By Ademola Adeleye, Political Editor
Against all odds, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s profile continues to rise in northern Nigeria following his recent engagement with the region. He has continued to receive endorsement from revered institutions and prominent Islamic clerics. Could Osinbajo become the beautiful bride, Ademola Adeleye asks
The reception that awaited Nigeria’s vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo at the Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Bauchi International Airport on May 10, 2022, was that of a prince, a welcome befitting one of their own who is also one of a kind.
Traditional flute players stood at guard, blaring their flute unabatedly, dancers and drummers created an atmosphere of delight.
It was not much different at the tomb of the late premier Abubakar Tafawa Balewa where he paid his respects to one of Nigeria’s greatest leaders. Supporters throng after him, like a ‘homeboy’ returning home after a long campaign.
It was curious to see women organisations in support of the vice president showing up. The Northern Women for Osinbajo organisation and United Champion Women for Osinbajo groups were on hand to show their support, Osinbajo, acknowledged them all, waving and taking photographs with anyone willing. And there were many of them.
Just a day before, he had been at Gombe where the reception had been heartfelt, the streets lined up with curious citizens waving, laughing and children joyfully running after his vehicle, so they could at least convey their love to him personally. The welcome party was not that of a saviour, but that of a man, they felt they know, who is their friend, in whom they would place absolute confidence.
Message of Unity and Service
Between April and May 2022, in a series of consultations with different stakeholders to solicit support for his presidential aspirations, Osinbajo travelled across the northern region where many critics say he was unpopular and unwanted.
His message to the region has been consistent, Unity and Service. At the palace of the Emir of Gombe, His Royal Highness, Abubakar Shehu- Abubakar, he reinforced his message of unity, as that is the only way to make progress as a nation. “This country must be united,” Osinbajo said to a loud applause. His message sounded to the people, like a pool of water in a dry patched land. “Everybody must be given a chance, our country is great because we have people of every faith and ethnic group and we must work together to make this country truly great,” he said. The people applauded. They believed him.
Some days earlier, he had been a special guest at the Durban Festival in Kano, a stronghold which many said would both be unwelcoming and unyielding to him. But the people of Kano showed a different politics, even though, he was to participate in a festival, he was shown love uncommon. Osinbajo also had lavish words for the Durban which he described as a “fantastic spectacle”.
He told the people of Kano: “For years, amidst admirable grandeur, horsemanship, equestrian parades and a colourful display of preserved culture, the Kano Durban has remained an untarnished emblem that unites us, bringing people from across the country together in a celebration of our rich historical heritage as a nation. It is exciting and I am very happy, so much colour.”
Osinbajo did not leave anyone in doubt about his intentions to serve. From creating an enabling environment through innovation and policy amendment, which has created a new breed of young entrepreneurs competing on a global scale to leading the charge for technological advancement for young people, Osinbajo said he will do even more.
He told the Lamido of Adamawa, HRH Muhammadu Barkindo Aliyu Musdafa: “If given the opportunity, I will serve with all my heart to keep us succeeding and surging forward on this journey towards greatness. My sole purpose of even running for president is to serve this country. And I can pledge to the Nigerian people that I am not there to steal their money or for personal aggrandisement, I am there to serve.”
In the north, everywhere he went, he showed respects to the revered traditional institution, the political power, women and everyday people. In the north, it was agreed that given the opportunity, Osinbajo would do more.
Osinbajo has the qualities to lead, says Islamic clerics
Renowned Islamic clerics in the north have taken a stand over the 2023 general elections and that is enough of moneybag politics, consider competence and leadership qualities.
Malam Tukur Ladan, the leader of Qur’anic Memorizers Association of Nigeria in Kano said the most important thing is the impact a leader makes.
Ladan: ” Islamic traditions teaches us that were created in different tribes to understand each other, the most closer to Allah is the one who fear Allah highest. Leader can be successful when he is just, fair and ensure equity in his actions.
” I believe that when Osinbajo is given the mantle of leadership, he will succeed, based on his experience, records of achievements and loyalty exhibited to President Muhammadu Buhari.
For religious leaders like Ladan, Osinbajo’s detribalise approach made him to welcome and work with all groups of people in the country. Ladan further advised President Buhari to heed the peoples call and ensure that Osinbajo succeeds him as the next president based on his good characters and public acceptance.
Another Islamic scholar, Malam Dauda Lokon-Makera, the Imam of Magwan mosque in Nasarawa local government area in Kano State, said Osinbajo is a renowned cleric in his religion and has demonstrated good and credible qualities and abilities to transform the nation.
In Sokoto, Abdulmalik Bello who is the Imam, Gagi community Jumua’t mosque, said it is only the Vice President that can take Nigeria out of the challenges it faced presently, while noting that Nigeria needs a unifier, a man who can give a “sense of belonging” to every Nigerian irrespective of tribe or religion.
Imam Bello said: “For me, I think the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo can take us out of the present bad condition we are in at the moment. Nigeria is a country with many tribes and religion, we need someone who can unify the country and every part would have a sense of belonging.
” Therefore, it is time to elect based on competence, courage and character and the vice president is the man that can take Nigeria out of the present challenges. The vice president is the best for now because he is of a good age to deliver good leadership to Nigerians and has shown courage when given the opportunity to act as President.
“If given the opportunity to lead, he can take good decisions that will help the country, looking at his educational background and experience in governance.”
Other clerics noted that Osinbajo has been loyal to the president and has worked hard with him to solve the nation’s problems. Speaking in Sokoto, Prof Sani Sagir of Physics Department, Usmanu Danfodio University, Imam and Deputy National President 1, Jama’atu Izalatul Bid’a Waiqamatusunnah, noted that the vice president has all the requirements to succeed as a president and he has been very loyal to president Muhammadu Buhari.
Sagir said: “We have never heard president Buhari complain about the Vice President or having any allegation of corruption against him. My advice to the political parties is to choose good candidates that are educated and humble, who can listen to the plight of the ordinary people.
“We need someone who is very patient in listening, and courageous to do the right thing, and also a person who is trustworthy and among this features, I mentioned the Vice President because he has all the qualities, he is very educated and courageous and trustworthy because for the several times the president gave him opportunity as acting president he has delivered and we have not heard the president for once complain about him. So I see him as the best among all the candidates in the ruling APC. “
In Kano, Sheikh Bilal Jabir-Elkanawy, was very worried about money politics because it deprives the people of quality leadership. “Selling votes against their conscience to the highest bidders or moneybags is dangerous and it is against Islam,” he told worshippers at his mosque on Friday.
While pitching his tent with the vice president, Elkanawy described him as “a leader whose excellence in academics covers most disciplines and relevant to modern development, to tackle the challenges of the nation.”
” His vastness in understanding the diverse challenges and how to nip them in the bud for a unified Nigeria, through his knowledge on law and humanitarian act was sacrosanct to Nigeria., “he said.
As the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) picks its presidential flagbearer who will face Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), can the new found alliance and support for Osinbajo in the core north count in his favour?
The answer may be found in the heartfelt prayer of the Lamido Adamawa to Osinbajo: ” I hope that you succeed in your effort to become the president of this country.”