the notable American television host and actor, commenting during the 50th year anniversary of the United Arab Emirates, alluded that it was the love of the leaders for their people that brought massive innovation and development to the land that was once a desert. He commended the leadership of the United Arab Emirates for caring about their people. Indeed, John Maxwell, the world’s foremost leadership expert, once said that “people don’t care about what you know until they know that you care”.
The leader who should succeed PMB is a leader who has shown that he cares about Nigerians. In this regard, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has shined more than ten thousand stars in our political firmament as a leader who cares. This article highlights how Osinbajo cares as a leader through his utterances and actions as a caring, authentic cum attentive, respectful, excellent and strategically inclined leader.
As a caring leader Osinbajo, in commemoration of his 60th birthday in 2017, established the North East Children’s Trust to provide education, care and support services to children affected by the insurgency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States respectively. Modern boarding school facilities were built for the children. Within the five years of birthing the vision about 154 pupils have graduated from the school. But for PYO, those children would have been left uneducated with a forlorn future. Osinbajo has an enduring passion for caring for the less privileged or the displaced in society. About 20 years before his IDP educational initiative, PYO and his wife, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, using their personal resources and leveraging their networks, started feeding destitute under bridges in Lagos on a weekly basis.
On behalf of the President, PYO personally visited the South-South Region of Nigeria to engage the militants and all stakeholders in the Niger Delta crisis in 2017. The people of Niger Delta, knowing how much Osinbajo cared, agreed to allow peace to reign. All Nigerians know that the engagement has brought peace and development to that region.
Osinbajo has proven that he is an attentive and authentic leader over the years. He refused to quit the government under PMB when the majority of Nigerians were urging him to leave because of the perception that he was not in control. He was authentic enough to admit that the buck stops at the desk of the President and Commander in Chief of the armed forces of Nigeria. So, he has never struggled with his principal. He has remained loyal to his President Buhari even when the latter was away on medical vacation. He has never been known to publicly disagree with his principal, unlike the cantankerous relationship Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had with former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Osinbajo is the first Nigerian leader known to have visited all the 774 Local Government Areas in Nigeria. He has directly interacted with many Nigerians in remote villages, and consoled hurting ordinary Nigerians in their humble abodes. An example was his visit to the parents of Hanifa Abubakar, the five-year-old girl who was abducted and killed in January 2022 in Kano State. Osinbajo’s antecedents as a leader who bridges the gap between government and the people portend he will champion the causes of voiceless ordinary Nigerians when he becomes Nigeria’s President.
He was creative in the approach he adopted for his declaration speech. Although people with warped minds claimed he was timid, the approach was not only cost-effective, it also enabled him to directly reach millions of people across the globe. There has not been any other candidate who has achieved that reach.
Osinbajo’s caring heart and authenticity are seen in the unaffected gestures and unscripted moments in his very hectic daily routine. He made the headlines at a recent South West Political Leaders Meet, as he physically assisted the aging elder statesman, Chief Bisi Akande, to walk out of the venue of a meeting held on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Lagos. He did not consider himself the Vice President or thought it demeaning to publicly offer help to an elder in need. That was a gathering where every other person present, protocol-wise, was lower than him.
Osinbajohas shown that he is not only respectful but he will be a respecter of the rule of law and the rights of the citizens. During his 6 minutes and 59 seconds declaration speech, despite the strange and warped perception of his sworn enemies, Osinbajo showed respect to Nigerians all over the world. He said he was offering to serve “…with utmost humility…” In a historic fashion, the sitting Vice President of Nigeria displayed respect for all. “I now most solemnly and respectfully seek the support of fellow Nigerians…to work together…to build the Nigeria of our dreams in a few short years” The use of the word “respectfully” is rare in our polity because our leaders do not show respect to citizens but demand respect from the people. The Emir of Bauchi, Dr. Rilwan Suleiman Adamu, acknowledged that Osinbajo was respectful when the latter visited him in the palace on May 11, 2022. “This shows the love and respect you have for the traditional institution” The acknowledgment is significant because if the Emir had perceived a genuine show of respect from other Nigerian leaders before Osinbajo’s visit he would not have identified it as a strong point in favor of the Vice President. Similarly, the Emir of Lafia, on May 11, 2022 acknowledging the respect of PYO declared, “We love Osinbajo. He is the best for Nigeria.”
A leader who shows respect to people publicly will not only win hearts. He will lead successfully.