Professor Yemi Osinbajo is the first sitting Vice President to openly declare his ambition to become President. His recent virtual declaration came against the backdrop of immense speculation about whether he was going to throw his hat into the ring or sit it out. Since his declaration, the Vice President has been the object of scrutiny, deservedly so for anyone who aspires to lead a nation of over 200 million people. The ambition to become President can seldom be controlled when one has seen the allure of the office from the vantage position of Vice President, but the million-dollar question is, what are his chances?
Victory in a political contest is a function of a lot of things such as popular support, momentum, positioning, timing, power, resources, planning and strategy. Any candidate with a bag full of these factors essentially has the odds in his favour. Such was the case in 2014 when, despite being outspent, General Buhari emerged victorious at the APC primary election. The delegates were not unaffected by the national fervour for a drastic change in the status quo and a deviation from the norm that Nigerians were fed up with. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was well prepared to take advantage of the direction the political pendulum swung towards as he embodied change in addition to the aforementioned factors, hence his victory.
The odds this time around seem to be in favour of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. In the All Progressives Congress, Tinubu is the man of the moment. His present-day larger than life political stature can be traced to his prominent role in the pro-democracy struggle of the 90s under the umbrella of NADECO, where he deployed hefty moral and financial support to force the military to hand over. Since then he’s become a two-term Governor of Lagos, Opposition Leader and National leader of the ruling party. This trajectory served as a vehicle to amass an army of loyalists that have ensured formidable influence despite being outside the office for the last fifteen years.
It has become clear that a significant part of the APC believes that given his input, support, and sacrifices for the party from its formation stage to incumbency, in addition to his leadership qualities, he deserves to be the Presidential candidate of the party. This sentiment is rife among the South-West caucus of the party and supporters from the North who feel indebted to the Ex-governor of Lagos state, Ahmed Tinubu for his efforts at ensuring a coalition that made President Buhari’s victory possible. This sentiment reflects in accusations of disloyalty to Tinubu that have been levelled at Osinbajo. Osinbajo’s declaration generated a lot of unease in the Southwest caucus of the party with many feelings strongly that his declaration is an act of betrayal and disloyalty because his political benefactor- Bola Ahmed Tinubu seeks the same position.
Osinbajo has been likened to Judas who betrayed Jesus with posters flooding Abuja to that effect. Responding to allegations of disloyalty in an address to a boisterous crowd of supporters in Ogun State the vice president said:
“After all I have learnt, if called upon to serve the nation, should I say No? I have decided that I will run for the office. I have sworn an oath to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is an oath to our people; our children and the future of Nigeria. I owe nobody else any allegiance outside the oath”
The Vice President believes that his experience on the job and oath to the Federal Republic of Nigeria counts over and above anything else. But this would not put to rest the accusations. Osinbajo, the underdog in this race, lacks national political machinery manned by prominent individuals that can rival Tinubu’s. Yes, he has pockets of support groups across the country but they’re not strong enough to single-handedly deliver him to victory, firstly at the primaries.
The Party Primaries would determine who emerges as a Presidential candidate. The Vice President is a relative newbie politician and had never contested an election prior to 2015 i.e., he has no long-standing structure within the party. He’s a lightweight who lost his former polling unit in Lagos before transferring to Ogun, his home state. Prof. Osinbajo’s trump card might be President Buhari’s endorsement( if he gets it) and so we wonder, what would an endorsement from President Buhari mean for the vice president?
If President Buhari endorses the VP under the guise of a “consensus”, that would not guarantee him a smooth ride in the primaries because the President lacks the political sagacity and shrewdness to influence the primary process in favour of a predetermined outcome without a consequential fallout. Especially if one considers APC’s infamous inability to manage interests. If he luckily emerges victorious in the primaries through a consensus process. He would need the support of the Tinubu political machinery to emerge victorious in the general election. Would Tinubu be willing to for the fourth time offer his organisation for the use of a Presidential candidate (especially when he desires it)?
A “consensus” arrangement that surfaces within the primaries as a vehicle for his emergence would spell doom for the party because Tinubu who has a large political bloc might decamp to pursue his ambitions elsewhere. This would be tantamount to a significant dent in the parties’ chances during general elections. Even if Tinubu doesn’t decamp and he’s aggrieved, his limp support would affect the number of votes. No candidate can emerge as President without remarkable political support from a region. Tinubu’s long-term ambition is a far contrast comparison to Osinbajo’s midnight ambition. Tinubu can win the South West without Osinbajo but Osinbajo can’t, without Tinubu.
The APC National Working Committee has agreed on Indirect Primaries as the selection process for its Presidential candidate. This decision doesn’t foreclose the possibility of a consensus candidature notwithstanding delegates deciding the fate of aspirants in the presidential primaries. APC has 7,800 delegates from across the 6 geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
Northwest: 1, 924 delegates
Southwest: 1,568 delegates
North Central: 1,278 delegates
Northeast: 1, 212 delegates.
Southeast: 838 delegates.
South-South: 927 delegates.
Total = 7,800 delegates
The North-West has the highest number of delegates with 1,924 while the South-East has the lowest with 838 delegates. The South-East, South-West, South-South and North-Central all have candidates aspiring for the position of President in the party. So, we can assume that delegates from these regions would significantly vote for individual candidates from their region. The South East and South West particularly have multiple candidates vying for office from the regions. In the South-West, Ogun state has three candidates for the Presidency: Ex-governor Ibikunle Amosun, Ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives Dimeji Bankole and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The number of aspirants from Ogun would slim the Vice President’s chances of significant home support as the votes of delegates would be split amongst the trio.
Based on the aforementioned, the North-West and North-East are the battlegrounds. The long-existing structure, political acumen, reach, and influence is going to count in securing votes from these regions and the state Governors are going to play a large role in these. Despite being Vice President for the last 7 years Prof Osibanjo has these in a limited capacity at least in comparison to his main opponent, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
If by any stroke of luck he emerges as APC’s Presidential candidate, the hurdles aren’t yet scaled. The party must reconcile interests and placate those aggrieved by losing out, so it doesn’t go to the polls as a divided house and make its candidate unable to secure at least 25% of the vote cast in 2/3 (two-third) of the states (24 States); the requirements to win a Presidential election in Nigeria. If the Vice President scales the hurdle of the primaries, his next hurdle is selling his candidature to Nigerians which would be fraught with major issues.