Reverberations yesterday trailed the declaration of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to succeed his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, which offered a foretaste of the titanic showdown to come in weeks during the shadow election of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), to select its presidential candidate.
The dust had not settled on the momentous declaration when a deft counter-attack came from the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who met with members of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) at the Kebbi State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja.
Coming out of the meeting, Tinubu feigned ignorance of the declaration of his erstwhile political godson, Osinbajo, saying he has no son grown enough to have made such declaration.
As reported by The Guardian on Monday, Osinbajo finally declared yesterday to run for president, ending months of speculations and tepid denials. Deciding to be different, the Vice President jettisoned a formal event but rather employed the use of social media to announce his declaration with a pre-recorded video.
In his declaration speech posted on his social media handles, Osinbajo said “while on the train of duty and service, I traversed every part of our country, meeting Nigerians of every cadre, class, tribe and walks of life, both young and old; I met you.
“I’ve stood where you stand and sat where you sit. I know and I understand our hopes, aspirations and fears from a place of relatable proximity; and I believe that in those hopes and aspirations are the seeds for the great Nigeria that we all desire. I believe that the very reason the Almighty God gave me these experiences, these insights, and these opportunities, is that they must be put to the use of our country and its great people.
“This is why today, with utmost humility, I formally declare my intention to run for the office of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the platform of our great party, the All Progressives Congress. I also most solemnly and respectfully seek your support as fellow Nigerians everywhere in this land and the diaspora, as we embark on this great and exciting journey that lies ahead of us.”
The APC governors meeting with Tinubu came less than 24 hours after Osinbajo had hosted the PGF to Iftar at his Aguda House residence on Sunday evening, where he disclosed his intention to run for the APC presidential ticket.
Although Tinubu is yet to officially declare for office, he had in January informed President Buhari of his intention to succeed him and followed it with consultations across the country.
Yesterday, few hours after Osinbajo’s declaration, Tinubu, in the meeting with APC governors, intimated them of his ‘lifelong’ presidential aspiration.
At the meeting attended by 14 governors, the national leader spoke about his credentials as a private sector player, democracy activist, democrat and progressive. He narrated his role in bringing about the democracy, formation of the APC and the party’s victories in the 2015 and 2019 elections. Tinubu assured the APC governors of inclusion and accommodation in the presidential project.
“My mission here is to seek collaboration, support and encouragement of my party, the APC, for my ambition to become the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as replacement for President Buhari after his tenure,” he stated.
The PGF Chairman and governor of Kebbi State, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, who presided over the parley, said they have heard from Tinubu and would discuss his presentation. He also denied speculations that the aspirations of Tinubu and Osinbajo may have caused a division within the ranks of APC governors.
He said: “Tinubu met with us where he stated what he has made public already – his intention to seek for the office of the President come 2023. He briefed us on his reasons, his thinking and his message.
“All the governors in attendance graciously came to listen to him. He acknowledged the role of the governors in the last convention of our party, where, according to him, the governors of the party steadied the party by helping in the evolution of the leadership that is accepted and widely acknowledged as that which we wish for our party. We appreciated him, his message and will definitely discuss the message at one of our meetings.”
Speaking on consensus, Bagudu said there was nothing wrong if the party’s presidential candidate emerges through consensus; the same route the party took in electing its chairman in the March 26 national convention.
“For us, it is a hallmark of success that people are showing interest, but at the end of the day and because they are leaders of the party, they will always put the party’s interest at heart.
“We always encourage our party to go for the best. Don’t forget that in the 2015 presidential election primary, President Buhari contested against others and it was a beautiful contest. There is nothing wrong. Members of the party always want to see consensus if it is possible but we are a democratic party.
“In our last convention, we had consensus in some of the offices and election in some others. There is always misrepresentation of consensus as if people are being snowballed into positions they would rather not take.”
THE fireworks between the two gladiators in the Southwest began yesterday when the APC in Lagos State, in reaction to Osinbajo’s declaration, said the VP cannot win his polling unit.
A statement from Seye Oladejo, Lagos APC spokesman, said the VP doesn’t have what it takes to win the election. “There is no problem. We knew he was going to declare. They should allow us to go to the primary. Let him come and face Asiwaju.
“At a time l thought I was listening to a dirge until I realised it was a political declaration in a living room. Nigerians will have something to say about the scorecard in the fullness of time. The last time I checked, the Vice President was in charge of the economy.
“The only demand is for us to go to primary. Let us see how much support Osinbajo can garner from the party members. This is someone who could not even win his polling booth.
“I am not worried at all. We acknowledge his constitutional right to contest. We also observed keenly how he struggled to paint his role in the past eight years in gold.
“I’m not aware of any change in political relevance and popularity since the last elections. I want to congratulate him for finally summoning the courage to throw his hat to the ring”, the statement from Oladejo read in full.
Responding, Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, said the Vice President is no longer a member of the Lagos chapter of the party. Akande said Osinbajo moved his membership to Ogun State when he revalidated his APC membership status in Ward One, Ikenne, Ogun State on February 9, 2021.
Prior to his movement, Osinbajo was a chieftain of the Lagos APC with his polling unit at Code 33, Unit 2 Victoria Garden City, Lagos.
During the last general elections in 2019, result from the VP’s polling unit showed that the ruling party lost the election to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In the presidential election, APC polled 229 and PDP 425; for Senate, APC scored 261, PDP 414; and for the House of Representatives, APC polled 190 and PDP 268.
Sequel to Osinbajo’s declaration, one of his support base has given hope of a new Nigeria, while thanking the VP for being courageous to step into the ring, in the overall interest of all Nigerians.
The S.M.A.R.T Women for PYO, which had been leading the vanguard of calls on the VP to declare his presidential ambition, said the declaration is a welcome development and has put paid to months of speculations about the readiness of the number-two citizen to lead the nation.
Explaining that the speech delivered by the erudite professor of law is that of hope, the group congratulated Nigerians in advance of a national rebirth, saying that Osinbajo’s words have actually lifted the spirit of the downcast.
The women also called on the leadership and members of the APC to ensure that the declaration is not in vain, by doing all it takes to have Osinbajo as the party’s flag-bearer.
In a statement issued by its coordinators, Bunmi Oke and Folake Aina, the women advised all intending delegates to next month’s APC presidential primary, to put the country first and vote-in someone that is already in the saddle, rather than gambling with new comers.
“Now that the man Nigerians are waiting for has declared his intention to vie for the office, we believe that 50 per cent of the hurdle had been scaled.
“We have listened or read his speech, it is obvious that Professor Osinbajo has not only rekindled hope of many who had lost faith in the country, the VP has shown Nigerians what to expect if he eventually mounts the saddle.”
The Progressive Consolidation Group (PCG) has enjoined Tinubu to stepdown for Osinbajo for the race for the exalted seat of the presidency in the 2023 poll. Senator Abba Aji, who spoke on behalf of the group, expressed satisfaction over what he termed the spontaneous nationwide celebrations that greeted Osinbajo’s declaration for the 2023 presidency.
The group described Tinubu as a great party leader who should feel vindicated that the good idea brought forward in the person of Osinbajo has continued to flourish.
The PCG, a pro-Osinbajo lobby group, maintained that Osinbajo remains the best among the arrays of presidential hopeful in the country. The group claimed that in spite of challenges, Osinbajo has a solid support base in the North, along with thriving circles of influential supporters across the South.
MEANWHILE, Tinubu Support Group (TSG) has described Osinbajo’s decision to contest against his erstwhile principal as a betrayal of trust. TSG Head of Media, Mr. Tosin Adeyanju, stated that Osibanjo’s declaration did not portend any danger to Tinubu’s presidential ambition.
Adeyanju said: “His declaration is a welcome development but a betrayal of trust to the political family he belongs to. However, he does not portend any threat to our camp.
“Our eyes are on the ball and we are counting our numbers. Our consultation continues, as our principal is meeting with governors of the party. We are ready for primaries with any interested person because our principal is a true democrat,” he said.
Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has described Osinbajo’s declaration as an “error”, accusing him of embarking on a mission to disintegrate the country. Also, another Igbo group, Nzuko Igbo, stated that the VP’s declaration negated the spirit of moral justice and urged him to seek other ways of serving the country other than the presidency.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo stated that 2023 was the turn of Ndigbo to produce the president of the country, insisting that anything to the contrary would mean pushing Igbo people out of the country.
National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, said: “What we can say is that Osinbajo by virtue of being a Vice President of Nigeria should be considered a statesman who believes in the corporate existence of Nigeria but unfortunately, Osinbajo is not seeing it that way. He has benefitted from Nigeria more than he has given to Nigeria by being a Vice President from nowhere. He is contesting for presidency when he knows very well that it is the turn of the Southeast.
“He should realise that within the oneness of the South, we have three zones and that was why Ogbonnaya Onu in 1999 surrendered the presidential ticket to the Southwest and the entire region voted Olusegun Obasanjo when he got nominated against Alex Ekwueme. It is that oneness that has been in existence and the support we have given to them should be reciprocated.”
President General of Nzuko Igbo, Mazi Chuks Ibegbu, said: “Osinbajo is a good person. He has the passion to serve the country, but it is not only by being a president that you can serve the country. He has served the country as Vice President. He had earlier served as Attorney General of Lagos and I think the country has tried for him. He should go into something else and allow an Igbo man to become the president in 2023.
He should be an arbiter of political justice. What he is doing now is against moral justice. It is a bad thing for him to rise now to want to contest for presidency. He was thrown up by Bola Tinubu and we think that both of them should go home.
They should allow the Igbo to serve the country and after that, we can decide the next way forward.”
A FORMER Nigerian Ambassador to the Philippines, Dr Yemi Farounbi, yesterday, urged Yoruba leaders to do internal screening for both Osinbajo and Tinubu to make things easier in their bid to be the presidential standard-bearer of the APC.
Reacting to the development of the two APC gladiators from the Southwest declaring their intension to vie for the office of the president next year, Farounbi said: “The more the merrier. It would enable people to make a choice.
“But if it will be difficult for us to select, there is a need to do internal screening for the two of them to make things easy for the people and the polity. Yoruba leaders should do the internal screening for them.
“I don’t share the sentiment that Osinbajo contesting against Tinubu is a betrayal. Everyone has his mission and vision for the country. For the fact that Osinbajo had worked under Tinubu but now wants to compete with Tinubu doesn’t amount to betrayal.”
Regardless of the arguments, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) has said there is no basis to conduct internal screening for the duo. Secretary-General of YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, who spoke with The Guardian in Ibadan, nonetheless, urged them to be civil.
Olajide said: “Osinbajo’s declaration is a welcome development. He has understudied the office for seven years as Vice President. He has the experience and exposure. On betrayal, it depends whether they have discussed it privately as brothers and old friends,” he said.
On the need for Yoruba leaders to conduct internal screening for the duo, Olajide said: “Where would the leaders derive power to do that from? There is no basis to do that. It is too early to do that. They must be civil and not wash their dirty linen in the public. They are brothers.”
IMMEDIATE past APC National Vice Chairman, Southwest zone, Pastor Bamkole Oluwajana, and National Chairman, National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr Yunusa Tanko, yesterday shared different positions over the declaration of Osinbajo to contest the 2023 presidential election.
While Oluwajana considered the courage of Osinbajo to come out wanting to lead Nigeria after his boss’s eight year tenure as the best Nigeria could get at this time, Tanko is of a different opinion that the contents of the VP’s declaration speech was vague and hopeless.
According to Oluwajana, “Osinbajo has demonstrated in the past, while he acted as president, that he clearly understood what Nigeria needs and also has the capacity to unite it and bring it out of the woods.”
He noted that Osinbajo had at various times demonstrated he is a capable loyal person, both to his bosses, President Buhari and Tinubu, under whom he (Osinbajo) served as Commissioner for Justice.
He said Osinbajo stands out unique among other presidential aspirants in that while the vice president in office transcended religion, ethnicity and party affiliations. “As a matter of fact, the vice president appears to be much more accepted in the North, Southeast and South-South because of his humane relationship across board.
“He is the ideal person Nigeria needs after President Buhari. He’s been part of the system and understand what step to take next if elected.”
For Tanko, Osinbajo’s declaration speech was watery and baseless. According to him, “how could he say he is running to ‘complete the task’ that President Buhari started? President Buhari started extreme poverty and overwhelming insecurity for Nigeria.
“Under Buhari, our country’s debt has grown from ₦12 trillion in 2015, to almost ₦50 trillion this year (if the new ₦6 trillion loan requests are granted.) If Osinbajo is running to complete that, then he is running to completely destroy what is left of Nigeria!
“Osinbajo said he is running to ‘provide jobs for millions’. Those were his exact words. The fellow has been in charge of Nigeria’s economy for the last seven years, according to Buhari, who boasted that Osinbajo heads his economic management team. Yet, Nigerians have lost jobs created by other administrations. His job record is failure! Nigeria has less jobs now, than in 2015, and our unemployment rate has increased from 12 per cent in 2015 to 33 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).”
Tanko also said Osinbajo claimed he wants to ‘birth the expectations of greatness’ for Nigeria. “Under his leadership of Buhari’s economic management team, Nigeria became the world headquarters for extreme poverty. We do not need Osinbajo’s type of ‘expectation’!
“Osinbajo in his declaration speech said he “remained focused on securing the country”. That is an insult to the intelligence of Nigerians. Under Osinbajo and Buhari, Nigeria became the third most insecure nation on earth. Only Iraq and Afghanistan are worse than us. We just witnessed a train bombing and the abduction of over a hundred Nigerians who are still with terrorists. Over 700 of our soldiers have been killed in the last 18 months. If that is what Osinbajo’s declaration will produce, then we don’t need it!”
Tanko also faulted the vice president, saying: “For years, Osinbajo has been posing as an intellectual. So, at the very least, we expected his declaration speech to be filled with his achievements in office. But it was instead filled with promises. Empty promises. Because he and Buhari have no achievements to show for their wasted seven years!
“Osinbajo fooled us with his empty promises in 2015. Now, he is making new promises. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Don’t forget how he was doing TraderMoni during the last elections. Did he not abandon it after he and Buhari rigged themselves to a second term?”
In summary, Tanko said, “Osinbajo’s declaration speech was as short as him, because he has no achievements, no plans, no priorities. The only thing he has are promises. And let us not forget that this was the same man who promised to create three million jobs annually. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. And Osinbajo’s past betrays him as an echo of Buhari’s cluelessness!”