Abimbola Adelakun

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s recent claim that his biggest surprise as the number two man was the scale of grand corruption in the Nigeria public service raises an eyebrow. As someone who cut his political teeth in the regional headquarters of public corruption in Nigeria, Lagos State, that is, why was Osinbajo’s Abuja experience that confounding? He also reportedly stated that not only has his greatest astonishment been the corruption that enabled a public official to take money directly from the national purse and direct it towards their personal purposes, he has seen the rate at which such acts of grand larceny have retarded development. While his observations cannot be dismissed, one wonders if he all through his years as a public servant in Lagos, he worked with saints.

Osinbajo was a cabinet member in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice; he was also Lagos Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice from 1999-2007, under the leadership of Bola Tinubu before becoming a politician. If someone worked in the Tinubu dispensation in Lagos and remains part of its political class, and such a person can still be surprised at corruption elsewhere, we should either be curious what the person saw or check whether they need to be certified visually challenged.

The lack of transparency and accountability that runs the affairs of Lagos is a publicly documented fact and it plays out in their electioneering. We were witnesses to how the ideology of “Baba sope…” and loyalty to the godfather’s mediocre vision played out for Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Underneath the roiling tensions and the buildup of discontent that robbed the governor of his chance to contest a second term in office is corruption in its various guises. When people complained about Ambode not carrying them along, and that he was not loyal enough, what they were crying over is the unfavourability of the sharing formula of Lagos resources.

How can anyone who has been mired in that muck truthfully claim to be surprised by the “grand corruption” taking place elsewhere?

Nigerian politics is largely about sharing resources among the elite who converge on the soup pot and nowhere is this banality of thievery more obvious than Lagos State. There is money; and the vultures cannot help but converge on the feast and pick the state’s carcass to the bones. That is why Lagos, relatively rich as it is in resources is also, paradoxically, one of the poorest regarding urban infrastructural development. The state generates money, but they can barely get one thing right. The urban planning is zero, and basic functionality of any well-planned city centre is missing. One would be less frustrated at the patrimonial nature of Lagos politics if the administrators had managed to build a modern city in the league of other major cities of the world, but no, what they celebrate instead is an extended ghetto with a few safe spaces for the wealthy and the privileged.

Lagos State is ruled by a myopic vision of sightless leaders who arrogate to themselves the power to choose and discard its administrators, and to dictate how resources would be shared. Their actions are a corruption of the ideals of democracy, but the bigger surprise is that the Osinbajo that was bred in this perverted socio-political context got to Abuja and was somehow surprised to see “grand corruption” taking place. If there is someone whose sense of ethics ought to be acute to the point that it detects the merest whiff of corruption anywhere, it should be Osinbajo who wields the triple identity of being a pastor, lawyer, and a professor of law. Osinbajo might be sincerely right though, and his shock could have come about by his having lived within a dysfunctional system for so long that he was inured to its mechanisms. He only got the level of clarity needed to see the log of wood in his eyes when he became the VP and left some of his APC tribe behind in Lagos.

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