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Yemi Osinbajo existed in 1944 – His name was Friedrich Fromm

In mid-1944, the tide of the 2nd World War had turned decisively. The entry of the USA into the war on the side of the Allied Powers, and the failure of Hitler’s assault on Russia had put the Germans firmly on the back foot. They were going to lose the war and everyone knew it except Hitler and his most frenzied loyalists. The Allies knew it. Many Germans knew it. One high-ranking German military officer certainly knew it.

Friedrich Wilhelm Waldemar Fromm was the Commander in Chief of the Ersatzheer, Germany’s Replacement Army, which was responsible for training and personnel replacement for the German Army’s combat divisions. His job was one of the most important to the entire German 2nd World War effort, but he was by no means a crazed true believer in Der Fuhrer, unlike contemporary high-ranking officials like Joseph Goebbels. He knew that Hitler’s war for Lebensraum (German empire) had become an unwinnable boondoggle that was destroying the country and costing the lives of millions of innocent people.

When Herr Fromm discovered in July 1944 that several army officers under his command led by Claus von Stauffenberg and Henning von Tresckow had hatched a plan to assassinate Hitler and put an end to the Nazi regime, he had a choice to make. He could choose to follow his conscience and side with the coup plotters whom he knew were on the right side of history. Alternatively, he could choose to follow his training and duty, and have the coup plotters arrested and executed. Either way, he would have to pick a side and show loyalty to it. Instead, he chose a 3rd option.

Yemi Osinbajo – The Friedrich Fromm of Nigeria’s 4th Reich

In 2015, when a decorated, grey-haired Senior Advocate of Nigeria was sworn in as Vice-President of the current Nigerian regime, not a few people had great expectations of him. A widely respected PhD with a successful private practice and significant public service experience, Yemi Osinbajo was touted as the intellectual and ideological bulwark of the Buhari administration. According to the popular narrative popularised by his plethora of publicity mills at the time, Mr Buhari would be the repented villain focusing his energies on fighting terrorists, while the day-to-day administration of Nigeria would be delegated to Mr Osinbajo, his undoubted intellectual superior.

Instead, as it turned out, Mr Buhari had no intention whatsoever of sharing power with anyone – no matter how astoundingly incompetent he might be at wielding said power unilaterally. Osinbajo watched as his boss illegally handed over presidential powers and duties to an unelected political appointee who earned the unironic tags of “Prime Minister” and “Sole Administrator.” He watched as his boss set about strategically setting Nigeria on fire with a series of malevolent, ill-conceived decisions in service to nothing but his legendary ethnocentrism.

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He watched as his boss led Nigeria into not one, but two successive avoidable economic recessions. He watched as Nigeria under his boss entered the top five list of annual conflict deaths despite not officially being at war. He watched as his boss ordered soldiers to massacre unarmed civilian protesters in Lagos, barely 4KM from his erstwhile Dolphin Estate residence. He watched as his boss shed all pretentions of being a “repented villain,” and set about banning Twitter, chasing journalists and dissidents into exile, and carrying out illegal international abductions. He sat and watched and watched, and watched some more.

Like Friedrich Fromm 7 and a half decades before him, Osinbajo ignored the 2 polar options to either resign from the administration and distance himself from this show of shame or to fully embrace Buharism and unequivocally tie his colours to the mast. What he chose to do next is strikingly similar to what Friedrich Fromm chose to do in 1944, and how it will end is unlikely to be much different.

Nobody likes a chameleon

When Herr Fromm received information about the 20 July Plot of 1944 – an attempted assassination of Hitler and the senior Nazi hierarchy via briefcase bomb – he refused to take any action whatsoever. As the most senior military official with knowledge of the plot, he was obligated to arrest the coup plotters and report the matter. Choosing to do otherwise was tantamount to endorsing a military coup. Fromm however, had a different calculation in mind.

In Fromm’s mind, he could play both sides of the table. He could tacitly side with the coup plotters and ride the wave of the successful plot into office as Hitler’s replacement, and he could use his lack of active involvement as insurance if the coup failed. If the coup succeeded, he expected the coup plotters to recognise his tacit assistance by making him the new Fuhrer. If it failed, he would immediately arrest and execute them to present himself as a Hitler loyalist. That incidentally, is exactly what happened.

Through the accident of an extremely sturdy oak table leg shielding him from the blast, Hitler survived the explosion with only minor injuries, and the coup failed. Once Fromm got word that Hitler was still alive, he immediately rounded up the conspirators and had them summarily executed. He then went to Joseph Goebbels and claimed credit for suppressing the coup, hoping to use the execution gesture as his show of loyalty so as to save his own head. Goebbels’s response? “You have been in a damn hurry to get your witnesses below ground.”

On July 22, Fromm was arrested by the SS, and on 12 March the following year, a few weeks to the end of the war, he was executed by firing squad. All history remembers Friedrich Fromm as, is a craven, self-interested coward who refused to take a stand on the side of anything other than his own narrow, selfish interest. His modern iteration in Aso Rock may benefit from doing some reading about the life and times of his predecessor in Berlin. He would do well to realise that no amount of limping on two opinions will shield him from the consequences of partnering with the conceptual brethren of General Sani Abacha.

If he believes that the use of strategic shamelessness and praise-singing by the Iyin Aboyeji class of political sock puppet will be enough to save his political skin and propel him into higher office in future, he should Google “Friedrich Fromm” and hopefully pick up a few pointers.

I won’t hold my breath.