12 2019: What’ll Os­in­bajo bring to the ta­ble?

Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari has re­cently an­nounced his in­ten­tion to seek re­elec­tion in the 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. He how­ever leaves many Nige­ri­ans guess­ing about his run­ning mate as there was no men­tion of Prof. Yemi Os­in­bajo, the Vice-Pres­i­dent in th

Weekly Trust - - Analysis - Ab­dul­la­teef Aliyu, La­gos

Un­like some for­mer vice pres­i­dents who have been gov­er­nors, like the im­me­di­ate past VP Na­madi Sambo (Kaduna), for­mer Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan who was gov­er­nor (in Bayelsa) at the time he was se­lected as the run­ning mate of late Pres­i­dent Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007, and even for­mer Vice-Pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar who was elected Gov­er­nor of Adamawa State be­fore he was called to be for­mer Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo’s run­ning mate be­fore he was sworn-in, Os­in­bajo’s high­est po­lit­i­cal of­fice was when he served as At­tor­neyGen­eral and Com­mis­sioner for Jus­tice in La­gos State.

So he was never a po­lit­i­cal­ly­ex­posed in­di­vid­ual, and he was not in the pic­ture when it was time to select a run­ning mate for Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, who was the then pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC), a party which came to be­ing from an un­prece­dented merger of five par­ties - Ac­tion Congress of Nige­ria (ACN), Congress for Pro­gres­sive Change (CPC), All Nige­ria Peo­ples Party (ANPP) and a sec­tion of Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) co­de­named ‘New PDP’, and a sec­tion of All Pro­gres­sives Grand Al­liance (APGA).

The then ACN be­ing the se­nior part­ner in the al­liance was favoured to pro­duce the vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date with the choice of the lucky fel­low rest­ing on the Na­tional Leader of the party and for­mer La­gos State gov­er­nor, Asi­waju Bola Ahmed Tin­ubu.

Spec­u­la­tions were rife about Tin­ubu’s in­ter­est in be­com­ing the vice pres­i­dent at the time, but re­li­gious cal­cu­la­tions worked against him as many Nige­ri­ans were not dis­posed to a Mus­lim-Mus­lim ticket. So he was, how­ever, left with no op­tion than to nom­i­nate a can­di­date to rep­re­sent ACN in the merger.

Though the choice of a run­ning mate is en­tirely the pre­rog­a­tive of a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who would ex­pect­edly choose an amenable per­son­al­ity as a run­ning mate, some­one with whom he could smoothly run the show, and who would demon­strate un­tainted loy­alty. The nom­i­na­tion of Os­in­bajo was the hand­i­work of Tin­ubu, who is the face of the ACN, a strate­gic part­ner in the merger.

So all eyes were on Tin­ubu to nom­i­nate a can­di­date but Os­in­bajo was never in the pic­ture, those at the helm of the in­trigues said. Only very few peo­ple could have given a thought to Os­in­bajo who had moved on af­ter serv­ing for eight years in Tin­ubu’s cabinet and con­tin­ued his lec­tur­ing job at the Univer­sity of La­gos.

Tin­ubu has un­doubt­edly built a po­lit­i­cal em­pire af­ter his eight years as gov­er­nor of La­gos State sur­rounded by a ret­inue of appointees who served as com­mis­sion­ers, spe­cial ad­vis­ers and as­sis­tants. Among them were nu­mer­ous favourites. But out of the blue, Os­in­bajo be­came the favourite among many oth­ers. The le­gal lu­mi­nary, law teacher and pas­tor, even­tu­ally emerged VP, by dint of fate. But on the po­lit­i­cal scene, he is seen as an odd one out.

Os­in­bajo’s po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence was never taken into cog­nizance. Most promi­nently, ob­servers say his unique sell­ing point is his bril­liance and in­tel­lec­tual depth. In La­gos, he in­sti­tuted broad-based, far­reach­ing re­forms of the jus­tice sys­tem in the state and he was on record to have touched crit­i­cal ar­eas of judges’ recruitment, re­mu­ner­a­tion, train­ing and dis­ci­pline as well as en­trenched ac­cess to jus­tice for the poor, es­tab­lish­ing in­sti­tu­tions in the Of­fice of the Pub­lic De­fender (OPD) and the Cit­i­zens Me­di­a­tion Cen­tre (CMC). He was there­fore se­lected as run­ning mate and even­tu­ally be­came VP, as well as the most pow­er­ful, in­flu­en­tial politi­cian in the South-West.

This, he achieved, not on ac­count of po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence but rich cre­den­tials; the at­tributes which his prin­ci­pal, Tin­ubu, must have seen in him. As VP, he has car­ried on his as­sign­ments dili­gently to the sat­is­fac­tion of his boss. More so Os­in­bajo proved his met­tle when the Pres­i­dent was away in Lon­don for med­i­cal treat­ment. As Act­ing Pres­i­dent dur­ing the long med­i­cal va­ca­tion of Pres­i­dent Buhari in 2017 span­ning 104 days, he was able to carry out the busi­ness of gov­ern­ment, shut­tling be­tween states and com­mu­ni­ties in La­gos.

Os­in­bajo’s per­for­mance, es­pe­cially when his boss is away, has en­deared him to many Nige­ri­ans in­clud­ing those who are un­apolo­get­i­cally anti-Buhari. Also, Os­in­bajo has never come across as an over­am­bi­tious politi­cian who might be eye­ing the seat of his prin­ci­pal. In terms of loy­alty, which a prin­ci­pal nat­u­rally ex­pects from his sec­ondin-com­mand, he is never want­ing. In fact dur­ing Os­in­bajo’s 60th birth­day last year, Buhari who was then on med­i­cal va­ca­tion in a tweet de­scribed him as a run­ning-mate-turned­friend.

Also, re­act­ing to the Tin­ubu, spec­u­la­tion that he might emerge as Buhari’s run­ning mate, said there is no truth in the re­port which he tagged a “clas­sic case of ut­terly and ir­re­deemably fake news”. But with all eyes on 2019 and the dec­la­ra­tion for sec­ond term by Buhari, it is not clear whether or not Buhari will pick Os­in­bajo as run­ning mate. This has there­fore be­come a sub­ject of hunches in the polity even as the choice ul­ti­mately is for the Pres­i­dent to make at the ap­pro­pri­ate times.

An­a­lysts how­ever be­lieve that Os­in­bajo has proved to be a loyal deputy, work­ing with the pres­i­dent and he has come to be ac­cepted by ma­jor­ity of Nige­ri­ans as a fore­most tech­no­crat in gov­ern­ment who is not wad­ing in the murky wa­ter of pe­cu­liar Nige­rian pol­i­tics. More so he is de­void of scan­dal. This alone, ac­cord­ing to ob­servers, is his big­gest as­set to the Pres­i­dent.

A chief­tain of APC, Hon. Fariu Arebi, in a chat with our cor­re­spon­dent, said Os­in­bajo’s per­sonal con­duct and per­for­mance, not po­lit­i­cal weight, would be the main con­sid­er­a­tion in his emer­gence as Buhari’s run­ning mate in 2019. He said, “I think the vice-pres­i­dent has con­ducted him­self so well. Whether he has per­formed cred­itably well or not, it is the Pres­i­dent that would gauge the as­sign­ment he has given him and how he has dis­charged the as­sign­ments. It is the pre­rog­a­tive of the pres­i­dent to take that de­ci­sion from some of the things he has done. I will not think that he was picked on the ba­sis of his po­lit­i­cal might. I think he was picked on other con­sid­er­a­tions. He has done well in terms of his per­sonal con­duct. If it had been Tin­ubu, you would say be­cause of his weight but with Os­in­bajo, I don’t think he was picked on his po­lit­i­cal weight. It could be be­cause of where he be­longed to, it could have been a re­li­gious con­sid­er­a­tion. You know he is a mem­ber of ACN, I don’t think any­thing has changed. He has be­come well known to the peo­ple.”

The gen­eral think­ing in the polity is that Os­in­bajo is the face of Tin­ubu in gov­ern­ment and his re­ten­tion of the po­si­tion in 2019 would be de­ter­mined to a large ex­tent by the sus­te­nance of his close ties with Tin­ubu who is firmly in con­trol of South-West pol­i­tics and he is ex­pected to play a prom­i­nent role in the re-elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Buhari. How this puz­zle will play out is still a sub­ject of con­jec­ture. At least un­til next year.

Tin­ubu has un­doubt­edly built a po­lit­i­cal em­pire af­ter his eight years as gov­er­nor of La­gos State sur­rounded by a ret­inue of appointees who served as com­mis­sion­ers, spe­cial ad­vis­ers and as­sis­tants. Among them were nu­mer­ous favourites. But out of the blue, Os­in­bajo be­came the favourite among many oth­ers

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