The Insight by Lateef Adewole
In the next eighteen days, campaigns for the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria will kickoff. We can’t wait to watch the politicians do what they know how to do best- lie! Historically, politicians hardly fulfill 50% of the promises they make during campaigns. They sweet talk the citizens and promise heaven on earth, in their bid to hoodwink them for their votes. Most people believe them. Especially when it comes from some of them who look or pretend to be innocent.
The reality always dawn on us after they have been elected and they begin to give 1000 and one excuses why most of the things they promised could not be done again. Did they not know this before? Were they not aware of the state of things before making those promises? Sadly, it is always a case of “one chance” because by then, the people would not be able to do anything about them. Not that provisions have not been made for such remedy in our constitution, as flawed as it is, but because it is almost impossible to enforce or implement such provisions: impeachment or recall.
Otherwise, many presidents, governors and lawmakers, should have been regularly sacked by the electorates just some months into their tenure in office for lack of capacity, poor performances, ineptitude, corruption and the likes. But for special political inordinate interest of a president in removing a governor, which state assembly has successfully removed any governor for poor performance as demanded by the citizens? Those that were seen, happened through the crooked machinations and manipulations of the president for selfish political reasons, not in the interest of the people.
In fact, some of them were against the interests of the people of those states. Example was the impeachment of former governor of Oyo State, Senator Rasheed Ladoja. Ordinary lawmakers have become impossible to recall by their constituencies, irrespective of how badly they represent their people. This was what happened in the attempted recall of Senator Dino Melaye who was plotted against in the 8th senate because of the antagonism of his caucus against President Buhari and his administration. Despite all the arm-twisting from the executive arm, it failed.
So, the only opportunity available to people to “punish” non-performers is after four years, when they seek reelection. It is such time that we are now. I must acknowledge the serious efforts of INEC in this respect. They have done so much to improve the quality of the elections, as reflected in the recently conducted elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states. The will of the people seemed to be respected. Nothing short of this is expected in the conduct of the general elections in 2023.
There is more consciousness this time around. This might be a good thing as the politicians may be more circumspect in their utterances while making the promises. Moreso, “fact-check” is now a trend. Unlike in the past when people made spurious pronouncements, gave wrong information or reeled out fake data and statistics, now, all these can be immediately fact-checked and they will be caught and exposed in their lies. No matter how “devilish” this painting looks like, we, the people, still have to elect people who will represent and lead us. Although, in their own minds, they actually want to “rule” us.
For quite some time, I have been asked to analyse each of the leading candidates in the presidential election and their chances. This call became more pronounced after I wrote about the just concluded presidential election in Kenya. For me, I believe whatever anybody writes about such chances is subjective. It is from the person’s perspective. Supporters of any unfavoured candidate will always disagree with such. “Gbogbo òòyà lo n pe ra re l’ódù”. Every candidate believes they will win. But, there will only be one winner.
In this light, I have chosen to look at each candidate independently. And I decided to start with the presidential candidate of the ruling party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu today. Without doubt, there are certain advantages conferred on him for flying the ruling party’s flag but same is his albatross. This is because, it is impossible to isolate him from the government, their performances, whether good or bad, despite the fact that he is not part of the government, he has no official role, and not in position to implement anything.
Unfortunately for him, his opponents do not want to hear it. They believe he was the architect of this administration and that he made Buhari to become president. So, any undoing of the government must be heaped on him. This informed the regular question that is heard from interviewers on televisions when engaging any of his supporters. They always asked if Tinubu will campaign on the performance of this administration. This is a bobby trap. Such question is asked on their beliefs that this administration has not done well.
On Thursday, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, the Director, Media and Publicity of the Tinibu-Shetimma Campaign Council, was on Arise Tv and same question was posed to him, among many others. His categorical response was that their candidate, being in APC, will campaign on both his own track record as a former governor of Lagos State and the achievements of the APC administration. Elucidating further, he said that they will consolidate on the progress made and achievements of Buhari administration, which are many, and acknowledged there are still challenges facing the country, especially the insecurity, that they will improve upon it. That’s crafty!
There are some factors that could millitate against his electoral victory at the polls. One, there is this subconscious happenstance about becoming president of Nigeria. It happened that nearly all the times, those who were genuinely interested, well prepared, ready to lead the country, and often the best choice, did not get it. Undoubtedly, in the class of pre-independent leaders, Chief Obafemi Awolowo stood out. Yet, he lost out in both 1959 and 1963 in the first republic and in 1979 and 1983 in the second republic. Chief MKO Abiola was the best in 1993 but did not get there.
All through fourth republic, those who became president were not those at the forefront of wanting to be the president. Obasanjo was brought out of prison, Yar’adua was unwillingly conscripted by Obasanjo, despite his sickness. Jonathan became president by accident. Buhari had given up and returned to his farm after losing thrice previously before he was pulled back by the same Tinubu and helped to win in 2015. However, except someone else from less known party miraculously upset the election, the three or four leading candidates have all being aspiring, prepared and wanting to be the president. And one of them is likely to emerge. So, this may not repeat itself, hopefully.
Again, there is the jinx about the core Yoruba progressives getting to political centre as president. Awolowo lost out in 1963, Abiola lost out 30 years after in 1993. 2023 is another 30 years since 1993. Can Tinubu break the jinx? This is beyond human comprehension.
Apart from these, the issue of his age is another factor. He is considered old at 70. His traducers believe he is older. That’s their opinion. As long as he can function, age is not the most critical factor. President Joe Biden is now 79 and was 78 when he won his election. Trump was 71 when he won his own and recontested at 75. It is good to have young president like Liz Truss, 47, the new PM of UK or Trudeau of Canada, now 50, who became PM at 43, but where are their age mates in Nigeria? Many are still struggling to survive.
Then, his health constantly comes to the fore. Anyone can fall sick or even die, at any age. At 70, that he falls sick every now and then is not unexpected. However, we have seen him in numerous energy-sapping engagements, going to the party primary and since winning the ticket. He has been up and running. Participating in endless strategic political engagements. If he could be as fit as he has been in the last six months, then, his health should not be an issue. The Muslim-Muslim ticket is another issue.
Let me say this, all along, I had thought that President Buhari planned to simply back Professor Osinbajo to take over from him when the time comes to choosing their party flag bearer, but I thought wrong. With the immense contributions and sacrifices by the South West block of APC in birthing the party and ensuring that Buhari won, twice, they deserve to get the ticket. Had Tinubu not thrown his hat in the ring, they might possibly be gnashing their teeth now after losing out to other region, North or South-South. It took the political sagacity and network of Tinubu to save the situation.
Also, I have written many articles on issues bedevilling Nigeria and put the blames squarely on the president and his administration, particularly insecurities. This does not mean where they have done well, it should not be acknowledged. And such are truly numerous, particularly in infrastructures. I cannot begin to highlight them. So, Tinubu will definitely have many achievements to campaign with, despite the challenges.
Let us get down to his track record. Another thing that the anti-Tinubu camp does not want to hear is that he is the architect of the modern Lagos. I have watched and read numerous arguments about this. They accuse him of appropriating all the glories of Lagos to himself wrongly. How true is this? Well, in my opinion, since the return of democracy in 1999, all the developments that Lagos has experienced should be directly or indirectly credited to Tinubu.
As the governor between 1999 and 2007, he laid a foundation for a new Lagos. It is said to be a 25-year blueprint for development. Coming out from long years of military rule, that era was the most challenging, democratically, for elected officials. We knew how Obasanjo, as the president, was travelling all over the world, to win back Nigeria’s position in international community where it had become a pariah state.
So, it is commendable that a comprehensive plan was thought of, articulated and put on ground for implementation, not by his administration only but by subsequent ones, which is what has been happening in Lagos till date. How many governors in 1999 or states have such plans? That is visionary leadership. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. It is such persons we need in Nigeria today. An overview of our country gives an impression of a rudderless and directionless country. We seem lost. Each administration just engage in trial and error. This is why one administration will have seven point agenda, the next will cut it to three or increase to ten. No concretely written national plan on ground to follow by successive administrations. This has led to moving in a circle. All motion without movement. Stagnation or even retrogression sometimes.
While in that difficult era, Tinubu did his best starting to implement those plans, there were so much he could do, considering the battle he also had to fight with the Obasanjo-led Federal government, who siezed the local government allocations for three years in his second term. This was caused by the creation of additional 37 Local Governments by Tinubu, in other to bring government closer to the people. That was ingenious initiative that later became the trend and copied by many other states. There were many other initiatives of his government that were even copied by the same federal government. The LIRS, IPP, PPP, Metrolines, etc.
Like the Yorubas would say; “oore pe, asiwere gbagbe”. Many people have forgotten how Lagos generally was before 1999. For those who have been living in Lagos before and after then, they will recall how Lagos streets were covered with heaps of wastes. Lagos could just be the dirtiest city in Nigeria then. This was understandable because it has always been the hub of economic activities in Nigeria and West Africa. With a surging population, higher than many countries around the world but with inefficient public utility management systems, that was bound to happen. This was how waste management through LAWMA was re-organised for more effectiveness and better efficiency. Many other states have copied this.
Insecurities were very high then. It was commonplace to wake up to see dead bodies on the streets. Tinubu combated this by organising, equipping and financing special force unit that comprised the police and military personnel from existing security architecture. Officers posted to this unit were additionally specially trained, equipped and incentivised for optimal performance. They were called “Operation Sweep”. That was how criminals were swept into jails. Many ran away from Lagos to other states. Crime rate reduced. Same initiative has been copied and replicated across the country now. That is the power of vision, thinking and doing, embodied in Tinubu.
I will disagree with anyone who appropriates all the great achievements of subsequent governors to Tinubu. Governor Fashola was phenomenal. He changed the face of Lagos from the slum-like to modern city. For the first time in a long time, many hot spots in Lagos became liveable. Notorious Oshodi was sanitised. At that time, if your money dropped on the floor, you will come back to meet it. Petty thieves, touts and armed robbers were cleared out by him. The unruly traders all around there, who blocked the roads with their wares, causing unnecessary congestions were straightened. Countless shops were demolished, particularly when he started the BRT.
Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) was started by Fashola. This eased mass transportation in Lagos. I could remember the “molue”, the most prominent mass transit in Lagos then. They began to be phased out. They no longer exists today. Beautification of many parts of Lagos, development of Lekki-Ajah axis, and many others, began or continued under him.
Many people who live in the fringes of Lagos, and in boundary areas between Lagos and Ogun State, will forever remained grateful to the former Governor Akinwumi Ambode. It is a general believe that Fashola concentrated more efforts in “elite areas” of Lagos. Ambode complemented that with his focus on “masses areas”. He opened up many areas by constructing numerous well-tarred roads within their communities and all roads that link Lagos to Ogun State. Governor Sanwo-Olu has continued where he left. He is bringing the first phase of the metrolines, the blue line, to fruition. He has started the phase two- the red line. There are seven of them. And many other developments.
Why then should anyone understate these people’s achievements? Well, I don’t think that is what Tinubu’s supporters are doing. However, it must not be lost on us that almost everything that these successive governors did or doing, were /are already put in the blueprint of the vision, conceived by Tinubu while in office. Deliberately too, all the subsequent governors were part and parcel of that administration. They were all involved in conceptualising and articulating these plans.
In addition, everyone knows that if not for Tinubu, as destined by God, each of the three successors might not have become the governor of Lagos State. Fashola was chosen and supported to win the election by Tinubu against other preferences by party leaders. Same with Ambode and Sanwo-Olu. All these were part of the plans; ensuring peaceful and successful transition from one administration to another. That has made Lagos to be the most politically stable state in Nigeria, a factor that has helped its upward mobile trajectory since 1999.
Apart from these trio, countless others have been given opportunities for political relevance in Nigeria through his school of politics. At the peak of it is our sitting vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. He was the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos state during the time of Tinubu as governor. He has risen through that to his present position. Many state governors, lawmakers at states and national, political office holders in many states and federal, passed through him. He has the knack for spotting talents, attracting brilliant minds, even more brilliant than him, and pushing them up. This is what Nigeria needs. The president alone will not do the job but by engaging the best among us.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the candidate to beat in the coming election. He is focused and understands the politics. How many of his class of 1999 are still as relevant? He is a hard worker, both in politics and governance. I have been following the activities of these frontrunners since after the primaries, he remains the most focused and candidate doing all that needed to be done, politically, for someone who wants to win. But, it is not a walkover. I am not as overly optimistic like his ardent loyalists and supporters. The task ahead is humongous. I can only wish him all the best.
May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.
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