By Victor Mayomi
Lately, the National Leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC)- Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has been assaulted on all sides because of his perceived ambition to contest the Presidential election in 2023. Yet, he has not made any public declaration to that effect.
He is derided by the Afenifere- the foremost political and cultural association in the South West-ostensibly for crumbling the empire it built in the region, over the decades, which was founded on ‘Awoism’- the political doctrine of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, of blessed memory.
Afenifere is yet to come to terms with how this unwanted tsunami-a supposedly political neophyte, from outside of Awo’s mainstream political thought, within a twinkling of an eye, blew away the well fortified structure and systems of its impregnable empire into smithereens. It is a massive pain too much for the group to bear. A number of other political tendencies in the South West are against Asiwaju Tinubu because of his towering height in the evolving political landscape in Nigeria, bearing in mind his ability to identify, nurture and place talents in various positions of responsibilities in which they have performed creditably over time.
This set of aggrieved politicians, some of whom benefitted tremendously from his large-heartedness, elaborate political structure and extensive networks, have chosen to betray their benefactor, in the course of time, expecting the discerning and enlightened minds of the South West to reward them for their treachery and rebellion. Unfortunately they are unmindful of the lessons of history that the good people of the South West do not decorate turncoats and ungrateful lieutenants with gallants of honour.
A section of the South East and South South elites is against Asiwaju Tinubu not because he has done anything to hurt their interests, deliberately, but because of the role he played in the formation of the APC, culminating in the eventual loss of President Ebele Jonathan in the 2015 Presidential elections. He is, therefore, accused unfairly of bringing a northerner to power.
In some parts of northern Nigeria, there are some who believe that he should be cut to size in order to give President Buhari the latitude to run the affairs of the APC, and the government of the day, without any form of distractions from a rival power base.
This powerful group within the APC is of the view that according Asiwaju Tinubu his due respect as the National leader of the party diminishes the President as the undisputed leader of the party, thereby placing Asiwaju in an advantaged position in the race for the 2023 electoral contest.
There are others who criticize him from hearsays or rumours about his stupendous wealth, reasoning that he must have helped himself to the goodies of office while he served as a two-term governor of Lagos State. Without any concrete evidence, some even refer to him as the wealthiest politician, and probably the most corrupt of them all in the country today.
Yet, there are others who think the only way Asiwaju can project himself as a progressive is to confront President Buhari and make his administration miserable, thereby distracting the President from delivering on his promises to the Nigerian people. This cacophony of voices is mostly from powerful individuals and groups from southern Nigeria who, without any objective reasons, hate President Buhari with passion. They expect Asiwaju to join their train to further enlarge and deepen the north-south divide without realizing that it portends grave danger to national security and the continued existence of our beloved nation. To them, Asiwaju Tinubu’s voice must be drowned and silenced because of his loyalty to the President, as well as his alliance with the north.
Undoubtedly, Tinubu may not be the best politician that Nigeria has ever had. In the same vein, he is certainly not the worst politician of this generation. Accordingly, to me, Afenifere’s relentless assault on him is needless. They are, however, free to continue to walk alone along their endless path of casting aspersion on his character -which is neither uninspiring nor dignifying-through their regular spokesperson- Yinka Odumakin, who literarily seems not to have any vacation these days other than to throw invectives at Asiwaju regularly in order to justify his relevance.
I believe that the Afeniferes, as elders, should appreciate that there is a better way of managing a family disagreement. It cannot be by encouraging some of its members to be dancing naked in the streets all the time. When it is evident that nobody is listening to the message of the community leader through the town crier, it must be sufficiently concerning to the leader that he or she needs to embark on self examination in order to ascertain whether he or she is still in touch with the people.
By sticking to a self defeating singleness of purpose of hurting Asiwaju politically, that is counter-productive, Afenifere has itself to blame for its dwindling fortunes in the political space, not Asiwaju.
My thinking is that Afenifere lost its hold in the South West when it became opportunistic and ideologically barren. Unable to forge a common vision, purpose and relevance in politics, arising largely from its grandstanding on sensitive issues of national importance, when moderation is of the essence, its credibility was further eroded because of its division into two camps of unfriendly friends, its acrimonious style of politics and its refusal to tolerate alternative viewpoints.
No wonder it became an easy tool for promoting personal vendettas- first, against the person of Late Chief Bola Ige and thereafter against Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Not discerning the times and seasons, its ambition was to reincarnate Chief Awolowo without realizing that Awo was a rare breed who could not be cloned or repackaged for the new generation in a false colouration. Indeed, the hood does not make the monk. Awo has gone to rest in eternity with his cap, eye glasses, shoes and political doctrine, especially with the demise of his able lieutenants who kept faith with his governance ideology such as Papa Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Chief Bola Ige, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, Alfred Rewane, Chief Gbadamosi, Chief Josiah Olawoyin, all of blessed memory, to mention a few.
In this connection, the people of the South West cannot be deceived by mere symbolisms. By derailing from Awo’s political ideology through its crass opportunism, lack of discipline and focus, Afenifere lost all its legitimacy and massive support which it once enjoyed from the people. It made Awoism hollow and unintelligible to the new generation of political elite in the region through its mix messages.
By shifting its loyalty without the people’s consent, especially during each election cycle, it acted against the people, and so could no longer be entrusted with their confidence. Consequently, Afenifere lost its identity and became an object to be easily derided and preyed on because it did not realize that the time to draw the curtain had come. In a sense, Afenifere lost the battle for the soul of the South West by fighting a Third World War with the strategy, tactics and arsenal of the First World War. Its inability to effectively bond with the grassroots and the emerging political elite in the South West effectively sounded the death knell for its leadership and continued relevance in the region.
The political elites in the South East and South-South need to be reminded that Asiwaju Tinubu supported President Jonathan in 2011 Presidential elections for his emergence as the first elected President from the south-south geo political zone in Nigeria’s history.
Politics is about interests. Once President Jonathan abandoned the alliance which brought him to power in 2011, it was evident that he would lose the 2015 elections, especially with the merger of leading opposition parties to battle him under the APC, an unprecedented development in Nigeria’s history. Bolaji Abdullahi, a former Minister under him, in his latest book entitled ‘On a Platter of Gold’ had provided other veritable proofs and clues regarding why the former President floundered in the 2015 elections. And there were other influential politicians and Nigerians from the South West, South East, South-South and the North who worked against President Jonathan who are not being castigated for their respective roles in stopping President Jonathan in 2015.
It is, therefore, unfair to continue to castigate Tinubu, as if his individual effort singularly contributed to President Jonathan’s loss. Perhaps the most important thing is to derive relevant lessons from the past for informed future actions. Nonetheless, to me, President Jonathan performed reasonably well in office. History will be very kind to him for his role in conceding victory to President Buhari in 2015.
Invariably, it is not how long one stays in office but how well one stays, and the impact one makes on the lives of the citizenry. So, in my estimation, President Jonathan remains a true hero of sustainable democracy and democratic governance in Nigeria. We must all take pride and comfort in his patriotic choice to decide for the country when he had an opportunity to set the country ablaze.
To those bent on stopping Tinubu at all costs, within and outside of his party, the questions to ask are the following: when has an undeclared ambition become a crime in Nigeria? As a leading light in the APC, must his sacrifice in the formation of the party be rewarded with antagonisms, borne out of petty jealousy and hatred by his foes? Is the constitution not clear about the eligibility criteria for aspiring to the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
The Constitution, therefore, not only envisages but also guarantees an open competition among candidates for the high office of the President of the Federal Republic. And I believe that all eligible candidates must not be hindered to participate within the framework of other additional understanding and agreements reached by consensus by political parties, especially on zoning of offices and balancing of tickets.
Those concerned about his stupendous wealth must provide evidence that he acquired them illegally. But what has happened to the video clip produced by AIT in 2015 on Tinubu that landed the broadcasting outfit in court? And the unfounded allegation that he owns the whole of Lagos is sickening because neither Aliko Dangote- the richest man in Africa- nor the Government of Lagos State owns Lagos in its entirety. Did AIT not tender a public apology to Asiwaju about this unfounded allegation shortly after the conclusion of the 2015 elections? That should be instructive to all rumour peddlers and their collaborators who are parading themselves as saints? But where are the saints in Nigerian politics?
Accordingly, those playing God in their permutations for 2023 must recognize that it is only the living that can contest elections. It is, therefore, premature to heat up the polity through needless conspiracy against a candidate, which may have the unintended consequences of endearing him more to the people.
Let all qualified Nigerians who are persuaded that they can add value to our political process be encouraged to come forward when the time is ripe. In the interim, let us commit ourselves to the business of governance by supporting President Muhammadu Buhari to take our beloved nation to a glorious height during his second term in office.
Enough of politics of bickering and conspiracy to stop Tinubu, or any other candidate for that matter. And, in any case, you don’t need to be the President of a country before you make history. I believe Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has paid his dues. He is eminently qualified to lead. He deserves some modicum of respect from all and sundry. It is up to him to take up the challenge to contest the 2023 Presidential elections because a man of drive and purpose cannot be easily counted out in the race for destiny manifestation.