OPINION: Will Osinbajo Emerge As National Consensus Presidential Candidate in 2023?

OPINION: Will Osinbajo Emerge As National Consensus Presidential Candidate in 2023?

Editor's note: Danladi Usman, a political and public affairs analyst, based in Kano state, writes on the chances of Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2023 presidential election.

A stage for national debates on who succeeds the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, seems to have been finally set by the former head of state, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, over his submission on the pressing national issues, top of which was the coming 2023 presidential election and who the ideal candidate should be.

The former military President, General Babangida, fondly called IBB, had listed out qualities Nigerians should look out for in the possible successor of President Buhari, when he played up a new angle to the 2023 presidential election debates, during an exclusive interview on the Arise News Channel, last week.

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Usman believes Osinbajo will be the ideal national consensus presidential candidate in 2023. Photo credit: Sodiq Adelakun/AFP
Source: Getty Images

Recall, Babangida, popularly known as IBB, was a self-styled Nigeria’s former military ruler, who hijacked power on August 27, 1985, at a relatively youthful age of 44, and later transformed himself into a military president. How he slyly arranged to have his way against the popular will of Nigerians while in power fetched him his nickname, ‘Maradona’ and ‘The Evil Genius,’ as on two occasions, he was able to act convincingly and “dribbled” Nigerians to elongate his regime more than the period he had promised to hand over power to the civilians. The “Maradona” coinage was compared to IBB with the late ace Argentine footballer, Diego Maradona, a great ball joggler and dribbler, who scored a controversial goal that led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986.

Even, with his dribbling strategy, later on after eight years in power, it appeared as if Babangida was about to fulfil his pledge of a return to the civilian government when a presidential election was finally held on June 12, 1993. The initial results of the presidential poll had indicated that the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a business mogul, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, popularly called “MKO,” was the apparent winner until the unthinkable happened!

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Before the official results were announced, IBB had announced the annulment of the elections, a controversial decision that made his regime unpopular. It was in the wake of the civil unrest that ensued, IBB was forced out of power as he handed over control of the country to an interim civilian government headed by Mr Ernest Shonekan.

Babangida was a Maradona!

Though generally condemned by Nigerians for annulling the country’s freest and fairest presidential election, notwithstanding, after he left power, Babangida has been a rallying point among the powerful elite, and has been relevant in the political power game. For this and the influence IBB commands among the Nigerian ruling class as a former military ruler, who escaped a bloody coup d’etat during his eight-year rule, whenever he speaks, his words are weighty enough, like revealing the mind of the oligarchic powerful elite.

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So, it is well expected if IBB would stir up national discussions on would-be successors of President Buhari, even with the limiting criteria he listed for Nigerians to consider in choosing their next president, but favourable to some.

In his interview with Arise News Channel, IBB had hinted at the qualities the majority of Nigerians should consider in their choice of the next occupant of Aso Rock, the Presidential Villa, part of which is that individuals standing as potential candidates for either the presidential or vice-presidential positions in 2023 should be in their 60s.

Likewise, IBB said such persons should have a deep knowledge of the economy, must have contacts across the nation and must have been traversing the geo-political zones, marketing their acceptability and capacity.

IBB 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.”

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What this portends in the fact that among the top three popular potential candidates for the presidential position, especially within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), two of them, a former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, PDP, and a former governor of Lagos state, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, APC, both who would be in their 70s by the next election, have been stylishly ruled out of contesting for the presidential office by the IBB’s recommendations.

The last of the three, the incumbent Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, APC, is, however, favoured by all the IBB’s listed qualities. And his candidature was also preferent by a follow-up analysis made by the sister publication to the Arise News Channel, the Thisday newspaper entitled: “2023: Who Leads Nigeria?” With a rider, “With 559 days to the election, search for a new president begins.”

Top among the 30 potential candidates listed by Thisday in its Monday, August 9, 202 publication alongside the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, included Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, President of African Development Bank, WTO DG, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; former Anambra State governor, Mr Peter Obi, Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina; former CBN governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo; UN Deputy Secretary-General, Mrs Amina Mohammed; former CBN deputy governor, Prof Kingsley Moghalu; and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, among others.

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ThisDay in its analysis, juxtaposing issues raised by IBB with Osinbajo’s values contended that the Vice President, a professor of law, born in March 8, 1957, will be 66 years by 2023, would be an ideal candidate for the presidential office. Osinbajo, whose introduction to power didn’t start with his office as a VP, had been a successful public servant, especially being a former Attorney General and commissioner of justice in Lagos state, at a period he introduced series of reforms which has made the Lagos judicial system one of the best across the country.

In the editorial submission, the analysts said: “Given a different field of play, Osinbajo should have been the most eligible to take over from Buhari in 2023,” and while it listed the VP’s qualities, it said: “First, he is a Christian of the Pentecostal denomination. Two, he is from the southwest. Three, he is in his sixties. Four, he can combine both politics and the economy for a smooth run governance,” which are exactly IBB’s concerns for a presidential candidate.

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The platform though, noted that, Osinbajo, being a thoroughbred technocrat, who has no formal political base, it was also quick to establish that it was “understandable,” admitting that, “it is also arguable that he might have learnt on the job, whilst his understanding of the nation’s economy is by every inch not in doubt.”

Still, in its analysis, ThisDay submitted that, in all, Osinbajo, “having walked with Buhari for eight years, no one can sell the programmes of the administration better or able to sustain the programmes of the regime, whose ‘Change’ mantra is predicated on the tripod of economy, corruption and security, the three major monsters still confronting the nation till date, than Osinbajo.”

Then, corroborating the Osinbajo’s nationalism and readiness for the job in a separate discussion, analysts who put forward informed opinions while featuring on the Arise News Channel on Monday night, among whom are the former chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr Sam Amadi and another analyst, Mahmud Jega, gave credence to the IBB’s position, while both agreed that such criteria fit the current Vice President.

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Amadi speaking on the qualities listed by IBB as related to the person of Osinbajo, said the Vice President “is eminently qualified above the other 30 personalities listed in the Thisday report,” stating that: “In normal situations, there should be a line of succession. Prof Osinbajo has the quality, and maybe what he needs to build more is the courage because Nigeria needs somebody who can speak up and intervene more often in crisis facing the people.

While acknowledging the fact that Prof Osinbajo possesses some of the criteria outlined by IBB, Amadi said he was of the view that other candidates will face stiff challenges, noting that Osinbajo is a “is a good candidate and ought to be the number one contender for that position.

Similarly, Mahmud Jega lauded the credentials of Osinbajo, saying, “the current Vice President has all the credentials to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023,” as according to him, “Anybody who has been Vice President for 8 years should be a frontline candidate. Beyond this, Osinbajo is extremely capable technocratically to lead this country in 2023. He has all the qualities and is naturally in the lead ahead of the others.”

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