By Yekini Olugbenro
The 2023 general election is less than 14 months away. This presupposes that political activities involving politicians and many others jostling for one elective post or the other, would rev up in the weeks and months ahead.
As a prelude, politicians, political proxies and fronts and entrenched interests across the political spectrum are already pitching tents with their preferred aspirants.
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Of all the elective seats up for grabs, unarguably the biggest apple that has captured the most interest is the presidential race and likely contenders. The two most prominent figures on the lips of many Nigerians are the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
About 16 months to the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s two-term tenure, it is expected that his successor will be from the Southern region of the country in deference to the rotational arrangement, accepted in principle by political actors as the best way to sustain the country’s unity, peace and stability.
While the two dominant political parties – the ruling APC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have not taken a definitive position on which zone will produce its presidential candidates – it is almost settled that the APC has no choice than to zone its ticket to the South.
Not surprisingly, the list of possible presidential aspirants in the APC from the South is swelling by the day, but without a doubt, Asiwaju Tinubu is the biggest front liner in the party on account of the groundswell of support he enjoys across the six geo-political zones.
Also, it is becoming clear that Vice President Osinbajo is interested in succeeding his boss, if the avalanche of support groups rooting for him is anything to go by.
Not ruled out in the race in the APC include Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi, and Senators Ibikunle Amosun, Orji Uzor Kalu and Rochas Okorocha, respectively.
It is important to stress that all the aforementioned political players have the inalienable rights to pursue their ambition without let or hindrance.
However, there is a disturbing trend from proxies and agents promoting Professor Osinbajo’s purported aspiration who, very uncharitably, are comparing the chances of the Vice President and Asiwaju Tinubu in manners that deliberately muddle the water and stand logic on its head.
It is not out of place that those supporting Professor Osinbajo expect a natural progression that he takes over from President Muhammadu Buhari after serving as VP for eight years. But as desirable as this may be, these cheerleaders must recognise that the Presidency of Nigeria is not same as the Olubadan of Ibadan’s throne, which is filled by the next-in-line to the departed King.
In presidential democracies, particularly the United States from where we copied our brand of democracy, except in the instance of death and resignation of a sitting president, not up to three Vice Presidents have moved up the ladder to be President in the country’s history.
The only Vice President, one can easily recall, who was elected President to succeed his boss was President George Bush (Snr), after the expiration of the two-term tenure of President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
Like the US constitution, the Nigerian Constitution does not stipulate that a Vice President must automatically succeed his or her Principal, which makes the argument that Professor Osinbajo must succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 rather hollow.
Lest we forget, Professor Osinbajo served Tinubu for eight years as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and attained his current political status on the generosity of spirit and magnanimity of Asiwaju Tinubu. Quite obviously, the VP is only waiting and banking on the support of Asiwaju Tinubu to even have a fair chance of seeking the APC presidential ticket. The incontrovertible fact remains that Professor Osinbajo lacks the political infrastructure and brinkmanship to win a presidential election in Nigeria.
Seriously speaking, if the presidential ticket of APC will be a dividend payout in a quoted company where shareholders are paid based on equity/shareholding structure, then it should be Asiwaju’s for the asking, as he and President Muhammadu Buhari are the biggest investors in the APC. This fact remains what is: the fact.
That goes without saying that President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu are the two main propelling factors that orchestrated the merger of the political parties that fused to form APC.
It is also a fact that Tinubu’s enormous human and material contributions to APC’s formation and victory in the 2015 general elections will remain indelible in the party’s history. Again, the fact remains what it is: the fact.
Putting it more unambiguously, it is a futile exercise trying to compare the former Lagos State Governor with Professor Osinbajo. Those who have embarked on this illusory voyage should be told in unmistakable terms that it is a journey to nowhere. The more they labour to do this, the more they, advertently or inadvertently, diminish the Vice President.
Tinubu towers head and shoulders above Osinbajo using all parameters. In political organisation, mobilisation and continuous investment in people, there is no politician in Nigeria in the last two two decades that comes anywhere close to the APC National Leader. This fact is not debatable.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s campaigners are doing a huge disservice to him and the values he represents with their recurring and sponsored media comparison of his presidential bid with Asiwaju’s.
Without the moral argument which weighs heavily against the Vice President should he decides to seek the APC presidential ticket against his political benefactor, it is a no- brainer that he cannot withstand Asiwaju Tinubu in any political contest.
It is necessary to rejig people’s memories that the VP lost his polling unit in the 2019 Presidential Election within his Victoria Garden City Estate in Lagos. And this was an election where he was on the ballot as vice presidential candidate of his party! What better way can the electoral value of a candidate be measured other than making his immediate locality an impregnable electoral fortress to penetrate for opponents. Politics, we are told, is local after all.
From 1999 when he was elected as governor till date, Asiwaju Tinubu has led his party to victories in all elections conducted in Lagos. When Hurricane Obasanjo overwhelmed the South West like a tornado in 2003, Tinubu was the only man standing. Like a political Field Marshal, he also led his ‘troops’ to regain lost electoral grounds in Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and up to Edo States.
More significantly, he became the moving spirit in the consummation of the opposition party that swept a jaded and self-conceited PDP out of power in 2015. That feat, the first in Nigeria’s history, remains an epoch.
In terms of political ‘I Owe You,’ Asiwaju Tinubu boasts abundance of cheques to cash within and outside his party if he chooses to throw his hat into the ring of presidential contest come next year.