Editor's note: Public affairs commentator, Gabriel Garuba Irene writes on the chances of Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) in the 2023 general elections, arguing that the Nigerian number two citizen stands a better chance, and is the most qualified to succeed his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari.
Fellow Nigerians, I greet you very specially at this auspicious period of mixed-feelings. I align myself with the common and very popular saying in the Nigerian social media space that life is not balanced. This itself will explain why everyone will never accept a common submission whatsoever. Even when there is a cornucopia of what is yearned for, discerning opinions abound. Life is, has not, and will never be balanced. Not even in Nigeria.
Even in the imbalance of life, one man has, in his little way and opportunity bridged the linking gap to strike a seeming balance. An effort that could be engineered with stronger authority - a fate that rests solely in the hands of God. Posterity has a role to play in it.
One of the areas we have been very unfair as a people is the ability to recall people’s positive antecedents. Even when we do, political affiliation does not permit us to say this in the open. This is a moral decadence on the side of the political elites - attitudinal behaviour that can only be subdued by a few individuals in our present society.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stands a better chance of becoming the next Nigerian president, looking at various odds in the political circle. Some reasons are based on performance, some are based on his political zoning arrangement, previous antecedents, religion, professional and academic status, and the bound of history.
Before you read further, I enjoin you to get a cup of water, avoid distraction, read with an open mind, raise questions from it. This article will have it's part two, based on questions raised. We go!
In 1999, the southern part of Nigeria, precisely southwest, produced the President of the country, while the northern region had the vice president. After President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure of 1999 to 2007, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (north) took over in 2007. His sudden death on May 5, 2010 paved way for another southerner to occupy the most exulted national position. Late President Yar’Adua’s death tampered with the honourable agreement of south-north and north-south presidency. President Goodluck Jonathan (southerner), being sworn in as the president of Nigeria in 2010, contested in 2011 and won. Jonathan, haven sworn in as Nigerian president in 2011, there was an automatic alteration in the honourable arrangement in the scheme of representation. This, probably not solely, was a major reason former President Jonathan lost to another northerner - President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
Nigeria’s constitution can only allow eight maximum of years in office for the office of the president. So, after President Buhari’s eight years in office, the southern region has an opportunity to produce the next president. An alteration of this gentleman arrangement under President Jonathan was one of the major reasons he could not be elected in 2019, due to a major force from the north, clamouring that Yar’Adua’s tenure (invariably northern turn) was not complete.
After Buhari/Osinbajo’s regime, power shifts automatically to the south. This odd favors the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, looking at the zoning pattern of his political party - the All Progressives Congress. Any attempt to have a northern presidency after President Buhari may repeat the recent history of Jonathan’s enthusiasm.
Professor Osinbajo’s performance as vice p-resident of Nigeria, from 2019 till date is debatably an achievement that may not be beaten in the nearest future. As acting president between May 7 and August 13, 2017 when the president was on medical vacation, VP Osinbajo’s effort within this period was lauded beyond party, ethno-religious lines.
As acting president, Professor Osinbajo made some remarkable impacts. For instance, he instructed the head of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to reform the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and ordered an independent investigation after persistent complaints and reports that bordered on allegations of human rights violations.
We can also recall that the vice president, while on acting capacity transmitted a letter to the National Assembly seeking the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on July 14, 2016. But the Senate, under former Senate President Bukola Saraki, however rejected Magu’s nomination.
Similarly, it should be recalled that it was while Osinbajo was the acting president in February 2017 that a letter, seeking the confirmation of then acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen, was transmitted to the Senate.
One of the most notable footprints of the vice president in acting capacity was the sack of the Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Lawal Daura, following the invasion of the National Assembly by operatives of the service. This happened in August, 2018.
Under him as acting president, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo commissioned quite a number of projects. For instance, Acting President Osinbajo commissioned the Calabar nonorail, the Calabar International Convention Centre, and the Cross-River Garment Factory. On same visit, he thereafter visited the Calabar Rice City located at the Ayade Industrial Park, and also inspected the Calabar Pharmaceutical both of which were still under construction.
On July 18, 2017, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo was in Zamfara to also commission several state government’s projects. Same groundbreaking commissioning of Lagos-Ibadan rail transport project in March, 2017.
All of these were done within 103 days of President Buhari’s absence. Tremendous moves that have raised a very high standard for any acting president in the future. On this, his performance within the above duration, viz a viz his political party’s zoning arrangement between south and north, there is a possibility of him clinching the party’s presidential ticket, and probably with a 60% possibility of becoming Nigeria’s next president.
One peculiar phenomenon has undoubtedly swayed the voting pattern of Nigerians since 1999 - this is religion. While checking the vice president’s performance both as acting president and vice president, also looking at the zonal equation, one other factor is the religious practice. Most Nigerians have keyed into the rotation of major offices between the two major religions in the country - Islam and Christianity. With this, one would squarely believe that after the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari - a Muslim, a Christian southerner is the possible next president. With this, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stands tall to clinch.
Apart from being a Christain, the VP belongs to a very popular Christian denomination that can determine or pull a very huge vote when nominated. He is not just a member of the church; he is a senior pastor. It could be said, although debatable, that the huge support from this denomination is due to their representation in the person of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. They remain a force.
Outside his religious denomination, the entire Christian community may decide to vote for a Christian southerner, knowing that the outgoing president is a northern Muslim. Overlooking these permutations is a pestilent move for any political party as we journey towards 2023.
Another factor that produces possibility for His Excellency, the Vice President of Nigeria is his professional career. Some people argue that Nigeria needs a seasoned professional as the next president. The vice president may be backed by seasoned professionals and his associates in various strata. It should be made clear that the vice president enjoys a robust and extensive relationship with the opposition parties. He is being admired and respected across party lines. His call for project commissioning across the country and across party divide is a testament of the love and likeness he enjoys from the people of Nigeria.
It is a huge omission if the president’s ability to suggest and support who replaces him in 2023 is swayed. As it stands, the vice president enjoys a warm company of his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari. This, the president has severally stated in some of his public comments.
In August 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) inaugurated the tripartite committee of the APC. Making His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo the head of the committee also displays the level of the Vice President’s acceptability in his party. Osinbajo maintains a very cordial and robust relationship with his party heads. His relationship with the caretaker committee of his party is a worrying partnership to a few who also aspire for same position. Nevertheless, the vice president is a liberal, welcoming, down-to-earth individual whose loyalty to his nation and political party is unwinking.
The vice president’s role in the emergence of Amoteku – the southwest security group, is an encouraging step which stood well in the minds of the region’s political elites vis-à-vis her traditional leaders. The respected Ogun born pastor, senior lawyer and politician cares about his people and Nigeria in general. The security and general wellbeing of every Nigerian stand firm as a top priority in his agenda.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo enjoys the followership of the masses, also known as ‘street’. Little wonder he’s being called ‘Star Boy.’ His engagement with the common man during the Trader Moni poverty alleviation programme is a testament of his popularity.
These are parameters of acceptability. These are odds that tilt. Although there are few other persons that come into this equation, but the advantages of Osinbajo and his level of acceptability nationwide exceed what other people portend. 2023 elections seem far by the average man, while politicians see it as tomorrow. Only God makes kings, only God determines who governs through the electorates. Irrespective of our efforts to attain power, God’s decision is utmost and supreme. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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