By Lateef Adewole
Email: [email protected]
This week has been interesting in Nigeria, not because the ban on the social media app, Twitter, was eventually lifted after 222 days, but for the flurry of political activities that happened. We might as well say it’s a week of “presidential declarations”. The nation was shaken and has been so, since the “big masquerade” was finally unveiled. The long awaited declaration to contest the 2023 presidential election by the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the great Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom, finally happened.
It put paid to the hide and seek of many months, or even years. He made this known after he visited President Buhari in Aso Rock on Monday, where he said he went to inform him of his interest to contest for the position. That has been shaking the whole country since then. That’s what happens when a big fish comes to the shore. As if others were waiting for him, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state also visited the president to inform him of his ambition as well, the following day.
Also, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu was already in the news with his own declaration immediately after. He did not bother to visit Aso Rock to inform the president. All of them are of APC party. In the same vein, Chief Dele Momodu has once again, thrown his hat in the ring. On Tuesday, he visited the National Party headquarters of PDP, where he submitted a letter to the leadership of the party to intimate them of his interest to contest for 2023 presidential election on their platform. More are still being expected. The more the merrier.
After years of speculations as to what the interest of Asiwaju Tinubu is, his declaration is one that has generated many debates and thrown up series of permutations. In the last few years, I have been asked of my opinion on his candidature and possible presidency but I refused to respond. This was because, I felt that would be like shaving someone’s head in their absence. Since he hadn’t declared his interest at the time, why should I waste my time and energy analysing such? That’s an effort in futility. But, now, I no longer have any excuse when the same people asked me again.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is someone I respect and admire greatly for his political sagacity. I often said that he probably understands how to play Nigerian politics more than anyone in Nigeria today, love or hate him. Lagos state has remained the main reference point of his political dexterity and governance capacity. Despite being in power for only eight years as the governor of the state and left office since 2007, he has remained the most politically relevant of the class of 1999 governors.
Not only that he withstood and survived the Obasanjo’s PDP tsunami in the South-West in 2003, he went ahead to maintain a firm grip on the state, installing subsequent governors and influenced who gets what within the state, at all levels, till date. This was later extended to other South-West states, where he has substantial influence, as he led his party ACN to reclaim them.
His exceptional political capacity, courage and doggedness came to play in 2015 when, through the merger of opposition parties, which he successfully midwifed, President Buhari won the presential primary of the APC and later, the general election, defeating an incumbent President Jonathan. That was unprecedented. That feat was repeated against his long-term friend, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of PDP, in 2019.
Asiwaju must have felt that his time has come to be the “king” himself. While addressing the state house press, he stated that becoming the president of Nigeria has been his “life-long ambition” and queried what is wrong “if a kingmaker decided to become the king”? In the light of that statement, many disagreed with him, based on Yoruba culture, from where he hailed, that it is sacrilege in Yorubaland. That’s by the way.
Asiwaju Tinubu is eminently qualified to aspire to anything as a Nigerian, but becoming the president of Nigeria is something that Nigerians will decide if they want him or not. Given that he brought this government into power, we can analyse his suitability for the position based on the same APC tripod of economy, security and anti-corruption. Plus some others factors.
The evidence of the understanding of the economy by Asiwaju could be clearly seen in Lagos. Historically, the state has always been ahead of others. The coming of Asiwaju as the governor in 1999 took it a notch higher. A developmental blueprint conceived and implemented by him and successive administrations in Lagos, transformed the state. Lagos economy alone became bigger than many African countries. In fact, number 5, if it were to be a country. The tremendous increase in the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the state is something attributed to him and has been a source of pride to them. From a meagre 600 million naira per month, it became about 7 billion by 2007. It is currently over 45 billion naira. That’s over 7000% rise since 1999. What happens to the money and how it’s being spent and utilised is another thing.
So, a Tinubu presidency will be aggressive about economic transformation of the country and we can be rest assured that he will engage the best of brains available to do that. This remained his trademark in Lagos, which has produced many now celebrated individuals in politics across the South-West and at the national level. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is a man of ideas, who understands the importance of team work and brainstorming on serious issues. His economic policies will be private sector-centric.
How would it look like having him mounts the podium and campaigns that he will fight corruption? Many Nigerians are not likely to take him serious about that. This is for no reason but the moral burden that has remained his albatross for many years, especially since he governed Lagos state. There have been unending corruption allegations against him. He has been taken to court some times. None of them yielded any result. This should have been enough to give him a clean slate but never. Many Nigerians believed that non-conviction or lack of evidence does not mean a crime has not been committed.
Even when he was never found guilty, his traducers only believed he escaped because of his “smartness” and that it is the reason he has desperately held on to Lagos to installed his “stooges” as successors, so they could cover up for him. It is believed that if an opposition ever gets to govern Lagos, all the buried rots would be exhumed and exposed. Whether such unproveable allegations are true or not, time will tell. So, too much may not be expected of his government to strongly fight corruption. He might put systems in place to checkmate continued widespread stealing of public funds. But to go after people who stole in previous administrations, especially the current one, is very much doubtful.
Whoever becomes the president of Nigeria has had his or her job cuts out for them as far as insecurities are concerned. The damages that have been done to the country due to mishandling of the security challenges by the current administration, will take long time to solve. Sadly, Asiwaju helped brought it. And while things continued to degenerate, no one heard his voice loudly condemning the endless massacres across the country. He must have been careful, expectedly, just because of a time like this, when he will want to contest. He would not want the president and the “cabal” to move against him if he spoke up against the failures of the government in solving the security problems. But are they not, with all that has happened and still happening in APC since 2020?
Tackling the insecurities, especially the now designated terrorists (bandits), will require strong will and iron fist. Can Tinubu rise up to that? When a southern president gets to office and decides to viciously deal with the terrorists, especially in the northern Nigeria, will the northerners not start to blackmail him that he is “killing their people”, similar to the ludicrous insinuations during Jonathan when he was dealing with the bokoharam then? Will Tinubu have the gut to go ahead, act and do as necessary, for the sake of Nigeria and Nigerians who have suffered for it in the last six years?
Same as in the South-East. Will he be able to tackle IPOB, ESN and Unknown gunmen head-on, not minding whose ox is gored? As for the militancy and agitations in the Niger Delta, a Tinubu presidency will likely manage the crisis in the region better than anyone and get better results. He is a dextrous negotiator. He understands compromises and sacrifices for greater good. This is how he has kept Lagos intact and under his control. Moreso that he knows the implications and importance of the crude oil to Nigerian economy, he would do whatever is necessary to keep peace in that region. About the agitation for the Yoruba Nation, he will want to show he is not an enabler. He has not supported it before, at least, not publicly. He may also try to negotiate and pacify them. Afterall, “he is their son”.
Apart from these, there are other concerns raised about Asiwaju Bola Tinubu becoming the president of Nigeria. Let me be sincere, I am an advocate of a far younger president, who is more vibrant, agile and have the strength to withstand the rigour of that office. Running Nigeria is an herculean task. From what Mallam Nasir El-Rufai wrote in his book: “Accidental Public Servant”, he narrated how demanding the office of the president is, and that only president Obasanjo has performed effectively while in office. He wrote that Obasanjo used to work round the clock. He was just 62 in 1999.
He told the story of how the late President Yar’adua gave up trying to meet up to such huge work demands within six months of his administration. Although, Yar’adua was young at the time but he was sick. Haven’t we experienced the same thing in the past six years? President Buhari was fit and active in 2015, until he fell sick. That was the beginning of “presidency by proxy”. We never recovered from that.
So, a Asiwaju at 71 years of age by 2023, will he be strong enough to manage Nigeria? Before people start reminding me of President Trump and Joe Biden of America and other aged world leaders, running Nigeria is more difficult because of ineffective systems and the abnormally enormous power given to our president by the “dysfunctional” constitution. This makes our president “all-powerful” that everyone defers to him. His attention, opinion, approval or physical presence is often needed in many instances in the course of governance, unlike in the more advanced democracies where the systems take care of many things, independent of the president of the country. Donald Trump and the 2019 US election saga was a classical example.
It’s God that gives good health. So, no one should despise another due to their failing health. However, there are age related health challenges, which would require constant attention. This is what we have experienced as a country with the constant medical trips to London by President Buhari. If any of these aged presidents in USA falls sick, they won’t have to travel out of their country to get treated. That’s not the case here, another failure of the same government. So, at such age, with health concerns, how would Asiwaju Tinubu be fit to withstand the work pressure of that office? Why should such be the constant fate of our country? From Yar’adua to Buhari. Can we afford another such precarious scenarios at this trying time of our nation? I don’t think so.
Another knotty issue is the choice of vice presidential candidate to him. As a Muslim from the south, who will be his vice? From which part of the north? What will be his or her religion? Are the core northern muslims ready to conceed both the president’s and the vice president’s slots? Or is he ready to fly a Muslim- Muslim ticket? All these are issues that need to be resolved.
The burden of a possible Professor Yemi Osinbajo as contestant is also there. There is a large section of the country who believes Professor Osinbajo is the best person to take over from President Buhari. In the past months, numerous groups have been formed, who were canvassing for him and selling his potential candidacy. This is an issue that could cause division in the rank of the South-West APC in particular and Yorubas in general. I hope this will be amicably resolved eventually.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a household name in the politics of Nigeria. He has achieved far beyond many of his contemporaries, politically. He is bold, ambitious and patient. Therefore, if he feels he has exhausted his role as a king maker and now wants to become the king, it’s only fair that he is allowed to exercise and enjoy his constitutional right to do so.
All I know is that, the south deserves their turn to be president in 2023. The north has no moral right to do so after eight years of President Buhari. In APC, South-West deserves the presidential ticket as they invested more in the APC than other regions in the south. As for the PDP, South-East deserves the presidential ticket. They have been more inclined to the party. But, how have they fared in that? Not until recent declaration of interest by Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, none of the PDP stalwarts in the region has shown any seriousness like did by the Yoruba leaders in APC.
In all, we can only pray that the best candidates emerge, not only as president, but also in various states as governors, at the senate, the house of representatives and the state assemblies. All these positions impact the country in overall, not just the presidency. Electoral acts ammendments, problematic constitution, restructuring, state police, etc., are issues still agitating the minds of many Nigerians, even before the elections will come in 2023. We need to have a country first, before we talk of who leads it. They need to be addressed.
May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.
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