Osinbajo as common denominator five months after APC primaries

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN

By Oluwafemi Popoola

How time flies! It is already five months since the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, lost his presidential bid at the All Progressives Congress (APC) national convention. From that moment, a lot of rains have fallen and many waters passed under the bridge, yet, many Nigerians still harbour some dosage of pains and regrets that Prof Osinbajo, their beloved Vice President did not emerge as the APC presidential candidate.

Prof Osinbajo lost out in his bid to succeed his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, on June 8, 2022, as the results of the APC presidential primary were announced at a special convention held in Eagle Square, Abuja, which is exactly five months today, Tuesday, November 8, 2022. Yet, people have not forgotten his painful loss.

Though many of his admirers have moved on, even as VP Osinbajo too has since resumed his active official engagements. But the feelings of pains for many Nigerians came up lately, noticing the absence of the two presidential candidates of the country’s major political at a town hall meeting debate on Sunday, 6th November 2022 organized by Arise Television and the Centre for Democracy and Development.

It got many Nigerians lamenting about the loss of the VP due to his failed presidential bid. Millions of them are already missing the Vice President in what now appears like a massive missed opportunity to have him possibly emerge as president in 2023.

Ahead of the 2023 general election, Arise TV in collaboration with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) had scheduled the first in a series of town hall meetings for presidential candidates in Abuja. The agenda for the debate was said to be centred on two key areas: security and the economy.

Three presidential candidates, Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian People’s Party, NNPP, and Chief Kola Abiola of the People’s Redemption Party, PRP attended the meeting. While the Delta State governor and Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP, Ifeanyi Okowa, was in attendance to represent the party’s flag bearer. However, there was no representative for the presidential candidate of the ruling APC.

Conversations around the snub of Tinubu and Atiku at the presidential debate have triggered public discussions which have raised an eyebrow among the Nigerian people.

Many Nigerians have been very vocal about their desire for a presidential debate. The enthusiasm and interest provoked by the debate are understandable. A lot of Nigerians are upbeat about the coming 2023 general election. This has led to the unprecedented mobilization for the collection of Permanent Voters Cards, and PVC in the country. And it is no surprise that over 90 million Nigerians are currently with their PVC. They are convinced that by participating in the electoral process through exercising their franchise, the country’s future and success would be assured. Hence the strong desire to have a taste of the stuff the candidates are made of and how well they can present or articulate their thoughts and programmes for the people.

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With this latest act of abscondment from participating in a presidential debate, many Nigerians on social media have expressed their disapproval and disgust at such wantonness displayed by the top two candidates. The majority of them present at the town hall meeting, also in a gathering of critical players from different walks of life and important sectors of the economy, including the organised civil society, caused a frenzy by registering their displeasure, rejecting the PDP Vice Presidential candidate from speaking on behalf of his presidential candidate.

In a fervid protest, they chanted: “No representation by proxy. This is an insult. We can’t be taken as a ride, No more governance by proxy.”

Also monitoring the mood of other Nigerians regarding the situation on Twitter and other social media channels, a cross-section of them have lamented the sheer audacity of the two leaders for refusing to speak to the people they intend to govern.

It is in the midst of the controversy on social media that the name of the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, pops up. Many Nigerians recalled how he had a fantastic show during the Vice Presidential debate that featured the Peoples Democratic Party (Peter Obi), Young Progressives Party (Umma Getso), Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (Abdulganiyu Galadima) and Alliance for New Nigeria (Khadijah AbdullahiIya), in 2018. The event was organised by the Nigeria Election Debate Group, NEDG, in Abuja, ahead of the 2019 general elections.

During the December 14, 2018, Vice Presidential debate, VP Osinbajo eloquently spoke about his relationship with the President, articulated what the Federal Government had done and also showed the gusto and fire of the youth being at the forefront of leadership. He was eventually rated the best of all by the assessors.

Many Nigerians reacting to the presidential primary election loss of VP Osinbajo five months after, still wondered why the leadership of the ruling APC and its delegates who elected the party’s flag-bearer would miss an opportunity to present a brilliant ambassador with sterling leadership qualities, VP Osinbajo, as the party’s candidate, someone whom they reckoned as a worthy ambassador, already celebrated across the African subregion, and among world leading nations.

Some of these nostalgic Nigerians, who are Twitter users bared their thoughts on the micro-blogging site in the early hours of Monday, November 7, 2022, expressing their love and respect for the VP and reminiscing on the 2018 debate encounter between vice president Osinbajo and Peter Obi, who was a running mate to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar under that platform of PDP.

One Twitter user, commenting via @thebellaBoi, uploaded a short video clip of VP Osinbajo’s brilliant response to peter Obi questions during the 2018 interesting debate, with a caption that reads, “If you allow criminals to steal all the inventory in the shop, there’ll be no shop” Osinbajo’s response to PDP VP candidate, Peter Obi after he said fighting corruption isn’t a priority.

I thought we’d bring back this moment, but no, some people think power is their birthright”

” By 2023, Nigeria will understand what it means to miss a politician.

Put some respect on this man’s name, he gave a new meaning to the OVP. Stop the baseless comparison. Osinbajo is in a class of his own!” Gozie tweeted

Another Twitter user, Damian wrote, ” These clowns are normalizing sending Vice Presidential candidates to debates. It started with Buhari. This is the power of precedence and as soon as it is set, it is hard to go back. We accepted Prof. Osinbajo speaking to us. Look at where we are now !!!”

“Nigeria is not Tinubu’s private property. He’s too old to run for the presidency. A moribund can never rescue a dying Nation. Nigeria is even healthier than him. Tinubu as he’s today, can’t even function as a Commissioner or a Minister. Osinbajo should’ve been the right person,” Arinze Chukwu wrote

Nahentey condemned both the APC and PDP for fielding confused and selfish candidates. He wrote, “PDP and APC. Both of them are confused, all this is because of selfish interests. VP Osinbajo could have been the best candidate ever. We pray for Nigeria 🇳🇬 and Nigerians, we should not repeat the mistake.”

Ever since the VP lost his presidential bid, many Nigerians have never seized to sing his praises. He’s always at the centre of discussions whenever the 2023 election conversation hit the media wave.

• Popoola is a political analyst and journalist.