Thoughts on a Yemi Osinbajo Presidency
By: Deji Yesufu
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo made known his intentions to run for the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 11th of April, 2022. Osinbajo published a short video on Twitter to explain to Nigerians why he was the best man for the job come 2023. The video that Osinbajo made was quite ingenious because rather than spending money gathering a crowd at, say the Eagles’ Square, Abuja, Osinbajo utilized the social media. And in the first six hours of posting that video, there were 345,000 views on it and 3 million impressions – setting something of a record in internet videos in Nigeria. In other words, Osinbajo used very little resources to achieve great reach through the use of a modern medium of broadcast. All kinds of reactions have followed his declaration. In fact, before he made his intentions public, Farooq Kperogi had written a piece labeling Osinbajo as a Christian extremist. Kperogi employed the same religious tactics that was used against Buhari in the buildup to the 2015 elections. Kperogi’s allegations has since been debunked by people who work with the Vice President: Osinbajo is not seeking to Christianize Nigeria.
Probably the most publicized reaction to the declaration of Osinbajo for Presidency were those of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. A journalist asked Tinubu what his thoughts were to his “son’s” desire to run for the presidency. Tinubu replied that he had no son old enough to run. Ahmed Tinubu has long made known his intentions to be President of Nigeria. The reason why his response to Osinbajo is quite telling is because Tinubu is believed to be Osinbajo’s benefactor. During Tinubu’s eight-year rule of Lagos State as Governor, 1999-2007, Yemi Osinbajo was his Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. When the All Progressive Congress (APC) was created, with the merger of various political parties, the talk was that Ahmed Tinubu was to be Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate.
But with Buhari bringing the baggage of a religious extremist into the political arena and being a Muslim, he could not afford to have another Muslim as his running mate. It is believed that it is at this point that Tinubu acceded to Osinbajo becoming the running mate to Buhari. Today, however, Osinbajo has made it clear that becoming running mate to Buhari was purely on merit and not because he was recommended by Tinubu. Tinubu’s statement that he has no son old enough to run for Presidency is also an indication of the divide that has come between these former political allies. My thoughts in this article will dwell on the pros and cons of a Yemi Osinbajo Presidency. I want to look at the practicality of his emerging as the Presidential flagbearer of the APC. I will also be offering some critical examination of Yemi Osinbajo himself with the aim of determining whether or not this is a person that the Nigerian electorate can entrust their votes to.
Between the 30th and the 31st of May this year, the APC will be converging to elect flagbearers for various political offices for the coming general elections in 2023. Top on the list of this primaries will be the person who is elected as the Presidential flagbearer for the party. This is where established political parties like the APC and the PDP have distinguished themselves in the nation’s political landscape. The problem with many political office aspirants is that many people do not realize the utmost importance of being elected as a flagbearer of either of these two parties. One fact that cannot be erased is that only these two parties have ruled Nigeria at the presidential level since 1999. They produce most of the nation’s governors and house of assembly members.
There are other parties that elect political office holders too but it is safe to say that the PDP and APC constitute no less than 95% of political office holders in the country. Therefore, if anyone is really intent on getting into political office, they will have to get into either these two parties. If they feel they have such popularity in the grassroots, they can try their luck with lesser known parties but by getting the ticket of either the APC or the PDP, one’s chances of getting into political office in Nigeria has been upped by at least 90%. This is why the likes of Omoyele Sowore, Kingsley Moghalu and the others will not become president of Nigeria. It does not matter what political capital they may have; they still need the party structure of established parties like the PDP or the APC. This is another reason why party primaries at these two political parties sometimes could become a do-or-die affair.
Yemi Osinbajo will have to emerge as the Presidential flag bearer of the APC if he must become President of Nigeria. On his path to this great feat will be standing the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Osinbajo’s supporters are making it clear to anyone who wishes to know that Osinbajo does not owe Tinubu anything. They are asking everyone to go to the party’s primaries and may the best man win. Yemi Osinbajo has the office of the Vice President of Nigeria behind him. He is young (compared to the other aspirants), articulate and has a record of being a technocrat turned politician. If he is ever elected President, he will become the most educated person to lead this country – as a professor. Osinbajo had the good fortune of leading Nigeria at short period when his boss, Buhari, was away to the United Kingdom for medical purposes.
The stability that Nigeria is enjoying in the Niger Delta areas is owing to some deals he reached with oil vandals in that region. The country saw a man of authority when he doused the tension that arose as a result of the DSS invading the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly. Clearly, if he ever emerges leader of Nigeria, this man will do well. The trouble however is that as he goes to the Presidential primaries of the APC, he must also approach it with a money chest – something that he is not likely to have. Already he has been forced to cough out 100 million naira for the Presidential form alone. At the primaries, he will have to wage war – naira for naira – with the man that is said to own Lagos State, Tinubu. Nobody knows the extent of the financial chest that Tinubu will bring to the APC primaries. What is clear is that Osinbajo’s work is already cut-out for him.
On a flip-side though, an Osinbajo presidency may not be the Eldorado that many of us are envisioning. The reasons are many but I will simply mention a few so as to quickly bring this essay to an end and not make it too lengthy. First, is the fact that popularity does not mean effectiveness in office. The testimony of the emergence of Buhari as President and his rather lackluster tenure in office, with Osinbajo as his second in command, lends credence to this fact. Yemi Osinbajo will have to prove to voters that the failures of this administration to curtail insecurity and corruption cannot be traced to his table. Second, Nigeria’s problems are endemic: they are more than what one individual can solve in one tenure in office. The whole Nigerian landscape: from political, to religious, to ethnic and even geographical, needs a total overhaul.
The average Nigerian mindset needs total reset. The Nigerian people need to possess a national identity that we all subscribe to and which we are all trying to realize. The country needs an overhaul. The question of restructuring: what to restructure and how we need to go about it, needs to be attended to. Until then, there is no messianic figure in any political entity that will fix this country. Lastly, Yemi Osinbajo will need to prove to Nigerians that he is different. He will need to show us that he is a problem solver. Already by launching his political ambition to the Nigeria people at little or no cost is proof that he is someone who knows the value of money and can maximally utilize it. He will need to go further by properly articulating his vision for development for the Nigerian people. He will need to employ his youthful vigor and charm to win the people to his side. If Yemi Osinbajo is able to cross the deep crevice of the APC national primaries and emerge their presidential flagbearer, he is as good as the President of the country.
I hope that those who read this piece do not conclude that this is an endorsement of a Yemi Osinbajo candidacy by me; it is not.