Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has declared his interest in succeeding Nigeria’s current President, Muhammadu Buhari.
Osinbajo, who broke with tradition to announce his candidacy via live broadcast instead of political rallies and gathering for supporters, says his plan is to continue Buhari’s policies even if this has attracted a lot of scorn from Nigerians.
“For the past seven years, I have served as Vice President under a true Nigerian Patriot, a servant of the nation in war and peace, a man of integrity,” says Osinbajo.
According to Osinbajo, he has together with President Buhari worked through some of the most difficult times in the history of Nigeria.
“But we have remained focused on securing the country, providing infrastructure, and growing our economy,” he says.
Osinbajo, the 61-year-old law professor and southern Christian pastor then proceeded with the announcement of his candidacy thus: “I am today, with utmost humility formally declaring my intention to run for the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the platform of our great party The All-Progressive Congress (APC). If by the grace of God, I and the will of the people and I am given the opportunity then I believe that first, we must complete what we have started.”
Nigerians, however, believe the continuation of the last seven years under Buhari, would mean sustained suffering.
A Lagos-based journalist; Sunday Oluwaseun told Timescape Magazine that he was not comfortable seeing Osinbajo premising his campaign on the plan to consolidate what Buhari has done to Nigeria in the past seven years.
“The problem the Vice President will have is how he distances himself from the policies of his boss Buhari, whom critics accuse of racking up a huge national debt and failing to end an Islamist insurgency in the northeast,” says Oluwaseun.
Oluwaseun adds that Osinbajo will also have a hard time distancing himself from Buhari’s failure to end kidnappings for ransom by armed gangs in the northwest.
“There is no part of the country that has not witnessed cases of banditry and kidnappings,” he says.
Buhari was elected President of Nigeria on his reputation, as an uncompromising soldier who could easily fight corruption, banditry, Boko Haram, and the practice of kidnapping people for ransom.
He, however, seems to have failed, as it has sometimes felt like Nigerians were under siege due to the general insecurity, which has in some cases attracted vigilante groups that made the bad situation worse. To make matters further complicated, Nigeria was in October 2020 engulfed by protests over a section of the police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that would sometimes kidnap and imprison working youth who failed to bribe the officers.
In reaction to the protests, Buhari’s government shot at some protesters and generally clamped down on leaders of the group, which will make it hard for some youth to support the APC.
Sesan Oki, a political analyst, adds that although there are people who are willing to trust Osinbajo, association with Buhari over the past seven years will be difficult to overcome.
“He is the incumbent vice president in a government which many of us regard as a failed administration. APC has brought Nigeria backward with huge debts, there have been more killings of innocent Nigerians. What difference will he bring to the table? If he can prove himself, I don’t see anything stopping him then,” says Oki.
Oki, however, adds a caveat saying that as vice president, Osinbajo has limited power.
“But he is still part of the government. He has no excuse. He is seen as a stakeholder in this failed government,” Oki said.
Cecilia Stephen, a political observer wonders what Buhari’s work Osinbajo says he would be coming to finish as the president because to her, there is nothing to show except hardship.
“I heard that he (Osinbajo) said he would complete Buhari’s work. What is the work? To finish Nigeria completely? Just wondering,” she says, adding that Osinbajo would have been better off, standing on his own personal record.
“Saying he will continue from where Buhari stopped is a big red flag,” Stephen noted.
Osinbajo’s declaration has put to rest speculation on whether he would contest against the kingmaker from Lagos, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who some people believe is the Vice President’s godfather.
The political terrain in Nigeria is gradually becoming hot and interesting by the day and people are looking at where the pendulum will swing. Analysts and even voters will be watching to see who Buhari decides to back. In addition to Osinbajo, and Tinubu, other candidates that have shown interest include Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, former Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, and a host of others.