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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the smooth operator who wants to be President (1)

Now that Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo has decided to confirm what we have all along thought he was going to do by declaring his…

Now that Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo has decided to confirm what we have all along thought he was going to do by declaring his intention to seek for the nomination of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket, we can put him on a microscope to examine critically what he brings to the race.

I once attended a book launch at the Yar’Adua Centre at which the vice-president was a guest of honour. When it was time for him to deliver his address, he made his delivery without the benefit of a prepared speech. For upwards of 40 minutes the VP enthralled the audience with a speech that was smooth and almost flawless in his mastery of the subject matter.

As is his forte, VP Osinbajo does this very often in the numerous public events he attends and in discussions he engages with groups where his duties carry him. Indeed it has become one of the main talking points by commentators and observers of this administration about the contrasting styles between a dour, taciturn, President Buhari and a sprightly, vibrant, articulate Vice-President Osinbajo who many consider as the only sliver of light in the administration. Give VP Osinbajo a podium, a talk show or a one on one discussion on television, radio or print media and you are likely to be eating out of his hand by the end of the session.

But VP Osinbajo is not just a smooth talker; he is also a cautious, prudent man who has demonstrated that he can deftly navigate the many banana peels strewn in the byzantine Buhari presidency with its mutually antagonistic sub plots. In this regard, he has played his cards well, by taking care not to frontally engage the courtiers of the Buhari presidency in the inevitable power games that feature under such a setting.

In doing this he differs quite remarkably from a well-known former VP who, in forgetting to act his brief as a “spare tyre’’, tried to seek the limelight imprudently at the expense of his principal and ended up biting the dust.

VP Osinbajo certainly owes all of this majorly to the skills he learned as a lawyer, university teacher and pastor over the years. From his combined career experience in all these he has been able to imbibe the skills of oratory, logical presentation and convincing delivery of a subject matter all of which has shone through in his present position as vice president.

From all indications VP Osinbajo in declaring his interest to contest the presidency, believes he has piled up enough brownie points to go all the way and succeed President Buhari at the 2023 elections. He will feel that having been but a hair’s breath away from the presidential position and having been the president’s dutiful understudy since 2015 in whom the president has expressly voiced his pleasure and satisfaction, succeeding President Buhari should be a natural and logical next step.

But does VP Osinbajo have enough political stamina to prosecute the campaign through its various stages and get to the finishing line in victory come 2023?

There are serious doubts sprouting up with regards to his ability and staying power for such an onerous undertaking both at the party level and in the polity.

First, the VP, though generally being regarded as a smooth talker akin to a motivational speaker, is thought of by many as not being an effective doer. Sure he can put up an excellent presentation and follow it up with didactic arguments on the issues at stake, but as is so often with the VP that is where it ends. The VP comes through as somebody who lacks the rigour to practicalise what he so eloquently and elaborately spells out in his numerous speeches.

For the optics this makes a good copy and the VP has tended to bask in the favourable light this accords him in the media which has obviously been wowed by his slick delivery against President Buhari’s decidedly tedious and labourious presentations. Up until this moment, it had worked well for Osinbajo that as VP he has been shielded somewhat from the harsh glare of the flak that this administration has frequently faced which has been directed mostly at his boss, President Buhari.

Against this background, there are many, who having seen the VP in operation both publicly and close up in his inner space, have come to believe that VP Osinbajo will be an even worse replication of President Buhari.

Does the VP have the requisite political capital to win this?

A grandee of the APC to which I directed this question shot back at me with a torrent of rhetorical questions of his own. “Does the VP have political structures of his own?’’ he asked me. “Can he beat Asiwaju Tinubu in the South West where they both come from and which will be the main battleground to decide who is more popular?’’ he followed up. “Can our party afford to put up a candidate without the necessary political pedigree such that the opposition PDP now hotly breathing down our necks will defeat easily?’’

These are germane questions which both the VP himself and the APC must take into consideration in deciding the political trajectory of the party in the run up to the 2023 elections.

The centrality of these and related questions presents the APC with a dilemma; choosing the VP as its candidate and possibly risk losing the rank and file electorate of the South West who may likely favour Tinubu, and the likely event of the VP not being able to muster enough support in the country at large to defeat the candidate of the opposition in the general elections in 2023.

(To be continued)

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