Balkisu Saidu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Legal, Research and Compliance Matters, has debunked an allegation claiming that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is carrying out a ‘Christianisation’ agenda in the Presidency.
Saidu made the rebuttal in a piece published on TheCable on Saturday in response to an article written by one Dr Musbau Akinbode, who accused Osinbajo of pursuing a narrow religious agenda by nominating or appointing mostly Christians into government.
The presidential aide, who is a Muslim, however, hit back, saying even though she found “silence to be a very potent tool in dealing with some extremely wicked and deliberate acts of provocation exhibited through concoction and spread of falsehoods”, she opted to respond and “set the records straight”.
According to Saidu, the article as “baseless” and “malicious”, claiming that it contained a rehash of previous unproven accusations against the vice president.
She explained that Osinbajo has appointed a number of Muslims into key positions in his office, including AbdurRahman Adeola Ipaye, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, who is the highest-ranking officer in Vice President’s office.
She also stated the vice president appointed northern Muslims into office and reeled out their names.
The piece read: “The new twist in Dr Akinbode’s write-up is the allegation that the Vice President is implementing a “Christianization” agenda and in that wise none of the appointments made by the Vice President from persons of Yoruba extraction were given to Yoruba Muslims. This allegation reminded me of a similar baseless claim made in 2017 by one Dr. Ismaila Farouk, which Akinbode referred to, alleging that the selection of personal staff of the Vice President was skewed in favour of ‘his Yoruba ethnic group.’
“Those fuelling the orchestrated and surreptitious narrative immediately backtracked when confronted with facts and a long list of Northerners, from tribes other than Yoruba, working in the office at the time including, among others, Mrs. Maryam Uwais (Special Adviser on Social Investment, from Kano State); Ambassador Abdullahi Gwary (Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs, from Yobe State); my humble self (Senior Special Assistant on Legal, Research and Compliance Matters, from Sokoto State); Mr. Ismaeel Ahmed (Senior Special Assistant on Social Investment, from Kano State); Mr. Bege Bala (Special Assistant, BPE, from Kaduna State); Abdurahman Baffa Yola (Special Assistant on Political Matters); Mrs. Susan Chagwa (Special Assistant on Household and Social Events, from Adamawa State), etc.
“Certainly, some of the listed allegations made by Dr Akinbode are objectionably and glaringly malicious and even laughable, unlikely to be believed by any discerning follower of the rise and actions of the Vice President. For example, the Office of the Vice President is like a mini-Nigeria. The level of diversity accomplished in the office reflects all segments of the society – geo-political, ethnic, religious, gender, and youth representation.”
Saidu stated that Akibode’s specific allegation that Osinbajo deliberately decided not to appoint Muslims of Yoruba extraction into his office is false and listed 10 of them to buttress her point.
She also stated that her principal respects Muslims, to the extent that he suspends meetings to enable Muslim participants to perform prayers and hosts breaking of Ramadan fast with religious leaders.
“It is therefore inconceivable for anyone to suggest marginalisation or, as Dr Akinbode puts it, “Christianization” in appointments and religious bigotry. To the specific point of appointment of Yoruba Muslims, Dr Akinbode may wish to know that, even amongst his personal staff, no less than ten Yoruba Muslims were appointed to work for the Vice President including his next in command and the highest-ranking officer in the Vice President’s office, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. AbdurRahman Adeola Ipaye.
“Other Yoruba Muslims who work, at various times, in the office include Distinguished Senator Babafemi Ojudu (Special Adviser on Political Matters); Dr Mariam Masha (Senior Special Assistant on Internally Displaced Persons); Ms Lanre Shasore (Senior Special Assistant on Planning and Coordination); Mrs. Olabisi Ogungbemi (Special Assistant on Political Matters); Yusuf Ali (Special Assistant on Power); Mr Mohammed Brimah (Special Assistant on Job Creation); Mr Mukhtar Tijani (Special Assistant on Power); Ms. Lolade Abiola; and Mr. Akanni Rahman.
“A leader known to suspend meetings to enable Muslim participants to perform prayers; known to rescue Muslim orphans and provide them with shelter and educational opportunities that safeguard and promote their religious practices; known to host Breaking of Ramadan Fast (Iftar) with Religious Leaders and Muslim communities from across the country; known to timeously intervene in the resolution of thorny inter-religious issues with potential for escalation can certainly not be said to be promoting any particular religion.”
Saidu also noted that Akinbode’s claim that some individuals appointed into government espouses a Christianization” agenda is “indicative of a complete lack of understanding of how Government appointments are made or a deliberate attempt to distort facts and mislead the unsuspecting public”.
She insisted that all the appointments made into the Vice-President’s office are based purely on merit, noting that Akinbode cannot argue against the calibre and qualification of persons who he named in his article, including Kayode Pitan, who was appointed by the Vice President as the Managing Director of the Bank of Industry, as profiteering from the said agenda.
The presidential aide called on Akinbode to realise that “Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is as authentic as he presents – he is a humane, compassionate, detribalised patriotic Nigerian, who is committed to the service of Nigeria and Nigerians in a fair, honest, transparent and accountable manner”.