By Kehinde Adeoye
The struggle to claim the most celebrated political seat in Nigeria has become intense. Rumours have been flying. Interesting permutations by supporters, insinuations by elder statesmen and other political enthusiasts are also ongoing. The 2023 general elections still almost two years away have already begun before it even starts.
Though he has not declared his interest to contest yet, one of the most celebrated choices from different quarters is the incumbent Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, as many Nigerians gear up for the next election cycle.
The discussion among Nigerians has centered on the prospect of flying the Osinbajo card despite the Vice President’s continued denials of not nursing any ambition. Osinbajo has issued several rebuttals against various social and political groups that have been mobilizing for support for his undeclared presidential candidature.
According to his media spokesman, Mr Laolu Akande, “Osinbajo is rather focused on working in his capacity as Vice President in the current administration to address all the compelling issues in the country and concerns of Nigerians, including finding effective and lasting solutions to the security challenges.”
But, interestingly up North, the Northern elders have also been part of these category of Nigerians flying the Osinbajo 2023 card. Analysts from different backgrounds have spoken, with most of them highlighting the virtues and ideals of Professor Osinbajo which include outstanding leadership, competence and commitment to one Nigeria.
These qualities have commanded the respect of all, irrespective of tribe, language, religion and political party affiliations.
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What is evident is, there are underground campaigns that are ongoing by support groups, even, without the consent and authorization of their choice candidates, and it is just a matter of time before we have a clearer picture.
Just in the morning of Tuesday, September 28, 2021 were posters of Vice President Osinbajo seen at strategic locations in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, in Nigeria’s Southwest, as many residents woke up to witness the strange reality. This was not the case up until Monday night.
The posters were found to have been spread overnight by a group called Osinbajo for all Volunteers Group (OVG). The group indicated that whether the Vice President has declared interest or not, all they craved for is Osinbajo for president in 2023.
One begins to wonder the motivation behind this gesture. Apparently, they have seen the level of Osinbajo’s dedication and commitment to service as attested to by people who have spoken in his favour and they believe he has what it takes to drive the country to the promised land.
Recalled just last week, the Vice President, who was in Kaduna State, in Nigeria’s Northwest, was applauded by a mammoth crowd who trooped out to welcome him as a special guest of honour to the state, for the KADINVEST 6.0, where he commissioned the solar power plant at a market in Kujuru Local Government community of Kusuwan Magani.
Preparatory to the ceremony, Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir-El Rufai, while answering questions from the Channels TV News crew, showered encomiums on Osinbajo, stating that he has the leadership qualities that command the respect of the opposition governors.
Although, he wasn’t speaking outrightly as if pitching Osinbajo for the 2023 elections, but the word of a Kaduna State governor and a Northerner, who is being reported to have in the past nursed a presidential ambition speaks volume and reveals to a large extent how everyone holds Osinbajo in high esteem.
El Rufai said: “Vice President Osinbajo has provided excellent leadership that even the opposition party governors commend him for that.”
Likewise, in his address at the commissioning of the solar power plant, the Kaduna State governor highlighted several virtues of the Vice President, emphasising that Osinbajo is a lover of peace.
His words: “You care for people, you care for Nigerians and you care for unity in diversity. You care about differences in religion and ethnicity and you always promote peaceful coexistence.”
“This community, Your Excellency, needs an apostle like you to bridge unity and peaceful coexistence.”
In the same vein, earlier before Osinbajo’s visit to Kaduna, he was in Nasarawa State at Nigeria’s North-central, where the state governor, Abdullahi Sule, described him as a “sellable product.”
He said this while addressing a political group, the Progressive Consolidation Group (PCG), which had visited to sell the Vice President as a potential presidential material ahead of the 2023 polls. Sule, who endorsed Osinbajo’s candidacy, said he was ready for support him.
He said: “Osinbajo is a man of God, a professional lawyer, a family man; a man that I have come to respect, because I was even allowed to speak on his last birthday on behalf of the governors.
“We have the opportunity of having a gentleman that is a total party person, loyal man to Mr President. And I believe you are selling him earlier than he is selling himself, which is the way it supposed to be.
“And those who are supposed to be talking about you are those who admire you, who understand who you, and are going in that direction. So, if you are going in that direction to sell this gentleman (Osinbajo), not every product is sellable. Osinbajo is a sellable product,” saying, if the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would be willing to field him as their candidate, he has earned his support.
Besides, Friday, last week, Professor Osinbajo also became a guest of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, in the Southeastern part of Nigeria, who had invited him for the inauguration of the 21-storey Dakkada Tower, in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area of the state.
There, while addressing the people who had gathered to witness the ceremony, Governor Udom, welcoming his visitor, described Osinbajo as the “pride of Nigeria,” while extolling the virtues of the Vice President who flew in from Abuja to join the Akwa Ibom people for the commissioning of projects in celebration of the state’s 34th anniversary.
Though Osinbajo’s visit was to last for only one day, but his elated host, Governor Emmanuel, speaking said: “How I wish our special guest was not going today. He would have spent time with us. These women, they want to dance, but we have to let the Vice President go, Your Excellency, the pride of Nigeria. And in ending his statement, the Governor described Osinbajo as “our brother, our teacher, our pastor and our mentor.”
All these and many more appear to be the sole factor for his all-around endorsement and it will be a lot interesting to see what unfolds in the coming months. And all the somewhat approvals of Osinbajo for the Presidency cutting across different divides in the country, even, before is eventual declaration, are enough reason to wonder: will Osinbajo emerge a consensus candidate?