Can Osinbajo Succeed His Principal?

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Editor April 18, 2022
Updated 2022/04/18 at 3:26 AM

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As Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Osinbajo declares for the 2023 presidency, Emameh Gabriel looks at his chances of making history 

After months of intense consultation, long spell of delay and uncertainty, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday morning mounted the rostrum on national television to announce his much anticipated intention to succeed his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, come 2023.

Despite garnering strong support early in the race, his declaration to contest came behind the declarations of other frontline aspirants of the APC, who had openly expressed their desire for the plum job. 

They include: Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, former Governor of Abia state and current Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu and the Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon. Rotimi Amaechi. 

Meanwhile, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, have also been rumoured to be nursing presidential ambition and are also expected to join the race any time soon. 

By throwing his hat into the ring, Osinbajo has not only put to rest speculations about his interest to contest the ticket of the ruling APC but he has also thrown up salient questions and narratives bothering on loyalty and secrete pact with President Buhari and some northern oligarchs to succeed his principal. His declaration has also divided the support base of the ruling party, leaving his supporters and supporters of his estranged political mentor, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, locked in horns.

Osinbajo, who was under pressure from millions of his supporters to bite the bullet, had promised in his declaration speech reforms and improvement in key areas such security, economy, judiciary, agriculture, regulations, technology, education, infrastructure and many others, especially the unity of the country.

If things work out as planned for him, Osinbajo would be the third vice to succeed a head of government in the history of the country, though in a different circumstances this time. 

Osinbajo’s declaration  does not automatically guarantee him the presidential seat as there is a lot of work for him and his handlers to do, though as an incumbent who still enjoys the good will of his principal, he is one step ahead of other contenders in the race.

Vice Presidents succeeding the presidency have not always been an easy feat in Nigeria’s political history. If Osinbajo was to succeed in his quest, he would be joining the ranks former President Goodluck Jonathan who succeeded the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua who died in office in May 2010 during his first tenure in office.

Goodluck Jonathan had after completing the tenure of his late principal, contested the 2011 presidential election on the platform of the then ruling PDP and went on to defeat his arch rival, Muhammadu Buhari. 

Both previous such successions of the vice residents or deputies have been in a rather difficult and controversial circumstances, as they imposed a doctrine of necessity on the constitutional order and strain on the polity.

Nigerian political system has been fraught with uneasy relationship between the chief executives and their deputies, including that of the president and vice president, which analysts often attribute to the unwieldy coalitions that back their ascension to power.

A typical example was the fall out between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his vice, Atiku Abubakar, when the latter opposed Obasanjo’s third term agenda and was forced to pursue his presidential ambition on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), in the 2007 presidential election and eventually lost the election to Umar Yar’adua. At the state level, it is not a different case between serving governors and their deputies, who they hardly endorse as their successors.

However, in the case of Osinbajo, indications are that he enjoys the confidence of his principal, President Buhari and governors elected on the platform of the APC. In their seven years relationship as President and vice, there have not been any report of conflict between the two. This is one moral test Osinbajo has passed. Analysts believe that this alone leaves no doubt in the mind of Bubari that Osinbajo can be trusted.

Recently in his 65th birthday, President Buhari described the Vice President as a loyal and patriotic deputy. The President had in a message conveyed through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, extolled Osinbajo’s virtues, as a man of many parts who has also displayed clear resourcefulness, loyalty and dedication to duty.

“President Buhari notes the worthy contributions of the Vice President to the development of the country as a lawyer, scholar, administrator and pastor, working selflessly and sacrificially to bring government closer to the people, and placing the people at the centre of governance by regularly advocating policies that support human development.

“As the lawyer and scholar turns 65, the President affirms that his loyalty and dedication to duty have been most exemplary, especially in supervising the economy, which involves regular interface with heads of public and private institutions, and other government structures to ensure synergy and harmony that put the welfare and wellbeing of all Nigerians first’’, the letter had read

It would be recalled that President Buhari had during one of his medical vacations handed the affairs of the country to Osinbajo. The President’s action was premised on the trust he had their n the competence of the eminent professor of law as a loyal deputy.

Osinbajo has remained a loyal lieutenant and has gone almost unnoticed in the political battlefield and limited himself strictly to his duty till recently when speculations about his presidential ambition engulfed the media space, and subsequently, his declaration.

Even as Tinubu sets to contend against the obstacles ranged against him for  the biggest prize of his political career, there is a school of thought that opines that VP Osinbajo may remain Tinubu’s only game if his original plan goes awry.

Osinbajo being a Christian from the south, where the ruling party has zoned its presidential ticket to, is an advantage to  his ticket. This will also galvanize the northern Muslims to his cause to balance the rotation equation, because a Southern Muslim (Tinubu) to succeed an outgoing Northern Muslim as president may not seat well with many people.

Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, the presidency has alternated between Muslim and Christian presidents. With Umar Yar’adua, a northern Muslim succeeding Olusegun Obasanjo, a Southern Christian, and Yar’adua subsequently succeeded by Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian who was also succeeded by a northern Muslim, Muhammadu Buhari.

Besides, it is almost impossible to harvest a Christian from the north with good command of a fraction of the population in the region. This one factor that would work in Osinbajo’s favour, besides being a product of the ACN block that metamorphosed into the ruling party today.

With Tinubu already in the race, it’s not going to be a smooth ride for Osinbajo even if he has gotten the blessing of his Principal. However, observers believe Tinubu’s best bet in retaining influence in the post – 2023 political dispensation, is by supporting the emergence Vice President Yemi Osibanjo as flag bearer of the party. They opined that Osinbajo being a Christian from the South with a highly touted professorial status that enticed Nigerians and galvanized the 2015 APC presidential ticket for the party, would be a better and easier sell.

It is believed that his candidacy will unite and pacify many Nigerians, especially those who reckon that the Osinbajo as Vice President was lacking the presidential mandate and freedom to exercise his intellectual and political dexterity in dealing with issues and solving national problems.

The odds

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo did not mince words as he expressed himself during his declaration in his usual eloquence that has endeared him to so many Nigerians. However he knows what he is up against- gladiators and juggernauts with powerful bottom-up political structures. Structures that have served and are still serving their purposes among others. 

While it is highly likely that with growing pressure on Tinubu to withdraw from the race on account of age and health, thus ceding his structures to his political protege, on the other hand, the old man may decide to stick to his gun and play out his luck at the party’s primary. But will this come to pass for Tinubu giving the fact that the APC is already putting a new option on the table for a consensus candidate to emerge? 

If he does so, and the factional tendencies in APC play out, it will then be a test of Osinbajo’s political dexterity.  But with the monetary gratifications involved in the decision of delegates to the convention, other deep pockets and money bag have an ostentatious advantage, which the VP can counter with the support of the governors and some other stakeholders who thinks favourably of him as the man history needs now.

Currently the business community in Nigeria has started building a network to raise funds for Vice President Osinbajo’s campaign. These include investors in oil and gas, real estate, mining, construction, aviation, the banking sector, agriculture, SMEs, including market women and industries.

Dr Tayo Fashogbon, who is the Managing Director and Chief Executive officer of Portal Realties Ltd, Convener of a group, Businessmen for Osinbajo (BFO) confirmed to THISDAY hours Osinbajo’s declaration that the group has started working towards mobilising interested Nigerians to sponsor the vice president election.

“We looking at players in oil and gas sector, real estate and building, transport and aviation, food and agriculture, power, construction, mining, road construction, automotive, market women and SMEs. We are already putting plans in place to facilitate a fund-raising platform this week, said Dr Fashoghon. 

There are several other groups who have also vowed to beat money bag politicians at the party’s presidential primary to secure the APC presidential ticket for Osinbajo. 

Despite these fears, his supporters have continued to trumpet his credentials. “Osinbajo knew what he was up against before declaring his intention. He could not been so bold to declare knowing where he was coming from. He has the blessing of the man who calls the shot in the party and that is something most people calling him all sort of names don’t know”, a source from the villa told THISDAY.

While Osinbajo has chosen to stand against this political titan, may be an attempt to save face or a ploy by their fold in an elaborate scheme to ensure that either way the party’s ticket comes to the South-west and to Tinubu’s political affiliate.  Some analysts, even before Tinubu’s declaration had opined that he may have intended to play Osinbajo as a trump card in order to maintain his political power and relevance in the post 2023 dispensation. 

And despite Tinubu’s January 10, declaration, he may still be playing with both hands as he wades through the political waters amid rising and growing oppositions from other power brokers and geo – political regions.
As Tinubu continues to fight off growing oppositions to his candidacy, which observers think are a great burden than religion and age factor, throwing his support behind Osinbajo will without doubt unite his seemingly fragmented fold with a common sense of purpose.

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