The philosophical question was perhaps best framed by Warren Buffet, the famous American business tycoon and billionaire. Before employing anyone in his organization, he says he usually looks out for three traits: intelligence, energy and character. Of the three, Buffet however emphasizes that character is paramount. Without it, he says other qualities are meaningless.
I find a striking parallel between Buffet’s postulation and the unfolding story of Babachir Lawal, erstwhile cheerleader-turned-foe to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. What is really troubling is not so much for the venom the Adamawa-born politician has been spewing lately against the APC flag-bearer in the 2023 presidential elections, but his rather laughable attempt to camouflage his selfish interest as a crusade on behalf of the Christian community in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the gullible seem to be clapping.
As Buffet already profoundly postulated, character is everything. It brings out the real person in the moment of temptation or provocation. It will determine whether someone can be trusted or not. Indeed, it has taken the unveiling of Kashim Shettima as the vice presidential nominee to the APC flag-bearer for Lawal’s real colour as a political snake to unravel. Suddenly, he has turned from being the “chief salesman” of Tinubu brand to its most intemperate de-marketer by openly inciting “northern Christians” to vote against APC in 2023.
For this somersault, Lawal would readily cite the choice of a Muslim as running-mate. But is that the true story? Certainly not. To start with, is it not laughable that a man who consistently failed to deliver his immediate ward in Adamawa in 2015 and 2019 to APC is now arrogating to himself the command of the entire Christian community not only in Adamawa but the entire north? It would have made more sense if Lawal showed us how he swung victory for APC in Adamawa in 2015 and 2019 before taking liberty to seek to speak on behalf of all the faithful in the north. But, of course, the truly discerning Christians in the north and indeed across the country know those who truly mean well for them and had demonstrated real commitment to the Christian community with the large accommodataion offered them when they (Tinubu and Shettima) were Muslim governors in their respective states in the past.
Funnily, the same Lawal had praised Tinubu to high heavens as recently as early this year, describing him as the only one truly deserving to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari on account of his “invaluable contributions” to the formation of APC in 2013. Obviously, in singing Tinubu’s praise yesterday, Lawal had ulterior motive.
In a brazen breach of the provisions of the electoral act forbidding mixing politics with religion, Lawal last week openly incited the “northern Christians” to “punish” APC with their Permanent Voters Cards for settling for a Muslim-Muslim ticket. His co-traveller is Yakubu Dogara, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, whose only reason for dumping Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bauchi for APC apparently was to be made the Christian running-mate to a Muslim presidential candidate. What an opportunistic duo!
From his comical hell-raising at the Abuja talk show last week, you would think someone had snatched Lawal’s wife. But inadvertently, this rabble-rouser only exposed his own hypocrisy. For it is public knowledge that he was one of those who mounted a vicious campaign against the candidacy of Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a known senior pastor with Redeemed Church. If Lawal’s loyalty to “Christian interest” was truly deep, why did he support Tinubu, a Muslim, against the vice president, who was obviously the preferred choice of the Christian leaders during the APC primaries? Instead, he spared no invectives in the countdown to the APC in attacking Osinbajo. In fact, one of such was viral text (lifted from a WhatsApp platform) allegedly authored by him raising disturbing questions about Osinbajo’s Christian faith. Since there was no denial or disclaimer from him, many (including this writer) were inclined to believe the very uncharitable verbiage was his.
In hindsight, I think the logical conclusion to make is that Lawal is a political trader who would invoke Christianity in pursuit of selfish interest. He is nothing but a political buccaneer out to feather his own nest and would adopt any camouflage he considers expedient in the moment. For the benefit of those who don’t know, let me give a bit of insights into what possibly motivated Lawal to go all out against Osinbajo in the build-up to the APC primaries. First was vendetta, then self-interest. As the first Secretary to the Government of the Federation under the Buhari administration, the Adamawa-born politician had gotten himself in serious trouble over what became known popularly as the “grass-cutter” scam. He was accused of squandering a whopping N544m to cut grass. A world record indeed! The scandal started in whispers and grew to a tumult from the National Assembly as the federal lawmakers called for his head. Months after the 2016 senate investigation, the government faced widespread criticism for its perceived snail progress in bringing charges against Lawal, after the misappropriation of millions of IDP funds using firms linked to him. Funny still, up till his suspension was announced in 2017, Lawal had continued parade himself arrogantly around Abuja famously telling off an inquisitive reporter “I am the real cabal at the Villa”.
Long story short, President Muhammadu Buhari eventually set up an administrative panel headed by Osinbajo to look into the matter. Perhaps, Lawal expected the vice president to protect him by returning a “not-guilty” verdict. But ever so diligent, Osinbajo did justice to the matter and his report formed part of the basis for Lawal’s ongoing trial for alleged sleaze.
But in seeking to barricade Osinbajo ahead of the APC primaries, Lawal’s cold calculation was undoubtedly that the VP ticket would go to the north and, by the virtue of “religion-balancing”, fall in his laps being, again by his warped estimation, the “biggest Christian” close to Tinubu. He desperately craved the VP ticket as it would have saved him from the ongoing trial over of the N544m “grass-cutter” scam in the event of APC’s possible victory next year, with the guarantee of constitutional immunity upon inauguration.
Not willing to leave anything to chance, the former SGF was said to have gone ahead to set up an incestuous committee headed by himself, to help Tinubu look for vice presidential materials. But it was all part of a desperate gambit by a manipulator to help himself. According to one of the committee member (Senator Magnus Abe), the report eventually submitted to Tinubu was not a true reflection of the discussions and resolutions made by members. Not surprising, the list signed by Lawal and submitted to the APC’s flag-bearer to pick from, also featured his own very name! What a shame.
That is the funny character now seeking to use Christianity card to advance his selfish interest. But I believe discerning Christians are not deceived by Lawal’s political dubiety.
- Musa, a retired federal civil servant, wrote from Jos, Plateau State.