BY ILIYASU GADU
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came to the position with a considerable political handicap. He had not previously contested and won any elective position either in his native Ogun or Lagos states where he has spent a considerable part of his life. The nearest he got into any political position was when he was appointed to the position of Attorney General of Lagos State incidentally under the administration of Bola Tinubu.
As everyone knows his choice as running mate to candidate Muhammadu Buhari of the opposition All Progressive Congress in 2015 was due to fortuitous circumstances aided by disagreements within the party as to who should get the nod. Between Asiwaju’s insistence to be considered for the position and the vehement internal opposition to what would have been a potentially damaging political choice of a Muslim-Muslim ticket had APC had done so, the lot fell on the until then politically unknown Professor Yemi Osinbajo a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God nominated by Bola Tinubu to balance the ticket.
But has Osinbajo used the period under which he has been Vice President to close the considerable political gap enough to make him the choice of the APC over Tinubu and subsequently to lead the party to retain power in the 2023 elections?
If the APC were to choose its presidential candidate on the basis of erudition and ability to wow the audience with oratorical excellence, then the VP will probably win by a street mile.
But in Nigeria as in most other countries, politicians gravitate towards political personalities who can count on variables like political structure, wide network of political associates and contacts, popularity among the masses, political experience, a near bottomless war chest of funds and ability and willingness to spend. In all these the VP unfortunately comes up short.
Having no political structure of his own outside of that of Tinubu which he rode on to where he is now, VP Osinbajo’s political constituency such as it is, is made up of a motley group of NGO politicians, internet based activists, the Bible belt of Pentecostals chiefly from his Redeemed Christian Church and the anyone-but-Tinubu activists who see in him as their quintessential ideal of the fit and proper South West person to be the president of Nigeria.
As for funding and the ability and willingness to spend on a presidential campaign that is perhaps the one sure area that VP Osinbajo will run into serious problems. The unflattering image of him in this regard among politicians is that he has short arms and deep pockets. There is a popular word Nigerians use for this situation and it ends with two letters; -gy. The excuses made for him here is that it is the Ijebu in him. But then the VP himself confirmed it during an occasion in Port Harcourt where he was called to make a donation. In giving out a very unVP like sum, he justified it as being in the tradition of his Ijebu origins.
If the VP scores low on these Nigerian political imperatives, what then is driving him to believe he will clinch the APC presidential ticket?
First of all Osinbajo assumes as Vice President to President Buhari over the past seven years, he will be top on the list of those that the present pencils out to succeed him.
Secondly he believes against the background of the issues swirling around Tinubu, President Buhari and the APC rank and file will turn to him as the alternative. The VP also believes he has chalked up a favourable impression as representing the new face of political figures that the Nigerian populace want which will place him in a pole position to not only clinch the APC ticket but also to go on and win the presidential elections in 2023.
How realistic is this expectation of the VP Osinbajo?
If Osinbajo is counting on President Buhari to support his aspiration to succeed him, he should perish the thought. The president has said before that he would not support any particular candidate and would prefer that any such candidates go to the electorates to seek their support. Reading from his body language what is paramount in the president’s mind now is how to organize the APC in order to keep it from imploding and further down the coming months, to conduct hitch-free general elections and handover in May 2023.
Secondly, realistically the VP has not done enough to convince the public that he can dust Tinubu in the South West and Nigeria as a whole to clinch the presidential ticket of the APC. And this can be put to test using all parameters of political measurement.
And in the unlikely event of President Buhari and the APC somehow contriving to choose VP Osinbajo as the presidential flag bearer, the party will implode as there will be either a mass exodus or many among those who chose to remain will work against the party in the 2023 elections.
This scenario is by no means an endorsement or support for Tinubu who I believe like many has deeply etched issues of his own for us to question his suitability to be the president of Nigeria as is now seeking. But it all boils down to VP Osinbajo’s failure to utilize the fortuitous advantages he had to close the gaps in his political profile and make himself the alternative political personality and force that Nigerians had hoped to rally behind for a new political dawn in the country.
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CAVEAT: Views and opinions expressed here are those of the writers and are not in any way those of The Point Newspaper – Editor