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Why Tinubu shouldn’t run in 2019

By Alabi Williams
05 March 2017   |   3:35 am
The All Progressives Congress (APC) appeared to have been very careful to avoid same pitfalls that clobbered former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), particularly on the vexed...

Alabi Williams

The All Progressives Congress (APC) appeared to have been very careful to avoid same pitfalls that clobbered former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), particularly on the vexed issue of zoning and rotational presidency. The APC, at the time of formation and constitution drafting, cleverly refused to foist catchment areas and federal character on itself. All aspirants were supposedly permitted to run for whatever offices they had strength for. All that seemed okay then, but the APC is beginning to look confused. Clearly, it did not bargain for the immense challenges of governance, which has caused it to now look ordinary and directionless. In addition, President Buhari’s health challenge at a time the party should sit down for crucial mid-term self-appraisal is a bigger constraint. In the absence of a father figure, the APC is likely to multiply its many levers of influence and attendant uncontrollable excitements.

I mentioned this worry not long ago, when I advised President Buhari to disown calls by sycophants for him to run for second term in 2019. I was of the view then, and now, that the pressure of the office will be too much for him to micromanage, going forward. Therefore, when he comes back, he should do less of office rigour and concern himself more with an effective handover to a worthy successor, who can continue with the promises of good governance made by their party in the 2015 general elections. That is, if the PDP remains at the deplorable level it is, and is unable to find its way back to Aso Rock.

Apart from giving the people good governance in the course of four years, a party in government has additional responsibility to ensure smooth democratic handover from one dispensation to another. That had been one of the fears of many for the country, but so far, the PDP appears to have surmounted that hurdle. That has happened back-to-back since 2003, despite challenges and manipulations.
Therefore, many now look up to APC to deliver a 2019 that is bloodless and sufficiently free and fair. Unfortunately for the party, many Nigerians are not fretting for the PDP and other fringe parties, but for the APC. The worry is that in the absence of one noticeable candidate that commands substantial following from across the country, the race for the party’s ticket could become a tower of babel, of a sort. And if not well managed, it could ruin the beauty of our democracy and reinforce its fragility.

The party’s presidential primary of December 2014 was one of the best held so far in the country. The build up was breathtaking, as the frontline candidates stood head to head. Buhari, Atiku Abubakar and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso were all formidable. Atiku was by far the most experienced and most robust. Kwankwaso could cause a stir, if not well tackled. Buhari was the natural choice, even though he had to be assisted. Despite the anxieties, the finishing was clinical, because in the background were master strategists, who ensured that the overall interest of the party was delivered. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was the unseen hand that aggregated the collective efforts to achieve that feat.

Now, towards 2019, nothing is clear in the APC. Many hyenas will be on the loose, if there is no strong lion to preserve the kill. Was that the motivation behind the recent statements credited to party leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, which has caused some excitement in the polity, and might just be the beginning of the power play in the party towards 2019? Tinubu was reported by a mainstream newspaper to have declared interest in his party’s presidential ticket for 2019. Even though the report itself lacked clarity and lent itself to easy disownment, which has been excessively done by his Media Office, some doubting Thomases are still wondering whether the denouncement was actually on target.

A careful textual analysis of the entire refutation will reveal that it was anchored on only one condition – If. Meaning that, if Buhari remains the candidate of the party for 2019, Tinubu as a loyal party man will be there for the President.

Hear him: “Asiwaju supports and stands behind President Buhari. He wishes the President well and that he returns soon. Whether the President is here or away, he has the full loyalty of Asiwaju Tinubu. President Buhari can rest assured on this point: Asiwaju Tinubu will never contest against him nor will he support anyone who does.”

Tinubu is a man, who has survived many battles and he knows what it is like to confront an incumbent president frontally. He stood up to former president Obasanjo and was ostracised more or less, even though he later won laurels from that faceoff. Political battles are not won on the pages of newspapers and that is the strong point to take away from that statement.

As has become clear to many objective onlookers, the APC will not be showing political tact, if it goes ahead to insist on candidate Buhari for 2019. This is not going to be a spite at Mr. President and whatever condition he is going through. When it was reasonable to do so, the party backed Buhari and didn’t mind the odds. But now that the man has come and is doing his best, it might be time to shop for another candidate. After all, Nelson Mandela voluntarily opted for one term, without preconditions. The man simply knew that age was not on his side and wasted no time to shop for a successor. He was not afflicted by Robert Mugabe’s disease.

So, if the party will not field Buhari again, is it out of place for Tinubu to say, ‘look, I’m here’ even if to safeguard party heritage from imminent free for all. Tinubu has said that he could run for any office, yes, because it is in the nature of politicians to contest elections. The life cycle of a politician is not complete, if he has not contested elections. But in the real sense, I think Tinubu as kingmaker over the years, has amassed enough air of invincibility to last him a lifetime. A plunge into the arena now, after his many successes could have him thoroughly demystified and devalued.

Tinubu’s attendance at Rotimi Akeredolu’s swearing-in ceremony, in Ondo State, where the vexed story was deduced from offhand comments, added colour to the entire event. It also helped to save his dwindling political fortune. He had issues with the candidacy of Akeredolu. He had issues with the party leadership and after that, it appeared he quietly stayed away, until efforts were made to reconcile warring members of the party in the Southwest. It seemed that both the misrepresentation and the refutation are all geared towards announcing Tinubu’s return to his prime position as leader of the party in the zone. The zone has to be seen to be working for one agenda within the party. So far, no one else in the zone has made any statements connected to 2019 and that could be strategic. When negotiations begin, I’m sure Tinubu will lead the zone again to broker the next deal.

Tinubu does not need to run for office of president. Despite the clear provision in its constitution that anybody can offer himself as candidate, the body language in the APC is that the north is entitled to eight years. Whether Buhari runs for 2019 or not, the safer thing to do is let the Presidency stay up north. It is up to the northeast and northwest to slug it out. If Saraki and others in the north-central are able to join the fray, so be it. Any other arrangement at this point, when the party has not cut its teeth, might leave it bruised and unconscious during the next election.

If Asiwaju could not be vice to Buhari, is he not now too big to be vice to any other northern politician, apart from, perhaps, Atiku? Tinubu and Atiku have come too far in this cat and mouse game to be taken seriously in a joint ticket. Tinubu is a kingmaker. He should preserve that prime role.