Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, last night, plugged all assumptions, pussyfooting and rumours when he hosted members of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) to the breaking of Ramadan fast (Iftar) at his official residence, Akinola Aguda House, Presidential Villa, Abuja to reveal to them his intention to run for President.
The Guardian reliably gathered that the Vice President used the occasion to consult with governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on his presidential ambition ahead of his declaration to contest today.
Invited were both Muslim and non-Muslim governors with sufficient representation from all political zones in the country. This move has capped months of behind-the-scene yet apparent mobilisations that have fuelled speculations and pit the number two man against his erstwhile boss, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
A source who was at the meeting disclosed this to The Guardian. He said: “APC governors, especially those from the North, are already gathered for the Iftar dinner. The VP is now going to reveal his intention to run for the office of President. He will then make it public to all Nigerians on Monday (today).”
According to the source, nearly all of the APC governors, except Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, who is out of the country and his Ekiti counterpart, Kayode Fayemi, who was said to have experienced flight difficulties were present.
This has put paid to weeks of speculation and denials of the Vice President’s next move, months after support groups have launched intense and spirited clamour for Osinbajo to throw his hat into the ring for a bid to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Guardian had last Friday reported that the VP’s official declaration would be ‘in a matter of days.’
According to a top presidency source, Osinbajo felt it was the right time to address the 2023 issue with regard to his ambition, considering the fact that the election is close. “I can now tell you not just soon, but in a matter of days. It will be a significant address.”
Racing against time after some tactical delays to watch the political atmospherics, Osinbajo last night plugged all assumptions, pussyfooting and rumours when he revealed to governors of his party his intention to run for President, seeking their support for his ambition ahead of next month’s presidential primary.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had last week warned political parties against the violation of electoral timelines, as well as the provisions of the new Electoral Act, 2022, stating it would stick to the timelines and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections and also monitor the primaries of political parties.
The next activity is the conduct of primaries by political parties, which according to INEC’s timetable, is a period of 61 days beginning from April 4 to June 3, for parties to forward their candidates for all the positions to the electoral body.
This has necessitated a flurry of activities in political circles in the last seven days among which was the declaration for the nation’s top office by Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Pastor Tunde Bakare.
As at 6:45 p.m. yesterday, sources said not less than six governors, including the Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, and his Ogun State counterpart, Dapo Abiodun had arrived for the VP’s meeting.
Other APC governors seen driven in before the 7:00 p.m. scheduled time for the meeting included Hope Uzodinma of Imo; Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos and Gboyega Oyetola of Osun.
A source had earlier said that Governor Oyetola was far away from Makkah, Saudi Arabia, for the lesser Hajj (Umrah), fueling thoughts that the Osun State governor’s car might have conveyed the deputy governor, Benedict Alabi.
The meeting, which seemed exclusive to only the invited governors and some of their aides, did not admit journalists into the Vice President’s residence.
A close source had hinted that about 12 APC governors are working behind the scene for the emergence of Osinbajo as the party’s flag bearer, with the majority of the governors from the North. According to the source, Osinbajo was being considered to ensure continuity.
Speaking about last night’s meeting, the source said: “Osinbajo felt the need to inform the governors ahead of a planned public declaration on Monday of his decision to contest the presidency in 2023 under the APC platform.
“He is also discussing his plans with the governors and continuing the consultations with more governors and other critical stakeholders in the National Assembly and others. Being the Chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC) for the last seven years, he had an excellent relationship with governors across party lines, ethnicities and religions.
“Many of the governors are also members or directors of some federal agencies where the VP is chairman and their relationships in these agencies have also deepened the bonds, producing a robust relationship.
“Practically, all the governors are very well disposed to him and vice versa, over the years as the VP has actually become a champion of states, even as the Buhari administration has come to the aid of governors with different financial bailouts and refund of Paris Debt.”
Sources with knowledge of the plans informed us that barring any last-minute change, Osinbajo’s declaration will not involve any formal event or public gathering. Rather, he will release a recorded video of about seven to 10 minutes, addressing the public and declaring his 2023 ambition to succeed President Buhari.
The video will be distributed across his social media handles and the sources said the campaign team will get to work immediately afterwards. This style is different from how others had previously gone about declarations.
Former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, addressed a public gathering sharing a pattern with transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi, who announced his intention before a filled stadium in Port Harcourt on Saturday and Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, a week earlier.
Tinubu and Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, spoke to the press directly after having, separately met with President Buhari at the State House.
MEANWHILE, in preparation for the battle to pick the APC ticket, the Osinbajo camp has already opened a campaign office at 15B Buchanan Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja.
In addition to travelling across states for support, Osinabjo’s team had organised opinion polls to guide his decision on the 2023 election. In one of such polls, participants were asked to choose their preferred president between Rabiu Kwakwanso, former Kano State Governor; Tinubu, and Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President.