Osinbajo’s Déjà Vu Declaration

Last week, vice-president professor Yemi Osinbajo formally announced his candidacy for president of the Republic under the APC banner. The announcement came in the form of a pre-recorded speech, which was visually professional and accompanied by a standard speech that ticked all the necessary boxes.

Despite an increasingly large field of presidential aspirants, Osinbajo’s announcement merits special attention. Members of the Buhari government will inherit the legacy of Buhari’s governance—both its successes and shortcomings. While other high-profile Buhari government officials have formally joined the race, the VP is the single highest-ranked, incumbent federal official who can run for president. And now he is.

The most striking element of Osinbajo’s announcement was his ability to inadvertently echo the character of Goodluck Jonathan’s late-2014 re-election bid. The belated confirmation of Jonathan’s candidacy, just months before the polls, came a day after Boko Haram stormed the town of Mubi in Adamawa. Meanwhile, around 200 of the abducted Chibok school girls remained in captivity at the time.

Fast-forward to 2022 and Osinbajo’s announcement feels like a case of déjà vu. Yet again, in another context of obscene violence and abductions, an incumbent leader is making the pitch for more time behind the wheel. The attack on the airport at Kaduna in March felt like a high-water mark for banditry at the time, but those sentiments proved to be naive in light of the subsequent bomb and gun attack on the Abuja to Kaduna railway. More than three weeks later, at least 160 passengers are still believed to be missing or held hostage.

Critics will no doubt lay a large portion of the Buhari legacy on the VP’s shoulders. As vice-president—and, at times, acting president—it will be near impossible for Osinbajo to hide behind a niche ministerial portfolio and claim that it was above his pay grade.

The supporters of the VP, however, would no doubt point to Osinbajo’s engagement on the issue of security. Just hours after the railway attack, the VP travelled to Kaduna to offer his condolences. And his presidential announcement speech quite literally made security his first priority: “I believe that first, we must complete what we have started, radically transforming our security and intelligence architecture.” With full control of the reins, perhaps Osinbajo may be unencumbered to address the situation.

As others have noted, the vice presidency fundamentally is an odd position. For some, it is a deadweight with none of the credit attributed to a ministry, but all the blame of a presidency. However, for Goodluck Jonathan, it provided a strategic steppingstone to the presidency, albeit upon the untimely death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in office. In the coming weeks and months, how Osinbajo handles the Buhari government’s security legacy will likely define his own future.

Author’s note: This blog is a non-partisan, non-commercial endeavor. I make no endorsements of parties or candidates, as outlined on the blog home page since its inception. Any part of the blog can be reproduced freely. However, if you choose to attribute my writing, I kindly ask that you: a) spell my name correctly, and b) list my institutional affiliation correctly. I am a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Oxford. If in doubt, please check my home page or contact me.

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