2023: How IBB’s projections placed Osinbajo as the man to beat

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (top left) and some of other potential presidential candidates. (File photos)
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (top left) and some of other potential presidential candidates. (File photos)

In the wake of the recent national debate on who succeeds President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2023 set in motion by the former military ruler, General Ibrahim Babangida, during an exclusive interview with Arise News Channel, with a follow up analysis by ThisDay where the newspaper listed 30 other names alongside Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as fitting into IBB’s recommendations. But while we would all agree that the list of identified individuals is admirably intimidating going by their impeccable records in their respective fields of endeavour and to national development, Osinbajo’s credentials and level of competence is preeminent and overwhelming, write OLUWAFEMI POPOOLA.

The time to begin the search for who will take over from President Mubammadu Buhari and occupy the highest political office in Africa’s most populous black nation has begun.

The successor to Buhari’s legacy is still up in the air. The torchlight for the right candidate is a trending topic and the engagement has taken a centre stage in the media as social commentators, political analysts, media experts have set a premium for the topic which has triggered public discussion.

The present administration took over the exalted office in 2015 following massive support of the citizens at the polls which gave the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) a historic win and put a sword to the fledging 16-year reign of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government.

Whether the ruling APC has either wowed the people or disappointed them since the time they assumed power is left for experts, analysts and revisionists to explore since that is not the crux of this essay, the issue at hand is who the Presidency cap fits for 2023 elections.

The Nigerian people should also be given the chance to reminisce in full retrospect on whether the ride has been good, bad or ugly on every front starting from governance, infrastructural development, corruption index, social interventions, and many more.

What is inevitable is the reality of a change of government in Nigeria come 2023 and the ensuing drama.

Former Nigeria’s military ruler, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida popularly known as IBB has pioneered the discussion around who will emerge the Nigeria’s next president in 2023 through an exclusive interview he had with Arise News Channel TV sometime last week, days before his 80th birthday.

During the interactive session, he gave a cryptic description of an ideal Nigerian president in 2023 and hinted at the qualities that Nigerians should consider in their choice for the next president.

According to the former head of state: “If you get a good leadership that links with the people and tries to talk with the people; not talking on top of the people, then we would be okay.

“I have started visualising a good Nigerian leader. That is, a person who travels across the country and has a friend virtually everywhere he travels to, and he knows at least one person that he can communicate with.

“That is a person, who is very versed in economics and is also a good politician, who should be able to talk to Nigerians and so on. I have seen one, or two or three of such persons already in his 60s. I believe so if we can get him.”

What is amusing is the surreal manner in which the former military leader resurfaced into the court of public discussion after several years of taciturnity, aloofness and political obscurity.

The former leader also made no attempt to deny the fact that the country has been misgoverned and struck by bad leadership. Although, that has raised a hell of criticism in the minds of some people who believe he was part of those that destroyed this country which subsequently make development and progress difficult for successive administrations due to the many years of rot, maladministration, corruption, impunity and profligacy.

While many would be right to crucify the former ruler for his role in the build up to the devastation of the Nigerian state, it would also be noble to admit that the IBB’s interview with Arise News Channel TV has given the Nigerian people a sense of direction, focus and precision in selecting the right person for the presidential seat in 2023.

Going by IBB’s preferred age limit as one of the projected attributes and criteria for a suitable presidential candidate for the country, if by chance that becomes a yardstick for political parties and the expectation of Nigerians, that would have put an abrupt end to the ambitions of the APC national leader Bola Tinubu and the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who are reportedly still nursing the ambition of becoming Nigeria’s President.

The analytical disqualification of two of Nigeria’s most powerful politicians on the grounds of age by IBB may not have had any constitutional justification but the knock-on ripple effect of the statement of a former leader and elder statesman on any national issue is usually substantial, especially when it is coming from a reticent former military General. That is why it has become a big deal in the media and has generated traction among the people ever since the revelation was unveiled.

The statement has, however, changed the trajectory of public perception of possible contenders for the presidential seat ahead of 2023 general elections.

In a publication by ThisDay newspaper on Monday, 9th of August entitled: “2023: Who leads Nigeria?” The report featured a comprehensive list of prominent Nigerians likely to emerge President or Vice President in 2023 in the wake of the projections of the former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida.

Among the 31 names put together by ThisDay captured Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, President of African Development Bank, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina; former CBN governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo; UN Deputy Secretary General, Mrs Amina Mohammed; former CBN deputy governor, Prof Kingsley Moghalu; WTO DG, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; former Anambra State governor, Mr Peter Obi, and Ekiti State governor, Mr Kayode Fayemi, among 22 others.

While we would all agree that the list of identified individuals is admirably intimidating going by their impeccable records in their respective fields of endeavour and to national development, the current Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s credentials and level of competence is preeminent and overwhelming. Even, both the Arise News Channel TV’s analysts and ThisDay in its publication testified to it. Yet, Osinbajo has not declared nor shown any intention to run for the Presidency in 2023.

But part of such qualities that made the Nigeria’s Vice President distinguished compared with his predecessors, and even others eyeing the presidential seat, is the fact that, Prof Osinbajo symbolises what the role of a public officer and politician should be: true service and dedication to the people. As a public servant, he has demonstrated and shown that he has what it takes to drive Nigeria successfully with his outstanding character, cognate experience, fecundity and resourcefulness,  if he decides to contest.

His cameo as Acting president is a reflection of his capability to successfully steer this country towards development.

When Osinbajo presided over Nigeria as the Acting President, while his boss was away on health tourism, the ambience of the nation was peaceful. At this time, we saw his implacable touch in the handling of public affairs which brought about economic stability, justice, discipline and protection of human lives and supremacy of the constitution.

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Dr Sam Amadi, the former Chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) while throwing his weight behind Osinbajo during a programme on Arise News Channel TV, said “in normal situations, there should be a line of succession. Prof Osinbajo has the quality, and maybe what he needs to build more is the courage because Nigeria needs somebody who can speak up and intervene more often in crisis facing the people.”

“He is a good candidate and ought to be the number one contender for that position ”

On whether Osinbajo posses the quality of speaking to the people and not on top of the people, he has on several occasions interfaced with the youths and engaged them while sharing in their ordeals by his usual words of wisdom.

At last year’s October meeting with the executive committee of the Young Parliamentarians Forum led by its Chairman, Simon Elisha, at the Presidential Villa, the Vice President re-established his commitment to ensuring that the Nigerian youth’s place in governance is sacrosanct.

He said: “The youth are not just a demography but in the majority, what we need to do for that vast majority is what we must do for our country. We must find a way so they are represented as effectively as possible.”

Similarly, in the wake of the #EndSARS crisis that almost tore the entire country apart due to the alleged excesses and brutalities of some men of the Nigerian Police Force, Osinbajo was the first public office holder to speak against police brutality. Not only that, but on multiple occasions addressed the media and expressed his displeasure as regards the harassment of young Nigerians. Let’s not also forget his contribution in the final dissolution of the defunct SARS unit.

There was also an instance where his convoy ran into the protesters at Goza village in Abuja, when he was heading to the airport.

The irate youths had blocked his convoy while protesting against alleged seizure of a parcel of land belonging to the community by the Nigerian Army.

The Vice President, however, alighted from his vehicle to address the angry youths. After listening to the complaints of the protesters, Osinbajo assured them that he would engage the military with a view to finding a lasting solution to the conflict. His words came as a soothing balm to the youths who cheered him and cleared the way for his convoy to move on.

On whether he has friends across the country: Osinbajo has made a lot of friends both in the country and outside. He has enjoyed the goodwill of politicians, religious leaders, traditionally leaders, young and old and the public in general.

The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, has once showered praises on him for his leadership style at the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) in 2019.

“He has leadership given to him by the lord God Almighty, it is a trust and responsibility and he is here in his capacity as VP and we invited him to give the keynote speech as VP of Nigeria and he accepted to be here,” the Sultan has said.

On the international scene, the former US Vice President Mike Pence once described Prof. Osinbajo as his ‘friend’ after the pair met at the White House in June 2019 before Pence decided to walk him to his car.

On the economy, his patriotism, commitment and the urge to get things done has earned him the country’s chief economic expert. He has succeeded in establishing different polices that are masses oriented and beneficial to the general public. The Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), NSIP, N- power and many others to mention a few.

Nigeria no doubt may have been blessed with a gazillion of brains who are endowed and mentally fertile that know to manoeuvre the byzantine complexities of Nigeria’s politics and many challenges but yet need someone who can still creatively proffer solutions without sacrificing peace, unity and security of the nation.

Osinbajo is a proven candidate and the onus rests on the political elite, traditional rulers, religious leaders, party men and women and the Nigerian people to decide when the time is right.