The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has revealed how a foreign contractor and a senior Nigerian lawyer (name withheld) attempted to bribe a former Judge of the International Criminal Court, Bola Ajibola.
Mr Ajibola, also a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, had appointed Mr Osinbajo as a special adviser at the age of 30.
The vice president made this revelation in Abeokuta, Ogun State while delivering the Centenary Lecture of Baptist Boys’ High School (BBHS) on Thursday.
Mr Osinbajo who spoke on the topic “Values: the difference between Success and Failure,” said an ethical revolution is necessary to fast-track Nigeria’s development.
Extolling the values of BBHS products, he listed the first Premier of the defunct Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election, Moshood Abiola, as great exhibitors of the good values they imbibed at the school.
Speaking about one of his examples of great values who are also products of the BBHS, Mr Osinbajo also extolled the values of his former boss, Mr Ajibola.
He said his first experience working with Mr Ajibola was in a case of “a foreign contractor who had won a very lucrative contract from the federal government and went to give Prince Ajibola’s son who was in the university in England, a brand new Golf car. His son then contacted his father and this made Prince Ajibola so angry to the extent that I had to calm him down physically.
“Not only was the gift returned but the conduct of the man was reported to the government of his country and that government made a special apology to our own government and to Prince Bola Ajibola. I can also remember that the man in question also came to the ministry to apologise to the Attorney-General.
“The second incident was the case of a commercial aircraft arrested in Nigeria for carrying drugs. The Office of the Attorney-General was, of course, responsible for ensuring the arrest. A very successful lawyer whose name I must not mention claimed to be acting as an intermediary for an interested party somehow connected to the aircraft and they came to Prince Bola Ajibola to offer him some bribe in foreign exchange. When I recall how Prince Ajibola shouted at the senior lawyer and ordered him out of his office, I still remember the shame and fear on the face of the man.
“Those are just two out of many that show that public service is public service and bribes or ‘thank you’ are totally unacceptable.”
Speaking of his other examples of good values, Mr Osinbajo further said, “Chief Obafemi Awolowo, GCFR, of the 1928 set of BBHS, the first premier of the western region, was described in death as the best president that Nigeria never had. During his reign, he was investing 41 per cent in education alone. He built the first television station not just in Africa but in many parts of Europe. At some point, he built the tallest building in Ibadan. Unfairly jailed but remained resolute and did not concede his position until he was freed by the then-government of Gen. Yakubu Gowon. We leave Chief Awolowo there.
“The next is Chief Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR of the 1957 set of BBHS, a military president who set a standard of honour (according to a promise made by his administration) when he handed over power to a civilian government and he went on to become an elected president for two terms. Of course, we all know that Obasanjo also unfairly and unjustly ended up in prison but he refused to compromise his position until he was freed by a subsequent government.
“The third is Chief MKO Abiola GCFR, of the 1956 set. Of cause, you know that the GCFR was awarded posthumously. He won the 1993 election and some say that is one of the freest and fairest elections in the history of our country. The then military government annulled the election and expected him to surrender his mandate but he refused and in an act of tremendous courage, because he had to face the military regime, he didn’t only declare himself president, he willingly went to jail and while in jail he refused to release his mandate until he died.
”I mentioned only these three men because they stood resolutely, they possessed something that stood them apart. They were so resolute even in the face of fearful challenges, they remained adamant, even during temptation that could cause them to compromise. They refused, they seemed to have imbibed something that made them so resolute they were extraordinary in that sense. Standing by one’s belief and principles, even if one has to face punishment, is a very special trade indeed.”
The VP also narrated how in later years; Mr Ajibola decided that his life work would be the establishment of a university.
“He sold every property he had in Lagos and moved to his home in Abeokuta. He established Crescent University with all the resources he had. I asked him why he said at the end of the day wealth means nothing if it doesn’t positively impact the lives of others.”
He further noted that the successes of these four BBHS old boys were not based on talent or opportunity.
According to Mr Osinbajo, there was a need for a national consensus, especially among the political, religious and business elite, on minimum ethical standards, “where we establish a national work ethic, of honesty, hard work, thrift and the deferment of gratification.”
He continued: “It is what is taught and learnt that shapes the character of individuals and nations. But it is not just teaching, governments must lead this ethical revolution by rewarding ethical behaviour and ensuring speedy punishment for misconduct.
“The religious elite must reinforce the ethical direction agreed by showing that wealth and influence are built by hard work, diligence and the deferment of gratification and not just by miracles. The religious elite must also reject and ostracize public officers and persons whose wealth cannot be explained or is clearly from shady or suspicious sources. Every modern society has had to deal with corruption, and enthrone minimum ethical standards to succeed, we must do the same.”
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