2023: Osinbajo, Tinubu’s support groups dig in as principals keep mum
The support groups of Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), have continued to be bullish despite the seeming subtle denial of any link with the associations by the principals.
Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has yet to give a go ahead for politicking towards 2023, the Osinbajo and Tinubu groups have since launched their structures, and are openly sensitising Nigerians on the veiled ambition of the two politicians.
Power shift in 2023 has continued to dominate discourse in the country as election approaches, with the issue already pitting the North against the South.
Whereas the Southern Governors have continued to insist that the presidency must come to the south in 2023, their counterparts in the North believe it is not sacrosanct, but must be open for contest as power is not served ala carte.
Down South, the debate also rages over the geo-political zone of the South that should have it. The South East believes it deserves the presidency having not had the privilege since the return of the country to civil rule in 1999.
Recently, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State decamped from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a protest against the failure of the PDP to zone the presidency to South East, while the party controlled the reins of power in the country.
While no serious visible effort is being made as yet, by any South Eastern politician, by way of showing interest in the presidential ticket, Osinbajo and Tinubu, both from South West, have put in motion machinery toward succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
Last Friday, October 22, 2021, Osinbajo support group under the aegis of the Progressives Consolidation Group (PCG), held a rally in Ikeja, Lagos, calling on the APC to adopt the Vice President as its consensus candidate for the presidential election.
Eberechukwu Dibia, national secretary of PCG, said: “His candidacy will douse the already accumulated tension across the six geopolitical zones; Osinbajo is a man of grace, humility, truth and the fear of God.”
On October 10, 2021, PCG had claimed that they received the approval of the APC to canvass support for his emergence as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential election.
The group said the approval was contained in a letter titled, ‘Letter of Recognition as a Support Group,’ dated October 4, 2021, and signed by the Director of Administration of the APC, Alhaji Abubakar Suleiman.
The letter, addressed to the PCG, read in part, “We write to inform you that the National Chairman, His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni, has approved your recognition as a support group of the party.”
Bala Gide, head of the Progressive Civil Society Group, one of the sub-groups in the PCG, had said while addressing supporters that with this development, the PCG had been given the rare privilege of becoming the first to be so recognised.
“While we laud President Muhammadu Buhari’s forthright leadership and its populist direction which we expect an Osinbajo-presidency to energetically sustain after 2023, we also applaud the focused forthrightness of the APC leadership ably led by Governor Buni.
“We deeply appreciate the widening mobilisation and deepening support that PCG and all associated groups working towards an Osinbajo presidency, all our grassroots and national leaders, as well as current governors, federal and state lawmakers along with various labour and professional groups will have further significant roles to play post-2023,” he further said.
But reacting to the claim of endorsement of Osinbajo support group by the National body of the APC, Babafemi Ojudu, a special adviser to the president on political matters, said it was an alleged attempt to pit Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo against Bola Tinubu, and that it would fail.
In a statement, the special adviser said neither the vice-president nor his office would endorse “this kind of a divisive engagement and news reports”.
According to him, “Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo are members of the same party.
“Osinbajo regards Tinubu as a respected leader of a political family to which he belongs and will therefore, not for any reason endorse an endeavor that seeks to pitch them against each other.
“We are not unaware of some people who may want to foist a crack among our leaders. Such an attempt is abortive. Osinbajo and Tinubu relationship dates way back and it shall continue to wax strong.”
Before then, in September, a group had emerged under the aegis of Southwest Youth Congress (SYC) in support of Osinbajo, in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
The group reportedly marched round town, calling on the people to support “good leadership, courage and drive.”
But a statement signed by the state’s Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alex Kalejaye, said: “The action was an embarrassment to the leaders of the party in the state. The party wishes to firmly declare that it has no link whatsoever with the said group.
“For the records, the group that could best be described as a non-governmental body, and looked a bit unorganised, only stormed the state secretariat of the party unannounced with their banners and other write-ups.
“The party notes with deep concerns that a highly sophisticated state politically, like ours knows better than engaging in campaigns for an election prematurely.”
According to him, “We are sure the vice-president is preoccupied with decisions and policies in the overall interest of the country and could therefore, do with less distraction,”
The secretary further said that the party would not align with forces that are hell bent on creating disunity within it.
Reacting to that campaign, the APC Governors had said that there was no crack in the presidency.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State, who made the observation at the inauguration of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) Media and Communications Programme Steering Committee in Abuja, said both the President and the Vice-President were still working together harmoniously.
“I think it exists in the realm of gossip and rumours,” Sanwo-Olu, who was represented at the meeting by his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, said.
However, on October 7, 2021, Governor Sanwo-Olu and hundreds of Tinubu’s loyalists attended the official launch of South West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA) in Alausa, Ikeja.
Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, leader of the group, said at the launch in Lagos: “It is indeed a payback time for our national leader, who through his years in service contributed to the lives of many others and today, you can see his footprints across the country.”
The statement issued by him, further said: “We shall continue to appeal to him, to contest for the position of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because governance is not what to be experimented with.”
Adeyeye said that his group started talking about the Tinubu candidacy because 2023 is already around the corner, adding that SWAGA has already been launched in Oyo, Ogun, Osun and Ekiti States of the South West.
Tinubu’s dramatic return from his medical tourism in London, a day after the SWAGA launch in Lagos, fueled the conversation in the polity that something is really afoot.
Despite their names being bandied in society as presidential hopefuls, neither Osinbajo nor Tinubu has volunteered any comment.
Foot soldiers are merely responding to their principals’ body language.
There are indications things are no longer the same; the rapport between the two politicians is said to be experiencing cracks. The Vice President’s inability to visit Tinubu while the party leader was sick in London has been named as one of the signs of the crack.
Speaking on the touted presidential ambition of Osinbajo and Tinubu, Ituah Ighodalo, founder and senior pastor of Trinity House Church, said: “Asiwaju is my friend, I love him very much. We have done things together so also the Vice President. But it should be who would serve the interest of Nigerians? He must call all of us together and sit and discuss. We must ask what he wants to do. That is the conversation we should be having. Tinubu trained Fashola, Ambode, and the rest; call all your boys together and ask them this Nigeria problem, what is the solution?”