Monday, February 4, 2019 5:15 pm
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s house-to-house campaign strategy gives pep to President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid
In the crowd when he embarks on his door-to-door campaigns, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s sartorial preference, which redefines class and simplicity, is unmistakable. He dons his three quarter half kaftan with buttons or cuff links and balances his Awolowo/Gandhi cap almost on his forehead, revealing a spray of grey at the back. Although he is not of a huge build, his smile is wide, brain, prodigious and his energy, boundless. He displays his vitality the way he pumps the hands of the locals, gives them bear hugs and shares in their stories, right in their homes. Osinbajo, in many ways, radiates electricity and oozes an aura of benevolence and bonhomie. Put differently, the VP has gravitas. These make him attract the crowd the way nectar would a swarm of bees.
As the 16 February presidential election inches closer, and the major contenders are out on the hustings, Osinbajo adds a different approach to selling his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, to the people. The energy and style with which the Vice President has pursued the campaigns have made him more or less the face of Buhari re-election project.
What are those things that make Osinbajo’s style different? He uses oratory, humour, pidgin (at times) as his choice of communication, visits key political leaders, traditional rulers and calls on the poor in their homes. He deploys these as vehicle to deliver the message of the Buhari administration directly to the people (trader-moni as a form of empowerment, achievements of the government and what it promises when re-elected), as he criss-crosses many parts of Nigeria even on the same day. Even risk to his life does not deter him as the case of the helicopter crash shows. Examples abound.
On oratory, Professor Akin Oyebode, a retired professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, revealed something to TheNEWS about his former student, Osinbajo, at the University of Lagos. When Oyebode taught in class, he would not use any note; Osinbajo too followed suit when he became a lecturer in the same institution, teaching his students extempore. “He never used notes; he would just speak for the next one and half hours just like that. And when you see the ground that he had covered, you would know he is a great intellect,” Oyebode said.
Osinbajo displayed this when, on 24 December, 2018, he thrilled some residents of Abuja, Wuse Zone 7, to “Next Level”, a song composed from the All Progressives Congress campaign slogan for the 2019 general elections. The VP shouted: “APC!” and the crowd responded: “Next Level!” repeatedly. Then he did code switching and delved into Pidgin English: “No shaking, na Next level we dey go; we don finish with the kind leaders wey dey chop money. Dey no go come back again; Baba Buhari na mai Gaskiya; he will not steal your money; he will use the money for the benefit of the people. From now on, we are making sure that people have money to do their trading and young people have jobs; the only way to do is only if we do not allow these people who want to steal to come back. There is one song that we sing now on radio; we are going higher, higher, Next level; we are going higher, higher, we are going higher, higher, higher Next level.” The people shrieked in appreciation. At Kushingoro Village, FCT, the VP spoke partly in Pidgin English and explained to the residents of the community that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was doing a lot to impact on the life of the common man. “TraderMoni wey we dey give, na for people wey they sell for market. Everybody dey farm; we go see how we go help for farm because President Buhari wants to see how he will help common man.”
Osinbajo, a humorous man, was the Chairman and Special Guest of Honour at the ‘Launch of Five Fascinating Books’ written by Funmilayo Braithwaite, in Abuja on a Sunday last October, saying, his friend recently polled large number of votes just by dancing and so, he, the VP, had started learning Shaku Shaku! (now a rave of the moment among Nigerian gung-ho youths). He was there with the Chairman, Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA), Shittu Mohammed Kabir. “Kabir and I and are on the opposite sides but we are here to learn; I was saying the other day that politics in Nigeria is becoming very exciting; you never know what works. I can never forget my dear friend in one of the states who just danced his way through the campaigns; all he did was dance; he did nothing else but dance and he won 250,000 votes. So myself and Kabir are now learning Shaku Shaku; we have to learn; who knows what will win?” Everyone present bent double with glee.
Also, Osinbajo’s other style is visiting people, especially, the down trodden directly in their homes. This is otherwise known as the door-to-door approach. On 5 December, he started this brand of campaign to canvass support for President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election in the 2019 election. His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, said in a statement that in an unusual approach to campaigns, Osinbajo adopted a door-to-door strategy in two Abuja suburbs of Karu and Nyanya. Osinbajo, in his campaign strategy aimed at garnering support for the Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC), is highlighting the virtues of the Nigerian leader that qualify him for re-election. He told Nigerians that the president deserves a second term “because of his honesty, zero tolerance for corruption and Nigeria’s future is secured,” with him. He visited two homes – Alhaji S.K Ahmed’s family in Nyanya and the Jimiko compound in Karu. The vice president also addressed a crowd of enthusiastic residents, then paid a visit to the family of Abdulwaheed Yusuf in Garki Area 1, before calling on the family of Colonel Ahmed Zubair (retd) in Wuse Zone 7. At the Abuja Games Village, Osinbajo visited the family of Dr Olatunji-David Sanwo’s family where he had a warm chat and restated the government’s commitment to addressing challenges confronting the country. Also in FCT, Osinbajo made a beeline for Luxor Salon and Spar, Wuse 2, where he had a haircut and one-on-one interaction with barbers, customers and residents of the area who trooped out to welcome him to their neighborhood. He advised them to vote wisely as the Buhari-led administration was determined to empower the youths and root out poverty.
As soon as Osinbajo’s Coaster bus arrived in the communities , the people thronged out en-masse, chanting praises of the president and singing party songs. Osinbajo addressed the mammoth crowd and spent time interacting with the excited people who came out in their numbers, often fascinated to see him unannounced in their neighborhoods. According to the vice president, “For the honest, decent and hardworking Nigerians, the president has devoted his life to ensuring that their lives are made better even when it is sometimes not easy to do so.
In Ekiti State Osinbajo was at Awedele and Oja Oba Markets in Ado Ekiti before proceeding to Ikere-Ekiti where he visited the family of Mr Asana Joel for a chat, and also paid a courtesy visit to the traditional ruler of Ikere, Oba Adejimi Alagbado before heading to Odo-Oja Market, in the town where he addressed a cheering crowd.
Then on Friday 25 January 2019, the Vice President was in Ori-Ire, Ogbomoso zone where he paid a courtesy call on the Onikoyi of Ikoyi-Ile, Oba Abdul-Yekeen Oladipupo, before taking the family chat series to homes in the area. Prof. Osinbajo and his entourage comprising Oyo State Deputy Governor, Chief Moses Adeyemo, Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, amongst others, had earlier taken the Next Level engagement to communities in Surulere and Ogbomoso North LGAs. On arrival at Iresa Apa in Surulere LGA, the Vice President and his team were received by an enthusiastic and cheerful crowd who thronged the streets, dancing to the APC campaign theme song as he walked through the market.
Now this! There was an event that brought to mind the over 2,000-year old encounter between pint-sized Zacheus and Jesus, the Christ as recorded in the scriptures. The short man was ordered down from a Sycamore tree where he had hibernated in order to gain vintage view of the Miracle Worker and made to be an unprepared host to the Rabbi. If anyone had prophesied to Amos Adeniyi to prepare his abode for an August visitor just 24 hours before his arrival, he would simply have ignored the alert as ‘fake news.’ Indeed Adeniyi, the chief tailor of Iresa Apa, a sleepy community in the heart of Surulere Local Government of Oyo State did not bargain for the personage that called on him that Friday afternoon, 25th January.
The fashion designer was in his modest shop taking measurements and sowing when almost without warning, Osinbajo, walked in. He was accompanied on the unscheduled visit by a light entourage. The visit was in continuation of the family chat series. According to the VP, “We have seen a lot of the needs of the people and some of their concerns. We have also seen their enthusiasm for this government, their commitment to our party the APC and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Abiola Ajimobi. There is a great deal of excitement as you can see for yourself. So, come 16 February, you will see the excellent result, by God’s grace.”
The campaign trail moved also through Surulere to Ogbomoso North LGA, the VP had a town hall engagement with the people. Different speakers were appreciative of the initiatives of the Federal Government, including a special commendation for President Muhammadu Buhari for the signing of the Disability Act. From the town hall interactions, the Vice President proceeded to the homes of Madam Deborah Ayinde, a widow and Mr Dejo Olayemi in continuation of the family chat series. He also made an unscheduled but brief stop at the office of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), all in continuation of the engagements.
Osinbajo is not leaving any stone unturned in his determination to secure a second tenure for his party. The Vice-President who was also a pastor with the Redeem Christian Church of God, RCCG, until his foray into active politics, has been appealing to the religious sense of the voters. For example when he travelled to Edo, he created time for an exclusive meeting with Christian leaders in the State. The meeting was attended by prominent pastors from Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN and the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, the two Christian blocs in the state.
The Vice-President employed similar approach in Gombe State. When he attended APC governorship campaign rally in the State, he assured the people that the party does not have any religious coloration as being painted in some quarters. He explained to the gathering that the party does not belong to Muslims alone but Christians as well. He was supported in the de-Islamization mission by Boss Mustapha, Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF.
Apart from visiting political leaders, Osinbajo always carries his campaigns to traditional rulers, custodians of the people’s culture, tradition and values. Osinbajo visited a former Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande on 25 January. He was accompanied during the visit by APC chieftains, including Majority Leader of House Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Sen. Ganiyu Solomon; Lagos APC Governorship Candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu Ojudu, among others. Osinbajo held closed-door meeting with the immediate family of the elder statesman (Jakande).
Since natural rulers have a lot of influence on their people, the VP has been visiting them in all the towns and villages he goes. When he was in Oyo State, the VP paid a courtesy call on the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oyewunmi, Ajagungbade III before moving to the town hall for the engagement with the people. He visited Onikoyi of Ikoyi-Ile, Oba Abdul-Yekeen Oladipupo too.
In Ekiti, the VP paid a courtesy visit to the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adejugbe. He said he was in the state to inaugurate the state edition of the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and to campaign for the re-election bid of President Buhari. “We take MSMEs clinic from state to state to promote small businesses. We are campaigning for re-election and we can’t do so without informing you. One thing that Buhari is known for is his personal integrity; he will use Nigeria’ money purely for development of Nigeria.” He listed some of the completed and ongoing projects as Lagos-Ibadan railway, Itakpe-Warri railway, Abuja- Kaduna railway, Abuja light rail among others. The Oba, at the occasion, commended the Federal Government for empowering common people through the Trader Moni scheme. The same enthusiasm greeted the Vice-President when he traversed his home state of Ogun. At the palace of the Akarigbo and paramount ruler of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Adewale, all traditional rulers in the kingdom gathered to give one of their own a rousing welcome and solid home support. After a brief closed-door meeting, followed by a meeting with other monarchs, the Akarigbo and his guests held a township meeting with members of the over 33 communities, in Remoland. At the meeting with the monarchs, Osinbajo said he was kicking off the campaign in Remoland, being his source, soliciting prayers of monarchs in the area for the party to win the presidential election convincingly. Of course, the paramount ruler on behalf of the others gave his royal blessings to the Buhari/Osinbajo second term project. Among other Obas the VP has visited are Israel Adeusi, the Olufon of Ifon who appreciated what he described as the commitment of the APC led federal government to the development of humanity; Hausa community leader of Agege in Lagos State, Alhaji Musa Dogonkadai and others.
Two other things that stand Osinbajo out are his time management and that any mishap or threat to his life does not stop him in his assignment. On time management, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Special Adviser on Political matters at The Presidency painted a picture in a piece he wrote, entitled, “What a day? What a Man?:
“VP Osinbajo woke up in the morning and dashed to the airport for Yola in Adamawa State to address the annual conference of the Lutheran Church. He stood for 40 minutes without a prepared speech and held the mammoth crowd spell bound. He moved on from there to Uyo where he did a home visit, visitations to a market in Ikot Ekpene and another in Uyo township. We thought he was done, suddenly he asked the convoy to stop on the street of Uyo and thousands of people joined him shouting APC and Sai Baba. We did about two kilometers on the road and with admirers of our party pushing and shoving and making their way to shake hands with him and take selfies. From the Street Walk we drove to Ibom Hotels, a good distance from the town and entered a hall filled with men of God. Several questions thereafter he kept going strong his faith and self discipline being his guide. Down in a bigger hall were about a thousand business men and entrepreneurs waiting to be addressed on their concerns on business, government policies as it relates to the South South and Akwa Ibom State. He calmly took their questions. I heard one in the audience said “this man is a genius” . There was no issue he failed to address from water ways to Oku Iboku Paper Mill Industry, Aluminium Smelting Company at Ikot Abasi to Coastal rail as well as the recurring issue of fighting corruption. As a younger person with about four years in between us my legs were already reluctant and failing to obey me. He keeps going on and on and you begin to wonder what about this professor and pastor?”
Ojudu who is always on the VP’s entourage added that as at 9.05 pm when he wrote his article, Osinbajo was still talking , marketing the government and its policies, dispelling negative perceptions and winning souls for our party and government. “I have been part of campaigns since 1999 when I traveled around with an uncle who who was a top member of the Unity Party of Nigeria, my foray into campus politics, professional unionism down to my work with Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 1999 and the Ekiti engagements I have never seen anything like this. I am sneezing as I am writing and my nose running with Dr Ebi Awosika passing tissue paper to me but my principal is still bouncing as if he just got up from bed at the crow of the cock at dawn. I thought I was strong here is someone stronger than strong. You know what he must still get to Lagos tonight and he will drive to Ogun State for an engagement. What a life? What a day? What a man?”
The other trait of the VP is that danger does not stop him from his task. He displayed this on Saturday when he survived a helicopter crash in Kabba in Kogi State.
From the horizon, the helicopter was descending like an eagle, the surrounding trees swaying to the eddies produced by its spinning rotors. The expectant crowd craned their necks, their veins as stretched as guitar cables. Then, the iron bird lost balance at a low altitude and crashed in a banshee screech of bodywork, propellers, dusts and dry leaves. Pandemonium! Silence…The doors facing the sky flung open. The pilot and passengers, one after the other, emerged like a butterfly from its chrysalis. They all came out from that metal egg alive. The crowd erupted in jubilation.
Ojudu who was also on board, narrated what happened: “It was a miracle we survived. The belts did a marvelous job and so were the security men on ground who quickly pulled us out of the wreckage not minding their own safety. We were also calm all through the ordeal. There was no panic of any kind. The immediate concern of all of us was the safety of our principal. We ensured he got out first. He too ensured we were all out before going into a vehicle. When we were all safely in the bus he insisted the assignment must go on and we drove to the palace of Obaro of Kabba. Above all God must be praised for providing us that umbrella of protection and prevented the helicopter from exploding in flames.”
Osinbajo himself said: “All thanks and glory to God, the chopper we boarded today from Abuja just crash landed in Kabba, Kogi State, and the entire crew plus myself are all safe. We are continuing with our Next Level Engagements and plans for Kogi State.”
Watch video of the helicopter crash here: https://youtu.be/W_YF5M1H0v8
For Osinbajo’s tenacity, President Muhammadu Buhari too praised him: “It takes tenacious spirit and amazing spiritual strength to survive a helicopter crash without being paralyzed by its impact. I’m proud of our partnership and your unalloyed loyalty and your commitment to the service of Nigeria. That you proceeded with your engagements, despite the accident, is a testimony of your passion for service to country and a reflection of your admirable spiritual fervour.”
In all, the vice president said the door-to-door campaign has been more effective in reaching out to the people to explain the plans of the government. In 2015, Osinbajo, an orator, championed the use of town hall meetings to canvass political support. It worked. APC members believe strongly that this too will work.
— Additional report by Elesho Richard/Lokoja