Sunday’s formal announcement of his ambition to succeed his boss, Muhammadu Buhari, has started to ruffle feathers and stir the spirit of what is likely to be an unhealthy and rancorous contest between the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, and his supposed political benefactor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, ex-governor of Lagos State, with the snide comment by the latter on his erstwhile protégée’s declaration.
Asked to react to his “son’s” declaration for presidency, in apparent reference to Vice President Osinbajo, after a meeting with governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC on Monday in Abuja in furtherance of his ambition, Tinubu made light of the development, replying cheekily: “I have no son grown enough to declare”.
Osinbajo, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, cut his political teeth under Tinubu, who was governor of Lagos State for eight years – 1999 to 2007. He was attorney-general and commissioner for justice for the same period. As a member of the Tinubu political family, not many therefore expected that he would throw his hat into the ring to challenge his former principal and godfather.
But on Sunday April 10 in Abuja, Osinbajo proved pundits wrong, and shocked members of the “family” as he officially joined the 2023 presidential race, saying that his “Experiences, insights, opportunities must be used for Nigeria and Nigerians.” He had earlier in the week officially briefed President Buhari of his intention to run for the exalted office.
Osinbajo said he had gathered lots of experience working with Buhari for the past seven years, and would deploy the knowledge and experience to the further service of the nation.
“In this period of seven years, I have served the government in several capacities, and I have, at the direction of Mr. President, represented our country in sensitive high-level international engagements. I have been to practically all local governments in Nigeria. I have been in markets, factories, schools, and farms. I have been in agricultural, mining and oil-producing communities in the Delta, in Kebbi, Enugu, Borno; Rivers, Plateau and Ondo; and in all other States of the federation, listening to the diverse experiences and yearnings of our people.
“I have visited our gallant troops in the Northeast, and our brothers and sisters in the internally-displaced people’s, IDP camps. I have felt the pain and anguish of victims of violent conflicts, terrorist attacks, flooding, fire, and other disasters. I have been in the homes of many ordinary Nigerians in various parts of the country. I have sat with our techpreneurs in Lagos, Edo, and Kaduna, with our Nollywood and Kannywood actors; with our musicians from Lagos, Onitsha and Kano. And I have spoken to small and large businesses.
“I stood where they stood, and sat where they sat. I know their hopes, aspirations and fears; and I believe that in those hopes and aspirations, are the seeds for the great Nigeria that we all desire.”
He argued that “the very reason why the Almighty God gave me these experiences, these insights, and these opportunities, is that they must be put to the use of our country and its great people. This is why I am today, with utmost humility, formally declaring my intention to run for the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the platform of our great party, the All Progressives Congress, APC.”
What would he do if chosen as APC flag bearer and eventually president? “If by the grace of God and the will of the people, I am given the opportunity, then I believe that first, we must complete what we have started, radically transforming our security and intelligence architecture; completing the reform of our justice system, focusing on adequate remuneration and welfare of judicial personnel; ensuring justice for all, and the observance of rule of law; rapidly advancing our infrastructure development, especially power, roads, railways and broad-band connectivity. Providing an excellent environment for businesses to thrive; taking the agriculture revolution to the next level, especially mechanization, and developing the farm to table value chain.
“Making sure that the government, its agencies and regulators, serve the business community, creating a tech-economy that will provide jobs for millions, enhancing our Social Investment Programmes to a full-scale social welfare scheme, completing the promise of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within this decade.
“Completing the task of ensuring that all Nigerians, male and female, attend school; reforming our educational system for relevance to the challenges of this century, completing the task of universal health coverage for all, and strengthening the capacity of states and local governments to deliver on their respective mandates.
“Above all, front and centre of our efforts will be the provision of jobs and opportunities for our young people. I now most solemnly and respectfully seek the support of fellow Nigerians everywhere in this land, and the Diaspora, young and old, male and female, in the great and exciting journey that we have ahead of us. I seek your own support.”
Noting that Nigeria is richly endowed, the vice president stated that “I am convinced beyond doubt that we have the creativity, the courage, the talent, and the resources to be the foremost black nation on earth. Let us now birth the expectations of greatness conceived generations before us.”
Osinbajo called on Nigerians to heed his clarion call to unity and greatness. “Let us build a Nigeria where the man from Nnewi sees the man in Gusau as his brother, where the woman in Warri sees the woman in Jalingo as her sister; where the love of our nation burns alike in the hearts of boys and girls from Gboko to Yenogoa. Where everywhere in this land is home for everyone; where our diversities, tribes and faiths unite, rather than divide us.
“Let our tribes become one tribe – the Nigerian tribe – where all are treated fairly, justly and with respect; where all are given equal access to the abundant opportunities that God has bestowed on this nation.”
First to react to Osinbajo’s declaration was Joe Igbokwe, a staunch supporter of Tinubu, and Special Adviser on Drainage and Water Resources to Governor Babajide Sanwo- Olu of Lagos State, in the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, who said on his verified Facebook page on Monday: “Let me drop it here for history and posterity: If you are one of the people Asiwaju raised up and you are eyeing the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria show respect and withdraw from the race.”
In another comment in which he attempted to rub it in that the vice president lacked the political structure to achieve his ambition, Igbokwe said: “If you want to win an election in Nigeria, you have to have structures, deep structures across the country that you have built for over 20 years. That is what you need to win the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Tinubu has a structure, just like (MKO) Abiola did in 1993; Abiola had a history before 1993. Asiwaju (Tinubu) also has a history but let’s wait and see. The structures on ground will be the determining factor. We want Asiwaju.”
So the die is now cast. Let the political fireworks begin.