A political slugfest seems to be in the offing between Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and his godfather, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as an Osinbajo support group made public and formal their principal’s intention to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 with the launch of a campaign office at the weekend in Abuja.
Curiously, after months of equivocation and outright repudiation, Osinbajo appears finally ready to emerge from the shadows of doubt and throw his hat in the ring for the country’s top job.
A major pointer to this suggestion is the opening of a campaign office by a motley coalition of his supporters.
Though some of the vice president’s supporters denied the office launched was Osinbajo’s campaign office, they said it was merely the office of a coalition aiming to draft him into the 2023 presidential race.
Osinbajo’s spokesperson, Laolu Akande, also denied the opening of a campaign office by his principal, in a chat with a national daily (not THISDAY), describing the report as “fake news”.
The campaign office, located at No. 15b, Buchanan Crescent, off Aminu Kano, by Emab Plaza, Wuse 11, Abuja, was inaugurated on Saturday in Abuja. It was decorated with Osinbajo’s banner, bearing the inscription, “Face of Hope.”
Publicity Secretary of the group, Mr. Emmanuel Pippa, in a statement Sunday, reiterated that the office belonged to the support group.
Pippa said in the statement, “Our attention has just been brought to online publications, which allege that the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has opened a campaign office in Abuja ahead of the 2023 elections.
“We wish to clarify that the said office belongs to our coalition of support groups, which strongly believes in Professor Osinbajo as the leader Nigeria needs in 2023, and is determined to get him to declare an interest in running for the office of President as early as possible.”
The group said to actualise the objective of bringing the vice president into the presidential contest, they recently acquired an administrative office in the heart of Wuse 2 area of Abuja.
They added that though Osinbajo was yet to be acquainted with their activities, they intended to operate through a new organ, The Progressive Project (TPP), to coordinate the youth, women, and other groups across the federation.
The group declared: “Ours is, therefore, not a campaign office but a venue for coordination, handling of increasing volume of correspondence, and meetings in readiness for the time, when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo accedes to our request for him to run and consolidate gains made under President Muhammadu Buhari.”
The group stressed that party chieftains would lead the real campaign in the fullness of time. It also stated that being a heartbeat away from the number one job, there were countless members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and even non-partisan citizens across the federation, who were pushing for Osinbajo to succeed Buhari in the interest of the country.
The group said it was convinced that Osinbajo’s level of familiarity with the vision, achievements and challenges being handled by Buhari was second to none and that such insight would enable a new APC administration hit the ground running in 2023.
Meanwhile, the Tinubu Support Group refused to give an opinion on the development. Acting Director, Media and Publicity of the group, Mr. Tosin Adeyanju, when contacted for his reaction, declined comment on the latest development coming from the Osibanjo camp.
Though the vice president has not officially announced his intention to contest the 2023 presidency against his political godfather and former governor of Lagos State, Tinubu, the opening of the campaign office at the weekend in Abuja was a strong indication that he might have decided to throw his hat in the ring.
In the run-up to the 2015 elections, recall that Tinubu wanted to be Buhari’s running mate and had done everything possible to get the ticket, including stalling the nomination process, after he was initially appointed by the party leadership to head a selection committee.
But Tinubu’s ambition of becoming Buhari’s deputy hit brick wall because the mood of the nation at the time was believed to be averse to a Muslim/Muslim ticket, a situation that eventually paved the way for the nomination of Osinbajo by Tinubu, in the presence of the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor E.A Adeboye.
It is, therefore, believed that for yielding the position of the number two citizen to him in 2015, despite wanting it for himself, it is only morally and politically imperative that Osinbajo would seek and secure Tinubu’s blessing if he truly intends to run in 2023. But some Tinubu supporters believe he should not even seek the office of President since he knows Tinubu is nursing similar ambition.
Unfortunately, those who believe Osinbajo should seek Tinubu’s endorsement have another thing coming, because Tinubu is not about to make that sacrifice a second time. Since he too now wants the big prize for himself and has not relented in his push for the presidency in 2023, even though largely by support groups.
However, prior to the inauguration of the campaign office, the Osinbajo group had in July lobbied some highly-placed members of APC to join forces towards mobilising support for Osinbajo.
The group, in a letter dated July 14, 2021, titled, “APC and The Future of Nigeria: Why We Must Get It Right and Consider the Osinbajo Option in 2023,” and jointly signed by its National Coordinator, Mr. Ahmed Mohammed, and National Secretary, Dr. Eberechukwu Dibia, said there was need for early preparations towards ensuring that Osinbajo and some elements within the current administration emerged to deepen APC and Buhari’s legacies after 2023.
The letter, which was addressed to the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan, and other top party leaders, indicated that several APC governors, principal officers in the Senate, and House of Representatives, members of the APC National Caretaker Committee, former and serving federal legislators, other stakeholders, as well as the political aides of Osinbajo were being lobbied to partake in the mobilisation process.
It said, “With history in mind, we, members of the Progressive Consolidation Group (PCG), hereby solemnly join our voices with that of many others in appealing that you throw your weight behind our call for consideration of an Osinbajo successor administration after that of President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR), would have run a full course in 2023.
“We believe – without any iota of doubt – that giving a worthy element within the system such as Vice President Osinbajo the chance to lead would not only enrich the system; it would certainly be the best assurance of stability and progress for extant developmental objectives.”
The group expressed conviction that the task of inspiring party members “towards a shared consciousness of insightful search for Buhari’s successor come 2023 should not be left to chance or last minute ‘survival of the fittest’ contests,” stressing that Osinbajo should be collectively adopted as the right successor.
The group took it a step further, when it inaugurated the campaign office. Though the support group has denied Osinbajo has a hand in it, analysts wonder where the group is getting the funding to bankroll its activities.
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja