Asiwaju BAT: The issue in 2023
The National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has not put anybody in doubt that he is ready to give his all to win his party primary and eventually the next presidential election.
He is, arguably one of the most experienced politicians in Nigeria with vast political structures across the 36 states of the federation including Abuja to win the election. He is a mobiliser and grassroots politician. He is also known as a master strategist with records of winning almost all political battles.
Tinubu’s political trajectory from his election into the Red Chambers in 1992, when he represented Lagos West to joining hands with other pro-democracy activists to fight the military junta to a standstill after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election, won by the late Bashorun M. K. O. Abiola, leading to the formation of NADECO that sent many of the activists to the trenches and subsequent return of democratic government in 1999, his roles were well defined in this struggle.
Many Nigerians in the Progressives camp will not forget in a hurry how he emerged as the Lagos State governorship candidate of the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) and won elections to become the civilian governor of the state.
As an accountant and administrator, he redefined governance in Lagos State and re-organised its internal revenue drive to make it the best in Nigeria. Even when the administration of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo launched a war of attrition against his government by withholding Lagos State government shares from the federation pool, Tinubu’s government forged ahead in developing physical infrastructure of the state, prompt payment of salaries and gratuities to pensioners.
As a political colossus, who laid a solid economic and political foundation for Lagos State, the maverick politician is still calling the shots; he makes and unmakes kings.
Having realised that he needs to extend his political influence beyond Lagos State, his Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) went further to “capture” other states in the Southwest, including Edo State in the South-South.
Unknown to many, Tinubu had set his eyes on the presidency as soon as he completed his tenure as Lagos State governor in 2007, but his political structure was weak to make a go at national politics. His first attempt to strike a deal to have a merger with other political parties to defeat Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) failed. But he remained unfettered until another opportunity came in 2014 when his ACN went into alliance with the CPC, nPDP, ANPP and a section of APGA, led by the then Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha to form APC.
To achieve this, Tinubu knew he had to step down his presidential ambition to consolidate the new party by putting forward Major Gen. Muhammad Buhari (rtd), who had contested and failed thrice to win the presidency under ANPP and CPC. His attempt to become Buhari’s running mate was rebuffed by members of the nPDP, that was very assertive that a Muslim-Muslim ticket would not fly in Nigeria. He was believed to have nominated Prof Yemi Osinbajo to vie with Buhari, but some party sources gave that credit to former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and former Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
However, Tinubu was named the National Leader of the party, even when the APC Constitution recognises the President as the National Leader and Governors as leaders in their respective states.
For Tinubu, the time has come to realise his life ambition of becoming the President of Nigeria. He took a bold step on January 10, this year, when he met the President in his office to inform him of his desire to succeed him in office.
Speaking to State House correspondents after his meeting with President Buhari, Tinubu said: “I have informed the President of my ambition but I have not informed Nigerians yet, I am still consulting. There’s nowhere in the world where a kingmaker cannot himself be king.
“About the cap of a kingmaker. I’ve never seen the cap of a kingmaker before. That is the truth. And I have never seen where it is written in the rulebook anywhere in any country that a kingmaker cannot be a king unless he has committed murder. So, whatever you write is your own opinion,” he said.
Tinubu’s meeting with the President kick-started the campaign for who succeeds Buhari in 2003. His boldness to meet with the President on his ambition has attracted commendations from many Nigerians, who saw his moves and level of preparations as rare attributes of a democrat Nigeria needs at this moment.
He is a phenomenon that has occupied central space in the political discourse and the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria. Many analysts are of the opinion that Tinubu did not just emerge as the central issue to the 2023 presidential election, they said none of the aspirants both in APC and PDP has the kind of political structure and war chest at his disposal.
A political observer succinctly put it, “If there is any presidential aspirant with deep pocket like Tinubu, such an aspirant cannot match Tinubu’s political structure and his huge investment in people. He has made a lot of people and has invested in them and this election is the period of payback for most of them. Mention any aspirant that has investments in Nigeria like Tinubu. He is not a saint because Nigeria is not electing a Pope, but a politician that can fix Nigeria.”
Many of his supporters see him as Awolowo of this period because of his deep understanding of the political economy of Nigeria. He is also said to have gone a bit further in politics than Awolowo in embracing more handshakes beyond the Niger. The Jagaban of Borgu is the face of Southwest and presidential aspirant to beat.
But if Tinubu has been having a smooth political journey since he became Lagos State governor in 1999, his ride to the presidency is certainly going to be another ball game that will be riddled with bumps and tantrums.
Issues about his age, place of birth and source of wealth are already being scrutinised by his critics, just as antagonism about his religion is gaining traction. Some of his critics said it would be wrong for a Muslim to succeed Buhari in a country where religion is a major factor in deciding who gets what.
Besides, many are waiting to see how he would face the epic battle with most of his “students” at ‘Bourdillon School of Politics, who will surely contest the APC primary with him.
The fact that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was his Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, when he held sway, as Lagos State Governor has not prevented the Pastor-turned politician from eying the presidency.
Though Osinbajo has not personally made public his ambition to contest the party’s presidential ticket with Tinubu, activities of his Special Adviser on Political Matter, Senator Babafemi Ojudu speak volumes about Osinbajo’s quest for the presidency. Ojudu has been up and doing coordinating hundreds of support groups campaigning for Osinbajo’s presidency across the country.
Indeed Ojudu, who was one of the strategists and image-makers of Tinubu had publicly declared that he did not see him as a good material for the presidency.
Reacting to statements by Tinubu’s loyalists that they never expected Ojudu to be working against Tinubu’s interest and called him a traitor, Ojudu in a statement titled: ‘Principled Political Choices Are Not Betrayal’, said he could not, in good conscience, support Tinubu or vote for him in the party’s primary.
He said: “So, on the 2023 matter, I wish him well, but I cannot, in good conscience, give him my support or vote for him in the primary. It is my right. I am above 60 years. At a point, I almost died seeking democratic rights, detained and severely tortured.
“As such, no one should think he could browbeat or blackmail me to do what does not agree with my conscience or ideals. Enough of the telephone threats and embarrassment of my family members,” he said.
Ojudu said he knows Tinubu very well, adding: “I respect and adore him. Many of his latter-day supporters do not even know him. If they do, they won’t resort to emotional and physical blackmail.”
He recalled that when Tinubu decided to go against Afenifere and Yoruba elders in 2003 by refusing to support President Olusegun Obasanjo, he did not betray the Yoruba nation, nor was he a traitor of Afenifere.
It was also gathered that the presidential ambition of Vice President Osinbajo, and that of the Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, has not only strained their relationship with Tinubu but also divided loyalists that once belonged to the same political family.
A source said: “Osinbajo and Fayemi are now called many unprintable names by Tinubu’s core loyalists. They are not only being referred to as traitors but also likened to the former Premier of Western Region, Chief Ladoke Akintola, who challenged the political authority of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the then Action Group.”
Other prominent lieutenants of Tinubu, who are said to be indifferent to his presidential ambition are Minister of Works and former Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Fashola; former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu; immediate past governor of Lagos, Akinwumi Ambode; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Former Osun State governor and Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has drawn the battle line with Tinubu over the second term ambition of Governor Gboyega Oyetola.
Aregbesola specifically told the APC National Leader to stop playing God and subsequently announced what he described as “freedom” from Tinubu’s political fiefdom.
Aregbeola said, “We followed and served this leader with all our might. In fact, our loyalty to him had caused some people to start wondering if we were no longer Muslims. But we were with him and served him according to the admonition of our forefathers, who said when serving anyone, we should do so with sincerity and loyalty; that if you regard anyone as your principal, you must serve him wholeheartedly.
“Sadly, we didn’t know that while we wished him well, he didn’t think good of us. However, because we placed him higher than where he ordinarily should be, he started to think he is our god. Unfortunately, for him, we had sworn to God that whoever compares himself to him, we’d beg Him to bring down such a fellow.”
Despite Aregbesola’s vituperations, Tinubu had his way and Oyetola won the party’s ticket to contest the July 16, governorship election in the state. Aregbesola and his supporters are already in court to challenge Oyetola’s victory at the primary election.
Apart from the opposition Tinubu is facing from his fellow Yoruba politicians, he would still have to contend with powerful interest groups within the party from other geopolitical zones, who are afraid of Tinubu’s presidency like Minister of Transport and former Governor of River State, Rotimi Amaechi and a host of APC governors, who are kicking against his ambition.
Indeed, there is a grand conspiracy among the governors to stop Tinubu and ensure one of them pick the party’s ticket for the 2023 presidential election, but many believe that Tinubu is up to the task of dismantling any gang up against him, being a politician with a better experience and political network than his adversaries.
Drumming support for Tinubu, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State said northerners have no other aspirant to support than the former governor of Lagos State.
Ganduje, who spoke at the inauguration of an office for Northern Youth Professionals for Tinubu said that it was necessary for northerners to support Tinubu’s ambition.
The governor spoke through the Managing Director of Kano Road Traffic Agency, Dr Baffa Dan’agundi. He said supporting Tinubu was necessary to reciprocate the gesture of the people of Southwest in 2015 when they supported Muhammadu Buhari to become the President of the country.
He said, “I don’t have much to say than to align myself with the statement made by Senator Kashim Shettima of Borno State when he said Northern Nigeria has no option than to support the Yoruba race first and in the whole of Yoruba race, who”? It is Bola Tinubu.
“If I ask you to give one person who supported the Northern candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, there is nobody else you can mention other than Bola Tinubu.
“It is time for us to show whether we are truly sons of our parents or not. So, this is the time we are with Bola Tinubu.
“It was Bola Ahmed Tinubu who persistently stood firm and ensured that the people of the Southwest supported Muhammadu Buhari from the APC primary up to the Presidential election where he emerged victoriously.”
The National Coordinator of the organisation, Abdullahi Tanko-Yakasai, said the reason they were supporting Tinubu’s presidential ambition was because of his love for the development of Nigeria, adding that Tinubu’s presidency would address the lingering security challenges and bring socio-economic development to the country.
Apart from hundreds of endorsements for his ambition, no other presidential aspirant has been going around the country like Tinubu to sell his candidature to the people.
But beyond sentiments of his personal and political relationship with many Nigerians, foremost legal luminary, Aare Afe Babalola has admonished Nigerians to consider some qualities next president must-have, which is gradually becoming a compass to view all presidential aspirants.
Babalola, in the statement, said that such a candidate must not be too old and must be of sound health.
The nonagenarian said the candidate must also be extraordinarily brilliant and have sound knowledge of current affairs, work ethics, leadership experience, good human relations and also have a clear cut vision and mission for Nigeria.
The notable legal practitioner said that the presidential candidate should be fluent in spoken English, such that he would possess the ability to write a speech all by himself.
According to him, in addition, he must possess the ability to speak off the cuff. “The candidate must produce evidence that he possesses unquestionable means of livelihood. He should not just be seeking election as a means of securing employment or to offset outstanding indebtedness or use his position as the President to divert government’s funds into his offshore accounts.”
He further advised that the candidate must demonstrate that “he is willing and prepared to serve the nation without earning salaries, as it was the case between 1960 and January 15, 1966.”
He added: “The sum total of the qualities those who deserve to be voted for as Nigeria’s President are age, health, education, sound knowledge of current affairs, work ethics, experience, human relations, vision and mission for Nigeria.
“Others are belief in the need for a new Constitution, oratory power, kindness, friendliness and firmness, previous contributions to development, economic standing and readiness to serve as well as proven ability to solve problems.”
On age, Babalola explained that any candidate for the post of Nigeria’s president should not be more than 60 years old so that if he has the opportunity of serving two terms of four years each, he would still be leaving office before he turns 70.
Babalola, commenting on health, said the candidate must be physically, mentally and medically fit. The President should not be a person who will be looking for medical treatment from hospital to the hospital around the world. He must be so healthy that he should be able to work for a minimum of 14 hours a day. It is normal that the aspirant for the post of Nigeria’s President must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree, obtained from a reputable university. Sound knowledge of current affairs must also be considered.
“A person aspiring for the post of Nigeria’s President should possess a sound knowledge of Nigerian, African and world affairs for him to be able to speak and debate convincingly on any of them.”
On work ethics, he said that the occupant of that exalted seat should be able and ready to work for a minimum of 14 hours a day, based on his personal knowledge of the volume of documents, petitions and applications that daily flooded the office of the president, most of which would require his personal and urgent attention.
“Concerning personal attributes, the aspirant should not be arrogant or opinionated. He should be a good listener, respectful and humble. He must be law-abiding and a respecter of the Rule of Law, vision and mission for Nigeria.
“The aspirant must be someone who is totally detribalised and who appreciates that the country, Niger Area, now called Nigeria was brought together by Europeans during the 1884 Berlin Conference without consulting the locals and without their consent.
“He must appreciate that the over 400 ethnic nationalities that makeup Nigeria have their different languages, cultures, religions, customs and values. He must, therefore, demonstrate to the voters that he believes in the evolution of nation-Nigeria from these various ethnic nationalities.”
While opinion defers on how much of the qualities Afe Babalola listed can be attributed to Tinubu, that is left to his party to decide.
If the President assented to the amended Electoral Bill, political parties conventions to elect or select presidential candidates must hold before August ends. And if APC would opt for consensus option as it has announced for March 26, when the substantive national chairman of the party would emerge, President Buhari, who has made public that he has a favourite candidate for the presidency is holding the ace. But his decision may not finally decide whether Tinubu’s name will be on the ballot paper on February 18, 2023, presidential election or not. Tinubu will rather want Nigerians to decide his fate.