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10 Reasons Osinbajo will ignite a religious civil war by Farooq Kperogi

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A Yemi Osinbajo presidency would, without a doubt, plunge Nigeria into the depths of a smoldering religious volcano that will hasten its self-immolation. This isn’t some idly churlish oracular indulgence. It’s based on an intimate familiarity with Osinbajo’s trajectory of religious bigotry, overpowering anti-Muslim prejudice, and irrevocable devotion to the materialization of a Pentecostal, specifically RCCG, capture of the Nigerian state. Here’re 10 reasons for my fears:
1. The RCCG memo that asked churches to actively support its members vying for political offices was inspired by Osinbajo and is consistent with his history of exclusivist religious politics. In 2013, for example, he formed the Christian Conscience Group—along with Enoch Ajiboso, Dele Sobowale, and Most Reverend Joseph Ajayi—to champion the cause of a Christian governor of Lagos State.
According to a September 27, 2013, Daily Post news report titled “It’s time for a Christian to govern Lagos – Group,” the group was led by “former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos, who is also a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Professor Yemi Osibajo.”
Just like he has masterminded the religionization of the politics of 2023, in 2013, Osinbajo delivered a lecture titled “Christianity, Politics, Now and Beyond” that instigated Christians to deploy Christian religious blackmail to force Tinubu to endorse a Christian governor for Lagos in 2015—in a part of Nigeria that deafens the rest of the country with the tiresomely sterile mantra that “religion doesn’t matter in Yorubaland.”
2. Osinbajo’s advocacy for a Christian governor in Lagos wasn’t inspired by any desire for religious pluralism. A Muslim has never been elected governor in Ondo and Ekiti states. In Ogun State, his natal state, Ibikunle Amosun is the only Muslim governor the state has elected since 1979, even though Muslims are at least 50 percent of the state’s population. Osinbajo is fine with that.
3. The strategy Osinbajo used to incite religious fervor in Lagos prior to 2015 is the precise strategy he’s using now. The RCCG memo is just a small part of a bigger religious incitement strategy.
On Nov. 5, 2021, for example, the Guardian reported Bishop Wale Oke, President Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), of which Osinbajo is a pivotal member, to have said, “We do not want another Muslim president come 2023.”
In another Feb. 12, 2022, interview with the Guardian, Oke said, “Not only should the South produce the next President, the next president ought to be a Christian, not a Muslim. This is very important.”
And in a Feb. 20, 2022, lecture in Jos, according to the Sun, CAN president Rev. Samson Ayokunle said Christians must unite to elect a Christian president. He said this during a lecture disturbingly titled “Defeating Your Enemies through the Power of Unity,” which creates the impression in the minds of his Christian audience that Muslims are “enemies” of Christians who must be defeated in 2023.
“In the last election, [Buhari] had about 14 million votes and that is not more than a population of two denominations in Nigeria talk more of [sic] the entire Christian body,” the CAN president said during the lecture. “If we are united, I can see rightly in the spirit, God knows the person and we by the mind of the spirit, we can know the person God want [sic] to use. We have leadership in CAN, and if we listen to the leadership, it will be well with us.”
4. Osinbajo is a suave, charming but toxic Islamophobic bigot who clothes his bigotry with oratory. He is only associating with Muslims because of his political agenda. He visits mosques (with his shoes on— in a betrayal of his ice-cold disdain for the religion) and awkwardly utters salaams only as a stoop-to-conquer strategy.
Osinbajo’s overt Christianization of the 2023 election has already caused the normally secular Bola Tinubu to, on March 19, appeal to the Supreme Council for Shari’ah in Nigeria in Osogbo to create a political wing to support Muslims running for political offices because “Other religious groups have commenced political sensitisation by creating political departments or directorate among themselves to promote their own.”
You see what I’m talking about? That’s a first in the Southwest. The stigma of being labeled a “Muslim fundamentalist,” a favorite, overused rhetorical cudgel used to silence Yoruba Muslims, used impel Yoruba Muslims to grin and bear their suppression.
Osinbajo’s overt bigotry is blunting that. Imagine what will happen in the Muslim North should Osinbajo by any chance become president.
5. Osinbajo sees Muslims not as fellow citizens who practice a different faith but as lost souls in need of salvation. If they can’t be salvaged, they should be inferiorized, victimized, and excluded.
For instance, on Feb. 22, 2020, according to the Sunshine Truth, an Ondo State newspaper, during the funeral of the mother of former Ondo State governor Olusegun Mimiko, Osinbajo intentionally went out of his way to hurt the sensibilities of Yoruba Muslims when he gloated that the woman, identified as Mama Muinat Mosekonla Mimiko, left Islam for Christianity toward the end of her life,
This was a touchy subject because although Mama Muinat’s two children—former Gov. Olusegun Rahman Mimiko and Prof. Femi Nazheem Mimiko— converted to Christianity, she’d resisted pressures to leave Islam. She had been sustained in her Muslim faith by her US-based third son, Abbas Mimiko.
Many Yoruba Muslims who’d hoped that she’d continue to be steadfast in her Muslim faith in spite of immense pressure to leave it felt gratuitously mocked by Osinbajo when he crowed with perverse joy over her late-life conversion to Christianity.
 If Osinbajo was just a pastor, that wouldn’t be out of line. In fact, it would be perfectly legitimate. But when you’re president or vice president, you wield enormous symbolic and cultural power. When you use that power in the service of divisive religious politics, you inflame raw passions that can provoke communal convulsions.
Imagine Atiku Abubakar attending the funeral of a late-life Muslim convert in Adamawa State (which has a vast indigenous Christian population) and gloating over the person’s conversion from Christianity to Islam.
6. Yoruba Muslims say there’s a “standing rule” in Osinbajo’s law firm, Simmons Cooper Partners, that the employment of Muslims there must be regulated, which has ensured that “99%” of people who work there are Christians.
In fact, someone confided in me that Osinbajo once asked an employee at his law firm with a Muslim last name, who’s actually a Christian, if he thought about how his name might “work against” him, subtly encouraging him to change it.
7. Political Pentecostals want Osinbajo to be president so they can say that the prophecy of Pastor Enoch Adeboye that one of them would become a president in his lifetime has come to pass, which would then be used as a recruiting tool, particularly in Yorubaland.
But this is a dangerous game because it will inspire a sustained pushback from other Christian sects and from the Muslim North. When Saudi-trained Muslim clerics start to run for elective offices as a strategy to counter political Pentecostals and to also swell their ranks, a religious civil war would be a question of “when,” not “if.”
8. Osinbajo’s religious bigotry and Pentecostal Christian particularism aren’t anything we have ever seen in Nigeria before. Most politicians exploit religion to gain political power, but Osinbajo wants to exploit political power to advance a narrow, divisive religious agenda. That’s a big difference, and it’s a potentially destabilizing difference.
Osinbajo isn’t the only religious bigot in high office in Nigeria. I spent the last seven years calling out the religious bigotry of fellow northern Muslims, including calling out the northern Nigerian Muslim clerical establishment for being in bed with the Buhari regime, at the expense of my ostracism not just in my region but even in my hometown where Imams recited maledictions against me, but Osinbajo’s is in a world of its own.
9. In a previous article, I called Osinbajo a “matchbox” that a collision with a Muslim matchstick would cause to ignite a religious conflagration. He’s actually worse than that. He’s a flame. Like flames, he is rhetorically attractive, and the politically naïve like to hover around him like moths to flames, which end up burning them alive.
In a Nov. 10, 2019, column titled “The trials of Brother Osinbajo,” Nigerian Tribune columnist Festus Adedayo revealed that while Buhari was sick and away in London, Osinbajo attended a Redeemed Christian Church of God prayer session in his home state of Ogun where the pastor prayed for Buhari to die so that Osinbajo would take over as president “with the VP shouting [a] thunderous ‘Amen’.”
Osinbajo was so rattled by this revelation that he urged his media aide to frantically issue an incoherent, unconvincing denial. Otto von Bismarck is often credited with saying, “Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.” Incidentally, just last week, a Southwest friend confirmed to me the authenticity of this incident.
10. Although he is married to Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s granddaughter and even shares the same hometown as him, Osinbajo doesn’t share the late sage’s wisdom that politics and religion shouldn’t be merged.
In a perceptive January 27, 1961, lecture titled “Politics and Religion,” Chief Awolowo advised against the religionization of politics and the politicization of religion. “A religious organization should never allow itself to be regarded as the mouthpiece and instrument of the powers-that-be,” he said. “If it did, it would sink or swim with the government concerned…and would no longer be well-placed to tell the truth as it knows it.”
After 2023, let Osinbajo retire to the church. He has no business being the president of a complex, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic country like Nigeria.
Osinbajo’s anti-Muslim bigotry is surprising because, politically, he rode on the coattails of Muslims to get to where he is today. Prince Bola Ajibola, a devout Muslim who established one of Nigeria’s first Islamic universities, gave him his first political break when he appointed him as his Legal Adviser when he was Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation during the IBB regime. He again took Osinbajo along to the International Court of Justice.
Osinbajo’s next major consequential appointment was his choice as Lagos State’s Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General. He was given that job by Bola Ahmed Tinubu whom he is now fighting using Christianity as a dagger.
Tinubu introduced Osinbajo to Buhari whose opportunistic love for pastors to help dim his image as a Muslim fanatic caused him to pick him as Vice President.
So, beneath his harmless, debonair, smooth-talking exterior, Osinbajo is a vile, hateful, intolerant, inveterate, and treacherous religious bigot who will incite a religious civil war if he becomes president.
Religious civil wars are messy and dangerous. Few countries survive them. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!k

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Strictly Personal

Umeme, grain and coffee: Why Kenya should fear Uganda’s economic gamble, By Charles Onyango-Obbo

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Uganda, the 1990s shining Africa poster boy for privatisation, is engaging in what could be East Africa’s biggest economic liberalisation reverse gear. Last year, the Uganda government formally announced it would not renew the contract of electricity distributor Umeme in 2025, when its concession expires, and that it will form a state-owned entity to take over its business.

The government’s main criticism of Umeme is its margins are too high, so it has failed to lower electricity costs, and the expensive rates have hobbled Uganda’s industrialisation ambitions. Umeme counters that it is just a distributor, and the high electricity costs are passed on from the power generators.

In two years, the debate will be resolved. Uganda will be in the midst of campaigns ahead of the January 2026 election, when President Yoweri Museveni, weighed down by the wear and tear of 40 years in office, will likely be bidding for a record-shattering ninth term, with his son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, among those trying to wrestle the crown from his head. It will be the worst possible timing because incumbents rarely make the most enlightened decisions during heated election campaigns. As the West Africans say, there will likely “be a lot of cry.”

Distribution concession

Umeme was formed in 2004 when the government of Uganda granted the distribution concession to a consortium belonging to Globeleq, a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Development Corporation of the UK, which held 56 per cent, and South Africa’s now inept utility corporation Eskom, which had 44 per cent. In 2006 Eskom exited the consortium, and Globeleq became the sole owner of Umeme.

The regional impact could be significant because, among other things, Umeme shares are cross-listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange. If it unravels, Kenyan shareholders would be left crying in their bowls, and we could be back to the feud over regional assets that followed the break-up of the first East African Community in 1977.

Too messy to swallow

The renationalisation of Umeme will not be unique. Kenya just tried to renationalise cash-haemorrhaging national carrier Kenya Airways but found it too messy to swallow. The recently elected new government of President William Ruto has decided to throw it back on the block.

The difference in Uganda is that Umeme is just the shallow end of the pool. There are other moves to renationalise the very lucrative liberalised coffee sector by granting a near-monopoly to a Vinci Coffee Company, owned by controversial and shadowy Italian “foreign investor” Enrica Pinetti, to process and export Uganda’s coffee. That would take Uganda back to the early 1990s when the disastrous Coffee Marketing Board was disbanded.

A similar move is being made to give the Grain Council of Uganda, on paper a non-profit membership organisation, the kind of sway over the country’s grain last seen in the colonial era.

The force behind the Grain Council is the otherwise amiable president’s younger brother, retired Lt-Gen Salim Saleh (Caleb Akandwanaho), a sly operator who is the second most powerful figure in the land. A nationalist and statist, Saleh has led a quiet but effective assault against laissez-faire liberalisation, which he argues has mostly benefited foreigners and left Ugandans with only holes in their pockets. He has taken over a large chunk of the country’s agricultural budget and several “development” functions under the amorphous state-created vehicle Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) that he heads and inserted disciples in key national economic institutions.

Return to old roots

This state of affairs is a dramatic return to old roots. Uganda launched the first of a series of economic liberalisations in the 1990s that were deemed impossible in Africa at the time and anathema in the hyper-nationalist traditions that were entrenched in post-independence Africa.

It was the first country in Africa to radically liberalise its foreign exchange market and still maintains one of the least-interventionist approaches to the money market on the continent. It was also the first in East Africa to pass laws that gave the central bank extensive independence.

It was the first on the continent in the early 1990s to liberalise the fuel market and scrap fuel subsidies. Again, in East Africa, at least, it is the government that meddles least in setting the price of gas at the pump. When fuel prices skyrocketed everywhere following the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, it alone was the East African government to flatly refuse to even consider a fuel subsidy and price cap, as all the rest of the EAC states did.

Price of food

Uganda, too, is the country where the price of food is most considered none of the government’s business. When Ugandans read stories and political fights over maize in Kenya, and the government setting the price, to some of them, it sounds like a tale about an alien planet.

The country and economy that Uganda is today are about to change. Some of the changes have to do with the politics of the Museveni succession and how the family and vested interests that have coalesced around the State House view their future security. A lot of it, though, is because of some good things: the rebirth of the EAC; the end of the wars in Uganda and the ushering in of the country’s longest spell of peace; the rebound of a post-KANU Kenya; and the Rwanda post-genocide recovery.

If there are two people in East Africa outside Uganda, who have edged Uganda to the fork in the road where it is today, they are Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and former Kenya president Mwai Kibaki.

The author is a journalist, writer, and curator of the «Wall of Great Africans». Twitter@cobbo3

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Strictly Personal

In honour of Komla African scribes should lead renaissance, By Elsie Eyakuze

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Somehow the only news we watch on the TV at home is offered by the Tanzanian Broadcasting Corporation or any one of several Kenyan stations that the person who holds The Power chooses. As a result, I have been on an imposed “news diet” for a few years now.

It is nothing serious, just a touch of burnout with a soupçon of ennui for flavour. There are newspapers, too, but I am a decade past my paper-chasing days and I have noticed the click-bait flavour of headlines and I don’t like it.

In other words, I am growing older, crankier and particular about my news. This led me to believe that I am bored by the business that the industry might indeed be floundering — a position I do not really hold. After all, my job as a journalism-adjacent writer is to support the news and the people and institutions that bring it to us.

Maintain my optimism

I can’t afford to be cynical. I have to maintain my optimism and commitment, even through lazy editing in Tanzanian newspapers, and ulcer-inducing anxiety over Freedom of Expression when it is threatened.

But, yea, you know, it is 2023 — a year that honestly belongs in science fiction, not in real life. Like you, I get most of my news online these days, in small doses, and only when I want it. I have meandered off the path of keeping abreast into the woods of barely knowing what is going on, and it is has been wonderful for my mental health.

And that would have been that, but an energetic young journalist decided to invite me to the launch of the BBC’s Komla Dumor Awards, which took place last week in Dar es Salaam.

Apart from it being the Komla Dumor Award, there was a clear intention to spark some enthusiasm in Tanzanians to apply for the prize.

Observing old journalists encouraging young journalists while enjoying free snacks was just what the doctor ordered.

I watched young master Dingindaba Jonah Buyoya expertly handle a live recording of a show, saw a lot of familiar faces, and got reminded that journalism “is a calling, a vocation.”

Power of a calling

Nothing will kick the stuffing out of your cynicism like understanding the power of a calling, a vocation. There is a largely positive compulsion that drives people into journalism: Most of them are trying to help. They are hopeless romantics with a vision that the work that they do matters, that it can make the world a better place like a Michael Jackson song. So they take their notebooks and their electronics and venture forth to cover stories and bring them back to us in the comfort of our homes and devices.

If you spend any time thinking about it, this is a pretty radical thing to do. And we cannot live this modern life without the people who make it happen. The Komla Dumor Award is about fostering excellent African journalists, and I know exactly why young Tanzanians are hesitant to apply. I was a young Tanzanian once, I know.

They should take heart: If I managed to charm hard-nosed editors in Nairobi into letting me keep this gig, they can certainly conquer Africa, the BBC, and the world news.

We — I — need that from them more than they realise.

Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report; Email elsieeyakuze@gmail.com

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