“I am so pleased and happy, and I believe that the Almighty God has a plan for our nation by putting us in strategic positions in politics, business and everywhere”- Prof. Yemi Osinbajo
The office of the Vice President since the office became known to the Nigerian constitution has been more of a ceremonial position with its core requirements being to appear at events the President does not consider important or deserving of his personal presence. The redefinition of this office to becoming more visible, more influential and more vocal is one of the noticeable things in the present administration. Previous Vice Presidents such as Alex Ekueme, Atiku Abubakar, Goodluck Jonathan and Nnamadi Sambo were downgraded to appearing at the commissioning of minor projects celebrated with little fanfare or press attention and on some occasions appearing near the President at more dignified occasions with little of the Vice Presidents input visible in the eventual decisions and outcome of governance.
The visibility of Prof. Osinbajo in comparison to former occupiers of his office may be attributable to the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari by virtue of age is constrained and no longer physically mobile with his 800m walk last Salah being a record achievement touted all over the media by his press team. The President’s health has also raised cause for concern in the past and explains the present visibility of the Vice President being more due to a need to fill the void that the President’s age and health unavoidably creates than due to the reason of Prof. Osinbajo’s relative individual brilliance, academic achievements, career achievements and impressive track records in public service spanning far back into the 1980’s as a lecturer in a public University and a Legal Adviser to the Attorney General Bola Ajibola.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has gained visibility to be seen everywhere in the markets, campaign grounds and rallies, ceremonies and it is quite certain that he has the most tight schedule in Nigeria at the moment. He is always pictured everyday at a different state of the Federation and one who has followed the campaigns cannot but notice his wide spread. He is in the University of Ibadan in the weekend for a wedding, he is with the Alaafin the next Monday, he is in Modakeke, Osun State few days later. Again, he is pictured with his barber having a cut and then again he is pictured in the middle of the market surrounded by traders or by a throng of people happy to see him.
Beyond and within the political arena, he has become the best thing to happen to the Buhari administration and the quest of the same administration to retain power. He has been complementary in every way to the President and has filled almost every deficiency of the President. His energy has made up for that of Buhari who can only attend few events in order to conserve his strength. His intelligence and brilliance have also become the bailout for various gaffes of the administration and he has also been brilliant with handling initiatives such as Tradermoni.
He had to be cautioned by Kadari Ahmed to refrain in order to allow the President speak for himself. Prof. Yemi Osinbajo would have effectively handled the same interview session as he did quite brilliantly at the Vice Presidential debate. Without that refrain from Kadaria, he might just have been able to effectively cover up for the President’s lack of oratorical gifting.
One moment when you stare at Buhari and notice a particular weakness, you stare again at Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and see how he makes up for it exactly. I doubt any other President and Vice President have been so complementary as Buhari/Osinbajo. One moment the opposition call President Buhari an Islamic religious fanatic and the next moment you stare at his Vice President and see a Pastor of one of Nigeria’s largest churches who has risen far high in the church hierarchy. One moment you say President Buhari is not educated and the next you see a Professor of Law and a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science as his Vice President . You cannot find a flaw in Buhari and not find this as a strength in Osinbajo.
It is thus amazing and would always be a subject for political thought what sort of democracy can merge two sharp contrasts into a team.
The complexities of the Nigerian state and the politics within it ensures that such great difference in personality and intellectual exposure can occur between a President and his Vice President. The question of who is acceptable to what ethnicity, whose turn it is to govern the nation and other such matter more than qualifications in the electoral voting patterns of Nigerians.
The background of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as a Professor of Law and former Attorney General of Lagos State has been called into question severally after various incidences with frequent reference to the fact that he is a lawyer(a Senior Advocate of Nigeria at that) and thus the government should perform better in regards to adherence to due process by virtue of this. As soon as a supposed violation of the constitution occurs, Twitter Nigeria becomes awash with “where is the Professor of Law?”.
Prof. Osinbajo lived up to his legal background by often providing clear legal arguments for the actions of government even though many of it still remains controversial. He has also alongside Festus Keyamo SAN provided a legal front to douse concerns of Buhari’s dictatorship with Festus Keyamo proving more lethal in assuaging concerns of Buhari dictatorship because of his background as an activist. Both men are perharps the most important factors in sustaining the acceptance of the ruling party among educated people.
There would have been found no better running mate than ‘Starboy PYO’ for President Muhammadu Buhari who despite his several gaffes and errors manages to remain acceptable beyond the poor illiterate mass who are his natural followers especially from his previous attempts at election to also become capable of having some acceptance among the enlightened members of the Nigerian populace.
Despite severe economic conditions, despite fears and concerns for the health of the President, despite his errors such as raising the hands of the wrong people in rallies and saying he got to office in 2005 or even introducing the same candidate thrice for three different offices. A large chunk of the voters who would still be voting Buhari despite these flaws are doing it just so because they see a force of hope and trust in Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and this extends also to even members of the opposition who share the same sentiment for him.
Having survived an helicopter crash recently, he has come out unstained white with an even higher popularity rating that has soared across the roof. Religious Nigerians already have begun to interprete this crash survival as some divine endorsement. Since a lot of Nigerians are religious, he has again brought massive acceptance to the ruling party especially with his leadership composure following the crash.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has so far proven to be a good running mate and has been able to plug almost all leaks of the Buhari regime.
The questions would continue to linger and they are that of why his individual quality and impressive track records only fit to be second fiddle. Also, the question that raises concerns towards his ambition to contest or not for the Presidency in 2023. It is too early to speculate as a lot of factors presently visible and those which may later occur have to be put in consideration. However, as it stands today among Nigerians belonging to all tribes, ethnicity, religious appeal, age and educational background. Osinbajo has gained sufficient visibility and is gaining sufficient political popularity to attempt something of his own.
Koye-Ladele Mofehintoluwa is a Law student in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He writes news and opinion pieces for several reputable media. He has a passion for Economics, Activism, and Human Rights. He is Director of Field Work, Center for Human Rights, Obafemi Awolowo University. He can be contacted on [email protected] and on Twitter @koye_tolu