2023: How Tinubu’s declaration, Osinbajo’s ambition unsettle South-west, APC

…Why the zone unsettled – Odua Youth Forum

…Osinbajo better prepared for Presidency – Support groups 

…VP shouldn’t run against his benefactor – TSG

‘…They’ll work together, no ambition can separate them’ 

As the race for the 2023 presidential election gathers momentum, many politicians of note within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have declared their intentions to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU and BODE OLAGOKE in this report examines how former Lagos state governor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s declaration and Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo’s ambition have unsettled the South-west and the ruling party.

Since Nigeria got her independence in 1960 till date, the South-west geopolitical zone has spent 11 years and three months in the Presidential Villa calling the shots, either as president or Head of State. 

The first among them was Olusegun Obasanjo, who served as Head of State between February 1976 and October 1979; then Chief Ernest Adekunle Oladrinde Shonekan (of blessed memory) held sway briefly as Head of State and Chairman of the defunct Interim National Government (ING) between August 1993 and November 1993. 

Notably, the late Shonekan handed over to a democratically elected president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who governed from May 1999 to May 2007. So, the South- west has had two of its illustrious sons leading the country.

As the country approaches the 2023 general elections, the agitation is so high within the ruling APC that the presidential slot has been ‘zoned’ to the South, because the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari who by 2023 would have spent the constitutional eight years hails from the North. Though the APC is yet to zone its ticket, the few that have declared their intentions so far are from the South. 

From the South-west, only a former governor of Lagos state and national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, has declared his intention to run for president, as Nigerians from all works of life beacon on the vice-president, Prof. Osinbajo who is reportedly nurturing the idea to also declare for the exotic office. This has again left the West in a wild situation and the ruling party in a dilemma.

Tinubu’s declaration

After months of speculation, the national leader of the APC, the Jagaban Borgu and two-term governor of Lagos state, Asiwaju   Tinubu formally declared his intention to run for the country’s president in 2023 in a “symbolic” move inside the Presidential Villa.

The Jagaban, who would be 70 years old by 2023, during his declaration in the State House, said, “I’ve informed the president of my intention, but I have not informed Nigerians yet. I’m still consulting. And I have no problem consulting. I’ve not set a parameter of limitation to the extent of how many people I will consult.

“You will soon hear. All you want to hear is the categorical declaration. You’ve gotten that truth from me that I have informed Mr. President of my ambition and you don’t expect more answers than that.”

When asked what the president’s response was, the APC chieftain said Buhari didn’t ask him not to run.

“That is our business. He is a democrat. He didn’t ask me to stop. He didn’t ask me not to attempt to pursue my ambition; it’s 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 virtues of democracy. That’s it.”

Tinubu was also asked about his impression of a race for the APC ticket featuring him, Osinbajo and others. The question became imperative because he is the godfather to the former Lagos state attorney-general who he single-handedly nominated for vice-president. “I don’t want to discuss individuals now. I must discuss myself. I have the confidence, the vision, and the capacity to rule, build on the foundation of Mr. President and turn Nigeria better. I’ve done that with commitment and unyielding…you know, in Lagos state. You have seen that experience and the capacity to turn things around and that is what we are doing,” he said.

Osinbajo’s ambition

For months and even after Tinubu’s declaration those drumming support for the vice-president for the APC ticket have become more vociferous. Many times, many support groups have called on the vice-president to also throw his hat into the ring, many times the professor of law refuted media reports about his ambition. However, a few political observers and even APC stalwarts still believe that the vice-president will seek the party’s ticket.

A former aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and a social media influencer, Reno Omokri, thinks the vice-president’s body language suggests that he will contest against Tinubu. Omokri on his confirmed Instagram page said it is obvious the vice-president wants to succeed the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, “with the way he is packaging himself.”

“With the way and manner Vice President Osinbajo is packaging himself, carefully releasing scripted subliminal messages, and also leaking staged ‘un-staged’ photos that show he is fit and not sickly, while also attempting to distance himself from Buhari’s policies, one thing is crystal clear: Tinubu needs to be very careful. 

“Osinbajo is playing what the Yoruba call boju-boju (hide and seek). Someone tells you he does not like going to the farm, meanwhile, you see him arranging hoes, cutlasses, and gathering seeds. In any case, the lgbo man says dem no dey tell blind man say market done close

Blueprint Weekend also gathered that many organisations are mobilising and have even invited the vice-president to Kano for a formal declaration even some others believe Tinubu’s declaration remains the greatest setback for Osinbajo’s ambition.

Unsettled zone

A political analyst and member of the Odua Youth Forum, Wasiu Saka, notes that the zone is unsettled now because of the kinds of personal and political history Tinubu and Osinbajo share in common.

He said, “Since leaving office as governor in 2007, Tinubu has functioned as a political strategist and leader of the progressives who played a significant role in the 2015 general elections to ensure that the PDP was defeated by the APC.

“Tinubu is highly experienced, with a huge political war chest that includes money and a network of politicians who have benefited from his political dynasty; a godfather and one who wants to determine who should be what in the political sphere. So, for a man who has dominated discourses in the Nigerian political sphere for over two decades, certainly, the political sphere will.

“Also disturbing is the fact that Tinubu single handedly nominated Osinbajo for the position of vice-president; so, contesting against his benefactor will certainly unsettle a zone that wants to produce the next president. Politicians and concerned individuals from the South-west are disturbed because if they both contest for the APC ticket it will affect the zone’s chances.

“This is the same feeling within the APC in the South-west; party faithful are concerned about the party’s success. A few believe that if Tinubu and Osinbajo work together the party stand a better chance, but if they work separately it may spell doom for the party. 

“So, some are unsettled because if they both work in unison, it may make the zone and APC win, while others are also concerned because the contest may create a crack in their campand, therefore, affects the zone and party’s chances.” 

Support groups’ declarations 

A group mobilising support for the actualisation of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s presidential ambition on the platform of Organised Private Sector for Osinbajo (OPS 4 Osinbajo) has declared that their principal was more prepared than any other aspirant.

The group added that the task of leading “Nigeria’s economic rejuvenation towards future greatness requires an intellectual like the VP Osinbajo.”

Also, the Progressive Consolidation Group (PCG), the umbrella body of all the support groups, said no declaration by any number of aspirants “can douse the patriotic passion associated with those championing the cause of an Osinbajo presidency in 2023.”

The group’s spokesman, Alhaji Abdulrahman Farouk, said, “With Osinbajo, Nigeria’s organised private sector has a very good basis for optimism about post-2023 economic activities.

“Even though an aspirant has informed Muhammadu Buhari about his 2023 ambition, the most credible option still appears to be Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and for the organised private sector as well as the citizenry, Osinbajo offers a more fertile ground for hope to rapidly germinate.

“Getting Nigeria’s economy to grow faster than the population is going to take a lot of consistent planning, discipline and integrity, as well as great consistency in implementation, and with his sharp focus, Professor Yemi Osinbajo is expected to do well.”

According to Farouk, “The idealistic and very patriotic pursuit of various economic policies led by Osinbajo speak volumes about future potentials for people-focused policies; under his supervision, Nigeria’s social investment programmes have been ranked internationally but much more good news should unfold when he is fully in the saddle by 2023.”

TSG’s take

Also, the Tinubu Support Groups (TSG) reminded Osinbajo not to forget that he has been a core member of the Tinubu political family all his life, urging him not to contest against his benefactor.

The FCT campaign chairman of TSG, a former member of the House of Representatives in the territory, Zaphaniah Jisalo, who spoke on behalf of the group recently, warned supporters of both political leaders not to create tension in their camps, saying Osinbajo’s rumoured ambition will be sorted out within the political family.

He said: “The issue in question is such that no one can answer it. But I know and believe that Osinbajo knows what he is doing. I believe he knows who his mentor is, and whatever anybody is thinking or hearing or trying to ask Osinbajo to contest against his mentor, I don’t think it is realistic. So, we will wait and see it. And we also have responsibility to make sure that such a thing does not happen.

“You know the contest is open and we are not afraid of whoever is going to contest against Asiwaju, but as an experienced politician I will say here that respect is key.” Jisalo, however, thanked the former Lagos state governor for heeding their calls to run for president in 2023.

Also speaking, the FCT secretary of TSG, Patrick Oduyemi, said, “You see, Professor Osinbajo is a part of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu family and I can assure you that it is a family matter which will be sorted out at the family level. So, I don’t want anybody to dabble into it such that they will create the sort of tension between Tinubu and the vice-president. So, let us leave it as it is because it will be sorted out at the appointed time.”

An analyst’s view 

A political analyst, who is the chief executive officer of Societal Safety Network (SSN), Abdulrahman Agboola, in his view, said Tinubu and Osinbajo will work together in 2023 for the APC, noting that no ambition can separate the two.

Agboola, who spoke in an exclusive interview with Blueprint Weekend, explained that, “We have a major block in the South-west and that major block is the progressives. And the progressives from time immemorial are around the people that follow the teachings of Pa Awolowo. The only people remaining now are Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande and Chief Ayo Adebanjo. 

“Come to think of it, as far as progressive politics is concerned in the South-west and Nigeria since 1999, and also since the death of Chief Bola Ige, it is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu that has taken the progressives politics as a personal identity.”

Agboola noted further that, “So, the relationship between Asiwaju Tinubu and Osinbajo is not what any one should dabble into. The reality is that both of them will not run at the same time on the platform of the APC. They won’t even contest against each other at the primary; that is how I am looking at it. This is because those who are privileged to know the kind of relationship between the two of them know that it is deeper and such no political ambition can separate them.

“So, as far as these two are concerned, if Osinbajo declares it will be good for Asiwaju’s ambition. Recall that it was Asiwaju that nominated Osinbajo to become the vice-president; so you think a political ambition will divide them now? It’s not possible. No matter what, in the long run both of them will work together.”