Sylvanus Foluso Ojo is the National Convener of the Osinbajo Grassroots Organization, OGO In this interview, he sheds light on the activities of the group and why he believes Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is capable of winning the next Presidential election
Why are you in Ibadan?
You know that Ibadan is the melting place for all Yoruba people so, you can’t be asking a Yoruba man what he has come to do in Ibadan, it’s like asking someone what he has come to do at home.
There’s no disguising the truth, that I am one of those people clamouring that the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo should become the president of this country to succeed his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023. So, this is a task that we have assigned ourselves and we are not tired. We must continue to do this, but we also consider that it has become necessary to reach out to Nigerians who are stakeholders in the affairs of this country to embrace this project and to support Prof Yemi Osinbajo. He has done fantastically well, and we know that as president, he is going to do much more. He is a Yoruba son and the Yoruba people must not be left out in supporting him.
How has it been marketing Professor Yemi Osinbajo?
Marketing Professor Osinbajo is not difficult. We are talking of a brand that is accepted by almost by every other Nigerian. A Vice president that is cerebral, highly intelligent, very educated, amazingly humble, loyal, indisputably compassionate and godly to a fault. Why would someone think that it would be difficult to market that kind of a man? He has shown us that with a presidential mandate, he will do more for this country as you can see what he has done as acting president; you can see what did in managing Nigeria’s diversity; what he has done with the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), what he has done with even the National Economic Team that he chairs, and the testimonies coming even from people outside of his party – the APC.
Prof Osinbajo relates genuinely with all Nigerians effortlessly; the man that is at home with every part of the country. So, marketing that kind of an individual to Nigerians who feel the need for a more cohesive country, who desire equity and opportunities, is not difficult.
Osinbajo is a household name; a man that is accepted in Sokoto the same way he’s received in Akwa Ibom; a good product that doesn’t come with any baggage or scandal; and gladly, the responses from Nigerians have been so inspiring.
These responses show that this man is loved, it shows that if eventually he decides to throw in his hat to seek the mandate of Nigerians for their support to become president, they will support him. What Nigerians are asking for today is a president that will further unite them, boost the economy; that will tun the country around and create the opportunity for everyone to realize their full potential; a leader who will put the youth to work and direct their energies and potentials to their lawful interests for economic inclusion. So that is what we have in Prof. Osinbajo and we are happy that Nigerians are the one eagerly waiting for him to respond to their call.
Many believe that the Vice President has not received the blessing of his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari
Well, you’re the one telling me this, and it means you’re in the inner chamber with these leaders. But the truth is that President Muhammadu Buhari is a democrat, and we are talking of a Vice President he has worked with for close to seven years now. They see almost every other day and exchange ideas on the nation, direction of governm toent and policies, so we cannot begin to speculate what happens between them.
We however know one thing, that these people have the best of relationship, they work as friends, like an elder brother to his younger brother. So, we may not really know what is happening between them as they don’t need the media to define their relationship. But I want to believe that if the Vice President has made up his mind, and has briefed the President about his intention to succeed the him, it’s not going to be a publicity stunt.
I am sure that the President would not discourage his Deputy. And of course, there are testimonies everywhere that Osinbajo is one of the best Vice Presidents Nigeria has ever produced, this is in view of his loyalty to his principal, his loyalty to the country and his contribution to nation-building and the many innovations that he has brought into government. I don’t think the President will find it difficult to support his vice when the time comes.
Do you remember that his leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is consulting; don’t you think there will be a clash of interest?
We have heard this for some time, and we heard this theory of betrayal and clash of interest, depending on who you are talking to. Well, if you are saying that the Vice President’s interest to become the president of Nigeria is going to be a clash of interest, then it is as good as saying Asiwaju Tinubu that we all know does not believe in democracy. He has been a leader who worked with people in close contacts, and these persons are becoming the best in what they do.
If these individuals have honed their skills and ability to possess those qualities that are needed to serve the country in any capacity to be compared with what he can offer, I think Asiwaju Tinubu should feel proud and honoured that these people that once passed through him have delivered and served creditably well and that their services are needed in capacity where he’s showing interest. Sincerely, he should sit back and bless them.
Regardless, there’s nothing stopping the National Leader of the APC or the Vice President from seeking to become anything they are constitutionally qualified for in Nigeria. Prof Osinbajo, having worked with the president for this far has received needed experience to succeed his boss.
And besides, if you’re talking about convention, as a sitting Vice President, you don’t think he deserves the right-of-first refusal as it’s done in other democracies.
Is PYO not outshining his master, going for the same interest?
Is the Vice President equating himself to be the president? He is loyal to his principal, and they have no record of dispute. He doesn’t rate himself higher than his leaders, either spiritual, political or even in his career. He will rather partner than rub shoulders with NBA, and he has not called himself the national leader of his party so, I’m not sure that anybody is being undermined.
Instead, we should be saying things about the future of this country at this point. I am happy that among those calling him names, no one has faulted his capacity to lead this country; they even christened him the ‘Star Boy’. So, he’s not a failure. We should face the reality about who has the capacity to manage this Nigeria today, how to put our country in a better state, ways to stimulate the economy to reduce insecurity and to get the nation working. If you are talking about these ones, I think the peddlers of outshining somebody will look the other way. We’re not talking of recruiting a monarch; we are talking of a public servant who is going to give direction of Nigeria. To us, we believe that Professor Yemi Osinbajo possesses those attributes and capacity. That is not outshining the leader; this is about Nigeria.
2023 is around the corner, how do you foresee the political landscape?
Yes, there are fears that certain development will not allow elections to hold but I can tell you that elections will hold peacefully as the government will do everything possible to curb the insecurity in the nation before that time; and I’m sure that if other tiers of government from the state to local governments will work together, a lot will be done to achieve this. There will be crisis-free elections and winners will emerge; Nigeria will have a new president on May 29, 2023, by the grace of God.
We will continue to have challenges as a nation, that is the essence of government, but the 2023 general elections is going to give us another opportunity to elect leaders at different tiers of government, so all of us must be looking towards a better governed nation from the leaders from who we can demand accountability. Let us identify them and elect them.
Those saying the elections will not hold are not the friends of this country. Our mandate is to scrutinize from among those coming up daily to be president, governors, national parliamentarians, state legislators and others, and see who among them is best for us. We cannot be obsessed with our challenges without thinking of how to get out of them. Our people’s attention must be shifted away from dole outs and tokenism to the future of this country.
What has been the experience coming up with the Osinbajo grassroots mobilisation group?
We started propagating the activities of the Osinbajo Grassroots Organisation (OGO) three (3) years ago, and we are targeting the grassroots people. When we started, some people thought it was a child’s play when we started calling on the Vice President to run for the office of the president.
Firstly, let me start by saying, I am the happiest person in this country, because I have been vindicated. Vindicated in the sense that, when I started the call for Osinbajo presidency, I faced a lot of challenges. Lots of antagonists, people called me different names. Some people would call me personally, some people would send me messages. Even some people working directly with the Vice President were so uncomfortable then. And I wouldn’t blame them. Anytime I bring out something about Osinbajo presidency, it gets back to their table, it gives them extra task to defend and let people know Osinbajo is not doing this.
They will just tell me, are you the one to tell Osinbajo to contest? But I kept on doing what I believe in. Today, the voices of those abusing me then are now louder than mine in asking for the Osinbajo presidency. All of them are on this project. All of us are now doing it together. I believe very soon, the Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo will declare.
Now that the vice president, Prof. Osinbajo has not made his intention known officially to contest, what if he declines, what do you think will happen?
I don’t want to believe he is not going to come out. What I have seen about the Vice President since I have been following his activities, is that he is very systematic; he believes in the process. He is not just going to come out because he wants to come out. All of us are crying, begging him to come out and contest and I know as a father he is, he will listen to us.
I am optimistic that will come out, he will declare, he will contest and we are going to support him to win the election. It’s not his calling, it’s our calling. He is not going to let us down. We believe that as President, Prof. Osinbajo will harness all the resources and rejig the system to work towards the interest of Nigeria rather than the interest of individuals.
With his vast experiences in the academics, law, governance and administration, Prof. Osinbajo has fashioned out many programmes that will effectively address the challenges confronting this nation. No doubt, he will be a bridge between the old and the new, between the North and the South, between the East and the west. He will be a connecting valve among all religious beliefs.
Does he have the will to lead Nigeria?
I could remember that for a short time he served as Acting President, the Naira was stabilized against the Dollar; and he took some steps in national interest that Nigerians were happy all over.
We believe that going forward, if he is in the saddle himself, this is the best God-given opportunity at this auspicious time to re-establish Nigeria’s leadership in Africa and among the comity of nations globally.