After close to three months of campaigning, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed emerged as the ruling party’s candidate for the 2023 presidential elections. Although he came third, polling behind Rt Hon Rotimi Ameachi, the biggest loser of the APC’s primary election was Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. This is because the loss will not only cost him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be president but because it may very well put an end to his political career. The sad reality is that for many of his political associates in the Southwest, he is now viewed as an ‘odale’ (a traitor), one who must never be trusted in political dealings.
Interestingly, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo may have been Buhari’s preferred successor, but three things cost him the election:
- His campaign was based on the endorsement of President Mohammadu Buhari which never came. For a keen observer, the Vice President’s campaign lacked any serious momentum right from the moment of his declaration. Give it to his media team, the campaign worked magic on social media but struggled in its primary objective of winning over delegates and party overlords. And so at the heart of their strategy was the hope that President Buhari would weigh in and redefine the entire playing field.
But if only they knew that hope wasn’t a strategy. All his campaign got was a pep talk by the president at a dinner with the Governors, politely asking them to “allow him to choose his successor.” That was all the VP’s campaign got and that wasn’t enough to stop the elephant in the room, Asiwaju.
- Not many within the political establishment of the party could trust Prof Osinbajo. This may appear shocking given that Prof Osinbajo is a renowned pastor with a decent record in public service. For politicians, however, trust takes on an entirely different meaning. Trust for them is who is likely to protect their personal and group interest. Unfortunately for the Vice President, he lost the trust of President Buhari’s inner circle when he fired Babachir Lawan and forced Lawan Daura out of office when the president was on medical leave. They just never forgave him.
On the other side, however, the people who would have been happy to retire the Jagaban owing to their fractured relationship had very little antecedent to rely on. In the final analysis for them, it came down to choosing the proverbial devil that they knew over the angel that they didn’t.
- While the core north was comfortable with the presidency being zoned to the south, they weren’t comfortable with ‘pastor’ being the flag bearer. It also didn’t help that Prof Osinbajo’s campaign messages wore a religious toga and seemed to appeal to a Pentecostal following down south. This may have cost him the support of the northern leaders and delegates who are concerned about being served a repeat of President Buhari’s perceived favoritism towards an ethnic and religious group.