By OLUSESAN LAOYE
With the issue of zoning the Presidency to the South by the All Progressives Congress (APC) more or less settled and the clear indication that the South West will produce the candidate, the battle between those interested in the race has kicked into gear.
Several names have been mentioned, and they includes the leader of the party, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the present Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the incumbent Governor of Ekiti State, and chairman of Governors’ Forum, NGF, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, former Governor of Lagos State Babatunde Raji Fashola, and former Governor of Ogun State Senator Ibikunle Amosun, among others.
Going by what is now trending, both in the social media and physical mobilization of interested parties, three of these names, Tinubu, Osinbajo and Fayemi are known to be rated high for the contest.
But those whose ambitions have been generating strong heat are Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The argument over who the cap fits between these two giants, is not only said to be causing some underground rifts within the APC circles but has spread to the entire South West.
Although on paper the odds favour Tinubu, his ticket has a major baggage and liability, which may make him inelectable in the present politics of the country. It was the same problem that stopped him from running as vice with President Buhari in 2015 – the Moslem-Moslem ticket.
Just last week, the Catholic Bishop of Abuja, Rt. Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, waned the political parties from the temptation of fielding either a Christian-Christian or Muslim-Muslim ticket in 2023. Interestingly, President Buhari’s policies have compounded Tinubu’s electoral chances in 2023, because he has to run with a northern Muslim to win their votes. The question is, if it did not work in 2023, how will Nigerians accept it in 2023 with all the issues around religion?
So Osinbajo o even Fayemi, both dark hoses compared with Tinubu, may stand better chance of clinching the ticket, as they can easily pick a Muslim running mate from the north, particularly North west. It is already speculated that Fayemi may run with Nasir El Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, a Buhari confidant.
On Fiday, news broke of the visit of Osinbajo to Tinubu after reports of a snub by the latte, which was attributed to the presidential ambition. Tinubu was said to have deliberately shunned Osinbajo who was to visit him in London alongwith the General Overseer of the Redeem Christian Church of God (RCCG) Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
Pastor Adeboye and Osinbajo were billed to see him but Tinibu was said to have left very early for Nigeria by 6am the day they were to see him, which was interpreted to mean that Tinubu was angry with Osinbajo.
But the Presidential aide to the President on Political matters Babafemi Ojudu debunked any rifts between the duo.It was a known fact that Tinubu and Osinbajo have been together for long and they have both worked together in Lagos. Osinbajo is even Tinubu’s personal attorney.
Tinubu was the Govermor and Osinbajo was his Commissioner for Justice and the Attorney General of the State. It was Tinubu who recommended Osinbajo to be President Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate when he Tinubu’s ambition to run with Buhari on a Muslim-Muslim ticket could not fly in 2015
Before the meeting between the two on Friday, Tinubu had accompanied President Buhari to Saudi Arabia for investment Summit earlier in the week but observers hinted that it may be a decoy to hold a private meeting with him without the prying eyes of the public.
Again, it may be asking for too much to have another Muslim succeed Buhari after eight years, even as a southerner. It seems likely that the fight may be between Osinbajo and Fayemi, because of the near impossible hurdles Tinubu’s candidacy faces. Core northerners are not likely to vote for a Christian vice president to a southern president even if he is a Muslim.
Tinubu for the past eight years have been engaging in many things that signify his interest in the number one position in Nigeria. Before he went abroad for his knee surgery, he has been boldly and noticeably romancing the North, where he thinks the power to actualise his presidential ambition lies.
He engaged in empowerment programmes, renovated the Arewa Library in Kaduna and held his 69th birthday Colloquium in Kano, an indication that he may have had eyes on the incumbent governor of the State, Abdulahi Ganduje, as his running mate.
Apart from this, several organizations have come up across Nigeria agitating for Tinubu’s presidency. Notable people in Nigeria too have signified their support for him. These people cut across different strata of the society, who are governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives, traditional rulers, and youths as well.
The movement for Tinubu’s presidency has moved from the South West to other parts of Nigeria. Right now there are the South West Agenda (SWAGA), Tinubu support Group (TSG), Northern Alliance for Tinubu, Tinubu Mandate Group and Tinubu Northern Youth Forum for 2023.
With all these machineries in motion, there is no more doubt that Tinubu is ready for the Presidential battle. But how will he run to win the poll?
Professor Yemi Osinbajo a professor of law and now the Vice President of Nigeria, from all indications, is subtle about his presidential bid. Though he may not have nursed the ambition before until the three months he acted as president and electrifying effect he had on the nation must have convinced him of being suitable.
His calmness, carriage, intellects and loyalty, coupled with his ability to deliver, may have prompted and convinced those now clamouring for him to gun for the presidency, bearing in mind the prevailing circumstances Nigeria has found itself.
Although some people argued that he is still part of the present APC leadership at the centre, those on the other side too felt that since he had no direct access to power, as the Vice president, his powers are limited and not possible to take full control of governance but to take directives from the President.
They also argued that Osinbajo proved his competence while he had the opportunity during the period that President Buhari was away for several months on ill health.True to that, they said, that was the period Nigerians fully noticed his potentials, are routing for him to come out.
The support for Osinbajo too, is not limited to his home base. It is now wide spread and it was even believed that his candidacy would sell in the South East and South South than any other candidate in the South West. Tinubu inclusive.
Although he is seen as a good public administrator, who is trusted, admired and best suited for the post to succeed Buhari, since he is not carrying any “baggage” like others with issues, having being part of this government has cost him some political capital, especially among the Christian communities, who feel he has not represented the faith adequately.
Some industrialists, economists intellectuals, Christian’s both in orthodox and Pentecostals, Muslims, cultural and political organisations, traditional rulers just to mention a few were said to be working for him as well, because of the convictions in his ability to deliver.
It was said that the visit of the Afenifere leaders to his house in Bourdillon, Ikoyi, Lagos, when he came back from London after his sickness, was centered on the presidency and how a candidate would emerge from the South West who will be acceptable to Nigerians.
It was learnt that the Afenifere made Tinibu to realised that, the region’s collective interest should be paramount than individual interests.
This statement, was however interpreted by to mean that the Afenifere leaders wanted Tinubu to consider a much younger person whom he could trust in the South West for the job, which pointed to Osinbajo, who is currently at the presidency and who has worked honestly and exhibited his loyalty to him before.
This is the more reason why a meeting is being organized between Tinubu and Osinbajo to sort things out amicably and it was envisage, this would take place when Tinubu comes back from the lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia where it was believed that 2023 issues are likely to be discussed with President Buhari and other notable leaders of the APC equally there.
Just as Tinubu has many groups working for him and clamouring that he should come out, Osinbajo too has his own, which equally cut across the country. There are Progressives Consolidation group led by Dr. Aliu Kurfi which insists that Osinbajo has not stepped down and still in the race.
Also the Osinbajo Awareness Campaign group mainly youths in the North has indicated that they would pursue his presidential bid to a logical conclusion. Its leader Mubarak Haruna described Osinbajo as a gentle man who is loyal with great intelligent and a much younger person fit and sound to lead Nigeria out of the woods.
He said that Osinbajo is more appealing to the Northern elites and the youth, as they are ready to mobilize 20 million youths for him across the 19 Northern States.
Another group, the Osinbajo Grassroots Organisation (OGO) led by Sylvanus Foluso Ojo, who argued that Osinbajo has not dropped his presidential ambition, saying, “Tinubu too would not want to shut the democratic door against the vice president if he is determined to be in the race with him.”
It is now being envisage that what could be a serious problem among the presidential aspirants in APC and the party generally, is the move to have a consensus candidate. The leaders are working to avoid rancorous primary which could bring bad blood within the party and which could affect its chances in 2023.
This arrangement, it was learnt is tilting towards favouring Osinbajo as the Northern Cabals in the party seem to be in agreement with a consensus candidate from the South West.
The consensus arrangement it was further learnt has not gone down well with other aspirants, especially those in Tinubu’s camp, who are pushing for an open primary for the aspirants to test their popularities.
The consensus debate therefore, according to BusinessHallmark feelers was said to have centred on who is most likely to pay the party better, out of Osinbajo, Fayemi and Tinubu.
It was argued by the Cabals, that should they pick Tinubu, it would be difficult to find an acceptable Christian that they would be able to sell to win majority votes to pair with Tinubu. But it would be very easy for the party to get a credible and acceptable running mate who is a Muslim and who would deliver the Northern votes for the party, to work with Osinbajo who is more acceptable for the presidency than Fayemi.
It was said that though Tinubu has worked hard for the presidency, the interest of the party should be considered because the party would not want to lose the presidential election in 2023.
With this permutation, it was clear that Tinubu may lose out if the Northern cabals decide to work things out in that manner.