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
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