By Gidado Ibrahim
The date is May 29, 2022, when APC stakeholders and party delegates will converge on Eagle Square, Abuja, to choose the party’s flag bearer for the 25 February 2023 presidential election. Certain permutations and calculations are pointing in the direction of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to pick the APC presidential ticket. Why do the odds favour the vice president, if one may ask? It has been established that the greatest proof of success is in a successor. If that be the case, then the man the cap fits is the vice president.
There are some reforms President Muhammadu Buhari kick-started that may not mature within the lifespan of his administration. It would take the number two man in the team to take over from his Captain to ensure that those laudable projects, policies and programmes are not dumped in the dustbin of history. That has been the bane of our development in 1960. There’s been a gross lack of continuity. That’s why we must be deliberate in who succeeds President Buhari.
Over the last seven years plus, the benefit of hindsight has revealed Osinbajo as worthy of being trusted. He has exhibited the character of being faithful and loyal to his boss. Even at a time, President Buhari was indisposed and dubious politicians were beginning to lure him, he never betrayed his boss.
Our esteemed delegates must be reminded that the vice president is the APC joker in the main presidential election because his appeal cuts across party and religion lines. Let us not make mistakes; APC may jeopardise its chances if an unpopular candidate is given the ticket. A man of Osinbajo’s pedigree is the charm that can deliver cheap victory to the ruling party and ensure continuity. There is no need to dissipate energy on debating who is the most sellable candidate among the APC aspirants; a popular saying goes that “A golden fish has no hiding place.”
Osinbajo, most Nigerians believe, is the golden fish of this contest, and if the APC must have a jolly ride in retaining the presidency beyond May 29, 2023, it would have to count its teeth with its tongue.
While crisscrossing the entire length and breadth of this country soliciting support for his ambition to succeed his boss, the ovation had been so clear. The body language of the majority of Nigerians is unambiguous. From traditional Institutions to the political class, the vibes are the same. During a consultation visit to the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, at his palace in Benin, the revered monarch confessed that he admires the vice president’s eloquence, calmness, humility, and respect for culture and fear of God.
Similarly, during last week’s visit to the Emir of Katsina, Abdulmumini Kabir Usman, at his palace, the Emir said he was confident that Vice President Osinbajo can lead Nigeria.
Unlike his predecessors, Osinbajo has redefined the office of Nigeria’s vice president, all thanks to the trust between the president and his vice president. They both have kept an outstanding working relationship that has never been seen or imagined in the past 22 years of Nigerian democracy.
Osinbajo, during the last seven years, has acted as president on three occasions. Those times we saw how he made governance look so simple. When President Buhari’s health was challenged, and Osinbajo was in the saddle of leadership, we see him demonstrate uncommon leadership courage. He is not a man of impulse. Rather, he is calculative and result oriented. Each decision he took was aimed at solving targeted problems.
When the Buhari administration came into power, there was an urgent need to create welfare and empowerment packages, employment for the youth, the vulnerable in the society and the like. This was what led to the creation of the national social investment programmes, including NPower, Trader Moni, Home Grown School Feeding, CCT projects and the rest of them. Osinbajo was instrumental in setting up these programmes in 2016. Up to date, the programmes have continued to be a blessing to a lot of Nigerians.
Vice President Osinbajo is not only actively but passionately involved in the conceptualization and implementation of the social investment programmes. His dedication to the social investment drive of the administration has received high praise from the President.
At an event held in May 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari commended Osinbajo’s efforts and said he was glad that the school feeding programme has improved attendance in schools. The National Social Investment office, in its June 2018 report, recorded 8,596,340 pupils in 24 states being fed by the NHGSFP, and 90,670 cooks being empowered through the programme.
Another popular Social investment vehicle of the NSIO is Trader Moni/Market Moni initiatives, an offshoot of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP). Again, Prof Osinbajo has also received a widespread commendation from various quarters for his successful hands-on leadership of the Trader Moni initiative, with the president jokingly expressing concern about the safety of his second-in-command in crowded business areas.
Trader Moni is not the only NSIO programme that supports small businesses. There is also NPower, an initiative that seeks to improve the entrepreneurship culture, as well as develop skills among youths to make them more employable. The target demographic is the youth between the ages of 18 and 35. Each enrollee is given a monthly stipend of N30,000 and they are trained in their chosen vocation by NPower Volunteers. The NSIO has recorded impressive statistics for NPower, with enrolment as of May 2021 standing at 500,000 to 1 million in its efforts designed to actualise its target of taking 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
Prof Osinbajo’s resourcefulness and foresight were also put to test in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the entire world. Lockdown was subsequently in place, which led to businesses shutting down, and farmers unable to go to the farm or transport market produce. Jobs were lost, and families that survived through salaries suffered immensely as a result of the lockdown.
Prof Osinbajo was certainly intentional about ensuring all went according to schedule to come up with the ESP. He followed up on ministries and parastatals in ensuring all hands were on deck in implementing the plan which was no easy task.
That Nigeria got out of an economic downturn when advanced economies like the United Kingdom were still neck-deep into recession is a testament to the meticulous economic management of the Buhari administration. We must never overlook such a huge and remarkable effort that made Nigeria avert a deep recession. While a number of us are known for speaking up against bad governance, we must also speak up when the right steps are taken toward a better Nigeria.
Vice President Osinbajo has been able to make do with the responsibility that comes with his office and the ones being assigned to him by President Buhari. He has carried out these assignments with absolute diligence and dedication.
These are just a few of the giant strides from his office. A lot of things have also been said about how he brings cultures, tribes and religions together, soliciting for peace among Nigerians and making sure the message of unity is preached.
In most of the numerous nationwide tours he had embarked on recent, Osinbajo has been described as an unalloyed loyalist to President Buhari. Muslims, Christians and traditionalists have been unanimous in their prayers to Almighty God to make the vice president the next president of Nigeria. A traditional ruler in the North East openly confessed that if he were to be a politician, he would have been Osinbajo’s campaign director.
Opposition leaders have never ceased to praise his leadership skills, especially during times he acted as president. His decisive actions have changed the course of the country for the better whenever the president was away. Government is a continuum. The developments and achievements of this present administration have brought to the fore exemplary leadership. We will need a great deal of sustainability as the Buhari government is set to leave office in 2023.
One sad trajectory of the Nigerian political reality is the excessive monetisation. Contests for political offices have been narrowed to ‘cash and carry. If we allow that scenario in the forthcoming Primary election, we will shoot ourselves in the foot and we would have denied ourselves the opportunity to enthrone a truly progressive government. Osinbajo represents a rare breed in the Nigerian political equation. Let us seize this moment.
As delegates approach the ballot boxes to elect the flag bearer of our party, they should continue to remind themselves that this is just a primary election and that how well the APC performs in the main election, depends on the choices they make.
Ibrahim is an Executive Director, Communications and Strategic Planning, of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC)