The presidential ambition of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the national leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has brought out the divisions among governors, leaders and other stakeholders in the South West geopolitical zone.
Osinbajo, who served as Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice for 8 years during the reign of Tinubu as governor, yesterday, declared his intention to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
Tinubu had in January this year formally declared his intention to run for the presidency in 2023.
It is unclear if the ruling party had zoned the presidency to the South, particularly the South West as other aspirants have also indicated interest.
Although the official spokespersons for Osinbajo and Tinubu declined comments, Daily Trust gathered that the two leaders are ready to slug it out at the primaries.
Disquiet in South
A chieftain of the party in Lagos State said Osinbajo's declaration did not come as a surprise to Tinubu, whom the VP had allegedly informed earlier.
Meanwhile, the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has said that it is not supporting either of the candidates at the moment.
Spokesman for the group, Comrade Jare Ajayi said the group does not have any candidate at the moment, saying, "I am sure other people who are of Yoruba extraction would come out."
However, Daily Trust learnt that the declaration by Osinbajo has unsettled the permutation of the South West presenting a single candidate at the party's presidential primary any time from now.
Five of the six states in the geopolitical zone are led by the APC. Informed sources disclosed that the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his counterpart in Osun, Isiaka Oyetola are supporting Tinubu, who they consider as their benefactor.
Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State is said to be in a dilemma while the rumoured presidential ambition of Fayemi is holding party chieftains in Ekiti from making a choice. Governor Rotimi Akeredolu is said to be leaning towards VP Osinbajo.
Tinubu, who has remained the political godfather of Lagos State, supported Sanwo-Olu against the then incumbent Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who was seeking re-election in 2019.
The governor had openly declared his support for Tinubu and has been at the forefront of canvassing and mobilising support for the Jagaban of Borgu.
Last year, he spearheaded the launch of a campaign group, South-West Agenda for Asiwaju, (SWAGA 2023) in the state.
A political chieftain in the state noted that "Sanwo-Olu needs Tinubu for his second term ticket more than Tinubu needs him to achieve his ambition. He dares not speak against Tinubu's ambition."
APC Chairman in Lagos, Pastor Cornelius Ojelabi and the Publicity Secretary, Seye Oladejo did not respond to calls put across to their lines. However, Oladejo in an earlier interview with Daily Trust declared that "Asiwaju's decision to run is an opportunity for all of us who are beneficiaries of Asiwaju's goodwill and large-heartedness, including the VP, to pay back and appreciate Asiwaju for being such a man of honour and destiny helper for a whole lot of people."
A former spokesperson for Lagos APC, Joe Igbokwe, in a veiled post on Facebook, urged Osinbajo to step down from the race.
"Let me drop it here for history and posterity: If you are one of the people Asiwaju raised up and you are eyeing the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, show respect and withdraw from the race."
Oyetola, who is Tinubu's cousin, enjoyed the support of the former Lagos State governor against his predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola, a development that led to the split of the party in Osun State.
From all indications, the camp loyal to Oyetola is promoting Tinubu's presidential ambition.
The Commissioner for Information in the state, Mrs Funke Egbemode declined to comment on Oyetola's choice between Tinubu and Osinbajo.
The Chairman of the party in the state, Prince Gboyega Famodun also refused to comment on the 2023 election, insisting that the July 16 governorship election in the state is his focus at the moment.
Meanwhile, there are indications that the Minister of Interior and former Governor of Osun State, Aregbesola is supporting the presidential ambition of the vice president.
Aregbesola's relationship with Tinubu deteriorated owing to the backing of Oyetola by the former Lagos State governor. Aregbesola's supporters are openly displaying their support for Osinbajo to become the next president.
However, Aregbesola's Media Adviser, Sola Fasure said the former Lagos State commissioner of works has not announced his position concerning the 2023 presidential election.
"What you observed that his supporters are doing is within their democratic right as individuals," he said. Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, Daily Trust learnt, is exercising caution in pitching his tent between the two leaders.
Although a registered voter in Lagos State, Osinbajo is from Ogun State while his wife, Dolapo, is the granddaughter of the first Premier of the Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo.
Daily Trust reports that both Osinbajo and Tinubu were instrumental to Abiodun's victory when he battled former Governor Ibikunle Amosun's anointed candidate, Abdulkabir Akinlade in the last election.
The Publicity Director of Ondo APC, Steve Otaloro told Daily Trust that the party is yet to decide on who to support.
His counterpart in Ekiti, Mr Segun Dipe said the state chapter is not supporting either candidate for now.
'It's a free world'
A public affairs analyst in Ekiti, Raymond Ogunleye, said Osinbajo has the constitutional right to contest.
"People should stop castigating Osinbajo because he declared. I have seen funny comments that this is the week that Judas betrayed Jesus. Anyone that loses should support the other," he said.
The immediate past Minister of Communications and a chieftain of APC in Oyo, Barrister Adebayo Shittu called on the leadership of the party to allow for free and fair primaries in determining its presidential candidate.
He said, "The issue of our party is beyond the issues of whether to support Tinubu or Osinbajo. We should find out if the ticket has been zoned to the South, most especially the South West, for us to pick one of the interested candidates."
Osinbajo: Why I want to succeed Buhari
Osinbajo yesterday formally declared his intention to succeed President Buhari via a video posted to his social media handles.
The vice president said he wanted to use his experiences, insights and opportunities in the last seven years for the country and its great people.
Osinbajo said he and President Muhammadu Buhari whom he described as a "True Nigerian patriot, a servant of the nation in war and peace, and a man of integrity" spent the last seven years working through some of the most difficult times in the history of the country, focusing on securing the country, providing infrastructure and growing its economy.
He said, "In this period of seven years, I have served the government in several capacities and I have, at the direction of Mr. President, represented our country in sensitive high-level international engagements.
I have been to practically all local governments in Nigeria. I have been in markets, factories, schools and farms. I have been in agricultural, mining and oil-producing communities in the Delta, in Kebbi, Enugu, Borno; Rivers, Plateau and Ondo; and in all other states of the federation, listening to the diverse experiences and yearnings of our people.
"This is why I am today, with utmost humility, formally declaring my intention to run for the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the platform of our great party, the All Progressives Congress, APC."
Tinubu 'disowns' Osinbajo
A few hours after Osinbajo declared for the presidency, Tinubu said he does not have any political son grown enough to contest for the presidency.
In an interview with newsmen shortly after a closed-door meeting with governors elected on the platform of the party, Tinubu said, "My mission here is to seek collaboration, support and encouragement of my party, the APC, for my ambition to become the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a replacement for President Muhammadu Buhari after his tenure."
Asked to comment on the declaration by Osinbajo, who is seen by many as his political son, Tinubu said, "I don't have any son grown up enough to make such a declaration."
Tinubu's meeting with the governors held at the Kebbi Governor's Lodge, Asokoro in Abuja, came hours after Osinbajo met with the governors and informed them of his 2023 presidential ambition.
Meanwhile, APC governors yesterday ruled out the possibility of its 2023 presidential candidate emerging through a consensus.
In an interview with newsmen shortly after a meeting with Tinubu, Kebbi State Governor and Chairman of the Progressives Governors' Forum, (PGF), Senator Atiku Bagudu, said there would be a presidential primary.
He said governors were not in a tight corner over the declaration by both Osinbajo and Tinubu for the presidency, adding that the APC is a democratic party.
Governor Bagudu said, "We always encourage our party to go for the best. Don't forget that in the 2015 presidential election primary, President Buhari contested against several others and it was a beautiful contest.
"There is nothing wrong. Members of the party always want to see consensus if it is possible but we are a democratic party."
Ohanaeze wants president from South East
Amid the politicking in the South West, the Igbo's apex socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has urged Prof Osinbajo to jettison his presidential ambition for the corporate existence of Nigeria.
Reacting to Osinbajo's declaration of intention to contest for the presidency, the Professor George Obiozor-led Ohanaeze said the vice president should behave like a statesman.
Ohanaeze's position was disclosed by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Alex Ogbonna, who spoke with a Daily Trust correspondent in Enugu. "The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is supposed to be a statesman and a patriot that thinks of the corporate existence of Nigeria.
"But from his declaration, he is not behaving like a statesman. In fact, he has shown that he doesn't even understand the value of equity and justice.
"He should emulate statesmen and patriots like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Bode George, Ayo Adebanjo, Edwin Clark, who are standing on the side of equity, fairness and justice."
From Abiodun Alade, Abdullateef Aliyu, Christiana T. Alabi (Lagos); Hameed Oyegbade (Osogbo); Jeremiah Oke (Ibadan); Bola Ojuola (Akure); Peter Moses (Abeokuta), Raphael Ogbonnaiye (Ado-Ekiti); Tony Adibe (Enugu); Muideen Olaniyi & Saawua Terzungwe (Abuja)