The associates of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, and members of the Olive Tree House Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church Of God, Banana Island, Lagos, where Osinbajo served as a senior pastor, tell ARUKAINO UMUKORO and GBENGA ADENIJI what they know about him
‘He is a no-nonsense man’
What is your name and position in the church?
I am Tope Jegede; the administrator of the church.
How long have you known the vice-president?
I have been working as the church administrator for five years. I got close to pastor-prof (the way the church members address Osinbajo) about five years ago but I have known him for 10 years.
What can you say about his person?
He is a man of service. As a pastor in our parish, he is highly respected. His major calling into the ministry is to touch the hopeless and the vulnerable. I am not surprised that he got the opportunity to serve the nation because he has always carved a niche himself anywhere he finds himself. In Olive Tree, before his involvement in the elections, he had created 10 programmes designed to touch lives. Some of them include feeding the poor through a programme tagged ‘soup kitchen.’ He started it in the church without nursing any political ambition. Through the programme, we provide food for people that would have gone hungry. Another one is Mercy Cross, which provides medical insurance for children between ages 0 and 3. There is also a programme he termed ‘Just Justice’ through which he provides legal representation for the less-privileged for free. He started the programmes under an umbrella scheme known as ‘Whom Shall I Send?’
He carries the bearing of a no-nonsense man. Does that describe him?
Yes, he is a no-nonsense person. But he is also a very compassionate person. He gives people a very long rope to pull themselves together. He does not suspect people; he gives people equal opportunities to prove themselves. But once an individual proves otherwise, as a man of integrity, he will not tolerate that. There was a time some people confronted him and said he would fail in the parish. Till today, he shows them unconditional love. He neither bears grudges nor victimises anyone. Rather, he will do all he can to help anyone in need. I can dare say that since I have known him, I have never seen him get angry publicly. He is always calm. I am not saying he is perfect but he has allowed Christ to rub off on him
Was his ambition announced in the church before the elections?
One thing he never did was to use the platform of the church for his political ambition. It took him a while before he could address the situation. The first time he mentioned anything about it was when he was elected as the vice-president. And he told us that he did it deliberately so that nobody would accuse him of using the church platform for politics.
How did his absence during the elections affect the church?
He is a very organised person. He does not use his position for anything apart from service. When he was in the church, he gave many people opportunities to work. We did not miss him much because he would come in on Sunday to minister and after the service, return to the campaign ground. We are missing him already but we are convinced that he is an oak seed that we have sown into Nigeria as a church.
Considering the fact that he has the gift of oration, what is a typical Sunday service like when he preaches?
He always has a theme message. If he was talking about any issue in life, he would always pin it down to the grace of God. In fact, if one reads under his sent emails, one will find, ‘Saved by grace alone.’ The first time he told me about his election, there were six of us there. He said it was as if God was trying to tell him to do what he had always been championing in terms of making people’s lives better.
Does he crack jokes?
Yes, he has a very good sense of humour. He laughs with his heart, but one has to be intelligent to make him laugh.
How was the church service like after Buhari won the presidential election?
It was like a carnival. Prof. attended the vigil last Friday. But on that Sunday, we had an overflow. He was in church the Sunday after the election and the one after. Interestingly, he did not address the church. In fact, it was the guest minister that joking addressed him as ‘His Excellency’ and we all clapped and laughed.
‘He is humble’
Briefly introduce yourself.
I am Dr. Daniel Ismaila (OON), a former Director of Finance and Administration, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.
How long have you known Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo?
I have known him for about five years now. He was my instructor at the Bible College where he taught me ‘Transformational Leadership.’ He was also the pastor of the Olive Tree Parish, the church I attended at the time. Besides teaching me in the class, we have had personal contacts several times and we have discussed very sensitive issues concerning this country. I was a director in NDLEA for 15 years. We had met several times in economic and financial crimes seminar which was organised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before 2011. One of the reasons why I started attending the Olive Tree Parish was because of the way he was managing the church.
How would you describe him?
He is not just a very good lawyer; he is also a very good pastor. He is passionate about this country. We believe that God would use him to play a key role in the government of the country. On February 16 last year, President Goodluck Jonathan and Pastor Adeboye came to Olive Tree service. During that service, Adeboye told Jonathan that Prof. Osinbajo is one of his sons who, ‘if you give an assignment, you can go to sleep.’ I have a video recording of that service. I had thought then that it was a message to Jonathan to see how he could utilise Prof Osinbajo in his government to turn around situations. I have always seen him as such, but I did not know that God was going to take him closer to the centre of power.
Beyond Osinbajo’s leadership qualities, what can you say about his personality?
He is not one to talk too much. For me, he is a symbol of humility. I am very proud to be associated with him. ‘He taught me to cater for my family’
Briefly introduce yourself.
I am Emmanuel Bassey; the church’s maintenance officer.
How long have you been in the church?
I have worked in the church for eight years and I have known pastor-prof for about four years. I know him as a man who keeps to his word. He has touched the lives of many people including that of my family. Personally, he taught me things I did not know before. If I had known all these things before now, I would have been better off.
What are things he taught you?
He taught me things like taking good care of my family, especially my children. I used to see him regularly four months ago, but for two months now, I have not seen him because of his new position.
What was the last conversation you had with him?
He called me on the phone some months ago and asked where I was. He always asks where one is whenever he calls one on the phone before saying what he needs. I told him I was downstairs while he was upstairs. I ran up quickly to meet him. He then jokingly told me that my strides showed that I was still very fit. We both laughed over it. That was the last time I spoke with him. He cracks jokes with me. His wife is also another person I respect a lot. She does not say much, but when she speaks, people listen. There was a time I had a personal problem and I told her. Despite her schedule, she told me not to worry. In no time, I started seeing the result of her efforts. I respect her and her husband a lot. Nigerians should expect good governance. I know that with him, Nigeria is safe.
What are you going to miss about him now that he will be mostly in Abuja?
I will miss his sermons. I will miss his inspiration including his wife’s good nature. I am inspired each time I see them. If I have the opportunity to see him today, I am going to tell him that, “Pastor, it is well with you.”
‘He practises what he preaches’
Briefly introduce yourself.
I am Pastor Ben Ewuzie, Rector, the Redeemer’s International Leadership Academy, Ikoyi, Lagos.
How long have you known the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo?
I have known Prof. Osinbajo for about 20 years now. We met as students in the Bible College. We were in the same Bible class. Thereafter, he was posted to start a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. I head the leadership school of the RCCG. He comes to lecture in the Bible school. We have kept our relationship as friends and associates. We have had an unbroken friendship for 20 years. While he was an Attorney General, I wanted him to come and lecture in our academy. I thought he would be quite busy, but when I went to him, he said, “Pastor, you know I must do the work of God, office or no office. That should not deter me from serving God.” He came and delivered his lecture. That is the kind of person he is. He practises what he preaches and teaches.
Do you think the position of the Vice-Presidency would change him?
I don’t think so. This is not the first time he would be in the corridors of power. He was the Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice for eight years in Lagos State. Throughout the duration of his service, he remained the same person and came out with his integrity intact. Also, he has served in the United Nations, and as Special Adviser to the Chief Justice of the Federation. So, he already wields some influence at various circles. This is not the first time he has been exposed to high office. He has done it over the years and has remained the same person, simple and easy to approach, with a listening ear, and humble. So, I don’t see him changing now. He cherishes his integrity.
He teaches visionary and transformational leadership in our leadership school. He has had the opportunity to put that into practice at various times in his life, translating his classroom teachings to the field, through the various projects he initiated.