Tinubu, Osinbajo 2023 battle to put APC, S/West at crossroads

Tinubu and Osinbajo

Tinubu and Osinbajo’s veiled ambitions are already raising dust as that promise to be an epic or filial battle between a political mentor and mentee or, godfather and godson.

Less than two years to Nigeria’s next presidential election, debate has begun over who succeeds the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, whose second tenure ends on May 29, 2023.

The South-West is politically the stronghold of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and under it, the top contenders based on what supporters are championing are former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi.

Out of the three, Tinubu and Osinbajo’s veiled ambitions are already raising dust as that promise to be an epic or filial battle between a political mentor and mentee or, godfather and godson.

Although neither Tinubu nor Osinbajo has publicly declared intention to contest for the presidential ticket of their party, their supporters are already saying it is either of them or no other.

Osinbajo’s support group under the aegis of the Progressives Consolidation Group (PCG) had on Friday, October 22, 2021, held a rally in Ikeja, Lagos, calling on the APC to adopt the Vice President as its consensus candidate for the presidential election.

Less than 24 hours, Tinubu Support Group (TSG), an umbrella organisation, housing an amalgam of sibling groups on Saturday, October 23 in Abuja asserted that to secure the votes of the majority in 2023, APC must present a candidate who knows where the shoe pinches the average Nigerian, referring to Tinubu.

Political observers have said that the ambition of the two aspirants would indeed put both APC and South-West at a crossroads as none of the duo can be dismissed with a wave of the hand, considering their stature in the present Nigeria’s socio-political firmament.

While Tinubu is a political juggernaut in the real sense of the word, with structure almost across the country producing leaders including Osinbajo himself; the Vice President as number two citizen of Nigeria too, has the connection, goodwill and also sympathy of many power brokers.

Keen political observers would agree that Osinbajo has grown politically through the tutelage of Tinubu because between 1999 and 2007, he served as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice under Asiwaju of Lagos when he held sway as the governor.

Also, in 2014 the Jagaban of Borgu (Niger State) jettisoned his ambition to be a running mate of Buhari after clamour against Muslim/Muslim ticket and paved the way for Osinbajo, leading to his becoming the Vice President since 2015 to date.

Political actors and analysts opined that Tinubu and Osinbajo contest is going to be a mother of all battles for 2023 with some saying that it is payback time and that the Vice President should be African enough by not “biting the finger that has fed him.”

Others are of the view that both the APC and South-West should wade into the matter to avoid consequences of letting them lock horns in public like the proverbial two rams drinking from the same bucket at the same time.

Still, there are those who believe that Osinbajo is more of an asset to APC as top politicians, particularly from the North and the cabal in the present administration are more comfortable with him, unlike Tinubu that will be a hard nut to crack while some think the Professor of law would be more appealing to the generality of Nigerians.

A top member of APC from South-West who preferred not to be mentioned says the Tinubu/Osinbajo aspiration may so far appear simple but is giving the party and the zone serious concerns, because both of them almost have proportional electoral advantage.

The party chieftain says the two are first of all from the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) bloc that formed the APC, and that the understanding within the party that after Buhari’s tenure conceded to the erstwhile Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) ACN be given a chance, favours both.

“The other issue is that both are rooted in the North which is a deciding factor for electoral victory. While Tinubu has personally built his political alliances in the North long ago, Osinbajo is enjoying the solidarity of many from the region who feel Tinubu can shut them out if power goes to him.

“Also, don’t take for granted the permutations concerning Yemi and Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State. There is the thinking that the two Professors, one a lawyer (Osinbajo) and the other, an Engineer can sell the APC President and Vice President tickets. They also represent the two major blocs within the APC; ACN and CPC,” the APC chieftain says.

To a Political Scientist, Christian Okeke, Osinbajo has no political structure to match that of Tinubu, except the Buhari administration chooses to support his (Osinbajo) ambition.

Okeke, who lectures at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, reminds the Vice President of the African culture which frowns at one biting the finger that has fed him, hoping that he will not allow politics to becloud his cultural orientation rooted in respect for one’s elders.

“It is premature to discuss the presidential ambition of VP Osinbajo because he has yet to declare interest in the office. As of today, it is just some socio-political groups that link his name to specific political moves. So, everything remains in the realm of speculation.

“Perhaps, the VP may need no reminder that he is a beneficiary of Tinubu’s benevolence. It is in the public domain that the former brought him to limelight politically. To that extent, one may expect that he shows some regards for Asiwaju, even though both have rights to contest,” Okeke states.

According to Okeke, “Osinbajo needs not repeat the actions taken by former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode who chose to run against the decision of the majority of stakeholders in Lagos in 2019. The outcome is well known. Certainly, that history needs not repeat itself.

“However, Osinbajo, just like his political master, Tinubu, has constitutionally-guaranteed right to stand for presidential election in 2023. It is basically left for their party to make a choice of who becomes the candidate and for the people of Nigeria, the electorate, to decide who the president becomes,” he states.

Solomon Gbenga, deputy national youth leader of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), notes that both of them do not have what it takes to rule Nigeria, especially with the agitations for power shift not to a region but to the youth.

“I am a Yoruba man, but I will tell you now is not the time to play politics of tribe, religion or ethnicity that has brought us to where we are. Kidnaping and all evil things have become the order of the day. The clamour of young people coming into power is there. Secondly, what does Tinubu as a person have to offer Nigeria? Nothing. Honestly nothing.

“Osinbajo as Vice President, see where we are; the highest number of killings, kidnapping and all banditries. Both of them should go and sit in one corner. What have they done? Who are the people they have given free education to? They should bring the people out. Nigeria has passed all of these,” Gbenga says.

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