Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday morning declared his intention to contest the 2023 presidential election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Osinbajo’s formal declaration followed months of speculations and even denials. He made his ambition known after a meeting with APC Governors during Iftar (breaking of Ramadan fast) in State House.
The Vice President in a video via YouTube, eloquently
promised to rapidly advance infrastructure development, especially power, roads, railways and broadband connectivity if elected as the President.
He also promised to provide an excellent environment for businesses to thrive.
Other key areas of where Osinbajo assured Nigerians that his presidency will focus include: “Completing the reform of our justice system; focusing on adequate remuneration and welfare of judicial personnel, ensuring justice for all and the observance of rule of law.
“Taking the agriculture revolution to the next level especially mechanisation and developing the farm to table value chain; making sure that the government, its agencies and regulators serve the business community; creating a tech economy that will provide jobs for millions.
“Enhancing our Social Investment Programme to a full scale social welfare scheme; completing the promise of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within this decade; completing the task of ensuring that all Nigerians, male and female, attend school.
“Reforming our educational system for relevance to the challenges of this century; completing the task of universal health coverage for all; and
strengthening the capacity of states and local governments to deliver on their respective mandates.”
On the political and administrative turf, Osinbajo has chances just as he has hurdles associated with first clinching the ticket of APC and subsequently winning the presidency.
As the Vice President, the former Attorney General of Lagos State is the leader of the party and by its Constitution, a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC), the highest decision making body of the APC as well as the Board of Trustees, the ‘conscience’ of the party.
That is to say, Osinbajo will be present anywhere any decision concerning the affairs of his party is taken, whether zoning, microzoning or consensus arrangement as he doubles as a member of the National Caucus as well.
He is by the virtue of his position, Chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC) that comprises governors both of his party and others as well as other critical stakeholders in the political cycles.
Also, Osinbajo always presides over the Federal Executive Council (FEC) each time President Muhammadu Buhari is not around. He has also acted as president several times in the president’s absence and has, not to a large extent, been found wanting.
Thus, the Vice President automatically has a personal relationship or needs no introduction to anybody that matters politically and otherwise in the country and could deploy that to his advantage.
In addition, the APC zoning of its National Chairman to the North where Abdullahi Adamu from North-central zone is presently enjoying the slot implied that the Presidency has been zoned to the Southern region where Osinbajo hails from, South West, and is also a Christian.
Pundits are of the opinion that, having served Buhari faithfully in the last seven years and above, his loyalty to the Northern oligarchy is not in doubt and could be a good successor that would not work against the region.
Above all, it is argued that he is in the good books of APC Governors who always call the shots in the party, especially as they are insisting that one of them from the North should be his running mate and believing that their interest would be protected under him.
This was demonstrated at meeting he had with the governors ahead of his declaration where more than 10 of the governors were in attendance and those who could not make it reportedly sent apologies.
An APC chieftain who has been part of the intrigues to the party’s presidential ticket and was also at the meeting between Osinbajo and the Governors told BusinessDay on the condition of anonymity that the Vice President remains the party’s rigid weapon in the arsenal for the 2023 presidential battle.
According to the APC stalwart, even Bola Tinubu, the political mentor of Osinbajo is not a threat to the Vice President as the party chieftains, including the governors are for Osinbajo, adding that even Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who would have been with Tinubu was at the meeting before the declaration.
“Asiwaju will run away; he will go and join another party. We are not thinking about him. If Buhari was not in support of Osinbajo he wouldn’t have declared. He is the most experienced and qualified amongst them. None of them can defeat him. Anybody who does not follow Yemi is on his own.
Read also: Tinubu counters Osinbajo by calling urgent meeting with APC governors
“Whether consensus, direct or indirect primaries, he will beat them. If you have 22 APC governors and 12 or 13 attended the meeting and other people wrote apology letters, what do you want? Governors are the ones controlling delegates. If you have 12 you already have two/third and even Sanwo-Olu who is supposed to be with Tinubu came; Dapo Abiodun came there; even Akeredolu who didn’t come, wrote letter. So it’s a fait accompli.
“He is the one that knows what is happening in this government. Buhari has sent him on international engagements; he has travelled to all states, even IDP camps. So, what do you need to defeat him? He will defeat you even in the debate, he will finish you. Even Abdullahi Adamu, they are working for him,” the APC Chieftain said.
Reacting to his declaration, a Political Science Lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Christian Okeke said,
some pundits will give the vice president some kudos for certain reasons, first for taking a bold step to enforce his political right to stand for an election.
“In doing so, he basically ruffled some feathers and elected to contest against certain interest. From the speech, it is clear that his government indeed never treated all citizens fairly, justly and with respect, that not all are given equal access to the abundant opportunities that God has bestowed on this nation,” he said.
Okeke further said: “It is instructive to note that he is contesting against his political godfather. Possibly, he is also contesting against the choice of his boss, the president; to that extent, believe me, the coming days will be interesting, politically. Definitely, the VP will face stiff opposition from his own political family.”
The major hurdle before Osinbajo is the thinking that Osinbajo cannot defeat Tinubu at the APC primary election; hence he lacks the political structures to dislodge someone on whose structures he has climbed in a manner that depicts biting the fingers that fed him.
Pundits believe that Osinbajo is not a politician per se who can maneuver his way to get APC ticket, especially when Tinubu is involved, except the presidency or the powers that be imposes him on the party.
A ranking APC member, who does not want to be mentioned, said Osinbajo lacks both the political war chest and know how to confront his erstwhile political godfather.
“Well, the vice president has declared to run, there is no problem about that but can he on his own withstand Tinubu? The answer is certainly no. His only chance is if the President comes out to say he should be adopted as he did in the case of the APC National Chairman; Yemi cannot go anywhere,” he said.
Also, at the time of this report, the Tinubu camp was quiet as James Faleke, a member of the House of Representatives and one of the leaders of Tinubu Support Group could not pick calls or respond to a text message sent to him.
Beyond the party, there are permutations that Osinbajo has been part of the Buhari administration and is complicit in all its apparent failures, especially in the area of the economy even when he is Chairman of NEC.
Others are of the opinion that the Yoruba nation where he comes from has had its fair share of the presidency between 1999 and 2007 when Olusegun Obasanjo held sway; and it will be right for Igbos of the South-East to take the slot now.
There are also fears that as a Pentecostal pastor, an Osinbajo presidency will not be favourable to the Moslems with some accusing him of religious bigotry and tribalistic tendencies in the affairs of the Office of the Vice President.
Speaking in reference to Osinbajo’s declarative remarks, Okeke, the political scientist, said: “Principally in soliciting the support of the electorate towards his ambition, he averred that we have ahead of us great and exciting journey. I believe that the task of fixing the country, saving her very soul and rescuing her from death and decay is scary.
“It is going to be a tortuous and difficult journey. In fact, an aspirant to the office of president at this time needs to ask himself or herself how he or she is going to perform the miracle or find the magic wand to retrieve all the dangerous weapons in the hands of bandits, terrorists, kidnappers, ritualists, and so forth.
“What I agreed with him is that time is of essence. Rescuing Nigeria needs to be done quickly before everything collapses irretrievably. Yes, we need to move with much speed, intentionality and with perseverance towards the vision of a prosperous, stable and secure country as he rightly observed. I equally, am convinced beyond doubt that the VP has the creativity, the courage, the talent and the resources to drive the process.”
He further said: “Nevertheless, if the VP has served the government in several capacities, represented the country in sensitive high level international engagements, been to practically all local governments in Nigeria, markets, factories, schools, and farms, if he has indeed listened to diverse experiences and yearnings of our people, been to the homes of many ordinary Nigerians in various parts of the country, how come the socio-economic conditions of the people are this way under his watch?
“How come he never cried out that his government took wrong direction after its inauguration in 2015? How come he never admitted that his government failed, in the face of the high poverty rate, unemployment, deaths, internal displacement, insecurity and anguish which pervade the land?
“It is heartbreaking to listen to the VP say in his speech that he indeed stood where ordinary people in the country stood and sat where they sat, and that he knows their hopes, aspirations and fears. This sounds to me either as insensitivity or mockery.
“It can be deduced from the speech of the VP that his government did not build a Nigeria where the man from Nnewi sees the man in Gusau as his brother; where the woman in Warri sees the woman in Jalingo as her sister; where the love of our nation burns alike in the hearts of boys and girls from Gboko to Yenagoa and where our diversities, tribes and faiths unite, rather than divide us.
“Curiously, the VP never cried out before now as a strategy for self-preservation. In light of these, the fact that the government he served left the country and her people in this unfortunate condition is going to limit him. He shares in the responsibility of failure.
“And it is my strongest belief that voters, whether at primary or general election, will serve the sauce of rejection bountifully. Generally speaking, he and his co-aspirants in the party will have a lot of explanations and pleadings to make to the people.”
Farooq Kperoji, a professor of Journalism and newspaper columnist, recently expressed this fear on Osinbajo’s religious disposition in an article titled: ‘10 Reasons Osinbajo Will Ignite a Religious Civil War’ when he said: “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 materialisation of a Pentecostal, specifically RCCG, capture of the Nigerian state.
“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 Christianisation 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.”