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Opinions of Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Columnist: www.thisdaylive.com

Will Osinbajo bite the bullet?

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

Emameh Gabriel disects the chances of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo should he enter the 2023 presidential race

With the 2023 election looming on the political horizon, analysts, supporters and gladiators have begun making projections on the political game as to who should succeed incumbent Muhammadu Buhari who is at the end of his constitutional limit as President. And his Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo has been touted as an exceptional sell.

On Monday, 20th September, Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State was quoted as saying Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will enjoy the support of the All Progressives Congress (APC) if he shows interest in contesting the 2023 presidential election. Sule made the assertion when he received members of the Progressives Consolidation Group (PCG) in Lafia, the state capital. According to Governor Sule, the APC governors will support Osinbajo because he is sellable.

He said, “Our concern is how we will sustain the party beyond President Buhari. So, if you come up with the idea, you know you will not only get my attention but the attention of every progressive governor in the country,” Sule said.

“So, if you are going about to sell this man, I want you to know that not every product is sellable but Osinbajo is sellable.

“I pray that all the work you are doing now will not be in vain. It will be good for our party and the progress of this country.”

Governor Abdullahi is the first governor who has come out to extol Osinbajo and this has raised to the bar the chances of the second citizen of country to succeed his principal, President Buhari.

The Progressives Consolidation Group, is a group within the APC led by Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed and Dr Eberechukwu Eli Dibia, and has been at the centre of the efforts of a coterie network of groups pushing the presidential bid of the renowned Professor of Law. Others include the Osinbajo Grassroot Organization, Good News Nigeria among others.

The PCG has criss crossed the country in consultations for the man they believe holds the passport to Nigeria’s golden future. Understanding the strategic importance of the North to the realization of that ambition, they commenced and have so far concentrated their efforts in wooeing critical stakeholders of the region.

The other day, they were at the Palace of the Emir of Daura, President Buhari’s home town and also at the office of the Governor of Katsina State, Bello Masari, seeking the blessing of his principal’s native land somewhat in a show of respect and loyalty to the latter.

The PCG have also extended its message of paradigm shift to the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, several APC state governors, principal officers in the Senate and House of Representatives, members of the APC National Caretaker Committee, former and serving federal legislators, and leaders of women and youths groups.

The Vice President is well loved and regarded in the North not only for his loyalty to the president all this time but also for the awe of his academic achievements.

The North relishes loyalty, and that was why former President Olusegun Obasanjo was tipped to be the President of Nigeria in 1999, for his allegiance to the region, in the same vein, there is a sentiment in the region that believes Osinbajo should be compensated for his loyalty, by supporting him to succeed Buhari as President.

Added to this loyalty, seems to be his mien, which many northerners regard as humble and workable at a time the region is in dire need of solutions and listening leadership.

Analysts opine that Osinbajo’s presidential bid would sail easily if he is paired with either the Governor of Kano state, Abdullahi Ganduje or Babagana Zulum of Borno state or Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state.

The governors forum both within and across the political aisle have always been instrumental in the political equations in the country and Osinbajo seems to have earned their respect in the course of traversing the country as an henchman in the execution of the administration’s policies. President Buhari is also considered to be well disposed towards Osinbajo succeeding him, as the president has always been suspicious of the regular politicians and finds Osinbajo’s pedigree and age as more suitable for a successor that can continue the policy of the administration.

With all of this in the kitty for him, the question is that, will PYO, as he is fondly called by his admirers, contest?

The Odds

Presidential elections are usually a game of high intrigues as power brokers and party stalwarts scheme and jostle for predominance, so the vice president’s presidential bid, at a first glance may seem like a one way street, however, there is more than meets the eye.

The former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State made his sudden emergence into the lime light of national prominence after he was nominated as vice president in a joint ticket with Buhari by the national leader of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, after the latter could not secure it for himself as a result of power play within the newly formed party and of course. the Muslim – Muslim ticket was a taboo, that some factions in the party could not stomach.

But after six years, the master strategist, popularly referred as the Lion of Bourdillon, seems to have his eyes again fixed on the golden price, his ultimate political dream, that is to have his name listed in the annals of Nigeria’s presidency. Just recently a group led by Senator Dayo Adeyeye and former minister of state for Defense, Musiliu Obanikoro floated a group known as SWAGA, the Southwest Agenda, to promote the candidacy of this purported grand commander of the southwest geo-political zone.

While Osinbajo has not formally declared his candidacy, and on several occasions deflected question, allegedly because he is to focus on the delivering the mandate at hand, in the Southwest there are others that are equally interested in the plum job including the current Governor of Ekiti state, Kayode Fayemi, who is at the end of his term as governor and also a loyal protege of Bola Tinubu.

Similarly, in the larger Southern region, which is claiming it deserves to succeed Northern President Buhari, there are host of others, including the current Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, the governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, among others.

However, in this growing list, Osinbajo and Tinubu seems to tower above the rest. The Vice President who rode to his current office on the arms and goodwill of his political benefactor, is sure to dance to the dictates of the former, if push comes to shove, including stepping aside or paving the way for Tinubu to emerge as the presidential candidate of the party. Tinubu being a major power broker in the ruling APC, also has the capability to nominate or support another gladiator from the South-west among his legion of loyalists for the coveted office depending on his political calculation and wranglings among factions in the party and region.

The case of Akinwumi Ambode is still vivid in living memory for those who are doubting the seeming invincibility of the self – acclaimed national leader of the APC.

Another obstacle to any seeming Osinbajo candidature is the plot by some factions and tendencies in the APC to deprive the south, especially the South-west the opportunity and retain the ticket in the North. Bigwigs such as Malami, Pantami, Mai Buni, even El-rufai have been fingered in this growing plot and tendency.

PDP’s Nightmare, APC’s Best Bet

The main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sees the forthcoming presidential election as an opportunity to edge the ruling APC out of power on the ground of non – performance of the incumbent administration and alleged disenchantment of Nigerians. The party believes that with the lackluster performance of the aged President Buhari, if the APC gives its ticket to another old guard like Tinubu, Nigerians may not be energized to support the party. Added to that is the plan by the PDP to zone its presidential ticket to the north to counter the ruling party presumed zoning of its ticket to the South, so as to harvest Buhari’s 12 million bloc vote and trounce the other side in Nigeria’s sea of ethnic politicking.

However, some observers are of the opinion that should the ruling party field Osinbajo as its candidate, it may no longer be a jolly story for the main opposition PDP, as Osinbajo has won a reputation as a unifier and detribalised Nigerian willing to fold his sleeves, get in the mud and get the job done. That this perception coupled with his ardent loyalty to President Buhari will galvanize Northern support for his candidacy. Analysts posit that his prospect would be further enhanced if he is on a joint ticket with a popular northern politician such as governor Zulum of Borno, El – Rufai of Kaduna and even the controversial Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano state. Analysts further contend that even within the PDP he enjoys the support of some governors, such as the governors of Rivers and Edo states, with many more in the South-east and South-south seeing him as someone they can work with.

Many Nigerians are of the view that the V.P has not been able to bring his best to bear given the intricacies of the current politics, in which he is encumbered by the superior office of the President and powerful forces in the presidency. Opinions are that if given the opportunity, he will surely bring his wherewithal to tackle the perennial and emergent problems of the country’s socio- political life. They cite as proof of his ability, his performance when president Buhari went on medical vacation, and he acted in his stead, making seemingly controversial decisions that many consider as progressive.

One of such decisions was the confirmation of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria, the first Southerner to be appointed into that exalted office in nearly 30 years and the sacking of the former Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) Lawal Daura, after it was discovered the former DSS boss spear-headed the invasion of the National Assembly to allegedly effect a change of leadership, a move that provoked the ire of forces in the presidency. With such credentials up his sleeve, an Osinbajo candidacy will certainly give the PDP, a run for their money.

The King’s Gambit

According to the governor of plateau state, Simon Lalong, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the architect of contemporary Nigerian politics. This is without doubt an allusion to the role the latter played in the enthronement of the current APC led dispensation. Tinubu after surviving the onslaught of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to dislodge him from the Southwest in 2003, has since then continued his resurgence culminating in the 2015 victory of the APC after years in the national opposition. Widely acknowledged as a leader of men, Tinubu has groomed a number of prominent political figures in politics, from the Minister of Works and former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, to the current Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, to the current governor of Ekiti state, Kayode Fayemi, to President Buhari’s aide, Babatunde Ojudu, the list goes on.

Observers opine that choosing Osinbajo over others as the V.P candidate in 2015 is a reflection of the trust reposed in the man who headed his legal ministry when he was governor of Lagos. While others intoxicated by the trappings of the office have tried to assert their independence and have been involved in both secret and public squabbles with their benefactor, Osinbajo has not betrayed that trust in anyway overtime. They believe that if the obstacles against his candidature continues to mount, he (Tinubu) may be forced to throw his support behind his most trusted protege, as a way of perpetuating his dominance in the APC and in Nigerian politics beyond 2023.

They even say it can be in the manner of the relationship between Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, during the First Republic, when the former was the Premier of the Northern region and the latter was the Prime Minister of Nigeria, with Ahmadu Bello being the real power in the federal government. Tinubu’s ambition has witnessed climbing odds as powerful gladiators and factions in the party are opposed to his candidacy, a factor that has been ascribed as a reason for the re-registration/revalidation exercise ordered by the Mai Mala Buni led Caretaker and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC). A plot allegedly orchestrated to whittle down Tinubu’s hold on the party ahead of the 2023 election.

The re-registration has seen the opening up of the party to new influences and tendencies, making the field more crowded, the intrigues more intense and the eventual outcome less predictable. Some have even pointed to the possible spoiler role of recently defected Femi Fani-Kayode on Jagaban’s 2023 scheemings. But if the odds persist, with Nigerians seeking a younger man to succeed Buhari, and a southern Christian, then Tinubu, an older southern Muslim, may find the opposition against his ambition formidable, hence making the intelligent and amiable Osinbajo the best bet and trump card.