By Olu Fasan

DAMNED if you do, damned if you don’t! That saying captures the dilemma Vice President Yemi Osinbajo faced on whether or not to run for president next year. If he decided to run, as he now has, he would be viciously attacked, as he now is. If he decided not to run, he would disappoint millions of people and expose himself to eternal ridicule.

Truth is: since his party, All Progressives Congress, APC, has not micro-zoned its presidential ticket to the South-East, which it should have done, it would be utterly irrational if Osinbajo didn’t run for president. Think about it: Osinbajo has been vice president for seven years, serving twice as acting president, Nigeria’s de facto president, to worldwide acclaim.

In December 2018, I spoke at an international business conference organised by Global Trade Review in London and heard business leaders saying that the best periods during President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term were when Professor Osinbajo was acting president.

The Financial Times said he “injected real energy into policy-making”. So, should Osinbajo have said: “I won’t run for president because my godfather, Bola Tinubu, wants to run for the office.” No rational and intelligent human being would expect him to say that. Nigeria would look more laughable in the eyes of the world.

In the US, every modern vice-president who sought to succeed a president got their party’s nomination; indeed, sitting US vice-presidents always have the inside track when it comes to running for their party’s presidential nomination. So, what kind of a country is Nigeria if, due to the absurdity of godfatherism, a sitting vice president could not run for president?

Of course, running for the presidency doesn’t necessarily mean winning it. But as I argued in a column titled “2023 Presidency: Would Osinbajo be a fighter or coward?” (Vanguard, December 9, 2021), Professor Osinbajo would regret it for life if he chickened out of running for the 2023 presidency.

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But damned if you do, damned if you don’t! Since declaring his presidential ambition on April 11, Osinbajo has faced a barrage of vicious attacks. The Dictionary defines an “attack dog” as a person who “is very aggressive in their defence of someone”. Well, Tinubu’s attack dogs have been merciless in savaging Osinbajo for challenging their boss for the 2023 race.

Last week, I wrote that APC in Lagos State behaves like a mafia organisation, whose members are totally obsequious towards their capo deicapi. Their toxic reactions to Osinbajo’s declaration confirm their mafioso nature.

They effectively declared Osinbajo persona non grata in Lagos APC, branding him a traitor. Indeed, Lagos State APC spokesman, Seye Oladejo, likened the vice president to Judas Iscariot, saying that Osinbajo’s declaration in Easter was a fitting reminder of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus!

Well, Lagos APC members must have short memories or suffer from selective amnesia. For if not, they would know that Tinubu himself had godfathers and that he betrayed them. In 1998, Afenifere leaders and founders of Alliance for Democracy, AD, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu, AD chairman in Lagos State, treated Tinubu preferentially over his rivals and made him AD’s governorship candidate in Lagos State as a reward for his ‘June 12’ activism. The Afenifere grandies were Tinubu’s godfathers; he wouldn’t have become governor without them!

But what did he do once he became governor? He turned ruthlessly against the Afenifere leaders. He forced Dawodu out of AD, having hijacked the party’s machine in Lagos, and triggered the impeachment of Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, who Afenifere made his deputy.

Tinubu will throw anyone under the bus to further his interests. His supporters are, therefore, utterly hypocritical and self-serving to accuse Osinbajo of betrayal.

Well, so much for Tinubu’s attack dogs. We must also call out supposedly independent commentators whose hyperbolic reactions to Osinbajo’s declaration border on character assassinations. I refer to Farooq Kperogi and Reno Omokri.

The bile and hatred are shocking! Take Kperogi, US-based professor and Nigerian newspaper columnist. He’s arguably this country’s most prominent conspiracy theorist, notorious for saying that Buhari suffered from senile dementia until the president appeared alert and alive in several TV interviews.

Kperogi’s response to Professor Osinbajo’s declaration speech is sacrilegious. He described Osinbajo as “a compulsively narrow-minded, intolerant Christian fanatic who nurses a noxious, deep-rooted loathing for Muslims and who sees his being in government as an opportunity to promote the supremacy of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, which I have characterised as his RCCGification project”.  He went on: “A Yemi Osinbajo presidency would, without a doubt, plunge Nigeria into the depths of smouldering religious volcano that will hasten its self-immolation.”

Woah! Does anyone really share these outrageous views? Being a professor is not just about the ability to write beautiful prose. It’s also about character, integrity and intellectual rigour. Unfortunately, Kperogi has consistently failed to demonstrate these attributes with his penchant for conspiracy theories and outlandish claims. Truly sad!

Which brings us to Omokri, former aide to former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and former President Goodluck Jonathan. In an interview with Arise TV, Omokri described Osinbajo as a “backstabber”, saying “it’s a personal trait”. He said Osinbajo was made vice-president “as a placeholder for Tinubu”. Shocking beyond belief!

But what about Omokri’s former bosses.What did President Obasanjo accuse Atiku of that caused the breakdown of their relationship in government? Was it not disloyalty?

And talking about “placeholder” and “betrayal”, wasn’t Jonathan’s betrayal of an agreement to do only one term as president the main cause of PDP’s collapse and defeat in 2015?  Sadly, Omokri got away with sophistry and phoney sanctimony over Osinbajo’s “disloyalty”. He should have been challenged about the characters of his former bosses.

There are grounds for criticising Osinbajo’s presidential ambition, notably that he bears a collective responsibility for the utter failure of the Buhari government. But accusations of betrayal and religious fanaticism are off the mark. They’re the stuff of attack dogs!

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