By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Henry Umoru & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA—All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, unveiled his running mate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as a man of unimpeachable integrity who he said would join him in restoring hope to the country’s citizenry.
He said Osinbajo was chosen after a rigorous process that involved the “establishment of objective criteria, broad consultations with party leaders and a few opinion leaders outside the party and interactions with a number of nominees.”
A national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who claimed to have been offered the position, however, said he declined not just as a sacrifice following insinuations on the dangers of a Muslim-Muslim ticket, but as his own patriotic contribution to seeing the end of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in power.
Less than an hour after Buhari unveiled his running mate at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, the PDP blasted the APC, saying the delay in making the choice was reflective of lethargy in the opposition party. The PDP said the choice was reflective of Buhari’s determination to surrender his powers to Tinubu.
Osinbajo, a Professor of Law, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General during the Tinubu administration is also a senior pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG and a confidant of the church’s leader, Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
Buhari unveils Osinbajo
Unveiling him at a brief ceremony in Abuja, Buhari said: “The challenging process of rescuing our country and changing Nigeria for good has commenced. One of the first decisions that I have to make is the choice of the Vice-Presidential candidate and my running mate.
“The method employed in this choice was quite meticulous but yet rigorous. It involved the establishment of objective criteria, broad consultations with party leaders and a few opinion leaders outside the party and interactions with a number of nominees.
“To assist me in this great task of securing Nigeria’s future, I have chosen a man of unimpeachable integrity, an excellent professional, a man of faith, a devoted family man and a role model to our fellow countrymen and women. He is a professor of law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. An alumnus of the University of Lagos and the London School of Economics, he is a prodigious author who has to his credit several books on civil procedure in Nigerian superior courts.
“The Vice-Presidential candidate is a friend of the less privileged, compassionate and zealous in service. A man of uncommon humility, a loyal, dependable and selfless patriot.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I present Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who by the grace of God and the vote of Nigerians will be the next Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Buhari said.
In his acceptance speech as a running mate, Osinbajo expressed gratitude to Buhari and the APC for finding him worthy to serve.
He pledged to work with Buhari and the party if elected into office to restore the hope of Nigerians.
I’m honoured — Osinbajo
He said: “I am deeply honoured and grateful to have been nominated as the Vice-Presidential candidate of our party, APC, and especially the Presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari.
“I also thank the leaders and elders of our great party for the trust reposed in me.
“The task of rebuilding this nation is one to which I am fully committed. There can be no other President, Leader and commander that can lead that common sense revolution Nigeria urgently needs than General Muhammadu Buhari. I will proudly serve this country with him.
“General Buhari’s uprightness and fierce commitment to good governance is well known. It will be a privilege to work with him. I come to this assignment with lots of hope and a resolve to be a part of this movement to bring Nigeria back to its lost glory. With the support of all Nigerians and the help of God, we shall make Nigeria work again.”
Osinbajo’s candidature was agreed by the party hierarchy in the early hours of yesterday after other possible names including Asiwaju Tinubu, Brigadier-General Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Governors Adams Oshiomhole and Rotimi Amaechi of Edo and Rivers states were respectively ticked off.
Why I declined the offer — Tinubu
Giving reasons he declined the offer from Buhari, Tinubu said:
“There came a time during the course of the events when our Presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari offered the Vice Presidential slot to me. Being a normal human being, I was deeply moved and honoured that he would consider me for the position. Being a patriot, I had to weigh my potential candidacy in all of its dimensions.
“I have concluded that the interest of the party, our campaign and of the nation are better served if I retain my position as the National Leader of the APC, allowing me to be a bridge-builder across all divides. Although, I declined the position, I want to thank General Buhari for extending the honour to me. Despite all the noise and opposition around my possible selection, he stood firm and steadfast. He showed the traits of a leader in holding to a decision he believed was right despite the errant plots against it.”
Flaying the action of those he described as political hatchet men who used religion as an issue, he said:
“When my name was raised, the political hatchet men tried to chop it down with rumour and lies. Over the years, I have developed a thick skin. The personal attacks did not bother me. I am used to them. While I have a thick skin, I don’t have a thick mind. There has been one form of attack that has troubled me. That is the attack based on religion. The PDP and others have stoked fears of a Muslim- Muslim ticket.”
The APC leader used the opportunity to task Nigerians to play down on religious differences saying “I ask you to remember that too many Christians and Muslims are poor. Most of all, I ask you to remember that the true religion of the PDP is poverty, APC comes to bring prosperity to the people. Please vote for that.”
Buhari, Osinbajo’s rescue agenda
Tinubu continued: “This is a time for cohesion and an overriding sense of mission. We must defeat the foe before us and resist all temptations intended to entice us to fight among ourselves.
“I sincerely commit myself to the rescue agenda of General Buhari and Professor Osinbajo.
“Some may call what I have done a sacrifice. I call it otherwise. It is my patriotic contribution and duty. I do so with a happy and uplifted heart and clear conscience because I have committed myself to seeking the best for this nation before seeking what is good for myself. This is the creed of statesmanship I chose to follow.”
PDP slams APC
Minutes after the APC leader unveiled Osinbajo, the PDP flayed the APC for the time it took the party to come up with a vice-presidential candidate as the height of incompetence.
The party in a statement issued by its national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh also described the choice of Osinbajo as an indication of Buhari’s readiness to surrender the national patrimony to Tinubu.
“By the choice of Osinbajo, a well known acolyte of Tinubu, who served under him as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, the APC, General Buhari and Tinubu have boldly recreated their well-known notoriety for sectional and personal interests.
“It is particularly worrisome that General Buhari has surrendered his first official responsibility of choosing a running mate, invariably his powers to Tinubu even before he goes to the field to ask for votes.
“This is not surprising of Buhari, who has consistently exhibited a track record of incompetence. This is the same man who as military head of state surrendered all his powers to his second in command.
“Our citizens should indeed be concerned about this: That it took the APC, six days to produce its vice presidential candidate and that the founder and funder of the party, Tinubu, as always, had his way. No doubt, this is how Tinubu is going to impose his mercantilist interest on major decisions affecting the entire country.
“This is the problem with the APC, a political party built on the narrow interests of very few individuals. Any political party that subjects its collective will to the whims of an individual, as it is with the APC, is indeed not ready for leadership.”
Meanwhile, Buhari who incidentally clocked 72 years, yesterday, said that Nigeria had no business with poverty and unemployment.
Addressing a mixture of Nigerian youth groups who felicitated with him on his birthday in Abuja, yesterday, he said: “Let me tell you a short story: As a young army officer many years ago, I could afford to save and buy a brand new car from my earnings. Fresh university graduates got jobs before they left school and opportunities were everywhere. Today, as a retired army general, former state governor, petroleum minister and head of state, I can hardly afford that luxury.
“Similarly, if I hadn’t built my house at the time I built it, I probably would not own a house today; indeed, if I were to graduate today I would most likely join the ranks of the 40 million Nigerian youths who have no jobs and very little prospects of finding any, under the current government.
“However, I believe that with prudent management, Nigeria has the resources to meet the needs of all citizens.”