In the run-up to the 2015 elections when the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC), having elected Muhammadu Buhari as their presidential candidate at the party’s first convention in Lagos, grandees of the party were trying to select who to run with him. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who had played a great part both in the merger of the political parties that formed the APC and in swinging the votes of the South West delegates to enable Buhari clinch the party presidential nomination wanted the position. He wanted it as a reward for his efforts and also to put him in pole position to eventually succeed Muhammadu Buhari at the end of his probable constitutionally allowed eight-year tenure should he win the 2015 elections. And Asiwaju Tinubu was not only adamant on his demands, but he was also as some party insiders say, willing to break the party if he was not allowed to have his way.
APC party stalwarts were equally insistent in their opposition to Tinubu. They pointed out that apart from the fact that within the context of Nigeria’s political circumstances, a Muslim-Muslim ticket consisting of Buhari and Tinubu would not sink well with the Nigerian voters and in the event of that, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would have no difficulty in roasting the APC at the polls.
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With the numbers ranged against him and the superiority of the argument proffered by those opposed to him in the APC, Tinubu reluctantly agreed to stand down his position and with the honour accorded him to nominate a candidate as Buhari’s running mate, he chose Professor Yemi Osinbajo, former Attorney-General of Lagos and his protégé.
Tinubu’s choice of Osinbajo was strategic. Apart from being a Christian, as a relative political neophyte with no structures of his own, Tinubu reckoned that Osinbajo as Vice President would find it hard to raise the necessary political capital to pose any significant threat to his abiding presidential aspiration, which he hoped to re-launch towards the end of a probable Buhari Presidency from 2022 to 2023 by his calculations.
And for good measure, Tinubu decided to take two steps; to cold-shoulder Osinbajo so as not to encourage and make him feel comfortable enough to develop ideas of seeking to eventually succeed Buhari, and also to infiltrate Osinbajo’s camp with a network of informers who will report on every move he makes.
Sure enough, Tinubu and his camp have remained steadfast in the observance of these steps such that a gulf has been widening between the two ever since Osinbajo became the Vice-President. Throughout the reported travails of the Osinbajo in the Buhari Presidency, Tinubu has never been seen to lift a finger or say a word of encouragement or support for his protégé.
With the declaration to contest the 2023 presidency by Tinubu last week when he visited President Buhari at the Aso Presidential Villa, the genie is now out of the bottle.
With the declaration, I sought from a die-hard Tinubu loyalist who does not want his name in print, why his principal had not deemed it fit to hearken to the opinions of many Nigerians especially those from the South West to yield the ground for Osinbajo. His answer was decidedly aggressive and rhetorical; “Iliya, let me tell you that nobody in the APC had worked harder than Asiwaju Tinubu to install both the party and President Buhari to power. Common sense and morality dictate that Asiwaju should be given the right of first refusal if as agreed that the South West should take the shot after Buhari. And another factor many people have not considered is the Ogun State or specifically, the Egba-Ijebu political yoke in the South West. Awolowo, Majekodunmi, Shonekan, Obasanjo, Abiola, Diya and now Osinbajo are all from the Egba-Ijebu political mafia in Ogun State. Infact, they are all within a radius of no less than 100 kilometres apart. Must everything that comes to Yorubaland go to Ogun State alone? “he asked rhetorically.
He concluded “Tinubu is not just qualified constitutionally to contest; he is the best shot that the South West has to clinch the presidency after Buhari. Any other candidate from not just the South West but the entire south cannot make it’’.
If indications are anything to go by, the running political shadow boxing between Tinubu and VP Osinbajo will soon come fully to the fore. And Tinubu will likely get a good run from his protégé, VP Osinbajo for the 2023 presidential race. Although the VP has been tight-lipped about his rumoured presidential ambition, both his body language and moves in the public space, however, show that he is interested and will certainly in due course throw his hat into the ring. Kayode, an insider in the VP camp emphatically told me this much when I asked him whether, with the declared intention of Tinubu, the VP may likely yield to Tinubu his political benefactor; “Expect an announcement soon. As I talk to you, I am in Kano now helping to put finishing touches to the announcement of the VP’s 2023 presidential bid. The matter is beyond him because the overwhelming opinion in the South West and indeed the country is that the VP should contest. People see him as the best chance for the country to not just see off the gerontocrats that have maintained a suffocating stranglehold on the political fortunes of the country but also to enable the country to make a fresh start with competent hands, which the VP is and represents. The VP is not only eminently qualified, as Vice President to Buhari for seven years now but there is also no reason to expect him not to take interest in succeeding his Oga’’.
The die is cast as they say, between Tinubu and Osinbajo. In context, this promises to be one of the very important subplots in the race for the 2023 presidential elections. Indeed, for President Buhari, the APC and Nigeria by extension, this is the deciding political issue. If Tinubu does not get the APC ticket, expect an implosion in the party and further political crises in the polity. As APC presidential candidate providing the party does not disintegrate, VP Osinbajo will struggle against a formidable candidate that the opposition PDP will likely field in the run-up to the 2023 polls.
We are certainly living in interesting times.