2023: What is it about Osinbajo?
With the presidential election exactly one year away and party primaries scheduled for September, Nigerians are eagerly waiting for Prof Yemi Osinbajo to make a categorical pronouncement on his aspiration. It is safe to say that the VP’s declaration to run for president will be the next big political news in the country.
From the schedule of activities for political parties which INEC is drawing up, parties should begin issuance of nomination forms in June or July. This leaves the VP with a three-month window between now and May to make his decision and declaration. As soon as a new set of leaders for APC emerges during the convention on February 26, Nigerians would be counting days to the big announcement from Osinbajo.
Meantime, his supporters across the country are not letting up in mobilizing support for him. On Monday, February 7, I attended the Inaugural Conference of a group known as APC Professional Forum at the cavernous Aso Rock Banquet Hall. The theme was ‘’The role of professionals in politics and nation-building’’.
The group is led by the former governor of Bauchi State, Isa Yuguda. As a governor, Yuguda married the daughter of the then sitting President, Umaru Yar’Adua. One mischievous journalist described the union as ‘’an icing on the cake for a man who has seen it all’’.
Yuguda has been a chief executive of two banks and a Minister of the Federal Republic. Prof Osinbajo addressed the meeting, which was also attended by many ministers and important persons, including Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, former governor of Nassarawa State, who is loudly being touted as the next National Chairman of the governing party. When I left the gathering late afternoon, I told myself that the Osinbajo momentum is rolling fast, and nothing will stop him.
In the last six months, scores of eminent personalities have urged the VP to run, while hundreds of political support groups have sprung up across the country to shore up his candidacy. General Ibrahim Babangida, Pastor Enoch A Adeboye, Ishaq Oloyede (former Secretary-General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs), Governor Nasir El Rufai, many emirs and traditional rulers have chipped in good words for the Vice President in recent times. President Buhari himself has recently described the VP as ‘’a reliable deputy’’.
Among ordinary Nigerians, the chatter in social media is all about a possible Osinbajo candidacy and how good a leader he’d be. This morning, a young man, Emmanuel Habila writes in a Facebook post, ‘’Osinbajo is a man whose credentials tower above all who seek to lead the nation in 2023. He is a man of uncommon ideas whose time has come’’. I checked out his profile. He’s as young as the people who stayed awake at Lekki toll gate, waving the national flag in October 2020 – the soro soke generation. They want to be heard. The VP has become a rallying point for Nigerians who are yearning for high-quality leadership for the country. He’s particularly very attractive to the young members of society.
So, what is it about Osinbajo that seems to excite Nigerians to the extent that they are clamouring for him to run? There are many reasons, some bordering on his person and others connected with his official conduct. The VP exudes the personality of a well accomplished, humble, loyal, dedicated and competent professional. He has also distinguished himself as a university professor, senior lawyer and public servant. It is remarkable that in a nation that is full of tainted officials, this VP has not been associated with any negative story. It was the same way Nigerians felt in 2014 going into 2015 about then General Muhammadu Buhari.
In fact, the only complaint ever written about Osinbajo is that he is a pastor who loves his spiritual calling! Incidentally, this is also the source of his strength. The rest of the attacks are a pack of lies, many of which even the publishers have had to apologise for in the open. Nothing impresses an average Nigerian more than an official who’s not corrupt and does not abuse his office. In our country, any perception of corruption against any official usually leads to eternal condemnation in the court of public opinion. In terms of his official conduct, Professor Osinbajo is widely regarded as the engine room of the Buhari administration. We must acknowledge that indeed the President trusts in his commitment and so gives him enough space to operate, and the people on the other had connect with him.
As we do know, the VP does not wield full executive powers, and so he uses advocacy to advance the cause he believes in, like the restructuring of the country, the National Livestock Transformation Programme, the transformation of policing and the police, etc. As VP, Prof Osinbajo is the Chair of the National Economic Council (NEC). In 2019, the President appointed the VP Chair of the National Economic Sustainability Committee, which worked with NEC, other agencies and officials to design the National Economic Sustainability Plan. The N2.3 trillion plan is credited for getting the economy out of the pandemic-induced recession in 2020. The VP is also acknowledged to have initiated and managed Africa’s largest social investment programme in 2016 in which billions of Naira have been expended on engagement for over 500, 000 graduates under Npower, a school feeding programme for almost 10million pupils conditional cash transfers and collateral-free loans to several millions of small businesses, petty traders and market women, etc.
Between 1999 and 2007, Prof Yemi Osinbajo was the Commissioner for Justice & Attorney General in Lagos State under Gov. Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Osinbajo is credited with undertaking far-reaching judicial reforms in Lagos State, addressing critical areas such as judges’ recruitment, remuneration, training and discipline. He also established the Office of the Public Defender to address the problem of access to justice to the poor. Under him as the AG, Lagos State Government took the federal government to court 12 times on matters of the right of the state and the need for devolution of powers to the states. Nigerians will easily remember the landmark case in which LASG successfully sued the federal government in the Supreme Court over the withholding of the state’s allocation by the Obasanjo administration. A lot has been written about Osinbajo’s brief tenure as Acting President in June 2016, January 2017, May 2017 and August 2018 when President Buhari was in hospital in London. In this brief moment when he exercised full executive powers, Osinbajo took many decisive steps to enhance the quality of governance without appearing disloyal to his ailing boss.
Clearly, Nigerians have seen a great leader in Prof Osinbajo. They trust that the country would be in a capable pair of hands under his presidency. Osinbajo will manage our diversity with full attention to detail, continue to fight corruption and strengthen the war against crime, banditry, kidnapping and terrorism. It is reassuring that the President has implicit confidence in the VP’s capacity and ability to lead.