Tinubu’s travails and aftershock of #EndSARS protests
There are indications that a similar political gambit that upstaged Nigeria’s First and Second Republics in 1966 and 1983, as well as, aborted the Third Republic in 1993, is playing out also in the current Fourth Republic.
It seems one of the national leaders of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is in the middle of the raging storm. Pundits are waiting to see how the scenario pans out ultimately from now till 2023, when Nigeria conducts another general elections. In a fashion typical of Yoruba hew and cut brand of politics, the intrigues surrounding the former governor of Lagos State’s exploits in politics reached a crescendo last Tuesday, when an angry mob set ablaze businesses and investments they think were owned by the national leader.
While some analysts held that his (Tinubu) ambition to contest the 2023 presidency is behind attempts by his political rivals to wreck him financially, others think the arsonists that attacked TVC, The Nation Newspaper, Oriental Hotels and other establishments owned or affiliated to him was to demonise him before the electorate before the next general election.
Although, the current Fourth Republic is the longest stretch of democratic dispensation in Nigeria so far, most of the factors that destroyed the preceding experiments are threatening the democratic dispensation.
Recall that similar claim of ‘state of anarchy’, which was touted as basis for military intrusion has played out fully in the last 17 days, when Nigerian youths trooped out on street protests across the nation demanding an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (#EndSARS) a unit of the Nigeria Police Force.
Blast From The Past
AND as in previous instances, the chaos started from the Southern region, especially Southwest zone otherwise known as Western Region in those days.
During the regional government, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, founder of the defunct Action Group (AG) and his lieutenant, Chief Ladoke Akintola were at the centre of the crises in that eventually collapsed first civilian administration in the country.
The military struck in January 1966, wiped off most of the civilian rulers including the first Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa. Nigeria did not smell civil rule again till another 13 years.
The 1976 military coup, which toppled the then Military Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd) brought in Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, who hurriedly put in place a transition programme and handed over power to a democratically elected president, the late Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1979.
Again, Awolowo, the founder of major opposition Unity Party (UPN) was at the centre of political turbulence with some prominent Yoruba politicians who either out of party jealousy of political existence worked against him. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari terminated the civilian administration in 1983.
Another synonymy that blew up first two civilian governments was the high rate of corruption among public elected officers to the extent that between 1979 and 1983, Nigeria’s economy had been seriously bastardised by ‘corruption’ the Shagari administration was forced to declare what was then known as ‘Austerity Measure’.
But, beyond election malpractices and corruption is the bad blood among Yoruba politicians, who deliberately distanced themselves from Awolowo’s progressive political philosophy. His opponents chose to align with the north.
Critical to the collapse of the republics were also the challenges of nepotism and tribalism. With the return of military rule in 1983, Nigeria did not taste civilian government again until 1999 but at a severe cost to life, property and civil unrest under the military leadership of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar respectively.
The short lived Third Republic in which governors were elected, National Assembly was in place and the various states Assembly intact, it did not last the test of time when Babaginda in collaboration with some fifth columnists in Southwest annulled the 1993 Presidential Election claimed to have been won by the late Chief MKO Abiola.
By November 1993, Abacha, who succeeded Babangida brought back full military regime by suspending the constitution, disbanded the National Assembly and chose military administrators in place of elected governors. It took the country another six years to return to democratic rule.
While the rivalry between Awolowo and Akintola was noted as one of the factors that triggered the Western Region crisis, when property belonging to the opposition were set ablaze in Southwest, the unresolved political differences and hatred among Yoruba political stakeholders was part of the issues that hastened the downfall of the Second Republic.
When Nigeria eventually returned to democracy, which was named the Fourth Republic, Chief Obasanjo was to benefit the sacrifice made by Abiola and all those that died during the June 12 1993 debacle. Tinubu was elected governor of Lagos State on the platform of defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) that later transformed to Action Congress (AC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and APC.
No sooner the Fourth Republic commenced, Tinubu, Obasanjo and some prominent Yoruba including leaders of socio-cultural groups started the typical Southwest politics of hatred.
In 2003, Obasanjo used discontent among the Yoruba leaders andAfenifere to introduce a garrison politics of ‘Operation Capture Southwest’. He (Obasanjo) allegedly applied the federal might to oust AD governors in Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Osun and Ogun except in Lagos.
By the time Tinubu completed his second term in 2007, he has emerged the strongman of Lagos politics with the political power to determine his successor, former Governor Babatunde Fashola, now Minister of Works and Housing. In 2015, he also facilitated the emergence of former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who secceeded Fashola.
Apart from his dominance of Lagos politics in spite of bitter oppositions within and outside his platform, Tinubu also joined forces with other politicians across the length and breath of Nigeria to merge and form a mega party APC in 2014.
In 2013, the parties that made up APC were Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and some disgruntled members of PDP led by Chairman of the splinter group, Kawu Baraje.
In 2015, APC, at its presidential primary held in Lagos allegedly at the instance of Tinubu, President Muhammadu Buhari emerged as the party presidential candidate with the support of the national leader.
The choice of Buhari’s mate also degenerated into subtle crisis within the party as Tinubu was said to have shown interest in running a joint ticket with Buhari, but his opposition in the party refused. He was however given the privilege to appoint his choice candidate as Buhari’s running mate, which brought in the incumbent Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
The politics that also surrounded the 2014 presidential primary of APC did not go down well with Atiku and other PDP members arm of the merger. The development did not only pit Tinubu against Atiku, other PDP apologists in the merger, bear him grudge but the climax of the intrigues was the election of the principal officers of the National Assembly, especially Senate where former Senate President, Bukola Saraki emerged against the ruling party’s preference.
Baraje, who led splinter group in PDP to the APC and the likes of Saraki, Atiku and others were not so comfortable with the kind of political power Tinubu wielded in the ruling party, at different point in time, majority of them returned to their former platform, PDP.
Tinubu and some stakeholders in the party also clashed over the appointment of ministers, but at the end of the day, President Buhari chose his cabinet members allegedly with less input from the national leader.
His involvement in the 2016 governorship elections in Ondo State and the one of 2018 in Osun and Ekiti also created misgivings between Tinubu, APC Governors and Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
Tinubu’s desire to ensure one of his cronies, James Faleke inherited the governorship ticket when the party’s candidate, Alhaji Abubaka Audu slumped and passed on few hours before the announcement of the result of the 2015 guber poll in Kogi did not materialise as a result of intrigues with the APC.
From 2015 when Buhari assumed power to 2018, Mr. President refused to pay official visit to Lagos such that at a point, his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu and the wife of the President, Aisha raised the alarm that unknown forces had hijacked power in the Presidency at the expenses of those who made invaluable contributions to Buhari’s emergence as president.
Tinubu was also caught in the political intrigues of who should succeed the pioneer National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun when the position became vacant in 2018.
Tinubu later backed former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole to succeed Odigie-Oyegun. Some aggrieved members of the party later pointed accusing fingers at Tinubu that his plan was to use Oshiomhole to take over the machinery of the party.
The congresses of APC in 2018 during which the party leadership under Oshiomhole adopted direct primaries to select its candidates for the last 2019 general elections further strained the bond between the national leader and his opponents in the party.
As at early 2018, Ambode was regarded as the governor general among the 36 governors based on his record of performance in three years. It was however shocking to many party members including the presidency, when direct primary was used on October 2, 2018 to deny Ambode return ticket for the 2019 election. This paved way for the incumbent governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to emerge as the APC governorship candidate and eventually won the election.
This is in addition to the breakaway of the Fouad Oki-led factional executive in Lagos State who also staged a parallel Congress in Lagos where he (Oki) emerged as Lagos APC chairman. But Oshiomhole led National Working Committee recognised the Tunde Balogun led executive.
As at the end of 2018, almost all the political beneficiaries of the national leader have separated camp with him. For instance, when President Buhari appointed Tinubu to led a reconciliation committee to resolve all the crises that came due to the fray nerves in the party congresses, the likes of former governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, Fayemi, erstwhile National Legal Adviser of the party, Muiz Banire, Akeredolu among others have severed relationship with Tinubu.
While Amosun saw himself as the leader of the party in Ogun State and would therefore not succumb to the dictate of any Lagos godfather, Akeredolu and Fayemi had grouse with Tinubu as they suspected he was plotting against their governorship ambition. Just like Banire felt that the national leader sacrificed him to bring in Babatunde Ogala.
By the time the 2019 elections were concluded, APC had been factionalised into different camps, a development that subsequently led to the suspension and later removal of Oshiomhole.
During a programme organised by Banire in Lagos State, Governor Nasir el-Rufai told the audience he had a clue how to deal with political godfather in Lagos. He was interpreted to be referring to Tinubu as the godfather that must be dealt with.
No sooner Buhari was re-elected for second term in 2019 than preparations for 2023 election started when some sycophants began the move that Tinubu is nursing ambition to succeed Buhari. Political permutations became obvious and Tinubu again surfaced in the midst of the controversy. Although, he has not officially declared interest to run in 2023, some stakeholders however see him as a threat to be dealt with as soon as possible before it is too late.
Perhaps, that must have been part of the reasons some governors on the platform of the party insisted on the exit of Oshiomhole as national chairman.
At Oshiomhole’s exit, calculations for his successor came up and Tinubu was accused of plotting to impose another stooge in the person of former Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi. This development caused disaffection between Tinubu and Ekiti State APC, which argued that the position of deputy national chairman earlier occupied by Otunba Niyi Adebayo, current Minister of Trade and Investment, should not be ceded to Oyo State’s Ajimobi. Ekiti APC refused to budge as it threatened court action if Gbenga Aluko was sidetracked to favour Ajimobi. The aftermath was the emergence of the Mai Mala Buni caretaker committee.
When youths trooped to the streets about 17 days ago, protesting against police brutality and codenamed #EndSARS, not too many gave them the chance to go as far as they went until about last week when the protests had rapidly spread across the country and nearly paralysed the nation.
The Lekki Toll Gate, a significant route in Lagos was completely shutdown by the protesters who occupied the axis 24 hours every day. Similar thing was happening simultaneously at the various government houses in the Southwest and by last weekend, movement and businesses were brought to a standstill by the youths.
At a point, a source said one of the former governors in Southwest led a delegation to Buhari alleging that Tinubu was the one behind the protests.
Shortly thereafter, the northern group Miyetti Allah issued a threat to Tinubu alleging the national leader was the brain behind the protests, while, at the same time, some admirers of the protesting youths also pointed accusing finger that Tinubu tried to engage hoodlums to thwart the peaceful protests.
The situation degenerated last Tuesday, when shooting at the prostesters was recorded at the Lekki Toll Gate and in spontaneous actions, hoodlums, who must have been waiting to strike took advantage of the situation to take over the streets and one of their mission was to attack all the businesses associated with Tinubu.
Before the mayhem, Tinubu himself had issued a statement to clear his position on the protests where he acknowledged the fact that the country had witnessed massive protests by youths in different cities, which were ignited by widespread disenchantment with the gross human rights abuses including torture, extortion, harassment, intimidation, and even extra-judicial killings of Nigerians by members of the disbanded Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS).
He aligned with the protesters demanding fundamental police reforms. This, according to Tinubu, is in sync with national aspiration in our national anthem, “to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.”
But then he admonished the protesters must admit that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has acted with commendable dispatch by not only scrapping SARS but also accepting the five-point demand that triggered the protests, which according to him, shows a laudable sensitivity to the grievances of the youths.
He said it was only fair that the government must be given the chance to implement the reforms demanded by the protesters. Tinubu’s argument was that all the demands could not be done instantaneously by the waving of a magic wand. He had said, “If the government had not implemented promised reforms in the past, the swiftness with which it has responded to the demands of the protesters this time around shows that there is a positive change by the government both in attitude and of a new sense of urgency.”
He strongly appealed to the protesters, saying they had made their point and government had also shown commitment to grant all the demands.
For Tinubu to have now become the central figure in the crisis and being accused from both ends is a puzzle that must be unraveled.