Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has his eyes firmly set on succeeding his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2023 and has already started moves to actualise his ambition, Daily Independent exclusively gathered.
This ambition, however, may put him a collision course with his political leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State governor and national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who nominated Osinbajo as Buhari’s running mate in December 2014.
While Tinubu, who returned from London last week after a knee surgery has not formally declared his interest to run in 2023, one of his key associates had told Daily Independent that he will make his position known after the APC national convention when a substantive leadership of the party would have been elected.
However, several political groups, the principal one being the South-West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 (SWAGA ‘23) has been canvassing support for him across the country.
Our correspondent spoke with several credible sources in the party who confirmed the development even though majority of them chose to remain anonymous.
According to one of them, who was a key member of President Buhari’s campaign team in the 2019 presidential elections, Osinbajo’s interest in the race was buoyed by the pressure by many stakeholders in the party, including associates of the president who believe that he is the “best candidate to continue from where Buhari will stop in 2023”.
He said those pushing for Osinbajo also believe that having understudied President Buhari as vice president for over six years without showing any sign of disloyalty, Osinbajo will continue with the policies of the Buhari administration if elected president.
Speaking further, he said age factor and the clam our by some stakeholders in the party that if APC should zone the presidential ticket to the South, a Christian should succeed President Buhari. Tinubu is a Muslim.
“Osinbajo has his eyes set on becoming the president in 2023. There is no doubt about that. He has not come out directly but he is using some fronts as proxy. His belief is that the cabals in the presidency and those that matter in the North will not accept an Asiwaju Tinubu candidacy.
“Right now, some groups have started campaigning publicly for him and he did not restrain or disown them. Many people are not aware of this but the truth is that he has more or less relocated his base to Ogun State in Ikenne, thereby sending a signal that he is not a Lagosian.
“He has also set up some committees to help him go round the country to assess the situation, his chances and the challenges he may face. He is also banking on the belief that the Christian community in Nigeria will solidly back him”, he said.
When asked how Osinbajo will cope given the fact that he has no political base especially in the South-West, our source said the only thing Osinbajo needs is the endorsement by President Muhammadu Buhari and Tinubu.
“It is wrong for anyone to say Osinbajo doesn’t have a political base. Stop comparing the Osinbajo of today with the one that was Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos then. Do you know what it means to be the number two man in Nigeria? I think it is childish for anyone to say that a man who has been in office as vice president for more than six years and had also served as acting president doesn’t have political base. He has political base not just in the South-West but across the country”.
“The only thing he needs is the endorsement by President Buhari and blessings of Asiwaju. He may not get that of Asiwaju given the current situation but if President Buhari, who is truly the leader of the party anoints him, everyone including Asiwaju will fall in line”, he said.
When contacted, Laolu Akande, spokesperson to the vice president, said his principal had issued several statements that he is not focused on 2023 right now and that his position remains unchanged.
In one of the statements, Osinbajo had said he has not declared any interest what soever in the 2023 election, but he is rather focused on working in his capacity as vice president in the Buhari administration to address all the compelling issues in the country.
However, a serving senator in the South-West said that he is confident that Tinubu will not contest in 2023.
“The question is, will Asiwaju run in 2023? I strongly believe that he is not going to run. All these activities by SWAGA and others are just to create anxiety in the system. He knows they will stand in his way and he won’t get the APC ticket. So, he won’t want to throw away his money by contesting.
“All what they are doing now is to charge up the polity so that at the end of the day, everybody will pander to him and he will have a say in whoever becomes the presidential candidate. I’m 99 percent certain that he is not going to run. You can take my words to the bank”, he noted.