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2023: Challenges before Osinbajo

No doubt, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is one of the forces to reckon with in the politics of 2023 general elections as the race to…

No doubt, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is one of the forces to reckon with in the politics of 2023 general elections as the race to pick the sole presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) gathers momentum.

Though Osinbajo, a lawyer, politician and pastor, is yet to declare his intention to run for the office of president in 2023, many support groups and individuals have sprung up rooting for him.

His support groups have been consulting stakeholders across the country despite the declaration by the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for president in 2023.

Tinubu had nominated Osinbajo in 2015 as President Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate to douse the concern over the Muslim-Muslim ticket at the time.

The ambition of the 64-year-old Professor of Law who has been serving as Vice President since 2015, is said to be strongly backed by some Northern emirs and four governors from the North; two from the North West and two from the North Central because of what they see as his “uncommon loyalty” to the president.

Can Osinbajo enjoy a smooth sail into the presidential office? This is a poser that can be answered if he can address some challenges, which analysts have identified ahead of his reported ambition to succeed President Buhari.

Daily Trust in this piece highlights some of the challenges the politician who hails from Ogun State but lives in Lagos State must tackle to realise the ambition to occupy the number one seat in Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The Tinubu factor

Pundits say the first major hurdle Osinbajo must cross is the presidential ambition of his benefactor, Tinubu, who seems to enjoy more popularity in the North and the South West having remained in the opposition before the APC defeated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 general elections, after 16 years’ grip on power at the centre.

They believe that Osinbajo, who served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice under Tinubu, must strive to get the support of the former governor of Lagos State to brighten his chances at the coming presidential primary of the APC and 2023 general elections.

Another cogent reason why the vice president must get the backing of his benefactor is the fact that he seems to have full control of the party structure in Lagos State and enjoy the support of more incumbent and former governors in the ruling party who determine where the pendulum swings.

However, pundits say the possibility of a truce is being jeopardised by not only the campaigns of calumny being championed by the supporters of the two leading contenders for the APC presidential ticket but also the declaration of Tinubu that the desire to become president was a lifelong ambition when he spoke after a meeting with the president on January 10.

The Jagaban Borgu, while reacting to a question on the president’s response to his ambition, had said: “That’s our business. He is a democrat. He didn’t ask me to stop. He didn’t ask me not to attempt and pursue my ambition, is a lifelong ambition.

“So, why do I expect him to say more than that? You are running a democratic dispensation and you must adopt the principles and the values and the virtues of democracy. That’s it.”

Fear of marginalisation

One herculean task before the vice president’s reported dream is the fear of marginalisation from the Muslim community in Nigeria; because as a well-known pentecostal Pastor, he has never hidden his religious inclination, unlike typical Nigerian politicians.

Osinbajo is the pastor in charge of the Lagos Province 48 (Olive Tree provincial headquarters) of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a factor that worked for him in 2015.

The APC settled for a popular pastor as the president’s running mate to assure the Christian community at a time the party had been projected as a “Janjaweed” and “Muslim political party” by the party in power.

Nigeria has continued to witness stiff competition between the two main religions: Islam and Christianity. This development has nurtured the ground for mutual suspicion among the adherents of the two religions as every action of government in power is always scrutinised, leading to popular terms such as “Islamisation” and “Christianisation” agenda.

In his South West zone, political analysts say he needs to assure the Muslims that the issue of Hijab wearing by female students among other controversial matters threatening peaceful co-existence in the region would be allowed in public schools without interference in matters seen as fundamental human rights enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.   

However, the attendance of Osinbajo at  the 2019 Interfaith Religious Dialogue on “Promoting Religious Tolerance and Acceptance” organised by the embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Abuja; the General Assembly of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), and reception of a delegation from the Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC) led by its Executive Chairman, Mr Disu Kamor, in 2021 were seen as subtle moves by the cleric-turned politician to assure the Muslim Community of his commitment to the promotion of peacebuilding and interfaith cohesion.

Secure PMB’s backing and Villa ‘cabal’

Pundits say the support of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and his close think-thank popularly call ‘Villa cabal’ will boost the chances of Osinbajo to secure the APC presidential ticket.

They say he needs to get the backing of  the ‘cabal’ who is said to have been angered while acting as President. The situation is said to be responsible for the decision not to trust him with power again when the president is on medical leave of less than three weeks.

Before the present situation, he had taken serious decisions relating to governance in the past.

It was while the vice president was acting president that he 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. 

The Senate under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki, however, rejected Magu after many months of politicking. 

It was also while Osinbajo was 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. Onnoghen was confirmed but sacked in a controversial manner before the 2019 general elections.

Similarly, while acting as president, Osinbajo in August 2018 sacked the Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Lawal Daura, one of the most powerful kitchen cabinet members of the administration following the invasion of the National Assembly by operatives of the service. 

Sources at the villa claimed that the sacking of Daura angered the people around the president, hence the decision never to hand over to him again to serve as acting president.

Daily Trust reports that due to heightened suspicion, Professor Osinbajo had through a memo in September 2019 received a presidential directive asking him to seek presidential approvals before taking action in some agencies he was asked to superintend.

Before the memo, President Buhari had disbanded the Economic Management Team (EMT) headed by Osinbajo and replaced it with Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) chaired by the Chief Economic Adviser to the President.

Keen observers say Osinbajo must now find a way to assuage the feelings of the close aides of the president since those incidents happened during the period of the late Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari.

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