2023 presidency: A season of self-presentation in Aso Rock

…Is Osinbajo in a quandary?

The Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, Abuja, where the presidents of Nigeria work and live, belongs to every citizen.
The fortress is being maintained on the tax payers’ bill. So, nobody in the right sense of the word is more Nigerian than others when it comes to having access to the territory.

However, there are those who appear to have abused their visitation to Aso Rock and the blame is not only theirs but on those that allow such frivolous junketing.

Matters that should not concern the President are being rushed to him, distracting him. Rather than focus on the onerous task of running their states, governors make all manner of visits to the Villa.
In the last few years, Aso Rock has been turned into a place where state governors who want to gossip their kinsmen to curry president’s favour, run to and are listened to. Some of them that want to be seen to be relevant rush there to show their faces, and others that want to flaunt their closeness with the president pay some unscheduled visits, pose for photo ops, and rush back to their states, all at the huge expense of their states.

Since 2020, there has been an increase in the number of visits to the President by politicians planning to dump their former parties for the APC or those who had indeed decamped and wanted to publicly advertise it.

On November 19, 2020, Dave Umahi was ceremoniously received in Aso Rock by President Buhari.

The defection was not surprising to many who had followed the governors’ utterances and romance with Abuja prior to the physical exit from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, and Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle of Zamfara State were also received in the Villa. They were PDP governors but were said to have exited the party in preparation for their next interest in 2023.

A number of senators and other classes of politicians, including Nkem Okeke, the outgoing deputy governor of Anambra State, have also been received and welcomed into the APC fold by the President.

The visit on Monday, January 10, 2022 of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was not one of his usual visits to the President.

Tinubu had gone to pointedly tell the man he installed in office in 2015 that he would like to succeed him in 2023.

The political juggernaut had, prior to the general election in 2015, nursed the ambition of running with Buhari on the APC ticket, but the opposition that arose over Moslem/Moslem ticket, among other internal considerations, denied him the opportunity.

Perhaps, Tinubu decided to make his visit that very Monday following the revelation by Buhari in the recent interview he granted Channels Television, that he had a candidate.

“I won’t tell you my favourite for 2023, he may be eliminated if I mention. I better keep it secret,” he had said when asked about his favourite presidential candidate.

The question that may have been running through the mind of Tinubu is, “Who must be Buhari’s favourite candidate other than myself that defied all odds to field him in 2015?” So, he wanted to know what space he still occupies in Buhari’s mind.

When reminded that it may be out of tune for a kingmaker to now wear the cap of a king, he told journalists at the State House: “There’s nowhere in the world where a kingmaker cannot himself be king.”

Read also: 2023: Umahi’s presidency will bring rapid development – APC

A day after his visit, Umahi, governor of Ebonyi State, rushed to the Aso Rock, presenting himself to the President for his ‘anointing?’

As stated earlier, Umahi had in November 2020 dumped the PDP, a platform he was elected twice as governor.

His manner of exit elicited controversy, resulting in some chieftains of the party accusing him of being “ungrateful.”

But the governor said he moved to the APC because of “injustice” meted out to the South-East by the PDP.

“I want to clear the air that I never sought (for) PDP presidential ticket and I will not. So, whoever that said that I moved to APC because they refused to zone the ticket to me is being very mischievous.

“Even if PDP promises somebody presidential ticket how does it work where over 8000 delegates will be voting. And such promise cannot happen with more than 10 or 20 people so people are being very mischievous about that,” he said.

According to him, “There are a lot of qualified persons from South-East. Some people say I was promised lots of things by the APC, there was no such discussion. APC never promised me any position, they never promised South-East any position.

“However, I offered this movement as a protest to injustice being done to South-East by the PDP. Since 1999, the South-East have supported the PDP. At a time, the five states were all PDP. One of the founding members of the PDP was from South-East, the late former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme.

“It is absurd that since 1999 going to 2023, the South-East will never be considered to run for presidency under the PDP. And this is my position and will continue to be my position. It had nothing to do with me or my ambition,” Umahi said.

While speaking with the State House Correspondent after his meeting with the President Tuesday, he was quoted as saying that he was not in contest with anybody but himself.

Reminded that he would be contesting for the APC ticket with many others, the governor said: “I’m not in contest with anybody; I’m in contest with myself.”

Pundits say that Umahi’s ambition could only be realised if the party, on equity sake, decides to zone the ticket to the South East.

“But then, he would have to contend with the likes of Orji Uzor Kalu, who is seen to be a better APC than Umahi that just jumped ship yesterday,” a pundit said on condition of anonymity.

Politicians’ visits to the Aso Rock is expected to gain momentum as 2023 draws nearer and as the parties begin to make open their standard bearers.

Is Osinbajo in a quandary?

Analysts believe that Tinubu’s visit to Buhari may have put the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo in a quandary over his touted presidential aspiration. But his supporters say no one can kill the dream.

Although Osinbajo has not made public his aspiration to succeed his principal, sources close to him insist that he is working according to his own schedules.

In his recent published opinion article, Olu Fasan, a political economist, wondered whether

“it would throw up a political oddity in which a sitting vice president defies the law of natural progression and refuses to run for president because his “godfather” wants to run for the office.”

He also said: “Surely, if Tinubu wants to run for president in 2023, the inevitable questions are: What about Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo? Would he too seek his party’s nomination? Or would he chicken out and throw in the towel because of Tinubu?”

Fasan, who strongly believed that the presidency should go to the South East next time around, said that granted otherwise, there should be no reason Osinbajo should not succeed his boss, which according to him, is the natural thing to do.

“Let me state at this point that neither Osinbajo’s candidacy nor, even less so, Tinubu’s candidacy is of interest to me. This is because my principled position is that Nigeria’s next president should be of Igbo extraction.

“If a Yoruba becomes president in 2023 and does eight years, power will then return to the North for another eight years. Thus, by 2039, the Igbo would have produced no president for 40 years since 1999. That’s not a fair way to treat one leg of the tripod of the largest ethnic groups on which Nigeria originally stood.

“Nor is that sustainable in terms of this country’s unity and stability. So, my preference is for the two main parties, APC and PDP, to pick their presidential candidates from the South-East,” he said.

But explaining why Osinbajo may be in a quandary over the ambition, the erudite scholar said: “Tellingly, the argument about why Osinbajo should not run for president if Tinubu wants the job turns on loyalty and gratitude. The argument goes like this: Osinbajo would not have been vice president without Tinubu; so, he owes Tinubu an eternal debt, and would be disloyal to challenge him for their party’s presidential ticket. But this is utter hogwash, based on a false narrative that Tinubu helped Osinbajo to become APC’s presidential running-mate in 2015 out of sheer generosity or favour. But that’s not true!

“Of course, no one can deny Tinubu’s role in Osinbajo’s emergence as APC’s vice-presidential candidate in 2015. But everyone gets a helping hand in life, including Tinubu himself. He became the gubernatorial candidate of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1999 because Chief Abraham Adesanya and other Afenifere leaders, who controlled the party, preferred him to his rivals.”

According to Fasan, “By 2023, he (Osinbajo) would have served outstandingly as vice-president for eight years. Elsewhere, he would have the inside track when it comes to running for his party’s presidential nomination.

“Here are two questions for Professor Osinbajo: Does he believe he can run Nigeria as president? Does he have the fire in his belly to fight for his party’s nomination? If he answers “yes” to both questions, then he would be a coward not to throw his hat into the ring. Simply put: He must!”

After Tinubu’s declaration on Monday, a political pressure group, Organised Private Sector for Osinbajo (OPS 4 Osinbajo) declared that the Vice President was far better intellectually equipped than any current presidential aspirant for the task of leading Nigeria’s economic rejuvenation towards future greatness.

“With Osinbajo, Nigeria’s organised private sector has much basis for optimism about post-2023 economic activities,” the group’s spokesman, Abdulrahman Farouk said.

While emphasising that vice president Yemi Osinbajo’s consistent focus and insider knowledge of the objectives and challenges related to the Buhari administration’s economic programmes are great advantages towards Nigeria’s economic rejuvenation, he emphasised that Osinbajo’s candidature offers much hope for citizens who have high expectations about job creation, increased earnings and growth.

“Even though an aspirant has informed Muhammadu Buhari about his 2023 ambition, the most credible option still appears to be Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and for the organised private as well as the citizenry, Osinbajo offers much fertile ground for hope to rapidly germinate,” he said.

Michael Oluwagbemi, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Trustee, Osinbajo Grassroots Organisation, also said that the declaration of the party’s national leader, Bola Tinubu for the presidency was no threat to Osinbajo.

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