BY GBENGA OSINAIKE
At last, the long-awaited declaration of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has happened. He took the bull by its horns. He dared his political benefactor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and declared his intention to run for the presidency.
Before now, some political jingoists had taken to social media, poking fun at Osinbajo’s political ambition. They believed he was too lily-livered. And that he had no courage to face Tinubu.
But Osinbajo has proved them wrong. He seems to be saying, I am ready for a fight. “I have got my life to live”. He is perhaps saying, “the question of the presidency is beyond primordial sentiment”. The Vice President is also saying he too has the moral right to be part of the race.
Indeed, interesting times lie ahead; even as some clergymen have cast a shadow on the feasibility of 2023. That notwithstanding politicians will keep doing their thing.
And that is the premise on which Osinbajo is throwing his hat into the ring. But then, since his declaration some spin doctors have gone to work, alleging that he was railroaded into the decision. Some are saying he even made the broadcast under duress and that it was never his decision to declare.
Whether he was forced to make the declaration or not is begging the issue. The important thing is that he has declared his intention. We can now treat that intention on its merit.
How far will Osinbajo go? Does he have the capacity to go the whole hog? Does he have the courage to face the hyenas in the political space? The questions can go on and on. And we may not reach a consensus on the right responses.
But then whether people agree or not, it is hard to dispute the fact that Osinbajo has the credentials to rule this country. Nobody can fault his credentials. Nobody can question his intellectual capacity either.
He has over the years maintained some moral decorum that endears him to many.
Beyond his capacity to rule a country of over 200 million people, there is a need to look at his ambition vis-a-vis what is on the ground.
While many Nigerians will be too eager to vote for an Osinbajo presidency if he eventually gets the nod of his party, there are indications that his decision to run on the back of the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari has a two-edged implication.
There is no doubt that he would get the needed support if President Buhari decides to back his ambition, or if Buhari is the one encouraging him to contest. But the other implication is that tying his ambition to Buhari may mean carrying a piece of moral baggage.
Already, many people are angry with the present government and everything that connects with it.
So, the declaration speech of Yemi Osibajo, saying he would continue with what this government has put on the ground is already sending a wrong signal.
The tripartite achievements he alluded to in his speech which border on security, infrastructure and a growing economy can’t stand public scrutiny.
While many will give the present government a pass mark in infrastructure though they know it comes at a heavy cost of huge foreign loans, it will be hard to score the government a pass in security and the economy.
Describing President Buhari “as a true Nigerian patriot, a servant of the nation in war and in peace, and a man of integrity” may also not sit well with some. There are people that are just fed up with this government and are patiently waiting for it to go.
Osinbajo perhaps made that statement because he needed to curry the favour of President Buhari. But as good as that statement is, he may well be putting forward the wrong foot for a start.
In the first place, the ordinary Nigerian who does not understand the politics of governance will wonder why Osinbajo has not been able to get his principal to do the right thing in seven years.
They wonder, why has this man, who calls himself a pastor not been able to work on the release of Leah Sharibu from the prison of terrorists? Why is there so much abuse of the law under his watch? Why is there so much insecurity in the land? They perhaps want to ask, why did he not resign when he knows that this government is treading an ungodly path?
The questions can go on and on. While not putting up a defense of Osinbajo, the truth about the Nigerian presidency is that it is the president who dictates the tune. The VP is only a spare tyre as some would say. And he only acts to the extent to which the president wants him to act.
Those who know him believe Osinbajo is a man in his own world. Though he is in a political entrapment that makes him sometimes play to the gallery, many believe he has all it takes to take Nigeria out of the doldrums.
When he acted as president
He seems to have conducted himself in the last 7 years. He has not failed to demonstrate courage whenever there was a window to do so. There was a one-month period when he got the power to act as the president. For that one month in August 2018, Nigerians knew a leader was in charge. He acted swiftly and discretely taking far-reaching decisions that brought some relief to all.
He sacked the Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Lawal Daura. The sack came after the invasion of the National Assembly by operatives of the service.
Osinbajo also ordered that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the police be disbanded and overhauled while he was acting as president. This improved his popularity with many Nigerians, especially those who had had nasty experiences in the hands of the operatives.
In February 2017 when he acted for a period of 10 days as president, he forwarded the name of Walter Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
That action was taken less than 24 hours before the expiration of Onnoghen”s three-month tenure as acting CJN.
During the federal executive council (FEC) of February 1, the acting president set up a committee to force down the prices of food items as reported by The Cable.
He expressed concern at some of the inflationary rates of food prices, noting that the task force will explore options to promote its availability and affordability to Nigerians.
Osinbajo reportedly gave the panel an ultimatum of seven days to report back to the council on measures that should be taken to achieve the objective.
The committee according to a report in The Cable recommended that “there should be a restriction on the importation of finished products that can be produced locally. It also suggested that railway should be used to transport food commodities, while grain reserves should be opened”
The Cable also reported that Osinbajo was able to reach a deal with the National Assembly that two bills — the Credit Bureau Bill and Collateral Transactions Security Bill — should be passed within 60 days in order to ease doing business in Nigeria.
Naira gained strength
At a meeting of the Federal Executive Council on February 16, 2017, which was presided by Osinbajo while acting it was agreed that $250 million be injected into the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was also advised to adjust the forex policy.
Subsequently, the apex bank came up with an action plan, and also released $371 million into the inter-bank market.
Less than 48 hours after, the naira, which was exchanging for about N510 to a dollar reportedly crashed to between N400 and N450.
While acting as president, Nigerians breathed some fresh air. They saw government in action. But as soon as his principal returned, it was back to the status quo. In that scenario, he was helpless.
He had to go back into his cocoon and behave like the good boy if he does not want to see the other side of his principal. He has since been behaving like the good boy.
And this seems to be payback time for him or so it seems. Will he get the nod of his party? It is too early in the day to say.
It is easy to get carried away by the social media euphoria. Many who are shouting Osinbajo presidency are not delegates of the APC. They won’t be near the party when primaries will hold. That is the truth.
Osinbajo does not seem to have the political structure that can help him carry the day in the event of a primary. The people he is contesting against especially Asiwaju Tinubu have a strategic hold on the party. It’s going to be a tough battle in the event that Asiwaju Tinubu forges ahead with his ambition.
The issues ahead of Osinbajo however are beyond the Asiwaju factor. One of the grave issues he will struggle with during his campaign is how to wash clean from the dirt of the incumbent government.
The ordinary Nigerian is not interested in who is responsible for what. What they understand is that Nigeria is in a dire strait.
They know how the naira has become too weak to give life to the common man. They know that traveling across the states in some cases is like embarking on a suicide mission. They know people are dying anyhow. They know this government is paying lip service to security issues.
They are wondering if this government can’t deal with bandits, how will it deal with a military invasion from another country? Many are just asking, why has this government kept dead wood ministers for seven years? They ask, why does this government lack the finesse of governance?
Osinbajo’s credentials impeccable
The campaign days are still ahead. But the morning tells the day. As stated earlier, no reasonable Nigerian can fault the credentials of VP Osinbajo. His capacity to inspire follower-ship is simply incredible.
He is a person any nation would be proud of. Osinbajo has the finesse, he has the courage, he has the language.
This man from Ijebu, Ogun State, a professor of law will most likely do wonders if he is allowed to get to the seat of power. But will he get there? Will he be able to scale the hurdles?
Now that he has decided to run in the race for the presidency, he should not rely on the church structure. He has to fight on his own merit and allow God’s will to prevail.
The church is not a relevant political force for now. It can become relevant after he gets the party’s ticket. But for now, we still have to wait and watch the abracadabra that will take place in the All Progressive Congress. If he crosses the hurdle, then the real race will begin.