By Etim Etim
ONE of the many benefits of campaigning around the country is to give ordinary folks opportunity to meet with, assess their leaders and profile their suitability for the office they crave. Although our vice president has been quite peripatetic in the last seven years, the grueling campaign schedule of the last one month has afforded more Nigerians, especially ordinary folks, ample opportunity to better understand the essential Yemi Osinbajo.
A day after the VP returned from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, where he met with his party’s delegates early in May, I received a call from Chief Godwin Afangide, a party stakeholder who was at the event. “I can now see why you’ve been so passionate about the vice president,” he said. “His presentation at the meeting, yesterday, was superb.
“He answered all the questions we asked, without fibbing and obfuscating. He was articulate and explicit with his answers – quite different from the boastful, imprecise and bombastic ways many other politicians speak. We were quite impressed,” Afangide, a former commissioner and Chief of Staff in Akwa Ibom Government House told me.
A few days after, another stakeholder, Edet Eyo Bassey, a lawyer, wrote in a short piece: “His interaction with stakeholders was convivial and heart-warming. His decision to take photographs with each of the stakeholders created some excitement.” Bassey is a former publicity secretary of APC in the state.
Every party member the VP encounters gets away with a lasting impression, and across the country, Nigerians have come to acknowledge that Osinbajo is a far different personality than the one the opposition members have tried to present. His demanding trips to meet with and speak to delegates, party leaders and stakeholders, traditional rulers and governors have unveiled the Osinbajo many didn’t know: urbane, detribalised, warm, competent and capable leader who is well prepared to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
“This is not the Yemi Osinbajo that Farooq Kperogi has been maligning,” said Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Abubarkar, a businessowner, at a stakeholders’ meeting in Minna the other day. “There’s no trace of religious bigotry in him. He explained his agenda to us and told us how he would tackle the challenges facing the nation,” he added matter-of-factly. The nation has been rocked by violent acts of religious extremists in recent years, but Kperogi’s attempts to tar the VP with the same brush has backfired big time.
Many Nigerians actually believe that the writer has been on a personal crusade to wilfully denigrate the VP for political reasons.
Says Hajia Zainab Hotoro: “My impression of him is that he has worked hard with Baba (President Buhari); he’s been quite loyal right from the early days when Baba was not too strong. As I listened to him this afternoon, I just believe that he’s eminently qualified and ready to step into Baba’s shoes”.
In Kano last week, the VP was warmly welcomed by the governor, the Emir of Kano and the delegates and party members. Kano has some of the largest delegate numbers in the party. Their views are important. “I’m pleased that Osinbajo has stepped out to present himself to Nigerians and his party for consideration as our nominee. There is absolutely no justification for some people to have assumed that he has betrayed anybody in this race. A sitting vice president who has served so meritoriously well deserves all the right to contest a presidential election.
“The idea that he should have withdrawn for anybody is unrealistic. He is the vice president; he is well positioned to assume the leadership of our country,” says Mazi Emeka Anyanwu from Imo State, who has lived in Kano for 25 years. He added: “This place is my home. I live here.
I vote here and I believe that Osinbajo will carry the day at the convention. I’m impressed that the VP took his time to express his points and exchange ideas with all of us. I now know him better”. The VP arrived Kano soon after an explosion went off in a cooking gas retail outlet. He had to suspend his schedule to visit the scene with Governor Ganduje to assess the damage and condole the bereaved.
Professor Osinbajo’s folksy, direct and genial style with which he engages delegates have helped to endear him to party members on the stump. He answers every question honestly, listens to every opinion, accepts shortcomings and explains how his administration would make amends.
Many members I have spoken with are impressed that the VP has owned up to the limitations of the administration. “An honest leader accepts his mistakes, takes corrections and endeavours to correct them. Every government has its pitfalls and highpoints,” said Yinka Oluwole in Ibadan. “We in the South-West do not have much to complain about as far as this government is concerned. Oyo State is for the VP”, he enthused.
It is notable that the VP has not criticised other contestants. He sticks to his talking points, presenting himself as the most experienced, exposed and prepared of all the aspirants. I am not surprised that other aspirants have scrambled to catch up and emulate his style, but they have largely fallen flat on their messages and messaging. In Markurdi last week, Bola Tinubu acknowledged that although he’s quite advanced in age, he would “not retire until he becomes President”.
With APC Convention now scheduled for Sunday, May 29, delegates will start pouring into Abuja from every corner of the country this weekend. I ask them to nominate Prof Osinbajo as our flagbearer for the 2023 election.
*Etim, an APC member and political analyst, wrote from Abuja