Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has maintained a studied silence in the face of increasing calls for him to formally step into the battle for the most-coveted seat “for tactical reasons”, though the clamour for him to join the race is causing some measure of frenzy in the Abuja seat of power.
Recall that in his recent trips to Katsina and Kano, campaigners followed him with banners seeking to draw him out; but he has not been known to have uttered a word on his plans, in deference to his principal and “so as not be seen to be confronting a political godfather in Lagos known to have declared his intention”.
“He is walking a tight-rope and is marshaling his way through until an auspicious moment, if the need arises,” a source volunteered.
His silence continues as his men in the Presidency insist that no story about his intentions should be believed, except they come from him directly.
A top source in the Presidency revealed that the activities of many support groups clamouring for him to join the 2023 Presidential race is causing “some excitement at the Villa.”
Lately, there have been groups across the country yearning for the VP to run, including this past weekend when groups gathered in Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Ondo and Kano calling on the Professor, who served as Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, another known presidential hopeful from the South-West geopolitical zone, to throw his hat in the ring.
Added the source, who prefers anonymity for now: “Before then similar clamour such as street rallies have been recorded in several other states including Abuja.
“These activities and the many calls on the VP to run is being followed even in the Presidential Villa. The calls are a source of buzz, excitement and fascination not only among Nigerians, but inside the Villa too.”
“The Presidency has advised Nigerians not to believe many of the reports and claims about the Vice President regarding 2023, except the information comes directly from the Vice President’s office.”
Reacting to a statement credited to an APC member, Daniel Bwala, on whether Osinbajo would run for the presidency in 2023, the Presidency source noted: “It is believed that Bwala is an associate of a highly-placed Senator and he may have spoken out of tune on Channels TV on Tuesday evening.”
Bwala, in the interview had said: “I think I know the wisdom behind why VP Osinbajo is not running.”
Bwala argued that “if someone has helped you and indicated interest, your best bet is to go about supporting him with the hope that he doesn’t get it, he will now throw his weight behind you but you will not challenge him and I think that since the Vice President is not interested, it is important that he comes out and downplay his supporters and support Asiwaju, because if you continue to leave people in limbo, there is going to be a crisis between your supporters and his supporters.”
But the Presidency source responded and said: “As has been earlier noted any information on the activities and actions of the VP will come from his office, not any other source. It means, don’t believe it if it’s not from the office. In due course, any and all concerns would be addressed. For now, VP continues his work supporting Mr President.”
Bwala’s comments are being interpreted by associates of the Vice President as another attempt to obstruct a 2023 Presidential election interest by their principal, in case he wishes to.
Other than Tinubu, those who have not hidden their interest to be Nigeria’s top gun are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate Presidents Anyim Pius Anyim and Bukola Saraki; Kingsley Moghalu; Governors Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi); Senator Orji Uzor Kalu; Minister Rotimi Amaechi, among others.
Other names touted in the public domain, but have remained quiet are former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly Caucus and leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Tuesday, asked Senator Anyim to proceed in his quest as he already had their backing.
The PDP caucus members and leaders from across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria, gathered on Tuesday night at the M2 Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, to lend their weight to the presidential aspiration of Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, according to a statement by his spokesman, Sam Nwaobasi.
The hall which was filled to capacity, had PDP Senators and House of Representatives members including the former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Senator Theodore Orji, a former governor of Abia state; Senator Enyinna Abaribe (Senate Minority Leader); Senator Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North); Senator (Iyom) Uche Ekwunife (Anambra Central); Senator Ewa Henshaw; Senator Dino Melaye; Senator Ibrahim Mahmoud; Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (House of Reps Minority Leader) and Hon. Toby Okechukwu and many other lawmakers.
Speaking at the meeting, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim explained to his party colleagues and fellow lawmakers why he joined the presidential race, stating that time has come for the country to be rescued from its current challenging situation. He also said that it is important to ensure the unity of the country for any meaningful progress and development to take place.
Senator Anyim declared that he was ready to contest the 2023 presidential election on the platform of the PDP, if his colleagues at the gathering and his party, the PDP, mandate him to go on. On that note, the eminent lawmakers unanimously chorused t “go ahead”.
In his speech on behalf of the legislative caucus, Senate Minority Leader and former deputy governor of Abia state, Senator Enyinna Abaribe, assured Anyim that he had nothing to fear, assuring him that the caucus was behind his bid. He further assured the former Senate President that by the grace of God, he would be the next president of Nigeria, come 2023.
Abaribe told Anyim: “This Caucus is behind you. As representatives of the Nigerian people, we are saying that you should go ahead. You will be President of this country. This consultation which is the first we have seen as a caucus, is commendable and we urge you to go ahead in your aspiration”.
On his own part, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, assured Senator Anyim that the PDP, by the mandate of the Nigerian people, would assume presidential power in 2023. He accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of “mismanaging” the country in the past six years, assuring that the electorates will not forget to remind the APC what he described as their sins since 2015.
Elumelu, therefore, reminded the National Assembly Caucus, the leadership and members of the PDP that what is required of them is to be united in their purpose of ousting the APC from power.
According to Nwaobasi, in an unprecedented political gathering, Tuesday, over 85 political pressure groups, assembled at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Center, Abuja, to affirm their support for the 2023 presidential aspiration of Anyim.
The coalition known as the United for Better Nigeria Initiative (UBNI) is urging the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to, not only observe the basic moral principles of political equity by zoning it’s presidential slot specifically to the South East, but should also ensure that Senator Anyim Pius Anyim emerges as the party’s standard bearer for the 2023 presidential election.
“Anyim’s endorsement by the pan-Nigerian political coalition was done at a well-attended solidarity rally organised by the coalition in collaboration with the South West Coalition Group, the South South Coalition Group and the Northern Coalition Group. The Abuja rally had the various groups arriving in several high capacity buses, with supporters waving banners and handing out posters and leaflets bearing Senator Pius Anyim’s portraits.
“Alhaji Suleiman Shehu, the leader of the Coalition of the Northern Groups for South East Presidency in 2023 who first addressed the gathering, however delved into Nigeria’s political history since Independence, arguing that Nigeria’s South East geo-political zone was the only region yet to rule the country since the end of the civil war in January 1970. He maintains that since the other geo-political axis of the country have ruled the nation at various times, it is therefore politically justifiable, fair and equitable that the South East is supported in 2023 by the PDP and other political parties to produce a President for Nigeria in 2023,” the statement added
Shehu stated that, “We have seen the leadership qualities of the North and the South West but we have not seen the leadership acumen of the people from the South East. What are we afraid of in electing a President from the South East? Peace, justice and fairness can never be attained without power rotation in Nigeria”.
However, leader of the South West Coalition group for the rally, Dr Kayode Odeyemi, also harped on the need for Nigerians to offer support to the South East as a zone but specifically to the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, whom he described as the appropriate candidate the Presidential job needs, based essentially on his competence, capability and national stature.
“We are solidly behind the candidature of Sen Anyim Pius Anyim (APA)”, quipped Odeyemi, ” Anyim is the most qualified and prepared for the race. This is the time for the South East to go and represent this country. Let us give him (Anyim) the support because he is capable of taking Nigeria to the promised land.
“He was not just the President of the Senate, he was also the Secretary to the government of the Federation (SGF), which placed him in the engine room of governance at the Federal level. If the man has held these two strategic positions, it then follows that he has the capacity and is fully prepared for the job. This is a crusade that has permeated the nooks and crannies of this country. We call on all Nigerians to queue behind this candidate and give the South East a chance in the interest of fairness, equity and justice”, Odeyemi exhorted.
The leadership of the South South Coalition Group also affirmed the position of all the other zonal groups at the rally, insisting that the South East zone will surely appreciate the fair consideration that would be given to it by the PDP and other political parties in the 2023 presidency. The South South Coalition also canvassed that the man best suited for the job on the platform of the PDP is Senator Anyim Pius Anyim.
Several goodwill messages were also delivered by other groups represented at the event.