After leaving his opponents and supporters in suspense for several months over his rumoured presidential ambition, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has shrugged off the perceived moral burden of challenging his close associate and National Leader of All Progressives Congress, Senator Bola Tinubu and declared his presidential bid, Ejiofor Alike reports
Following months of consultations across the country and after informing President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, last Monday declared his interest in the 2023 presidential race. Before he threw his hat into the ring, the vice president had left his supporters and opponents in suspense for several months over his rumoured ambition. But after meeting with governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which was attended by not less than 12 governors on Sunday night, Osinbajo announced his intention to succeed Buhari through a short video uploaded on various social media platforms.
His declaration came as a shock to the supporters of the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, who had believed that Osinbajo would not challenge the former Lagos State governor. Tinubu had earlier declared interest in the race. The two leaders of the ruling party have come a long way since the vice president served as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice under Tinubu’s administration in Lagos State.
Supporters of the former Lagos State governor, who perceive Osinbajo as Tinubu’s political son and one his political mentees had thought that the vice president would not challenge him in a presidential bid. They believed that the vice president would ignore the enormous pressure mounted on him to run, the various endorsements he had received across the country and the strategic advantage his current position has placed him over other contestants.
It was not surprising that in his reaction to Osinbajo’s declaration, Tinubu had disowned him, insisting that he has no son grown enough to declare for president.
Tinubu, who was apparently surprised by Osinbajo’s deft pioneering meeting with the governors and his declaration, had hurriedly arranged a meeting with about 12 governors of the ruling party at Kebbi State Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja, a few hours after the governors’ meeting with Osinbajo at his official residence inside Aso Rock.
Reacting to a question from a journalist on the declaration by one of “his political sons,” after the meeting with the APC governors, Tinubu had declared, “I don’t have a son grown enough to declare” for the office of president.”
The APC leader said, “My mission here is to seek collaboration, support and encouragement of my party, the APC, for my ambition to become the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as replacement for President Muhammadu Buhari after his tenure.”
Osinbajo’s announcement also came as a rude shock to the Tinubu Support Group (TSG), who described his presidential declaration as a betrayal of trust. TSG’s Head of Media, Mr. Tosin Adeyanju, while reacting to Osinbajo’s declaration, said, “His declaration is a welcome development but a betrayal of trust to the political family he belongs to. However, he does not portend any threat to our camp.”
An unperturbed Osinbajo had in his declaration video posted on his verified Twitter handle and other media platforms, including television, radio and social media platforms, promised to use his seven years insight and experience as the vice president to complete all that the Buhari-led APC government started since May 2015.
The vice president claimed to have practically been to all the local governments in the country and had taken time to listen to the diverse experiences and yearnings of the people. He vowed to transform the security architecture, agriculture and all other sectors for the betterment of the country.
Osinbajo also promised that he would build a Nigeria, where everywhere would be home for everyone. “In this period of seven years, I have served the government in several capacities, and I have, at the direction of Mr. President, represented our country in sensitive high-level international engagements. If by the grace of God and the will of the people, I am given the opportunity, then, I believe that, first, we must complete what we have started: Radically transforming our security and intelligence architecture; 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; rapidly advancing our infrastructure development, especially power, roads, railways and broadband connectivity.”
Osinbajo added, “We will, working together, establish by the grace of God, the Nigeria of our dreams in a few short years. We will build on the foundation laid by our predecessors. We will need to move, with much speed, intentionality, and perseverance, towards the vision of a prosperous, stable, and secure nation. I am convinced beyond doubt, that, we have the creativity, the courage, the talent, and the resources to be the foremost black nation on earth.
“Let us now birth the expectations of greatness conceived generations before us. Let us 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 Yenogoa,” he declared. Tinubu’s supporters view Osinbajo’s audacious declaration as an affront to his political godfather.”
Osinbajo, as Lagos State Attorney General, was behind the success of Tinubu’s administration during the state government’s legal battles with the federal government over creation of new local government areas. He was also behind the success recorded by the administration in justice reforms, which serves as a reference point nationwide. The closeness of the two men and the claim in some quarters that Tinubu nominated Osinbajo as Buhari’s running mate had given Tinubu’s supporters the impression that the vice president would not yield to the pressure to contest against his benefactor.
But many political analysts believe that any other Nigerian in vice president’s position would have embraced such bright prospects of becoming the next president and yielded to such pressure. Many also have argued that Osinbajo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Professor of Law from the University of Lagos, is Tinubu’s political ally and not political son.
However, Tinubu’s denial of his erstwhile political associate was a clear indication that the political battle between the two men may be messier in the coming weeks. However, Chairman of PGF and governor of Kebbi State, Bagudu had hinted that APC might settle for the consensus method in the choice of its presidential candidate.
The ruling party had adopted the same method to elect its National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu. But there are concerns that this method will be resisted by some of the presidential aspirants who believe that they have the huge political war chest to win any free and fair primary election. These aspirants may resist the consensus option and insist on testing their popularity in the field. This, many fear, may lead to the implosion of the ruling party.
With Osinbajo slugging it out with the godfather of Lagos politics, Tinubu in the APC presidential primary, the events of the coming weeks will be interesting in the life of the ruling party.