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Emilokan as triumph against Buhari’s dithering presidency

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
03 March 2023   |   4:04 am
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was in the early hours of March 1, 2023 returned as the winner of the presidential poll held on Saturday February 25. That brought to fruition the former Lagos State governor’s life-long journey to preside over the affairs of Nigeria.

Tracking Tinubu’s chequered battles
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was in the early hours of March 1, 2023 returned as the winner of the presidential poll held on Saturday February 25. That brought to fruition the former Lagos State governor’s life-long journey to preside over the affairs of Nigeria.
The final phase of the journey actually began on Monday January 10, 2022. On that fateful day, Tinubu had visited President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Presidential Villa and both men retreated to a closed-door meeting.

Emerging from that secret parley, the former Lagos State governor, who was recognised as national leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), told State House Correspondents that the object of his visit to the President was to inform him (Buhari) of his presidential aspiration.
Tinubu told the journalists that “becoming Nigeria’s president has been my lifelong ambition,” remarking that upon hearing his decision to contest the APC presidential ticket, the President did not ask him to discard his political ambition.
However, not long after the formal disclosure of his presidential intentions, Tinubu’s visit to President Buhari sparked off a lot of discussions, especially given that unlike on such previous visits, when he was wont to have the former interim APC National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, in tow; the national leader came calling alone.
Describing President Buhari as a democrat, Tinubu told reporters that the President neither asked him to stop nor told him not to attempt to pursue his ambition.
“It is a lifelong ambition. You are running a democratic dispensation and you must adopt the principles and values and virtues of democracy,” Tinubu had stated, boasting that he was qualified to make Nigeria better.
But, while the taciturn President Buhari never disclosed the nature of his discussion with Tinubu, the visit opened up a fresh vista in the silent power game among the disparate power foci in the governing party.
The build up to the 2023 presidential contest effectively received a boost. The APC Progressives Governors’ Forum, which had never hidden its desire to be the ultimate power broker in the party activated its schemes.
That fact came to light as not long after Tinubu showed up at the Presidential Villa, Governors David Umahi and Yahaya Bello, equally used similar visits to announce their presidential interest.
However, while other presidential aspirants from other geopolitical zones were pooping up, in the Southwest, where Tinubu holds court as the political godfather, debates and discussions raged. Concerns by stakeholders from the zone centered mostly around the fate of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The Vice President was touted as a possible beneficiary of presidential support as Buhari’s successor, even as words began to make the rounds of a subsisting gentleman’s agreement on Buhari’s succession plan.
While Tinubu claimed that the agreement with Buhari’s group from the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) was that after eight years of Buhari, the Tinubu-led Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) would take over the presidency.
Being the article of faith that preceded the amalgamation of fringe opposition political parties into APC, Tinubu insisted on the argument that he and not any other person from Southwest should succeed Buhari.
Yet, the APC governors under the aegis of PGF, resolved that on account of the purported agreement with Southwest, it was necessary to throw up a younger aspirant. Former Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode John Fayemi, was therefore suggested as the Progressive Governors’ preferred presidential aspirant.
And, while the two tendencies roiled the Southwest, a section of the famed Presidency cabal continued to push Osinbajo as the best option to succeed Buhari, just as the counterforce within the Presidency worked overtly on how to retain the Presidency in the north through a compromise candidate.  
Noticing the hide and seek game from the Presidency cabal seeking to prop a northern candidate, APC leaders in Southwest, especially Tinubu’s core loyalists began a quiet campaign to noise Tinubu’s presidential run as the most deserving.
For instance, the then Chairman-elect of Lagos APC, Cornelius Ojelabi, praised Tinubu for going to officially inform President Buhari of his presidential ambition.
Stressing that Tinubu had paid his dues and most qualified to take over from Buhari, Ojelabi declared: “Informing the President of his intention is the right thing to do. Having informed him officially, now he can then intensify his consultations across the country.”
Not long after, Chief Akande released a book titled, ‘My Participations.” In the book, the former interim APC national chairman painted the picture of prolonged denials of fruits of Tinubu’s political efforts and sacrifices. Narrating how in 2014 Buhari promised Tinubu the position of his running mate while negotiating for Southwest support during the APC primaries, Akande regretted that Buhari later reneged on the promise when some state governors protested.
Sustaining the psychological framing, Tinubu was later to inform the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, during a visit, that he went to assure Buhari that he would not offend him with his presidential ambition.

It was obvious that Tinubu was mobilising Yoruba leadership institution to rally round his presidential ambition, because the APC national leader had earlier visited the Awujale and paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona at his Ijebu-Ode palace, Ogun State.
Speaking at Ake’s palace, Tinubu had stated: “I told the President I want to replace you and I don’t want to offend you. I told the President that I want to step in his shoes, but not step on his toes.
“I told him as the number one citizen, I should start my Presidential bid by informing you first, and he told me to inform the whole world, and I have done that.”
Tinubu, who explained his mission to the Awujale, said he came to take permission and receive royal blessing. He listed some of the practical experience and exposure to public service, which he felt qualifies him above any other to become President.
He had stated: “I have done crusades to return Nigeria to democracy before I started hearing the voices of the people that I should contest for president. I have thought about it deeply, but I cannot think about it alone.
“The people said, this time around, I should run for the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I told them that we have elected someone there and I don’t want to pull the carpet from his feet.”
However, despite assurances to Buhari that he would not “pull the carpet from his feet,” Tinubu rebuffed attempts by the President to choose a preferred aspirant during the APC presidential primary.
First, while appearing before the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun presidential screening committee, Tinubu declared that he would not allow a consensus candidate unless he was the one to be so chosen. Next, when the President enjoined APC leaders, especially the Southwest to prune the number of aspirants to avoid riotous and contentious primary, Tinubu refused to bow out or support a younger aspirant.
The back and forth preceding the APC presidential primary echoed attempts made in the past to displace Tinubu’s political structure from the control levers of the governing party. Prominent among such attempts was the sacking of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party in June 2021.

In the place of the duly elected NWC, a Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) was set up. While the Oshiomhole-led NWC was swept out of office for its perceived loyalty to Tinubu, the Progressive Governors, working in cahoots with a section of the Presidency cabal, settled for Yobe State chief executive and former national secretary of the party, Mai Mala Buni.
Although the deployment of Buni into the driving seat of APC structure was sold as a bold effort to create a level playing field for presidential aspirants, it was apparent that the move was ostensibly to pave the way for a presidential standard bearer of Buhari’s choosing from the north.
Even the choice of Senator Abdullahi Adamu as substantive APC national chairman was orchestrated as part of the plots to emplace a northerner as presidential consensus candidate. But, failing to get the buy-in of the powerful governors, most of whom were beneficiaries of Tinubu’s political IOUs, Adamu’s attempt to smuggle the President of Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, as Buhari’s choice for consensus presidential contender failed to gain traction.
Piqued by the attempt to side-line them from having an input in the choice of the party’s candidate, the governors took a principled stance on the need for power shift to the South as popular disposition for national stability.
With a number of the second term northern governors eyeing the position of possible running mate, the path to Tinubu’s emergence as APC presidential flag bearer was paved with glowing support.

Having scaled all hurdles laid across his path to clinching the APC presidential ticket, Tinubu stunned the governors when he looked towards Northeast geopolitical zone to pick a former Borno State governor and Senator representing Borno Central, Kashim Shettima Mustapha, as his running mate.
Apart from disappointing the Northwest governors, who anticipated that the huge voting population of the zone would recommend them for vice presidency, Tinubu’s choice of muslim-muslim presidential ticket caused a stir within the party and across the nation.
The bickering and internal schisms came to a close Monday, when the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Waziri, declared Tinubu as winner of the hotly contested presidential poll. The second after President Buhari dethroned Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015.
Having snatched a third straight electoral victory for APC, albeit amid disputations, Tinubu’s victory comes as a triumph against the machinations of a Presidency, where Buhari’s standpoint bifurcates in multiple streams during execution.
In his acceptance speech, Tinubu said Nigeria was entering into an era of renewed hope, stressing that it was actually his turn (Emilokan) to be President.