Since Vice President Yemi Osinbajo launched his presidential campaign over a week ago, an avalanche of malicious, false and cruel campaigns have been unveiled by various interest groups against him. From my findings, these fabricated messages are mostly sponsored by other APC Presidential aspirants who feel threatened by the entrance of the VP into the race. Supporters of Bola Ahmed Tinubu have been particularly mean-spirited, vengeful and malevolent in their attacks against the VP. I am also reliably informed that devotees of Chibuike Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation, who is also in the race, have joined in pouring invectives on the VP. Another angry crusader against the VP is Farooq Kperogi, a fellow acting as a lone wolf to wage hateful attacks against an innocent man for no obvious reason. Kperogi’s allegation that the VP favours only his church members in making appointments is unfounded. Of over 80 staffers in the VP’s Office, only four are in his church, and many others are people of different faith.
So, in the last one week or so, these discontented crusaders have been spewing out corrosive articles and fabricated allegations against the Vice President all in attempt to bring him to disrepute and cow him out of the race. They’re frustrated by the wide acceptability of the VP by ordinary folks across party lines in all the nooks and crannies of the country. Apparently nobody gave Prof Osinbajo a blinking chance in this race. They are incensed that the VP’s message has resonated well with ordinary Nigerians, and his ”Likeability Factor” is the strongest among the aspirants. They are startled that Osinbajo, whom they had earlier thought would not have the courage to run, is now the front runner and the leading aspirant. Meek, soft spoken and gentle in manners, the VP does not cut a picture of a typical Nigerian politician who talks bombastically, throws his weight around and splashes stolen money at everybody and every occasion. While Tinubu and Amaechi are infamous for scotched earth politics in their respective domains (their inability to accommodate those with opposing interests are well known), Osinbajo had spent the last seven years working hard and supporting the President to deliver on his agenda to Nigerians. A few days ago, Amaechi went to consult the Ooni of Ife and boastfully declared that he is the best of all the aspirants in both the APC and PDP. What a cheek! This is a man whose tenure as Rivers State governor was a monumental failure.
Bola Tinubu’s response has been very pathetic since Prof. Osinbajo announced his interest in the race. The old man has been huffing and puffing around, sulking and bemoaning, with his supporters throwing tantrums and insults with reckless abandon. Over the weekend, Tinubu went overboard by launching scathing personal attacks against President Buhari. At a rally in Onikan, Lagos, the septuagenarian accused the President of being full of excuses and too weak to fight terrorism. He attacked virtually every policy of the government, including the barring of some telephone lines not linked to National Identity data, an action taken strictly for security reasons.
In all my years in Nigerian politics, no aspirant has been so brutal against a President elected on the same party as his. I understand that Tinubu is planning to come out in a full ballistic manner against President Buhari. PDP is happy with him. Asiwaju is enraged that the President is not handing him the Presidency on a platter of gold.
Discouraged, Tinubu’s supporters are busy manufacturing asinine commentaries, the most senseless being that the VP has betrayed Tinubu by deciding to run. You can only betray someone if you had entered into an agreement with the person. There is no such pact between the VP and the former Lagos governor. The fact that Prof. Osinbajo had served as Attorney General in Lagos when Tinubu was governor cannot debar the VP from running against Tinubu. Those touting the betrayal theory have therefore reduced the Nigerian presidency to a kind a Tinubu heirloom – an object that has belonged to his family for several generations, to which nobody else dares contest for. It is a poor sense of judgement if Tinubu’s sole strategy in the contest for the presidency is based on blackmailing Osinbajo. Nobody wins a major presidential ticket by elevating his sense of entitlement as a key achievement.
Since 1999, Tinubu has been the Lord Manor of Lagos State, where he decides who is the governor, councillors, House of Assembly members, the market leader, refuse collectors, revenue collectors and just about anybody else. He has Lagos in his pocket, and now he wants the whole country. Nigeria has become a prize well sought for by Tinubu as the crowning glory of his past political victories. That is why he does not want anybody, the VP least of all, to challenge his ”lifelong ambition”.
In 2019, the Lord Manor disallowed then Lagos Governor Akinwunmi Ambode opportunity to go for a second term. Tinubu adamantly refused all entreaties from President Buhari, Vice President Osinbajo and other eminent persons to give Ambode a fair chance. Tinubu brooks no opposition. I understand that the Ambode experience was an eye opener to the Presidency on the type of person Asiwaju really is. ”If he could turn down an appeal from the President to save Ambode, what else could he do or not do if he ascends the top job? Who could stand in his way?
In conclusion, let me repeat that in modern democracies across the globe, the Vice Presidents are usually the first in line to, or the favoured ones to succeed their bosses. Yemi Osinbajo has the right to run and present his case to Nigerians. Only the voters will determine his fate.
Etim writes from Abuja