By Ahmad Abdullahi
About eight years ago, the All Progressives Congress (APC) appeared to be in a huge dilemma over the selection of a Presidential Running Mate who will fly the flag of the party alongside its candidate General Muhammadu Buhari who just won the party’s primary election. APC’s dilemma was justifiable as they were trying to bring on someone credible that will balance the ticket and make it acceptable enough to stand a strong chance against the mighty PDP.
After so much intrigue within some intense and eventful 48 hours, Professor Yemi Osinbajo got the Vice-presidential ticket to the surprise of many Nigerians. Many expressed fears about whether he carries the political capital strong enough to help the ticket deliver. Little did many know of the Professors’ charming simplicity and intelligent technicality alongside his mass appeal that saw the ticket going all the way. The rest is now history.
Like in 2015, today, we are again witnessing a period when Presidential candidates are being profiled based on their ethnic affiliations instead of their pedigrees. We are having candidates getting attacked desperately on sentiments and arguments that bring nothing to the table except confusion and division. Being a front-runner for Nigeria’s number one job, the Vice President is one of the most prominent victims of these ethnoreligious motivated attacks
As expected, the build-up to Osinbajo’s presidential declaration has been greeted by so many criticisms, many of whom are targeted towards tarnishing his image and rubbishing his candidacy through lies, character assassination and carefully tailored misinformation. Osinbajo’s attackers are hell-bent on bringing down his candidacy even before it gets started. This goes to tell how significant he is in the political equation of 2023 despite many trying hard to dismiss his impacts over the last seven years.
The Vice President has been accused of being a religious and ethnic bigot. Some have gone as far back as his pre-political life to try to convince people of what many facts have proven him not to be. If we are to be fair to Osinbajo, the man is solely building his presidential campaign on the strength of his adventures of the last seven years in which opportunity has entrusted him with a national assignment that requires him to be fair to all Nigerians. As such you cannot use any other criteria to judge him.
In his first five years in office, he has supervised and presided over the initiation and implementation of the largest Social Investment Programme in the history of Contemporary Africa. A program that has been transparent, just and detribalized. Nobody can prove that he has used his position to skew the benefits of the social investment programme towards favouring any religion or region. It is one of the rarest programmes that tricked down to the doorsteps of the poor and downtrodden across all states of the federation.
In mid-2017, Nigeria almost plunged into a national ethno-religious crisis when the Biafran agitators were at the peak of their renewed call for separation. The Federal Government under the wisdom and initiative of the then Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo conducted a series of consultative meetings with various groups of leaders and people of societal influence across the country to make sure that the situation is tamed and controlled. Osinbajo tirelessly interacted separately with leaders of thought from the North and the South East, traditional and religious leaders from the same regions as well as all 36 state governors. This was no doubt a big positive step that even the opposition Peoples Democratic Party commended.
In their first tenure, Osinbajo’s same Christian constituency which some believe he is favouring accused him of working with President Buhari to Islamize Nigeria. The outcries became so worrisome that Osinbajo made a public clarification. He said that one day, he woke up around 6:00 am in the morning and saw a text message on his phone sent by a renowned Christian leader who said to him that one day he will account for his actions of allowing Muslims to dominate and take over the government of Nigeria. The Vice President has passed through all this only now to be labelled a Christian bigot.
He further said that he wondered what informed that sort of message while statistics show that there are two more Christians than Muslims in Buhari’s cabinet as of then. He cited an example of a time when a Northern Senator visited President Buhari in his presence and complained bitterly about the marginalization of his people. He however left with the embarrassing information that North West, his zone was leading in the number of heads of government parastatals with 47, followed by South West, South-South, South East, North East and then North Central. Why didn’t this senator do his homework before complaining? Misinformation.
I remember in one of our interactions with him in the last two years, he said if Nigeria disintegrates into smaller countries that can be run over at will by powerful ones, every region will be disadvantaged in different proportions. He, therefore, said our strengths lie in our diversities, number and size. He gave the example of Lagos State’s economy being six times bigger than that of Rwanda despite all the so-called giant strides recorded by Paul Kagame over the years. He emphasized that the country needs not to disintegrate into smaller parts for people to have the opportunity of holding public office and if it is his face or that of President Buhari you dislike that you want secession, then know that, their days in office are numbered but Nigeria can live forever.
As Acting President, he made one of the most diplomatic and yet authoritative efforts to save Nigeria from untimely disintegration in 2017. He brought together all political, traditional and professional stakeholders in Aso Rock to further boost their confidence in the Nigerian Project. Therefore, no one can question his resolve for national unity and integration.
I think the Vice President can be accused of anything but not religious, regional or ethnic bigotry. If anything, he is perhaps the most qualified Nigerian among those seeking the Presidency. He is the first and only Professor to become President or Vice President in Nigeria and has so far adequately demonstrated why the most educated among us need to be allowed to serve at the highest level. He is the most adequately educated and professionally inclined Presidential hopeful among the very top living Nigerians today.
The Vice President has delivered within the limit of authority, opportunity and responsibility at his disposal. He has spent seven solid years serving Nigerians and the President with uncommon patience, dedication and humility. He has never been disappointed in any task assigned to him. Unlike many Presidential hopefuls who are planning to run from regional, religious, political and selfish motivations, the VP plans to become a true Nigerian candidate and a president for all Nigerians.
That he has been to almost every Local Government in Nigeria is not and cannot be an exaggeration. His long-life push for justice reform in Nigeria has taken him to so many nooks and crannies in the country, The trader and market Moni social investment programmes have seen him monitor and visit rural and remote areas that even ward councillors may not fancy going. The same people who accused him of show-off and pretence when he was making such visits are now the ones denying he ever embarked on such visits.
That he has declared to continue from where the President Buhari has stopped is a diplomatic way of saying that he is the man who understands all the successes of this administration and is in a better position to build on them, and also the man who understands all its shortcomings and is in a better position to make up for them. However, some are hell-bent on twisting the narrative.
Those accusing him of political betrayal are tactically telling Nigerians that the Presidency is the birthright of some mighty individuals and it is, therefore, a crime for ordinary people like Osinbajo to make an attempt on it. What some people are having very difficulty swallowing is why will an ordinary teacher and lawyer who is not even a former governor or ex-minister and has become Vice president just become President? Who is he? But they forget, that power belongs to God.
The 2023 presidential election would have been won and lost by this time next year. It may be Osinbajo or anyone else. However, it is clear even to his worst enemies that the Vice President has all the required credentials to make a good President. Deploying arsenals of calumny campaigns to stop him will not work, only divine destiny can do that.
The writer is the Team Lead of the Osinbajo-Face of Hope Project. He can be contacted via email@example.com.