Before the cracking of the 2015 presidential election, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was relatively unknown in the cumulus of Nigerian politics.
Although, he had chalked up some experience in the circle – he was special adviser to Bola Ajibola, the attorney general of Nigeria from 1988-1992, and attorney-general and commissioner for justice of Lagos state from 1999 to 2007 – he never really came fully into “national reckoning”.
All of that changed when he emerged as the running mate of President Muhammadu Buhari in the build-up to the election.
Now, he is perhaps, as well known to Nigerians as fish know water.
Osinbajo, a bespoke intellectual, attained the sage age of 60 on Wednesday.
He was born into the family of Opeoluwa Osinbajo at Creek Hospital, Lagos, on March 8 1957. He is a professor of law and a senior advocate of Nigeria. He was also a senior pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) before he parlayed his pristine skills into politics.
He is married to Dolapo, a granddaughter of Obafemi Awolowo, and they have three children.
There is no doubt that Osinbajo has brought finesse, oomph and class to the presidency. Since the absence of Buhari, who is on medical vacation in the United Kingdom (UK), he has crocheted the tapestry of governance with urgency, gravitas and deftness.
Perhaps, this is one of the reasons Buhari chose him as a running mate despite a beehive of tugging and varying interests.
Here is a thematic journey into the “becoming” of Osinbajo.
HE BEAT AMEACHI, FAYEMI TO JOB
“Could have been the other guy”: Nasir el-Rufai whispers something to Osinbajo (left), with Amaechi appearing deep in thought
Osinbajo once described his emergence as vice-president as divine. Yes, because he did not have to scheme to get the job.
In December 2014, it became clear that he was Buhari’s preferred choice for deputy president. This was after Chibuike Amaechi, minister of transportation, had thrown in a challenge for the office. Amaechi’s argument was that a vice-presidential candidate from the south-south would temper the brewing restiveness in the region.
But Buhari had resolved to pick Osinbajo on the recommendation of Bola Tinubu, national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as his deputy.
The vice-president has not publicly acknowledged that Tinubu led him to the “ball” though.
However, at a presidential dinner in honour of the beneficiaries of the amnesty programme in Abuja in October 2016, Osinbajo, for the first time, spoke subtly on the matter.
“I was in a group of young men and women and one of them asked the question how did I become vice president; I was never a politician or anything like that,” he had said.
“So, I tried to explain it is quite simply that someone somewhere has to recommend you. Somebody somewhere has to give you a helping hand.”
He also overcame a challenge for the position from other south-westerners such as former governors Kayode Fayemi, Niyi Adebayo and Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
ON HIS THIRD RUN AS ACTING PRESIDENT
“And this is my running mate, Osinbade”: Buhari presenting his choice to the public on December 17, 2014
Osinbajo is on his third run as acting president. Buhari first handed over the baton of leadership to him in February 2016, when he left for the UK on vacation. This happened again in June 2016.
But Osinbajo’s latest relay as acting president is the longest he has run so far. Buhari has been in the UK since January 19, and his deputy has held the fort.
In this short thread of time, the Buhari government with Osinbajo as an “assist” has scored some achievements such as the entente with the Niger Delta, which has resulted in the stable production crude oil, and its multiplier effect on Nigeria’s foreign reserves and the crash in the price of dollars.
Even the APC has acknowledged these giant strides.
“At 60, Professor Osinbajo has recorded several landmark achievements as a man of God and a man of the law. These accomplishments have no doubt shown through as he holds fort for our dear president,” Bolaji Abdullahi, APC spokesman, said in a congratulatory to Osinbajo.
“He has visited crisis-prone areas, stabilised the economy and promoted good governance. We commend and congratulate President Buhari for the vision and wisdom of choosing Professor Osinbajo as his running mate; only the deep calls to the deep.”
“It wasn’t me, I swear”: Something was less cheery about the budget from VP’s office
Osinbajo also had a moment in the whirlpool of controversy. His office was alleged to have inserted the sum of N250m – for the construction of a gatehouse at his official residence – in the 2017 budget.
This fetched him a thorn of criticisms, but he was quick to counter the allegation.
“The project which started in 2010, was initiated and funded by the immediate past administration, but had never featured in the two budget proposals of the Buhari administration: neither in the 2016 nor the 2017 spending plans,” he had said in a statement issued by Laolu Akande, his media aide.
“Any suggestion therefore that this project benefits our administration or that it reflects our spending style or preferences is not only misleading but blatantly false.”
Osinbajo’s birthday comes a few days after that of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
On August 21, 2014 — four months before Buhari became the presidential candidate of APC — TheCable reported an unlikely running mate. Yes, Osinbajo. He had never contested an election nor held any elective position. But TheCable braved it all the same.
“Former Lagos State commissioner for justice and attorney-general, Professor Yemi Osibajo, is being “strongly” considered as the vice-presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC),” TheCable reported.
As at the time, his surname was generally spelt as “Osibajo” in the media, and he never objected.
It was after his choice as Buhari’s running mate that TheCable did a “corrective surgery” on the name, confirming that he is actually “Osinbajo” — not Osibajo or Osinbanjo.
The newspaper reported: “He is so relatively new to the public eye that we don’t even know his correct surname. We know him as Yemi, quite all right. But is it Yemi Osibajo? Perhaps Osinbajo? Or even Osinbanjo? His name has been misspelt by the media for the past 15 years and there is no indication that he has ever tried to correct it.”
The whole world knows his name now, isn’t it?