After months of speculation and consultation, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Sunday joined the presidential race ahead of the primary of the All Progressives Congress which comes up next month.
Osinbajo at a dinner he hosted at the Presidential Villa for the breaking of Ramadan fast (Iftar), the Vice-President informed the APC governors of his plan to succeed his boss, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), whose tenure as President ends in 13 months’ time.
It was learnt that no fewer than 12 APC governors out of the 23 were present at the meeting.
Some of the governors present include: Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Babagana Zulum (Borno) and Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos).
“The VP invited all the governors to the meeting and has informed them of his plan to contest. He is also seeking their support ahead of the primary. Of course, the Vice-President has also informed President Buhari of his intention to contest. He will be formally announcing his candidacy on Monday (today),” said a top source.
The Vice-President is expected to release a video of his formal declaration on Monday on all social media platforms wherein he will seek the support of all Nigerians for his ambition.
Already, Osinbajo support groups have opened a campaign and strategy office for him in the Wuse 2 area of Abuja.
Attempts to get a response from the Spokesman for the Vice-President, Laolu Akande, proved abortive as he neither responded to calls nor a text message on Sunday.
Osinbajo, who turned 65 last month, is a senior advocate of Nigeria and a former lecturer at the University of Lagos. He is also a senior pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
He began his public office career in 1988 as an Adviser (legal advice and litigation) to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Bola Ajibola, a position he held for four years.
The Vice-President was appointed Attorney-General of Lagos State in 1999 by then Governor, Bola Tinubu, and held the position till 2007, implementing several judicial reforms.
He was nominated as Buhari’s running mate in 2014 and was elected alongside Buhari in 2015. During his seven-year tenure as Vice-President, Osinbajo served as acting President for more than 120 non-consecutive days while his principal was on medical leave in London between 2016 and 2018
Osinbajo will be contesting the APC Presidential primary against Tinubu, his former boss; the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi; and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.
Others in the APC who are rumoured to be nursing Presidential ambitions include: Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Kayode Fayemi; the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige. The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, is also considered a contender.
Speaking with The PUNCH on Sunday, a human rights lawyer, Mr Kayode Ajulo, who is an associate of the Vice-President and member of his support group, described Osinbajo’s candidacy as a dream come true.
When asked if Osinbajo contesting against Tinubu would not be viewed as treachery, the activist said Osinbajo had to put his loyalty to 200 million Nigerians ahead of his love for the former governor of Lagos.
Ajulo added, “Prof Osinbajo started his career in public office in the 1980s and has served under several distinguished Nigerians including under then AGF, Bola Ajibola, who was later appointed Judge of the International Court of Justice from 1991 to 1994.
“It was not only under Tinubu that he served. In fact, Tinubu identified his achievements and brought Osinbajo into his team. Buhari had lost three elections but won when he picked Osinbajo as his running mate.
“Osinbajo is who Nigeria needs at this point in time. He cannot sacrifice the well-being of 200 million Nigerians on the altar of loyalty to one man. This declaration is historic because he is the first Vice-President to declare and be accepted. He will make a formal public declaration on Monday. Just watch out,” Ajulo said.
The South-West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 (SWAGA’23), a group aimed at ensuring that Tinubu emerges President, told The PUNCH that Osinbajo’s declaration was welcome.
The National Secretary of SWAGA, Mr Bosun Oladele, told The PUNCH that the APC must ensure that the Presidential primary which comes up next month is conducted in a fair manner as this would be the only way to maintain the unity of the party.
Oladele said no one should emerge as the Presidential candidate of the party through the backdoor.
He said, “It is the right of the Vice-President to contest. Nobody can take that away from him. Whether it is morally right or wrong is another topic for discussion. I believe it shows the platform where Tinubu wants to contest is a veritable platform and let us not misunderstand his intentions.
“Nobody is saying he should not indicate interest but personally in our group SWAGA 23, what we are looking at is let the race be open enough. That nobody is getting the ticket through the backdoor. Let everyone show up on the field and let the winner emerge in a democratic manner so that we will be united after and the party and the country will be better. Osinbajo is welcome
“We will be waiting for him at the primary. We started early because the journey is long. So, he is joining us at the end but he is welcome.”
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