2023: Permutations a distraction, Osinbajo hasn't declared interest in presidential race

By Ayodeji Seriki

On August 8, 2021, exactly a week away, some Nigerians would roll out the drum to celebrate the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The event, tagged Osinbajo Day, which is the second edition, is a brain child of a pressure group –Osinbajo Grassroots Organisation (OGO).

Yes, not much is known about OGO, the organization that has consistently drummed support for the nation’s number 2 citizen but a lot is known about the subject of the celebration, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. In the last two weeks, the entire social media landscape has been awash with short videos by young spirited Nigerians who are obviously members of the organization and others who have keyed into the initiative. 

According to findings, the Vice President was caught unaware last year when the event was first held and he was said to have complained to his close aides. But like the proverbial goldsmith, who stays put and beats his iron on a spot, members of the organization, rather than mellowing down, only went back to the drawing board, re-jigged and took their gospel to other parts of the country. In 2021, with members spread across the country, the 2nd edition of Osinbajo Day would be a national affair.

At the peak of their activities this year, the Vice President had to tell the public that he had no hand in the activities of any organization, urging him to run for presidency. It was understandable but the issue has simply made OGO more popular with many people coming out to identify with them in the new crusade.

With the current happenings in the nation’s political space, OGO may soon become the people’s bride because it appears to have seen the future. As at the last count, more than three groups have joined the then unknown organization to wake Nigerians up and tell them the way to go. The 2021, Osinbajo Day may be the signal Nigerians are waiting for to troop out and chorus; run, Osinbajo run. According to an investigation carried out, millions of Nigerians in their respective homes have silently endorsed Osinbajo for 2023 but they are waiting for the right time and the right people to match with.

But why Osinbajo? This is a question that surely has a readymade answer. Osinbajo didn’t only have what it takes to take Nigerians out of the current political quagmire, his life of loyalty, discipline, commitment and astuteness is enough to take Nigeria to the next level.

Beyond Politics, Christianity and Academics, the essence of the Vice President revolves around loyalty. A Professor of Law, Osinbajo’s commitment to his career as a University teacher speaks volumes of his loyalty. As a Christian, his loyalty to God goes beyond the periphery of many men of God who use cassock and flowing robes to announce their sense of religiousity. That is why his ordination as a Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God didn’t come to many Nigerians as a surprise years back. And as a politician, there is no gainsaying the fact that loyalty remains his staying power since 1999, when he was drafted into Public Service.

Born in Nigeria’s southern economic hub of Lagos, Osinbajo comes from a legal background. The vice-president is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria—an honorific title equivalent to the Queen’s Counsel in the U.K.—and formerly oversaw the affairs of the Lagos State ministry of Justice as the state’s Attorney General.

Whether as a lecturer, Pastor or Commissioner in Lagos State, one thing that one first notices about his work ethic, is that he is hardworking. He has often been tagged a ‘workaholic’ because he works from 7am to 2am and still wakes up by 6am on a daily basis. Indeed, he is an early bird.

But if there is anything that has made the job easy for him, it is the fact that he is knowledgeable. Though trained as a Lawyer, the Vice President is one of the few Nigerians who know something about almost everything. And despite that, he is humble and never allows anything to go into his head. As a teacher, former students who had passed through Osinbajo are always quick to make reference to his ability to teach and dabble into various fields at ease for the purpose of deepening knowledge. It doesn’t take his acquaintance long before knowing that he is extremely intelligent. No wonder, many analysts have concluded that he makes A+ in all his dealings –as a student, as a lawyer, in government, as an Attorney and as the Vice President of the Federation. As part of his work ethics, he has never left undone anything he is supposed to do. In fact, he always goes the extra mile.

To call him loyalty personified will not be a mistake if one considers his relationship with his present and past bosses and even subordinates. He is Loyal to a fault. Under this administration, especially when his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari was away on medical treatment, Osinbajo displayed a high sense of loyalty. For months that he was running the affairs of the nation, the Vice President never overacted. He was true to type all-through, giving adequate respect and reverence to the office of the president.

One major attribute people hardly notice in him is his ability to organize people. But during the buildup to the 2019 election, Prof. Osinbajo released his managerial arsenal, which enabled him to coordinate grassroot campaigns that were felt in all the nooks and crannies of the country. Because he exudes genuine and innate love of people, the job was easy for Osinbajo and within a short period, he had warmed APC and its candidates to the hearts of Nigerians. One more thing, the fact that the Vice President is a man who is very comfortable with the poorest individual like he is with the high and mighty of the society is also uncommon among those in high offices.  In fact, everyone who has been in contact with him has expressed their love and delight for him.

As a relationship builder, Osinbajo is able to keep friends from far back in life –even friendship with classmates since his secondary school days. He knew the kind of life he wanted to live as a young man and this has always manifested anywhere he found himself before he became a family man. For instance, when he got into the University of Lagos, where he studied Law, Prof. Osinbajo set up a society called Joint Effort Advocating News Society (JEANS) and brought his friends to be members.

As a politician, who needs people to drive processes, the Law Lecturer can be proud of many followers because he doesn’t look down on people and he always believes that everybody has one unique feature. One more thing; he doesn’t believe in hearsay. Those who are close to him can attest to the fact that it would take beyond word of mouth to convince him against one he believes in. As a strong loyalist of President Buhari, many a time, political jobbers and speculative social media purveyors had gone to town with news about Buhari’s determination to edge him (Osinbajo) out. Even before the President issued a statement to debunk the rumour, Osinbajo would have come out to distance himself from such a mischievous claim. 

A soft spoken individual, Prof Osinbajo doesn’t display anxiety. Even when he is under pressure, he simply smiles without giving himself away as someone in panicking.

As a squeaky clean man in both character and appearance, his being selected as running mate to President Buhari while preparing for 2015 election has been described at many fora as a matching peer.

In him, there is no pretence and no acting. What you see is what you get. Unlike many politicians, who see lies and deceit as tools for political manoeuvring, Vice President Osinbajo has consistently declared that one has no reason to be a crook because he or she is a politician.

Besides, he has the rare capacity of distinguishing personal duties and interests. He also shares a frugal lifestyle with Buhari as he is highly incorruptible and not given to material acquisition.

When the All Progressives Congress (APC) was formed in 2013 as a merger of three opposition parties, Osinbajo was one of the few people charged with sketching out the party’s manifesto and political goals. In late 2014, Buhari announced that Osinbajo would be his running mate in the 2015 election, and the APC went on to claim a historic victory over the People’s Democratic Party, with Buhari replacing Goodluck Jonathan in the country’s first peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960.

Outside office, Osinbajo is a family man -Nuclear and Extended family. He’s one of the lucky few to have a family he can sacrifice for and likewise. Another beauty of this is that he is a dotting husband to his wife and dotting father to his children.

Finally, Prof. Osinbajo has the fear of God and he is a man of faith who believes God has a design for his Life and never struggles for anything or power as he believes that Power belongs to the Almighty.

Could he be the Messiah? Yes, he could. One flaw the Nigeria political class has committed over and over again is lack of hindsight to fish out the leader the country deserves.  Every day, we express the regret of not having a Nnamdi Azikwe or an Obafemi Awolowo or a Maitama Sule as President when we had all the opportunities. Aside from the trio, the country has, in the last 60 years, consistently thrown away the opportunity of settling for visionary individuals with measured intellectual capacity as president.  

However, the problem is not that Nigerians cannot identify a good material when they see one. We know the truth but unfortunately, we have stubbornly resisted being set free. But can we blame the commoners for the errors of the past? No. The truth is that over the years, a group of powerful individuals, mostly military lords, have remained in the forefront of anointing an individual for the exalted position of the President.

Ahead of the 2023 Presidential contest, the excuse that some powerful men and women have met and agreed on an anointed candidate may not be tenable as Nigerians are now more politically savvy and conscious of the type of leader they want. After 22 years of fresh democratic experience, one incontrovertible fact that has steadily reverberated is that many things are not working in the polity. Hence, there is a need for collective effort towards getting a leader that can help us out of this current political quagmire.

Expectedly, the jostle for presidency is hot now but the beauty of it all is that Nigerians may not necessarily look far this time around to settle for the best. Though the current Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, hasn’t not declared for, or given any sign that he would be vying for the presidency, the signs abound that he might be the ‘David’ we are earnestly looking for.

Yes, David, that young shepherded from the family of Jesse, who was not initially considered when Samuel was to anoint another king of Israel. He was far away in the farm while other children of Jesse were lined up to be considered for the kingship position. According to the Bible, “He was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So, Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

I was putting my thoughts on the Osinbajo candidacy together when a friend pointed my attention to a recent post by a senior Journalist, Femi Akintunde-Johnson on Facebook. Like many progressive minds who feel the way some of us feel, Mr. Akintunde-Johnson stylishly makes a wake-up call on Nigerians to think of Osinbajo. “In all of this hoopla…why isn’t the relatively, sanguine and sophisticated incumbent vice president not seriously considered as a strong contender for the 2023 presidency?

Shouldn’t incumbency experience and unquestioned credentials matter? By the way, just in case it’s not clear, I’m referring to Prof. Yemi Osinbajo…seriously,” the senior journalist said.

However, the calls on Nigerians to look in the way of the Vice President are not limited to a section of the country or to a particular age bracket. In fact, the first set of people that triggered the conversation was Northern Emirs and many elites from that zone, who till date use every opportunity to tell the world that Nigerians are blessed for having Osinbajo. From Daura to Lafia, Kano to Sokoto, the story remains the same; royal endorsement. Also, in the South-South and South East, the Vice-President has in recent time, become a new bride because of his proactive manners in nipping in the bud, a crisis that could have become national tragedies. 

But perhaps the most instructive of such outings in recent time was the Vice President visit to Sokoto and the speech he delivered at the Sokoto State University which summarily appraised the state of the nation, vis-a-vis the challenges and opportunities we are living with. Without mincing words, the Vice President charged ethnic and religious leaders to educate their followers to live together in peace and unity. He admitted that managing diversity can be politically and administratively tasking but was quick to add that diversity itself is an economic strength and harnessing it properly is hugely rewarding

It was also symbolic that the vice-president was warmly received to the state by the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, and other dignitaries. Though a People’s Democratic Party governor, Tambuwal didn’t hide his feelings towards the Vice President. At least, it was shown on the faces of both the governor and the Sultan that in Osinbajo, they saw a man they were so pleased with.

Giving a remark at the end of the lecture, the vice-president said, “When a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation such as ours is buffeted by economic adversity, it is natural for fault lines and cleavages to come to the fore. There will be those who argue that survival and security can only be found in the narrow circles of our tribe or creed. Indeed, it is inevitable that at such difficult times, we hear these merchants of discord seeking to divide us in order to promote their selfish political interests. “This is not a phenomenon unique to Nigeria. The rise of xenophobia, nationalism and other forms of chauvinism on the global scene indicates that the challenge of managing diversity is not a Nigerian or an African problem. Racial, ethnic and sectarian tensions are common to diverse societies; they are intensified during extreme economic conditions such as a recession or a depression,” the vice president had stated.

Since the day the lecture was delivered not a few Nigerians have attested to it as one of the most well researched work on the current challenge the country is contending with. At a point, individuals and organisations, who felt Osinbajo understood both the problem and the solution, started promoting it as an advertorial in various news platforms. Some opinion moulders recommended it for Nigerian leaders who are keen about the real and positive change.

Unassuming but focused, humble and brilliant, the Vice President appears to be well positioned to take this country out of the woods. Having been in government for years, he knows where the shoe pinches. As a university teacher, Osinbajo is intellectually endowed to provide purposeful leadership for Nigeria. Since age and all these are at his advantage, it will be suicidal to again gamble with the opportunity to anoint the Vice President and allow him lead us from 2023.

Ayodeji Seriki writes from Ilorin, Kwara State

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