As President Muhammadu Buhari nears the end of his two terms as President and Commander-In-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces, it is usual for party leaders to begin to search for suitable persons to takeover the mantle of leadership and possibly win the presidency again for the ruling party.
The APC, being the ruling party at the national level, must now begin the soul searching and the quest to find the most suitable, the most sellable and the most appropriate person to help the party continue to sit on the big chair reserved for president.
In the American style presidential system that we have adopted, the office of vice president is considered an understudy. The occupant of the vice presidency usually gets the right of first refusal. In normal situations, the vice president is groomed for the office of president by being an understudy and a close confident and adviser of the president.
Indeed, the president and his vice have a joint ticket. That is why a vice president is in terms of protocol, the number two man. He acts in the absence of the president. He enjoys the same briefs that the president gets. As such there is no better person for the office of the president in a scenario where the vice president has been a close adviser and operational supervisor of key areas of the polity. There is also the advantage of continuity of many laudable programmes and policies of the Buhari/APC administration.
This continuity can best be assured by the individual who is the political and official twin of the president. Many APC stakeholders want the party to continue to run Nigeria beyond 2023. In a bid to stabilize democracy in our dear country, it stands to reason that the number two man should step in to contest the office of number one. If APC wants continuity and balance in the power equation in the country, they ought not to look further than Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who has worked with President Muhammadu Buahri in the formulation of the various programmes and policies that have attracted accolades from within and outside Nigeria.
There are some Nigerians who think that the position of the vice president or deputy governor is like a spare tyre. That mentality is not only common in Nigeria but in other countries that practice the presidential system of government. In US popular mythology, presidential running mates tend to be viewed as the ultimate accessory. In the Philippines the vice president is also viewed by some as spare tyre. However, the reality in Nigeria is that the vice president is not a spare tyre and deserved to share in the accolades coming to the president based on the administration’s policies and programmes.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo actually addressed this issue during the later part of the first term of the Buhari administration and in the process educated many on the roles of the vice president in Nigeria’s presidential system.
Osinbajo was emphatic that he is not a spare tyre to the president, he emphasised that his roles as the number two citizen are spelt out in the constitution.
Osinbajo said these during the vice-presidential debate organised by the Nigerian Elections Debate Group (NEDG) and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) in 2018. Asked to evaluate the job of the vice-president since he assumed office in 2015, Osinbajo said the demand of the role has since increased his grey hair. “I am sure that those who know me quite well know that my hair was not this grey when I started out in 2015. So really, it has been tasking,” Osinbajo said.
“And it has also been an incredibly rewarding experience especially looking at it from the point of view of the ability to do the things that one wanted to do all along.
“The role is one where you are in many senses the chief adviser to the president of the country and possibly the one person that the constitution mandates to represent the president when he is absent for a meeting and even when he is absent for a longer period.
“So there is a sense in which the role of the vice president is one that very closely mirrors the role of the president in very profound ways. But our vice-presidency is different from that of other countries. Because unlike other countries, even countries that have similar constitutions, our own constitution actually specifies role for the vice president. The vice president is the chairman of the national economic council…that is a constitutional role.
“In some senses, those who say the role of the vice president is like a spare tyre have it wrong because they are probably looking at other jurisdictions. In our jurisdiction, there are specific roles that the vice-president is entitled by law to perform. The vice president is also the chairman of the NCP, that is the
national council of privatisation , the vice president is also statutory chairman over 22 parastatals and agencies and these are defined by law. That role is one that a good degree of trust is required between the president and the vice president,” the vice president said.
Osinbajo has said it all. This also shows that if those in APC are truly interested in the continuity of the policies and programmes of President Muhammadu Buhari, they should see Osinbajo as the man to ensure that. He has worked harmoniously and seamlessly with President Muhammadu Buhari. Osibanjo has defended government programmes both at home and abroad. He has been more or less, the chief marketer of the administration in Southern Nigeria where some of the policies of the government were viewed with suspicion.
He has been a loyal vice president and the country has been spared the cantankerous relationship that characterized the relationship between former vice president Atiku Abubakar and former president Olusegun Obasanjo in their second term between 2003 and 2007.
Besides, movers and shakers in the private sector have over the years marked him out as the man the nation should queue behind in its search for continuity beyond 2023.
After the formation of the APC, Osinbajo was tasked with other notable Nigerians in the party with the development of a manifesto for the new political party. This culminated in the presentation of the “Roadmap to a New Nigeria”, a document published by APC as its manifesto in 2013. The highlights of the roadmap included a free meal school plan, and a conditional cash transfer to millions of the poorest Nigerians once they enroll their children in school and have them immunised. Will a man who drafted the policies and programmes of APC abandon it if he becomes president? He is more likely to continue with those programmes much more than any other person.
In terms of capacity and experience, Osibanjo is a well prepared man.
From 1988–1992, he was appointed as an adviser (legal advice and litigation), to the then attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Prince Bola Ajibola which experience is invaluable to a potential commander in chief. Note also that between 1999 and 2007, Osinbajo was member of cabinet of the Lagos State government where he served as attorney-general and commissioner for justice. In that position, the legal reforms he pioneered in Lagos State are still reference points to this day. He was also member, United Nations Secretary General’s Committee of Experts on Conduct and Discipline of UN, Peacekeeping Personnel around the globe in 2006.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Osinbajo had been partner in law firm of Osinbajo, Kukoyi & Adokpaye. With his experience in law and as vice president for eight years by 2023 and having worked closely with President Muhammadu Buhari, who is better qualified to continue Buhari’s programmes and policies than Osinbajo?