2023: Choosing Between Osinbajo And The Deep Blue Sea

This is a season of alignment and re-alignment in the political firmament of Nigeria. Every second, minute, hour, and day counts in that space. It is like a nocturnal sport that thrives when mere mortals are deep in sleep only to wake up and see their future almost already decided. Before they could say, Jack Robinson, options are already tabled before them, of which they will now have to choose between the ‘devil’ and the deep blue sea.

Those choices are not originally theirs, but when they are presented between two evils, it is expected that one will appear as an angel and an incoming saviour, of course, after so much packaging and re-packaging, and they must now vote for that person with the hope he will rescue them from their travails.

When 2023 comes, Nigerians may only have to choose between good evil and bad evil. It is safer we begin to face the reality that there is no angel anywhere near the current crop of political leaders at our disposal.

One of the unbearable undoings of the last administration of the Peoples Democratic Party was the long silence in the face of workers strike, protests, including unnerving economic and security snags. We had a quiet President in Goodluck Jonathan, but a much more reserved and hushed Vice President in the person of Namadi Sambo.

Jonathan and Sambo were succeeded by Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo, who took the oath of office on May 29, 2015. Before then, Osinbajo, among some others, were tasked to design and produce a manifesto for the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC), culminating in the presentation of the “Roadmap to a New Nigeria”, a document published by the political party as its manifesto if elected to power.

Highlights of the Roadmap included a free primary schools meal plan, a conditional cash transfer to the 25 million poorest Nigerians, and the creation of jobs for the unemployed youth. His bosses were impressed with his ideas and that won him a ticket as running mate with Muhammadu Buhari. After finishing the job at the top, Osinbajo embarked on town hall meetings across the country to sell these ideas, face to face, to locals. Again, his eloquent phraseology made the people nod in agreement and willing to get on board.

His confident talks were nothing of many surprises though, after all, he is a professor of law and a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice for Lagos State. Nigerians bought into his ideas pre-2015, the campaign was successful and APC ousted a sitting opposition party to take over power.

Nigerians have always wished to have a better president who will raise the bar from the level a previous administration left it, to at least one step higher, but in the end, are left to groan in pain after they must have been drawn three steps backwards. Today, I still hear some people say they wish we are in a military regime where they believe, with a strong hand, corruption would have been minimal and prospective perpetrators would be wary of the dire repercussions that could follow if found guilty. They claim that Nigeria was better off during the military era than it is now and blames the country’s misfortune on weak civilian administrations.

Some will look back at the Olusegun Obasanjo era as a civilian president and would say it was better than the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration. After his demise, some people saw Jonathan as the saviour, a man with no shoes, who will feel the pain of the ordinary citizens. However, by 2015, most Nigerians wanted anything but Jonathan. They were disappointed and the call for another better president became very loud. They took to the queue, voted and cast their hopes on Muhammadu Buhari, thinking he will put an end to Boko Haram terrorism and all forms of insecurity, revive the economy and give the people a better life, but we all know better today and are now looking out for another rescuer. We keep going around the same circle for decades.

Judging from past experiences of political leaders, Nigerians are now left to make a choice between the many ‘evils’ at our disposal come 2023. The question is who is the better evil? There are many options on the card. There are prospective candidates like the former governor of Anambra state Peter Obi, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Akinwunmi Adesina, Former Lagos state governor Babatunde Fashola, former senate president Bukola Saraki, and former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Kingsley Moghalu, among others. But calls are getting louder for the return of Jonathan or an opportunity to be given to Osinbajo.

Presently, meetings upon meetings are taking place both within and outside the shores of Nigeria, political big boys are lobbying for themselves or their candidates, while permutations are being brandished on the table. For the APC national leader and former governor of Lagos State Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is also believed to be keenly interested in flying the party colour in 2023, his recent health challenges may have done major harm to his image and ambition.

Many politicians have turned Tinubu’s London home, where he is recovering, into a Mecca or Jerusalem where they go for a political pilgrimage of some sort, and we will soon be presented with a perceived better option out of the many names we know. But why are we stuck between these same sets of people we can hardly trust with our future? The answer is simple – because this is all we have. We are what we produce. This is who we are.

One of our options, Osinbajo, took some actions in the past that were applauded by some and slammed by others. As Acting President, Osinbajo fired the State Security Service boss, Lawal Daura for the illegal invasion of the National Assembly by armed and masked operatives of the department. Obviously, the sacking of Daura, one of the most powerful kitchen cabinet members of the administration, angered the people around the president, hence the decision never to hand over to him again to serve as acting president. Buhari has travelled many times to the UK afterwards, but no matter how long he stays away, he has not transferred temporary power to Osinbajo to act on his behalf.

Though some are seeing Osinbajo as the next saviour ahead of the 2023 elections, being second in command of Buhari’s government will not make me isolate him from the many failures this administration has recorded. The failure of the government to name and shame Boko Haram sponsors, and put an end to the dreaded terrorist group, banditry, kidnapping, coupled with many deaths and destruction of properties occasioned by the EndSars protest are some of the many things the duo will be remembered for.

While the professor has spent six years in the presidency, Goodluck Jonathan, another option, on the other hand, has five years of experience as a president. Many will remember his administration for the sudden fuel subsidy removal on January 1, 2012, which led to a nationwide protest the next day. The Occupy Nigeria protest, which took place in cities like Lagos, Ilorin, Kano, Abuja, Minna, Brussels, Washington D.C and London, was characterised by civil disobedience, civil resistance, strike actions, demonstrations and online activism. Lives were lost too and the memory lingers.

To some others, Jonathan is a better option. After all, he is from the southern part of Nigeria and already has experience as president. But only time will tell if the humble zoologist from Otuoke will take the bait and bite the bullet.

I am flabbergasted that at a time Nigeria needs a problem solver as president, we are instead focused on religion and ethnicity. Instead of embarking on a search for that person who has a genuine idea and strong will to deal with insecurity caused by Boko Haram, banditry and kidnapping, we are discussing replacing Buhari, a Muslim from the north, with a Christian from the south. We care about that divide and not the person who will put Nigeria on the track of development irrespective of his or her religion or ethnic group. How long are we going to continue like this at the detriment of true federalism, the desired development and societal improvement? If we do not change that mindset right now, we will continue to remain backwards for many decades to come.

Nigeria needs a leader who will solve problems and unite the country, not one who will compound their woes and cause further division. We have had enough and we are choking, only a problem solver can relieve the burdens the people are suffering. We do not need a baba go-slow kind of president anymore, we need a pro-active, charismatic and swift decision-maker who will not swing in the direction of the north or south, east or west, Christian or Muslim but one who will be a President of all Nigerians by actions and not just by words.

We need a policymaker, an astute figure who will fix our dwindling economy, give life to the dying naira currency, make the country habitable and give the people all basic amenities. We need a fearless president who has no link or business interest with Boko Haram, who will fish out and deal decisively with all sponsors of the terrorist group. A Grand Commander of the Federal Republic who will give a command and the military will follow them to the later.

We know that we are stuck between Tinubu or Osinbajo or Jonathan or Saraki or Fashola or Atiku and the deep blue sea. While we must choose one, we hope the chosen one gets to take us one step further and not two steps backwards.

Israel is a Nigerian journalist and can be reached via [email protected]

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