Why Osinbajo is APC’s best option for 2023

By Emeka S. Okeke

After months of speculation regarding his aspiration to replace his principal as President next year, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has confirmed his interest by formally apprising President Muhammadu Buhari that he has thrown his hat into the ring. According to media reports, he not only informed the President of his intentions but also added that he intends to consolidate the achievements which the administration has recorded since 2015.

This development means that Osinbajo has joined the ranks of other high profile aspirants from his ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as well as a motley of others from less popular and less known platforms. Among those whose confirmed or speculated interest has made some impact on the headlines are former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim; former Imo State Governor, Senator, Rochas Okorocha; former VP and perennial presidential candidate, who was the PDP flag-bearer in 2019, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku; his running mate in the 2019 race, Peter Obi; veteran political godfather and former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; academic and former governor of the CBN, Professor Kingsley Moghalu; among others.

No doubt many other aspirants of varying degree of capacity, seriousness and prospects will emerge in the coming weeks and months.

But Osinbajo’s aspiration has rightly been in the fore of public interest and political punditry even several months before it was confirmed. This is as it should be. As Vice President for almost seven years, he has been constitutionally speaking, President Buhari’s number one comrade in arms as they have together grappled with the many challenges confronting the nation over the period. And the expectation that he has a very good chance of replacing Buhari is naturally high.

This expectation is supported by the experience elsewhere in the democratic world. For almost seventy years, virtually every interested VP in America has emerged as the ruling party’s flag-bearer in the subsequent election.

A few examples: In 1960, Richard Nixon who had served as Dwight Eisenhower’s VP for the preceding eight years was the Republican party’s candidate who lost to JF Kennedy. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson replaced JF Kennedy after the infamous assassination. In 1988, George H. Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan’s VP for two terms was also the Republican Party candidate who won the subsequent election. In 2000, Al Gore replaced his principal Bill Clinton as the Democratic Party’s flag-bearer.

The bottom line is that there is a strong case for incumbent VPs to replace the man or woman they served. Mature democracies tend to follow this path because it enhances stability both at the intra-party level and also at the dimension of the political system.

But beyond this common practice, there is a strong case for Osinbajo, a brilliant and accomplished lawyer, respected academic and high performing public servant, to emerge as the candidate of the APC and subsequently, President of the country based on his track record and clear strengths.

LOYAL AND TRUSTWORTHY
Throughout his years as Vice President, Osinbajo has remained extremely loyal to President Buhari as the President himself affirmed recently while congratulating the VP on his 65th birthday: “His loyalty and dedication to duty have been most exemplary, especially in supervising the economy, which involves regular interface with heads of public and private institutions, and other government structures to ensure synergy and harmony that put the welfare and wellbeing of all Nigerians first.”

Clearly, Osinbajo’s uncompromising loyalty to his principal is not the faux devotion of ‘I’m loyal’ that is often chanted like a battle cry in political circles, but a more noble and deep-rooted kind that is steady in spite of challenges and expansive enough to add value in measurable ways.

He has demonstrated such exemplary loyalty to the President without disrespecting and antagonizing his political benefactor, Bola Tinubu and other power centers, even with both him and Tinubu now having indicated interest to run for President. Public exchanges between the two leaders have remained cordial and statesmanlike with Tinubu being among those who felicitated with the VP on his 65th birthday. Tinubu praised him for his positive role as the Vice-President and his work as the Lagos State Commissioner for Justice when he (Tinubu) was the state governor.

Osinbajo’s open minded approach to politics, his rejection of a zero-sum, winners-and-losers approach will have practical benefits for the APC if he emerges the party’s candidate. It means that the party can go into the elections as a united, cohesive force.

HIGHLY CAPABLE WITH A SOLID TRACK-RECORD
Osinbajo’s reputation as a hard-working, high-capacity technocrat in the various positions he has held continues to speak for him especially now that he is vying for the nation’s top job.

He is credited with undertaking far-reaching, significant judicial reform in Lagos State during his time as Attorney General, addressing critical areas such as judges’ recruitment, remuneration and discipline. He also worked to address access to justice for the poor by establishing appropriate institutions in the Office of the Public Defender and the Citizens Mediation Centre.

Also, he was among those tasked with the development of a manifesto for the All Progressives Party (APC) shortly after it was formed. This culminated in the presentation of the “Roadmap to a New Nigeria”, a document published by APC as its manifesto in 2013 which included a free meal school plan, and a conditional cash transfer to millions of the poorest Nigerians if they enroll their children in school and immunise them.

BEST PLACED TO PROGRESS APC’S AGENDA
Such keen involvement in crafting the vision of the APC reinforces his credibility as its prospective flag-bearer and one who can carry said vision forward.

Furthermore, he has been lauded for supporting the President to drive some of the major initiatives captured in that manifesto. His work on the social investment programmes during the first term of the administration has continually received commendation from the President who once jokingly expressed concern about Osinbajo’s safety as the VP regularly interfaced with traders in crowded environments.

As of June 2018, the National Social Investment Office (NSIO) announced that, the social investment programmes such as the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, the National Cash Transfer Programme and Trader Moni had produced a total of 9.76m beneficiaries.

Having nurtured the social investment programmes to maturity under the Presidency, The Vice President’s Office handed them over to the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development at the commencement of the second term of the Buhari administration. Being entrusted with critical, people-oriented initiatives of the administration speaks volumes of Osinbajo’s capacity as a leader with a heart for the people.

It is significant that the President, also in the birthday message to his deputy, lauded him for working selflessly and sacrificially to bring government closer to the people, and placing the people at the centre of governance, by regularly advocating policies that support human development.

Even in situations where the Vice President does not wield total executive power, he uses advocacy to advance important causes and educate the public on the Federal Government’s interventions. His advocacy has included statements, personal appearances and similar gestures on behalf of the Federal Government, in support of various people and future oriented causes including: promoting policies that support young entrepreneurs and MSMEs, increasing marketability of made-in-Nigeria products, scaling-up investment in digital technology and creative industries, boosting diaspora investment towards Nigeria’s economic recovery post-Covid, investment in transition fuels as the world moves towards cleaner energy.

UNITER AND BRIDGE BUILDER
Osinbajo’s antecedents in governance and politics demonstrate his strengths as a listener, uniter and bridge-builder which is significant for the positions of party flag-bearer and President. In various instances, he has served as an emissary of the President to help promote peace. A good example is his 2017 visit to Gbaramatu kingdom of Delta state where he flagged off the peace tour of the Niger Delta.

His positive, professional, and statesmanlike disposition also help his candidacy as they have endeared him to different sections of Nigerians with many proclaiming not only his capacity but also his character.

For instance, at the turbaning of Alhaji Yusuf Buhari, the son of President Muhammadu Buhari in December 2021, as the Talban Daura, the Emir of Daura described Osinbajo as ‘a noble man who keeps his promises, and a trustworthy person who has so much patience and knows what to do at any given time.”

Similarly, the leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Edwin Clark said during a February 2022 interview on Arise TV, that he would vote for the Vice President, describing him as intelligent.

YOUTH-FRIENDLY AND IN-TUNE WITH THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION
It is also noteworthy that Osinbajo connects strongly with Nigerian youths, being a leader who demonstrates keen understanding of their challenges by consistently promoting youth causes such as employment, creativity and innovation. Furthermore, he regularly promotes the FG’s investments and initiatives that support the aspirations of youths and the growth youth-centric fields such as entertainment and technology.

For instance, in 2018, the VP led a government delegation to Silicon Valley in the US where he met with investors and CEOs and showcased the progress made in the country’s technology, innovation and creative space, as well as the country’s tech sector’s potential, which attracted significant interest from investors in Nigeria’s tech space.
The VP’s visit to Silicon Valley and Facebook Campus in 2018 has helped to boost the Federal Government’s digital drive while leading to significant improvement in the country’s digital space.

It is clear, based on the foregoing that an Osinbajo candidacy and hopefully subsequent presidency is the best option for the APC and the country in terms of national unity, political stability as well as economic recovery and growth.

 

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