With less than 538 days to the presidential election in 2023, the bid by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to succeed his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, is already gaining traction. Adedayo Akinwale writes
After the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced February 18, 2023 as date for the presidential election, various support groups have since swung into action to strategise and project the image of presidential aspirants nursing the ambition of succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari.
Loyalists of the former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu wasted no time when they inaugurated a presidential campaign movement tagged, “The South-West Agenda (SWAGA).”
SWAGA which was inaugurated last has December in Ibadan has Senator Dayo Adeyeye as its leader, while former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, Senator Adesoji Akanbi, representing Oyo South Senatorial District; former House of Representatives member, Otunba Abayomi Ogunnusi, among others, are members of the movement.
At the inauguration of SWAGA, Adeyeye said for the discerning mind, 2023 election was already on the front burner of national discourse. He said that was why they were asking Tinubu to join the presidential race, while urging the entire people of the South-west to support in voting him in as the next president of Nigeria.
However, following a recent interview on ARISE News, former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida suggested that individuals in their 60s should be the focus of Nigerians as potential presidential or vice presidential candidates in 2023.
Babangida said such persons should have deep knowledge of the economy, must have contacts across the nation and must have been traversed the geo-political zones, marketing their acceptability and capacity.
He said, “If you get a good leadership that links with the people and tries to talk with the people; not talking on top of the people, then we would be okay.
I have started visualising a good Nigerian leader. That is, a person, who travels across the country and has a friend virtually everywhere he travels to and he knows at least one person that he can communicate with. That is a person, who is very vast in the economy and is also a good politician, who should be able to talk to Nigerians and so on. I have seen one, or two or three of such persons already in their sixties.”
With this submission, political analysts believe that the former Military President may have ruled out a former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Tinubu, from the 2023 presidential race, because they would be in their 70s by the next election.
Although, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has not declared interest in the 2023 presidential race, his loyalists believe he perfectly ticked the box of the next president of the country as visualised by Babangida.
With less down 538 days to the presidential election, various support groups of the Vice President are no longer waiting for his official declaration as they have embarked on political journies to some states selling his candidacy and the need to continue the legacy of Buhari after 2023.
Recently, a group under the auspices of the Progressive Consolidation Group (PCG) launched an advocacy to canvass support for Osinbajo to contest the 2023 presidential election.
The National Chairman of the PCG, Aliyu Kurfi, while addressing journalists in Abuja said the group had paid courtesy visits to the Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari; and the Emir of Daura, Umar Faruk, on the issue.
He added that his team had held strategic meetings with APC members from all the 34 local government areas in Katsina State, on how to achieve success with the project.
The group had earlier lobbied principal officers of the National Assembly, governors and party starwalts to canvass support for the Osinbajo 2023 project.
Born in March 1957, Osinbajo a Professor of Law, had his undergraduate degree at the University of Lagos, where he obtained a Second Class Honours (Upper Division) Degree in Law.
In 1979, he completed the mandatory one-year professional training at the Nigerian Law School, where he was admitted to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of Nigeria’s Supreme Court.
In 1980, he attended the London School of Economics, where he obtained a Master of Laws degree.
Political observers are of the views that Osinbajo is the most eligible to take over from Buhari in 2023. First, he is a Christian of the Pentecostal denomination. Two, he is from the South-west.
Three, he is in his sixties. His capacity and capability to combine both politics and the economy for a smooth governance is equally not in doubt.
During the 2019 presidential campaign for the reelection of Buhari, Osinbajo took the campaign to the door step of the masses by visiting various markets across the country, relating with Nigerians and connecting with them.
His campaign strategy went a long way in winning the election for the APC whose electoral fortune had taken a nosedive then.
With the country’s frail fault lines at the moment, the Vice President has been an advocate of a united Nigeria. He is of a firm believe that Nigerians have much more to gain from being citizens of a united country than they may derive from any secessionist entity that emerges from the nation’s fragmentation.
To many, Osinbajo represents the best chance to unify the county.
Recently, while speaking at the National Social Cohesion Dialogue organized by the Africa Polling Institute and the Ford Foundation in Abuja, Osinbajo said Nigeria’s challenges are not insoluble, adding that many countries have undergone and are still undergoing similar trials as part of their historical evolution.
He pointed out that lifting people out of poverty, promoting economic growth and securing territory from domestic and foreign enemies, as well as healing communities torn apart by conflict, addressing historical grievances, doing justice and forging a common identity in a diverse society as imperatives which Nigeria must address.
Osinbajo pointed out that the long history of internal trade has created synergies among communities in Nigeria have become strengthened over the course of centuries. He said advocates of the country’s disintegration were overlooking the strong economic ties that have developed which now make unity an economic necessity.
He said, “There is now a dense web of socioeconomic mutuality that has created strong bonds of complementarity among our people. The truth is that Nigeria has evolved beyond the sort of easy balkanization that is proposed by some separatists.”
The Vice President is of the firm believe that Nigerians do not hate each other, but must resolve issues of fairness, inclusion and justice that have driven wedges between communities.
He noted that in many quarters, there are genuine feelings of alienation and exclusion. He said there was a need to strengthen institutions which at every level can deliver justice, inclusion and mutual security.
He frowned at that various forms of systematic discrimination which he described as obstacles to national integration.
Osinbajo added: “We see this whenever Nigerians are denied opportunity on the basis of their state of origin or because they are non-indigenes.
We see it when a Nigerian that has been resident in a state all his life is suddenly excluded from admission into an educational institution or an employment opportunity because he is not considered an indigene. Or when a young Nigerian that has served in a particular state during his National Youth Service Corps year is suddenly excluded from opportunity because he or she is dubbed a non-indigene of the state.
Not only do these practices subvert social cohesion, they also feed profound resentments.”
The Vice President described the differentiation of indigenes from non-indigenes as “apartheid”, while insisting that all Nigerians have a constitutional right to live, work and enjoy their lives in peace and safety under the law.
He said governments at all levels have a responsibility to uphold the rights of Nigerians and called for an end to all forms of discrimination.
With all forms of insecurity ravaging the country as well as communal conflicts, Osinbajo said criminals must not be seen as representatives of any ethnic or religious group.
He said and it is unjust to harass an entire community for the crimes alleged to have been committed by some of its members.
He argued that calls for the breakup of the country are rooted in socio-economic frustration rather than any deep desire for disintegration. The Vice President said he remains convinced that the majority of Nigerians want to succeed in their country rather than secede from it.
Nevertheless, having walked with Buhari for eight years, no one can sell the programmes of the administration better or be able to sustain the programmes of the regime which is predicated on the tripod of economy, corruption and security.
An Osinbajo presidency would ensure the continuity of the Buhari administration.