Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has done an impressive marathon touring all 36 states of the federation to consult with delegates of his party as he tries to sell his candidacy for the 2023 presidential election.
In a media chat during one of those visits, Prof. Osinbajo said that all his interactions with state delegates on a broad range of national issues had been “robust, very fruitful, and fantastic.”
This is not unexpected, as we know how smooth and convincing, he can be when he speaks. He represents one of the most beautiful pictures Nigerians see when dreaming of the President they can be proud of. You have to like him.
The fanfare, carnival-like arrivals and smooth talks across the states have also given Nigerians and his party members the opportunity to assess him more closely as an individual or shall we say as an independent politician trying to nullify the perception that he is that lucky guy riding on the wings of a godfather.
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While the man has done well in his presentations, I feel there are genuine reasons to be concerned for him based on the manner in which his supporters, both paid and voluntary, have gone about his campaign so far. I have four issues with their approaches and I will try to keep them simple and short.
1. This election is not Osinbajo versus Tinubu
The supporters of Prof Yemi Osinbajo need to understand that the APC primary is going to be him contesting against about 20 other aspirants from different states, and not just APC leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
I feel it is some sort of disservice to an intelligent man like PYO wanting to lead Nigeria when all his supporters focus on is what the supporters of Bola Ahmed Tinubu have said, could have said or are going to say about him.
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It feels like reducing the man to a regional politician who wants to be governor of Lagos state or one of the southwest states and is seeking attention from the Jagaban.
Whether or not they admit it, it smirks of fear or inferiority complex or guilty conscience. While none of this might be the situation, the general electorates might not care once the perception is fully developed in their minds.
If Osinbajo gets his party’s ticket for the presidential election, the general election is going to be tougher, the campaigns being fiercer and the earlier they focus on the man himself, the better for them and his ambition.
2. You cannot successfully distance Osinbajo from Buhari
We know for a fact that millions of Nigerians cannot wait to see the end of the Buhari administration for obvious reasons and many have wondered what qualifies Osinbajo to seek our trust again after seven years of being part of averageness, if not below.
That he was just a Vice President with little power to influence the government has been one of the easiest answers you’d get but shall we be honest in telling ourselves the truth that those lines have become lame?
If the Buhari administration had been a huge success, would you have said he played less role in it due to constitutional limitations for his office? Would you not be riding on every success of the administration to prove his importance in the scheme of things?
Osinbajo supporters need to work harder at arming themselves with convincing points bordering on his stewardship in Aso Rock since 2015. That is what we want to hear. He is the one seeking more time after eight years in Aso Rock and Nigerians deserve satisfactory answers regarding what he has done in those years.
It has been a poor performance by his principal and his cabinet but tell Nigerians how he managed all that was in his care in those seven years. Tell me all he did that we didn’t know about. Tell us about efforts that just didn’t work and why they didn’t work or how they can still work. Tell us about the projects that require continuity to produce results… Sell your man. Stop over-flogging that “he didn’t have power” line, it’s a poor excuse in today’s Nigeria.
Note that ex-governors, senators, ministers and others who are in the race will equally be asked what they have done with past opportunities. So, this is not witch hunting, it is just the norm.
3. Protocol is not acceptance
If you were active on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, especially during his tour of the states, you would always see an image or video that suggest that Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is the most accepted aspirant in presidential race. Then you will read captions that celebrate his tour of the country and the reception all over the states. Then one starts to wonder what the reception had been like each time he visited those states in the past when he wasn’t campaigning.
This is the current Vice President of Nigeria for crying out loud! Whether or not we like our leaders, we will come out to catch a glimpse of them. We will hustle to take a photo with them, get a hand shake, roll out the red carpet and give a warm welcome. We are Nigerians and of course normal human beings.
Don’t get me wrong, Osinbajo’s popularity has grown in no small measure but this “warmness” still doesn’t affirm that he is indeed the choice of everyone across Nigeria. Those millions of smiles on the faces of the people may be pleasant to the eyes but they do not confirm that there is total love in their hearts.
Verily, I say unto you, a lot of Nigerians cannot wait to see the exit of every element of the Buhari administration and the whole of APC in Aso Rock. So, I say that if the amiable and articulate Professor gets that APC ticket, the reception across Nigeria will remain pleasant, and I only hope that you, his promoters realize that those huge crowds do not automatically mean huge votes, and that every “well done” is not “job done” for you.
It will be strange if those mirages make you become complacent in your strategies.
4. Stop being too defensive
If your face is showing and your shoe is shining, there is really no need to struggle. This is similar to #2 in the sense that it also has to do with your reactions to difficult damning queries and attacks.
One of the recommended approaches in PR is that you do not come off as staying too long on the defensive when being attacked for genuine reasons. However, rules like this go out the window once it’s politics. So, I understand sometimes the need to “fight back”.
Meanwhile, there is a fine line between deflating your opponent and displaying an aggression that comes off as being rude and abusive. This doesn’t represent the image of the man, Osinbajo.
We cannot deny the fact that VP Osinbajo is tainted by the failures of the Buhari administration and Nigerians will raise those questions. There has to be a better form of defence than just attacking the attacker while ignoring the substance of the attack.
In fighting back, you have to ask yourself if your strategy is going to be about building a good defense line or deploying attack as the best form of defense. Professionally, I say it should be both for Osinbajo.
Regardless of the money being shared everywhere, Nigerians are smarter. So, the 2023 election is going to be issue-based and that already places the learned professor in an advantageous position.
Why not play to the strength of your player?
Keni Akintoye is a media & PR strategist and political analyst. Follow him @KeniAkintoye on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.