2023: IBB, Osinbajo and the search for Buhari’s successor

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

By Oluwafemi Popoola

Major news and commentaries in recent weeks and month have centred on the search for who will take over from President Muhammadu Buhari and occupy the highest political office in Africa’s most populous black nation. The searchlight for the right candidate is a trending topic, with passionate engagements in public discourses and on social media platforms.

With Nigeria’s two major political parties in the country; the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and All Progressive Congress, APC, poised to hold their Primary elections in May; there are heightened tensions and uncertainties over who eventually clinches their presidential tickets. But what is inevitable is that Nigeria will have a new president come May 2023.

in August last year, 2021, a few days before his 80th birthday, in an exclusive interview by Arise News TV channels, a former Nigeria’s military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida, popularly known as IBB, triggered nationwide discussion around who will emerge as Nigeria’s next president in 2023.

During the interactive session, Babaginda 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.

Although Babangida did not mention any names, he, however, suggested that individuals in their 60s should be the focus of Nigerians as potential presidential candidates in 2023.

The former military ruler said, “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, 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…”

Those were the projections of the former military ruler. After several years of taciturnity and aloofness, the self-acclaimed “evil genius” had to resurface to participate in the polity. Beyond that, the stakes are too high and the quest for new leadership in 2023 is the most important national issue today.

So far, we have had an influx of aspirants that have declared interest to become flagbearers of the ruling APC for the 2023 presidential elections. The numbers keep increasing on daily basis.

Among those who have put themselves forward to contest the 2023 presidency, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stands head and shoulders above many other aspirants. While it would be fair to state that some aspirants are also well qualified, going by the impeccable records in their respective fields of endeavour and national development but Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s credentials, his seven years of experience as VP, integrity, and high level of competence are so overwhelming and preeminent.

But significantly, what makes the Vice President more distinguished compared with his predecessors, and even other aspirants, is the fact that Osinbajo embodies 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 to greatness, with his outstanding character, cognate experience, fecundity and resourcefulness. His cameo as Acting President is a reflection of his capability to successfully steer this country towards development.

When Osinbajo presided over Nigeria as Acting President, while his boss President Muhammadu Buhari, was away on medical vacation, Nigerians saw his implacable touch in the handling of public affairs which brought about economic stability, peace, justice, discipline and protection of human lives, and supremacy of the constitution. Many Nigerians celebrated and praised him for his leadership style which won the VP more fans at home and abroad.

Taking a cue from IBB’s projected qualities which he claimed must be inherent in Nigeria’s next president, the former president made three invaluable points.

1. The quality of speaking to the people and not on top of the people.

Nobody does this better than the vice president Yemi Osinbajo who has on several occasions interfaced with the young, old and the youth of the country. His presidential family chats, where he usually visits at random, an average Nigerian home, have allowed him to establish community engagements with Nigerians at all levels.

On 28th December 2018, Vice President Osinbajo visited New Kushingoro Village, a suburb of FCT, Abuja to deliver a message of hope to the community by intimating them of a federal government Programme that would be deployed to empower them, since the majority of the residents were farmers.

Osinbajo, who spoke partly in Pidgin English, wowed the residents of the community as they were all stunned at the way he was comfortable with the language.

Osinbajo, on the same day, headed to Luxor Salon and Spar, Wuse 2, where he had a haircut and one on one interaction with barbers, customers and residents of the area who trooped out to welcome him to their neighbourhood.

2. Nigeria must produce a unifier and someone that has transversed the length and breadth of the country and made friends everywhere.

VP Osinbajo is the most cerebral among his fellow aspirants, with a huge national spread. He’s tolerant and conscious of our diversity as a people, thereby promoting that which unites us over any that divides us. His nationalistic credentials have made him enjoy the goodwill of politicians, religious leaders, traditional leaders, young and old, and the public in general.

On the international scene, former US Vice President, Mike Pence, once described Osinbajo as his ‘friend’ after the pair had met at the White House in June 2019. Then, they discussed how to bolster the Nigeria-US relationship and deepen the economic ties between both countries. After the meeting, the chemistry between the two leaders was evident as Mr Pence walked Osinbajo to his car and wished him a safe trip back to Nigeria.

3. He must be knowledgeable about the Economy.

ALSO READ: Prof Yemi Osinbajo: A man of destiny for such a time as this

The VP’s patriotism, commitment and dedication to getting things done have earned him wide acclaim among economic experts and political analysts. He has played vital roles in the implementation of various federal government policies that are masses oriented and beneficial to the general public. He’s also the brainbox behind most of the successful populists’ programmes and policies of the Buhari administration. This can be seen in his implementation of the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP), the MSMEs clinic and the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), which got so many praises and commendations locally and internationally.

In 2019, Vice President Osinbajo was a guest at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York where he met with investors and other stakeholders. Pitching Nigeria to the world, Prof. Osinbajo said, “Our potential in technology and entertainment has been attracting huge attention. First is the market, at 174 million GSM phones, we are among the top ten telephone users in the world, and we have the highest percentage of people who use the internet on their phones in the world.”

“Second is the ever-growing number of technology startups, young digital entrepreneurs who are creating solutions to value chain and logistics challenges and creating thousands of jobs in the process.”

Today, Nigeria has the highest number of Unicorns (startups that have attracted investment of over US $1 billion) in Africa. Among other major factors, all these have been made possible also because there is an Osinbajo projecting the image of the country to global tech investors. The tech sector is now attracting more investment into Nigeria than in many other sectors.

In conclusion, when IBB was asked if the person with these qualities could emerge victorious in the 2023 presidential election, he added, “I believe so if we can get him.”

Those who care about optics and their import on governance and development would acknowledge those are all important qualities we need in Nigeria’s next president to change the face and trajectory of governance in the country. There is a need for a strategic, conscious attempt to ‘intellectualise’ and bring decency into the entire governance architecture in the country. Above all, Nigeria needs a leadership that is knowledge-driven, hands-on, with the right democratic reflexes. Someone who can creatively proffer solutions to many of our challenges without sacrificing the unity of the nation.

Nigeria does need a breath of fresh air to stir it towards more development and its destiny as Africa’s global power. And the intelligent, cerebral, competent, experienced, loyal and dedicated public servant, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, represents this great dream. The onus rests on our political elites, traditional rulers, religious leaders, party delegates and, above all, the Nigerian people to decide when the time is right.

And it is time, for an Osinbajo Presidency.

Popoola, is a political analyst, content analyser and news aggregator. He can be reached via bromeo2013@gmail.com