Osinbajo’s 2023 Dilemma: Why he may not run — By Gbenga Adefulu
Without any iota of doubt, Tinubu is Osinbajo’s benefactor. In fact, everything Osinbajo has achieved politically has had the imprimatur of Tinubu. From his first political job as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos (1999 – 2007) and taking Tinubu’s VP slot on the APC presidential ticket in 2015 on a platter of gold, Osinbajo has ridden on the back of Tinubu. Where was Osinbajo when Tinubu bankrolled the party and sustained it through its metamorphosis from AD to AC, ACN, forged alliance with CPC after meeting Buhari which culminated in the merger of parties and eventual formation of APC? If anyone is asked: who owns APC today? The answer is SW/Tinubu and the North. In simple terms, Tinubu brought Osinbajo out of political obscurity. Osinbajo on his own has never contested an election or funded one? Even as running mate to Buhari, he lost his Ajah polling unit in 2019 and thereafter quietly relocated his polling unit to his hometown of Ikenne, Ogun State apparently in a bid to contest for the presidency in 2023 after the humbling and chastising in Lagos.
Given the foregoing, it is understandable that the camp of Tinubu will consider Osinbajo a traitor and betrayer for daring (or currently being rumoured) to contest the 2023 APC presidential primaries with his benefactor. In fact, it is the audacity of Osinbajo for them. Anyway, let’s assume Osinbajo decides to contest the primaries with Tinubu, what are his chances of winning the APC ticket (the fight) and more importantly, how would he win the 2023 presidential election (the war)? I will interrogate ‘the fight’ and ‘the war’ in succession.
The fight: There are two parts to the fight. Part A is funding the primary election. Can Osinbajo match Tinubu at the APC presidential primaries pound-for-pound and dollar-for-dollar? Does he have the financial warchest to buy over delegates? In 2014, Buhari said he took a loan to buy his APC nomination form. Could Buhari have defeated Atiku in the December 2014 APC presidential primaries without Tinubu mobilizing great financial resources to counter Atiku’s financial spend? Several groups including journalists, media broadcasters and TV commentators have recently called on Osinbajo to throw his hat in the ring against his benefactor. How many of these persons can assure Osinbajo of one delegate’s vote at the APC primaries? Even former Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, a PDP member, recently endorsed Osinbajo. Can Aliyu deliver any delegate’s vote to Osinbajo at the APC primaries? How can the CEO of Coca Cola be recommending CEO candidates to Pepsi if not for sinister reasons? We will discuss more on the baleful objective of Aliyu’s endorsement later.
It may interest the reader to know that Osinbajo may not even know the chairman of his ward in Ikenne LGA in Ogun State. Does he know how votes are farmed out on election day proper? Is it for fun that Tinubu had bullion vans on election day in 2019? The reader is entreated to judge. As of today, can Osinbajo beat his chest and claim with foolproof assurance that he has any number of hardcore delegates on his side? Tinubu has delegates of Lagos, Osun, Ogun, Oyo, half of Ondo, Kano, Katsina, Kwara, Bauchi, Niger, Edo, Delta and Borno in the bag. If Fayemi joins the race, Fayemi has Ekiti delegates and maybe Kaduna and half on Ondo. For the delegates in the non-APC states (South South and South East predominantly), it is the highest bidder game. Does Osinbajo have the warchest to match Tinubu for the other states delegates in the North?
On the flip side, if Tinubu defeats Osinbajo at the APC primaries, that will be the end of Osinbajo’s political relevance in the South West. He will be totally ostracized and shamed for even having the audacity to wrestle with his benefactor. There have been threats of probable ostracization of Osinbajo from the APC South West political family should he even declare intention to contest the primaries with Tinubu. According to insiders in the Tinubu camp, “if not for blind greed and inordinate ambition, why will Osinbajo enjoy 8 years as VP on Tinubu’s slot (and sweat building a party) given on a platter of gold and not want to yield space for the next 8 years?” “Is he the only one?” “How ungrateful!”
The war: Let’s assume that Osinbajo defeats Tinubu at the primaries? How would he win the 2023 general presidential election against the PDP candidate (Atiku or Tambuwal or Bala Muhammed)? To start with, the fall-out of a Tinubu losing the primaries will be massive. First, Tinubu will be so bitter and will simply tell his APC goons in the South West to vote for PDP in 2023 just like he did in 2011 when ACN states voted for Jonathan based on some agreement Jonathan had with Tinubu. Does Osinbajo have the financial resources to mobilize for votes on election day, oil political machinery and so on starting from polling units to ward, local government, senatorial and state levels? Again, can Osinbajo farm out votes on election day without Tinubu? Can he connect and speak the language of the grassroots like MC Olumo who form a major plank of the Tinubu political machinery and vote-farming team on election day?
Some people say Osinbajo is a ‘saint’. Why wouldn’t he be a ‘saint’ when he has never built, funded and sustained a political machinery or party? There are over 176,000 polling units in Nigeria. How does a party mobilize its agents to man each polling unit to monitor and record votes, pay them, feed them, provide them logistics and so on? Has Osinbajo ever had to do all these? Where does the reader think the money will come from? Well, if he wins the APC ticket, he would have to do all these himself in 2023. He has never gotten his hands dirty because he has always gotten everything on a platter of gold. If Tinubu doesn’t get his hands dirty, how would there even be a party in the first place that Osinbajo would dream of flying its ticket? The price for the financial ‘dirtiness’ of Tinubu is the creation of a vibrant political party called APC which was able to wrestle power from PDP and on whose platform a ‘saint’ is anchoring his presidential dream. If Osinbajo is indeed a saint, he should follow the footsteps of Kingsley Moghalu, Attahiru Jega and Oby Ezekwesilili or Fela Durotoye by creating his own party from scratch, funding it and flying its presidential ticket. It is laughable when you hear Osinbajo’s support groups calling on Buhari/APC not to allow moneybags and politicians who have gotten their hands dirty to hijack the party? Such incredulity!
A politician who does not know how votes are procured or how elective and appointive positions are shared through horse-trading, compromises and so on among several interest groups and tendencies within a party will not appreciate the responsibility that comes with public office after assuming power. One of such poor judgement and utter lack of discretion was the sacking of Babachir Lawal by Osinbajo which irked the famed cabal/Aso Villa kitchen cabinet. As a smart politician, were Tinubu the Acting president, he would never have sacked Lawal because he knows Lawal represents some constituencies/interests within the party. At best, perhaps a suspension or directive to proceed on indefinite leave would have been fair. Apparently, Osinbajo strongly believed Buhari will succumb to his illness. Till date, Osinbajo has not been forgiven by the cabal for that action and several other missteps while in acting president’s capacity and they so much detest and do not trust him. When manna falls on your laps without even asking for it, you will never appreciate it. But if you toiled hard for it, you will value and guard jealously every ounce of it. Should such a fellow be given the Presidency on a platter of gold again, he will do incalculable damage. The North will not even risk it.
Also, several confirmed sources in Aso Villa alleged Buhari is in possession of a tape where Osinbajo gloated about taking power through a re-enactment of the ‘Yar-Adua—Jonathan model’ while Buhari was battling ill-health in the UK. Furthermore, he was reported to have been saying a loud ‘Amen’ to prayers at one of the RCCG parishes in Ogun State for “God to instantly elevate him to higher position without further delay” during Buhari’s illness which means God should take Buhari’s soul and pave the way for a substantive Osinbajo presidency. Such a fellow will never be allowed to smell the seat of the presidency as he is clearly inordinately ambitious.
Part B of ‘the fight’ is winning the 2023 election proper. In terms of voting pattern, the South South and South East will give 90% of their votes to PDP (Atiku or Tambuwal). A bitter Tinubu will deliver South West to PDP or at worst (due to Yoruba sentiments for Osinbajo), split South West votes 50:50 between PDP and APC. For the Southern Nigeria voting pattern, the probable best result is 0.5 APC/Osinbajo and 2.5 PDP/Atiku/Tambuwal.
For the Northern votes, this is where the challenge lies for Osinbajo. Atiku or Tambuwal are Northerners and Muslims. They connect to the people in terms of ethnicity and religion. Osinbajo has no conncection with them. In any case, Buhari’s secret candidate whom he does’t want to disclose or anyone to kill is Amaechi and not Osinbajo. Can Osinbajo, a Christian/Yoruba defeat Atiku/Tambuwal in the North West and North East? Never. What PDP needs to do is just tell the Northerners that Osinbajo is a Kafir (unbeliever) and it is a done deal. To make matters worse, Osinbajo is a Pastor. He will be easily de-marketed in North by PDP. In fact, this is one of the reasons Babangida Aliyu endorsed Osinbajo. Osinbajo flying APC’s presidential ticket in 2023 will make the job of PDP winning the election easier.
The only way Osinbajo would win the 2023 presidential election is for PDP to field an Igbo man as presidential candidate. Not for anything in this world will the North vote an Igbo man. The PDP has realized this and that is why their strategy to reclaim the presidency is to do whatever it takes at all costs to win. That all-costs strategy is anchored on fielding a Northern Muslim. Even the Igbos themselves realized this and that is why David Umahi decamped from PDP to APC. Also, the Igbos are content getting VP slot under PDP and are not making much of a fuss about the rumoured interest of Tambuwal, Atiku and possibly Saraki in the PDP presidential ticket. As far as the Igbos are concerned, they would rather a Northerner wins than allow their eternal rivals, the SW win the presidency. Do not mind their grandstanding on zoning the ticket to South or South East lest heaven falls. It is no surprise that the one who hurriedly stormed Aso Villa to inform Buhari of his presidential ambition after Asiwaju did on January 10 has retreated to his village waiting for the presidency to fall on his laps while Tinubu aggressively pursues country-wide consultations and is securing endorsements concurrently almost on daily basis.
A Tinubu/Northern Muslim VP ticket is more sellable and stands a better chance of winning in the North in particular and in the entire country in general than an Osinbajo/Northern Muslim VP ticket for two reasons: faith handicap of Osinbajo and weak financial warchest. It is not for fun that Buhari failed on three occasions in the presidential elections and only succeeded at the fourth attempt after being packaged by Tinubu. A great political mistake anyone will make is underrating the importance, criticality and grassroots mobilization impact of Tinubu. It is not for fun that Fayemi visited Tinubu on the upcoming Ekiti APC guber primaries slated for January 27 in order to forge a common ground. Even if Fayemi’s preferred candidate emerges APC’s guber flagbearer, the election proper on June 18 still has to be funded and prosecuted. You will not bet against Tinubu telling his supporters to vote for the opposition and even funding the opposition thereby stretching the limits of the meagre financial resources of Fayemi/Ekiti state. Even if Fayemi’s candidate wins the guber election proper in June against the backdrop of a disenchanted Tinubu, victory would have been achieved at so great a cost that Fayemi will be left with no oxygen and financial firepower to even pursue his rumoured dream of participating in the APC presidential primaries.
Given the foregoing, head or tail, the 2023 election is a tall order for Osinbajo. The probability of Osinbajo winning 2023 is slimmer than a thread passing through the eye of a needle. Osinbajo needs Tinubu to win 2023 more than Tinubu needs Osinabajo to win. In fact, Tinubu does not need Osinbajo to win. Tinubu is a fighting machine on his own and a tested war general. For Osinbajo to succeed in the fight and more importantly, win the war, at the minimum, he needs Tinubu on his side. Definitely, going head-to-head with Tinubu for the APC presidential ticket is not the right strategy to get Tinubu on his side. This is the crux of Osinbajo’s 2023 dilemma. Enough said!
Dr Gbenga Adefulu, an economist, digital media consultant and public affairs analyst writes from Ikeja, Lagos. He can be reached on email@example.com and tweets through @drgbengaadefulu.