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Atiku versus Tinubu: Political titans separated by strategy, planning

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
26 March 2023   |   3:40 am
Erstwhile Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had much at stake as they contested the February 25 presidential election.


Erstwhile Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had much at stake as they contested the February 25 presidential election.

Both, political gladiators knew that it was “now or never’ and therefore put their all to the chase for the Presidency after President Muhammadu Buhari. So, all through, starting from the straw polls of their respective political parties, they insisted on clinching the ticket to be on the ballot.
Being, as was generally speculated their last ditch effort at seeking nomination for the presidential run, the two political titans did not leave anything to chance. Invariably, both Atiku and Tinubu looked forward to a clash at the general elections. They had played in the same league, both as teammates and antagonists.
They worked together on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the historic election of President Buhari, which saw the downfall of mighty Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Prior to that united front, the two men had begun their national political activism as supporters of big players.
For instance, in the buildup to the 1993 presidential election, Atiku and Tinubu supported the presumed winner of the election, Chief Moshood Abiola. With that opening, both men peeped through the window of Nigeria’s political power game.
But for Abiola’s last minute decision to choose Ambassador Babagana Kingibe as his running mate after winning the hotly contested presidential primary, Atiku was on the line to take that slot. Atiku had hearkened to the pleas by Gen Shehu Yar’Adua and stepped down from the race to pave way for the eventual electoral triumph of Abiola in the repeat primary ballot of Social Democratic Party (SDP).
While Atiku was left to lick his wound and bear the brunt of the betrayal, Tinubu on the other hand, waltzed within the National Assembly, where he had rallied round Iyorchia Ayu to become President of Senate to pave the way for Abiola’s eventual emergence as SDP standard bearer.
It was therefore interesting that after the annulment of the 1993 presidential polls as well as collapse of the civil governance structures, Atiku and Tinubu got involved in the pro-democracy activism that revolved around the restoration of ‘Abiola’s mandate’.
However, both men were to thread different political tracks when Nigeria returned to the path of presidential democracy through the military organised fresh transition to civil rule. In 1999, when Atiku eventually became the presidential running mate that he missed in 1993, Tinubu was on the ballot for the governorship contest of Lagos State.
From their disparate leadership pavilions, the two titans continued to plot their ways for the ultimate prize, which is the presidency. It is however the nature of their strategies and planning that put them poles apart:

Tinubu: Tact Laced With Patience
LAST year, on the occasion of his 70th anniversary, Ondo State governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, made some incisive remarks about Tinubu’s politics and leadership qualities. Speaking as someone who had worked closely with the former Lagos State governor, Akeredolu portrayed Tinubu as “a leader of leaders and a living legend.”
The Ondo State governor and former President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), noted that Tinubu’s resilience and commitment helped him no small way to create “standard in party politics and investment in political leadership.”
Those who know how Tinubu navigated the Southwest geopolitical zone from the opposition to collective dominance would easily acknowledge Akeredolu’s apposite description. The Alliance for Democracy (AD) upon which platform all the six states’ governors emerged, was challenged by internal dissention and conspiracy.
At the end of the day, the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took away five leaving only Lagos on the opposition corner. It was from that poor score line that Tinubu began rebuilding the broken walls. And instead of exasperation, decided on expansion to enlarge the coast of the political structure.
That could explain why Akeredolu said of Tinubu: “Your human capital development is alluring just as you have made personal sacrifices and deployed your political experiences for the benefit of the Country. And today, you are still standing tall, desirous to offer more.
“Jagaban, you remain a Leader of Leaders; a living legend bestriding our political firmament like a colossus.”

It is not doubt that like the Vulture, which is renowned as a patient bird, Tinubu demonstrates patience in nurturing long term plans. His politics of people pays great dividends. That could be why when some young men went out of their way to deride the former Lagos State governor, a former colleague in the class ’99 governors, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, decided to speak out in his defence.
Not that alone, Nnamani had to bite the bullet by suffering political punishment in the hands of PDP leaders for his effrontery to market Tinubu from across the partisan divide.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo remarked on Tinubu’s leadership style, which he said endears him (Tinubu) to all. According to the Vice President, “There is no Nigerian leader who has been so instrumental in raising other leaders like Asiwaju Tinubu. What is responsible for this phenomenon is Asiwaju’s leading style, which is unusual.”
Osinbajo, who made the remarks in 2021 on the occasion of 12th Bola Tinubu Colloquium, spoke about Tinubu’s collegiate thinking, stressing that the former Lagos State governor “constantly refines his thoughts and is never afraid of having his subordinates scrutinise his ideas. He is completely comfortable engaging across different ethnic, religious and partisan divides.”
Unlike his colleagues that rushed to the Senate after gubernatorial stint, Tinubu spent a greater part of his exit from Lagos House tending to the political progression of other leaders, knowing that from little acorns great oaks grow.
As an Accountant, he must have seen the efficacy of wise investments in financial growth, as such his political investments and IOUs were expected to mature and yield profitable investments. In 2007, when the coast was clear for him to test the waters by contesting the Presidency, even as an also ran, Tinubu docked and rather provided the space for the former Vice President, Atiku to have a shot, since according to national convention, it was the turn of the North to throw up Olusegun Obasanjo’s successor.
Four years out of office, the opportunity called for a progression to the next level, which is the Presidency, but he had to yield to public opinion that arose in opposition to the offer of Vice President on the scare of same faith ticket. That opposition was repeated in 2015, when it was apparent that the ruling PDP was going through power fatigue.
Surrendering to the loftiness of popular opinion in the interest of party’s progress, Tinubu suffered his fate with equanimity, bidding his time. That time beckoned in June 2022. And Emi Lokan resounded.
With the rich fund of goodwill from his patient waiting and tact, most political actors became flummoxed to oppose his aspiration to go for the big one. That position was evidence by the number of presidential aspirants that stepped down and out of contest for the APC ticket on June 7 at the Eagle Square. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Atiku: Vision Blurred By Haste
HE is an example of the saying that “you prepare for a journey and a journey takes you.” At the return of democracy in 1999, Atiku Abubakar won the Adamawa State governorship election. But, prior to the inauguration, he was invited by the Presidential candidate of PDP, Obasanjo, to join him on the ballot.
Having abandoned the lowly Adamawa Government House in Yola, for the Aso Rock Presidential villa, Atiku spend eight years as the country’s Vice President. Thereafter, he was fixated with the idea of taking the final step to the Presidency.
Although he garnered experience in Presidential politics in those years, his principal, Obasanjo, did not hide his distaste for ‘Atiku’s desperation to mount the high horse.” Obasanjo disclosed that his former deputy pays great heed to the pronouncements of Marabouts that it is just a question of time for him to be President.
Nonetheless, in the estimation of many politicians, the Adamawa-born politician was eminently qualified to preside over the affairs of Nigeria, having passed through eight years of tutelage at the highest office of power in the country.
One of those who proclaim Atiku’s capacity and competence to lead Nigeria is a former Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo. On September 21, 2022, when the PDP Presidential Campaign Council was inaugurated, Sambo, who was also a former Kaduna State governor, described Atiku as the most prepared presidential candidate.

According to Sambo, Atiku could be likened to “a political driver, who not only has the experience to drive a car, but also knows the rules on how to rescue Nigeria.”He stressed that the former VP has the capacity to address Nigeria’s challenges, even as he was ready to discuss them with stakeholders.
But, what some of his supporters see as strength, others see as huge minus. Katsina State governor, Aminu Bello Masari, describes the former Vice President as a rolling stone that would never gather any moss.

Matsari said Atiku’s penchant for running from one party platform to another smacks of desperation, noting that it would be very hard for him to win the presidential election in Nigeria, since according to him, instead of waiting to support and help others Atiku is always insisting on being the one.
Also, former Cross River State governor, Mr. Donald Duke, repudiated Atiku’s politics, stressing that his constant desire to participate in presidential elections since 1992, has made him lose appeal.
According to Duke, who said younger leaders should be encouraged, “Atiku has been contesting for Presidency since 1992. In fact, since 1992 there is no presidential election he did not participate in. In 2007, he contest, in 2011 he ran after he came back to PDP. In 2015 he ran, also in 2019 he ran and 2023 he wants to run. Haba, is it only you.”
Despite the disputes trailing the outcome of the 2023 presidential election, it is obvious that the different approaches by the two former political allies, Atiku and Tinubu, helped to shape their showing in the contest.