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DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN

To begin with, it is not at all clear that the presidential election of February 2023 will hold as scheduled. This, in a manner of speaking, is a restatement of the ecclesiastical revelation of Pastor Enoch Adeboye to the effect that God has not told him that there will be a presidential election in Nigeria next year. Despite this spiritual skepticism, Adeboye’s protégé, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has gone ahead to throw his hat into the ring and affirm his long-nurtured aspiration to run for the office he had deputized for in the last seven years.

With a similar declaration by the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, two days prior, the arena is definitely getting more colourful. Unlike the relatively unencumbered minister, Osinbajo is headed into massive turbulence. As Vice-President with a world-acclaimed resume, Osinbajo comes prepared and he is nominally the most logical and conventional successor to Buhari. In reality, however, he is running against significant headwinds.

First and the most intriguing is the conflict of interest he has thus set up with his erstwhile political mentor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu who has declared his ‘lifelong ambition for the office of the president’. Pointedly, the Vice-President used the same expression to draw a contrast between him and his erstwhile godfather-“though it is not my lifelong ambition”. In truth, with or without Osinbajo, the likelihood of Tinubu picking the All Progressives Congress, APC presidential ticket is tantamount to reaching for a pie in the sky but now he has been handed a perfect fall guy for this potential failure.


It is inconceivable that in contemporary Nigeria anyone can contemplate a Muslim/Muslim ticket- which is what a Tinubu candidacy portends for the APC. If the APC presidential candidate is coming from the South, the redoubtable base of the party in the Islamic North has insisted on the irreducible minimum of producing a Muslim running mate. Further, I don’t need to be a member of the crucify Tinubu brigade to suggest that his candidacy is a nonstarter on the criteria of physical fitness- which has acquired a larger than life dimension on the wings of the conspicuous negative attention Buhari’s health crisis has drawn to the factor. On account of the clashing aspiration of this duo and the moral imperative of conceding the presidency to fellow Southerners, Ndigbo, this season is not the best of times for the Yoruba. Regardless of this imperative, Osinbajo has risen to become a most popular aspirant in the South-West. Understandably so.

As earlier iterated, he is a universally compelling candidate for any public office, all other things equal. Bearing witness is a testimony from the Financial Times of London.”There are some promising candidates. If Yemi Osinbajo, the technocratic vice-president, were miraculously to make it through the campaign thicket and emerge as president, the hearts of Nigerian optimists would beat a little faster”. 

But no matter the extenuation of the mutual disregard the Yoruba and Igbo have for one another, it is opportunistic of Osinbajo and the Yoruba to wish away the moral imperative of conceding the presidency to the South-East. And trust the rich ensemble and repertoire of the Yoruba vocabulary to find an appropriate idiom for this opportunism. It is called ‘omo eni o sedi bebere, ka fi ileke si idi omo elomi’. A borrowed translation is “One cannot say because one’s daughter has ample buttocks he would put the waist beads on another man’s daughter”. I pray that Osinbajo has secured the endorsement of his principal on the perilous voyage he has just commenced lest he get drowned in opprobrium in the cause of grasping at a mirage.

So goes a smell of the coffee specially brewed for him “This is a very notable week, this is the week Osinbajo declared his interest for the presidency. It is also the week Judas betrayed Jesus Christ”. If I were in his shoes I would make a play for heroism and indebt the gratitude and eternal goodwill of the Yoruba, Nigeria and international onlookers. Rather than dare to run I would choose to publicly disavow any intent to contend against Tinubu (no matter how imperfect the latter) and in the same breath endorse power shift to the South, especially the South-East.

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From the podium on which such Mandela-like nobility is displayed would emerge a new Yoruba and Nigerian political star, a quintessential Omoluabi. And the reward would not be ong in coming. It is a no-brainer to anticipate the likelihood that rather than a successful presidential election, Nigeria is most probably sleepwalking into a political gridlock that will require the arbitration of statesmen in the form of a government of national unity. And Nigeria and the world would remember a man who has proven himself so worthy of being a rallying figure. Heck! even if it doesn’t pan out as I project, attaining the status of the Vice-President of Nigeria is a rare gift given to a select exclusive club of overachievers for which one should rest content and eternally give the glory to God. 

Second is the alleged opposition of the ‘Buhari cabal’ to his emergence. It is a mark of the twisted logic ruling the universe of the Buhari presidency that a distinction is made between the president on one hand and his cabal on the other regarding the prospects of Osinbajo’s aspiration. Reckoning that the latter’s ambition is dead on arrival without the endorsement of the president, this twisted logic is utilised (by Osinbajo promoters) to downplay the relevance of the not-too-hidden hostility of Buhari’s pointmen to Osinbajo’s aspiration. I don’t know the extent to which it is tenable that the ‘faux pas’ of asserting his authority as acting president (including firing a redoubtable member of the cabal) whilst Buhari was attending to his failing health in faraway London should cost him dearly. But it is at moments like this that prudence teaches us to recall a teachable counsel by Governor Nasir El Rufai- that longsuffering vengefulness is a veritable Fulani pastime.

The third current against the smooth sailing of the Vice-President in the shark-infested waters of the presidential election is the liability of the emphasis on his vocation as a pastor. Heedless of the scriptural injunction that warns “touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm” we have been treated to the extreme weaponization of this liability. 

In a teaser to a mind-bungling animus and somewhat bogus attack on Osinbajo, this is what a writer had to say “A Yemi Osinbajo presidency would, without a doubt, plunge Nigeria into the depths of a smoldering religious volcano that will hasten its self-immolation. This isn’t some idly churlish oracular indulgence. It’s based on an intimate familiarity with Osinbajo’s trajectory of religious bigotry, overpowering anti-Muslim prejudice, and irrevocable devotion to the materialization of a Pentecostal, specifically RCCG, capture of the Nigerian state.. this vile, shameless, emotionally stunted bigot has the gall to barefacedly lie to Nigerians that he wants a Nigeria where our diversities, tribes [sic] and faiths unite, rather than divide us.. He wants to establish a Pentecostal RCCG republic.

If that’s what Nigerians want, good luck!” Such a malicious diatribe! This deliberate oversimplification of the ramifications of Osinbajo’s pastoral status is a pointer to the kind of stuff the Vice-President would encounter now and again on the rough and tumble path he has now charted for himself.This is one aspect in which the genuine endorsement of Buhari becomes indispensable.

To mitigate the liability (amidst the religion-sensitive Northern electorate and Buhari faithfuls) Osinbajo will require nothing short of an all-out declaration of support and sponsorship of their political icon namely Mohammadu Buhari. Yet, in the considered opinion of one who should know, the Buhari life jacket may even prove inadequate as a lifesaver; the Northern Islamic electorate is particularly allergic to the appellation of a pastor. 

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In the game of throwing the kitchen sink at one another, Tinubu definitely has the advantage. Resulting from regular public embarrassment borne of a lifelong association with scandals, he has, over the years, acquired immunity against the resurgence of any breakout of same.


Not so for prim and proper Osinbajo, our lord, spiritual and temporal. Nonetheless, as Christian faithful would profess, there is nothing God cannot do. But remember that Osinbajo’s father in the Lord, Pastor Adeboye, has warned that God has not told him there will be a presidential election in Nigeria come February next year. And this is one instance in which carnal logic and divine skepticism appear to be of one accord.The magnitude and dimensions of the nation threatening security crisis bedeviling Nigeria today is multiple times worse than a comparable season in 2015. In the realistic assessment and acceptance that the volatile situation was beyond the ken of a compromised Nigerian military, Jonathan called on the skill set of foreign mercenaries- at whose intercession, all became well with the elections.

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Confronted with a much more degenerate security situation the need to borrow a leaf from the Jonathan playbook is compelling. In concurrence, a central figure in the Buhari dispensation who doubles as Governor of Kaduna state offered this damning insight into the mess that has overtaken Nigeria “These people (terrorists) are getting money. The way they are so emboldened; they fear no authority, no soldier and so why won’t security agents go to their enclaves and kill them all? Unless this is done, this problem will persist and it is capable of destroying Nigeria as a whole. We know where they are, SSS gives reports on them every day, they have their numbers including that of Dogo Gide and what he is planning”.

At the end of the day, according to the bookmakers, the probability is that Tinubu and Osinbajo would work to waste one another in a fit of mutually assured destruction. The relevant odu ifa goes forth “owonrinsogbe (ogbesowonrin), she mi n she o, adiye da mi logun nu, ma fo leyin..kaka ki eku ma je sese, kafi she awa danu”- do me I do you, the fowl has scattered my medication and I retaliate by breaking its eggs..If the rat would not eat the nuts, then we might as well throw them away” 

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