By Oluwafemi Popoola and Mayowa Olaniyan
Monday, 10th January 2022 somewhat marks a watershed in the build-up to the All Progressives Congress (APC) politics of the 2023 Presidential Election. To many of us and other keen observers of political events in Nigeria, we had always known the day would come and it came without leaving behind its intrigues and drama as the 2023 electoral circle begins to gain momentum.
The perceived secret of the life long presidential ambition now has been laid to the public bare by a familiar name in Nigeria’s political terrain, a master political strategist and leader in Nigeria’s modern-day progressive politics, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as he, has now informed President Muhammadu Buhari, of his intention to contest for the nation’s highest office in 2023.
Incidentally, Tinubu, a national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), popularly known as Jagaban Borgu, made his intentions known to the President in his office not too far away from the space of the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, who happens to be Asiwaju’s protege and also who by popular demands by Nigerians, is being repeatedly called upon to contest for the plum office, but hasn’t accepted the call, saying he wouldn’t exercise any distraction for his current commitment to the national assignment.
The Vice President’s spokesperson, Laolu Akande, has repeatedly responded to calls either linking his boss to the 2023 Presidency, or Nigerians requesting for his consent saying, “Prof. Osinbajo has not declared any interest whatsoever in the 2023 election, but he 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.”
The fact, however, remains that, as a product of the progressives political family which Tinubu remains a de facto leader, Prof Osinbajo, has, over the past six to seven years, distinguished himself as a Vice President with a difference.
Never in Nigeria’s history has the country had a Second-in-Command who brought so much value to the office that the Nigerian constitution has reduced to what some political analysts have referred to as a spare tyre office. It is believed the office is not given more responsibilities in the scheme of things except the extent to which the President decides to carry its occupier along in his government.
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John Adams, the first vice president in America had once described the office as “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived.” That confirms the limitations and circumscription of the office which its occupier only serves as the pleasure of his boss.
But in the past years, ever since Nigeria’s Vice President assumed his office, hardly will a day go by without the mention of him in Nigeria’s media space for positive reasons. The fact remains that Osinbajo has been the arrowhead of almost all of the pro-people policies of the Buhari government.
He has brought so much finesse, a lot of meaning and common sense to his office which has resulted in spearheading several projects aimed at making life a bit easier for people in a country where daily existence is difficult, and which is blamed on consistent bad leadership in the past.
Following the declaration of interest to run for the 2023 Presidency by Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor and the national leader of the ruling APC, the rumoured presidential ambition of the Vice President has also been played up in the media and has already been a subject of public discussion as everyone begins to have a bite of the conversation.
The most surprising thing is that the declaration of Asiwaju to contest has magically taken a new turn of event. There has been a rejuvenated surge of calls from many quarters urging and pleading on the Vice President to also throw his hat in the ring. Media experts, T.V commentators, public affairs analysts have continued to throw their weight behind Osinbajo 2023 Presidency, saying he is the best man for the job.
This has also resulted in the proliferation of diverse support groups across the nation mobilizing for the support of the Vice President, while urging him to contest. It seems to be something seen as having nothing to do with tribalism, ethnicity, religion but everything to do with Osinbajo’s ideals, values and leadership aptitude.
On January 11, a coalition of 57 youth groups and students endorsed Vice President Osinbajo for the 2023 Presidency. Their National Coordinator, Mr Festus Ofume, while reading the communique on behalf of the 57 groups under with officials of The Progressive Project (TPP), the sole coordinating body for pro-Osinbajo groups, stated their resolve to mobilise at least five million youths across Nigeria, to support Osinbajo if he finally decides to run for the presidency in 2023” as reported by This Day newspaper.
In the same vein, members of the National Coalition Group (NCG) also on Wednesday 13th January visited the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, to seek his support for the presidential ambition of Vice President Osinbajo. The following day about 500 Pro-Osinbajo groups stormed Abuja to drum support for Osinbajo 2023 Presidency bid.
Babafemi Ojudu, the Senior Special Assistant on Political Matters to the President, also narrated on his Facebook page how 40 Nigerians of substance from across the country made an unscheduled visit to him in his office on Tuesday.
The post reads in part, “Forty Nigerians of substance from across the country made an unscheduled visit to me yesterday. It was a pleasant surprise. They planted a young man in front of my office to monitor my movement and inform them when I resume work. Suddenly I saw these gentlemen and women who gathered from across the country streaming to my office. Among them was a lady, 89 years old retired Professor of Agriculture.
“All they came to know was will Osinbajo contest?
“Without waiting for me to take their question to Osinbajo and bring an answer, they have formed a group called Integrated Supporters for Osinbajo. Some of them are former Speakers, House of Assembly, retired Air Vice Marshal, businessmen, academics, retired top civil servants…”
With the growing calls from Nigerians across every geo-political zones of the country, there seems to be a perceptibly dominant mood of national consensus for Osinbajo 2023 Presidency, as all fingers steadily point in his direction.
But as it stands today, the progressive family in Nigeria is at a crossroads. A state of choosing between an array of humans in their party as a candidate for the 2023 presidential run. Just once in a lifetime especially the two already being touted as its best. One, Tinubu, who has already made his intention known, and two, Vice President Osinbajo, who hasn’t shown any interest for the office.
The APC may eventually fall into making a choice, as it is presently shrouded in discomfiture into choosing between a godfather or godson, who has for the past over six years shown that with diligence, hard work, honesty and loyalty, Nigeria can be fixed.
Now that the godfather has thrown up the gauntlet, will his godson pick it? Before the Vice President decides to contest or not, he would have to battle the argument of emotion that might be thrown to him by his detractors about the prospect of going head to head with his political benefactor. But before he makes his decision, the former law Professor should consider the fate of over 200 million Nigerians tied to his obedience to their call to come and salvage the country, and the destiny of the country.
Now that the ruling party is said to be poised to fix Nigeria forever, will the party choose between political expediency or putting Nigeria first? May the God of creation direct our noble cause.
• Popoola and Olaniyan are political analysts and commentators.