By Abdullahi Ridwan Adetutu
This time, many political enthusiasts got their predictions wrong. This is evident in the controversies that have so far greeted declarations of many political warlords for the presidential race, chief of whom is the former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Tinubu, reputed for his political shrewdness and unbeatable strategy, had been said to have taken from MKO Abiola’s grace note going by his style of feathering his political nest. Thus, unarguably, he remains one of the best modern political strategists in Nigeria today. And over the years, it is evident that his political adroitness has yielded so many advantages to him, as a person, and generally to his political camp.
To no small measure, his singlehanded shield over the country’s formal capital against the gripping claws of the then ruling party, PDP remains a spectacle amongst political analysts. And the follow-up the spread of his tentacles across all the states of the south-western part of the country, in addition to some significant influence in other parts of the country makes his political eggheadedness more eloquent.
Lately, also, his contribution in the installation of the present central government could only be ignored at the peril of anyone, anywhere across the country. It is no gainsaying that Tinubu wields such power bloc influence. And as much as any one may want to contest this political affluence, It might take a while to have a plausible argument to why all of the aforesaid are not to his personal political mechanism, his brainchild.
One then may however be so curious as to how a formal governor could rise to such a political echelon, such that without his input, a president may nearly not be, not to mention governors, parliamentarians and others, in many states.
This, political analysts, as well as those within his camp may easily find a common ground to reason that his power of influence over the policy formulation, and other political calculations in the country has always been some by-products of his unique political strategies.
For illustration, in George Orwell’s allegory, the interest of Napoleon in any matter silences every other interest. Here, it is not only the power of fear that is at play, but also of presumption. Oftentimes, not like other interests are not genuine or better, but taking to assume or even by sheer knowledge of it that someone else’s interest carries more ideological weight — and of course, concrete political conquests — than yours can only naturally make you a weak opponent. And this, barring any polemics, is Tinubu’s working formula, at least until now.
Within his immediate political spectrum, Tinubu’s silence in a matter often sows seeds of palpable fears in the minds of his opponents—and those others eyeing the same trophy as his—thereby rumbling other voices to silence. Incidental to this unique yolk of idea are the exigent circumstantial realignments in the political circles, which often further goes to reinforce his camp.
This formula worked magic for him in 2007. In 2011. In 2015. And of course, in 2019. To him, of course as it now seems, it is the needed formula to feather his political foot soldiers, those whose budding, vibrant ambitions would eventually be ploughed in order to seed his own ‘life-long ambition.’ This, by the political observers, has been termed his political IOUs, short for ‘I owe you’.
And as if to accentuate this winning strategy, the standpoint from the Progressive governors’ forum’s meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in mid-February over the escalating impasses that were rocking the ruling APC has further made Tinubu’s ambition more pronounced and threaten-some.
The meeting, according to Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State, amongst many things, resolved to zone the party’s presidential candidacy to the south, Tinubu’s region, while the north blocs will occupy such position being currently occupied by the south – should the party make it to Aso-rock in the next election.
This arrangement, beyond anything else, makes the coast clear for BAT to fly as it helps in delineating other vested interests within the party at the national level. And even at the regional level, and as a giant political figure across board Tinubu is, not also unminding his steep resolved to ‘fight dirty’, it may not be rather too early to conclude that certain interests mongers within the region will be hushed out in order to flourish Tinubu’s ‘lifelong’ ambition.
Indeed, before the resolutions, his declaration for the presidential race has made his IOUs’ ambitions become sacrificial lamps. And in deference to the unwritten rule of the culture, and in appreciation to the hand that had hitherto fed them, these under-listed IOUs might have to jeopardise personal political interests and ambitions so as to at least make some paybacks to their eternal political patron.
“…I made bold to say, many of us, me inclusive, owe our personal successes to God, but I know and recognise that God did not come down. He used Asiwaju as a vessel…Asiwaju is known for his uncanny and unparalled ability and capacity to identify spotlight and zero in on talents. He has done that with me; he has done that with so many others” Gbajabiamila tactically owned up to being a political beneficiary of Tinubu in an occasion. This statement may seem obvious to many, but it is pertinent to link the dots. There is no gainsaying in the fact that the Speaker is a political godson of Tinubu, and he has leveraged his political influence to marshal his successes in political journey.
Tinubu feudal-like influence in Lagos state’s political and economic landscape cannot be jettisoned in the permutation for who becomes what in the political and government policy formations. Hence, to a large extent, the state political mechanisms are hugely sine quo non to his feudal interest. Gbajabiamila’s ascension to the speakership of the Lagos State House of Assembly, to start with, might not only be a dictate of political zoning policy, his choice of him was more like a rubber stamp.
Tinubu’s role in Gbajabiamila’s first shot at the speakership seat of the National Assembly is an open book to many political enthusiasts. The immediate-past speaker Dogara had once recounted in his book “A Reed Made Flint” how Tinubu, and many other emissaries met with him to pull strings that eventually secured Gbajabiamila the speakership of NASS. This, in fact, is after he had secured clerkship of NASS as an appeasement to his Tinubu’s loggerhead with the then NASS leadership with former speaker Tanbuwal spearheading.
Barring any twist and turncoat, it is natural that Gbajabiamila’s speakership will cease, starting from the point of nursing the ambition. More so, for the obvious reason, the slot of speakership cannot be zoned to the same region as the presidential. Thus, he will have to either sacrifice in whole by not returning to the house, or partially, that is, returning as a mere floor member – something unusual for the previous occupiers of the seat.
His dignified silence notwithstanding, the former Minister of Agriculture and current President of the African Development Bank, Akinwunmi Adesina may not object to being a Presidential hopeful, especially now that more voices are uniting to push for it. Already, there have been calls for this in some camps. To most believers of this project, his sterling performance as a minister under former President Jonathan’s administration, and the unalloyed goodwill he has been enjoying from President Muhammadu Buhari vis-a-vis his excellent stewardship at Africa’s apex financial institution inform his enthusiasts’ calls for him to throw his hat in the ring.
But there is a stumbling block. His relationship with the Lagos former governor might cost not only his political allies their quite plausible ambition; it will go further to uproot this ambition from their anointed man’s coven. Otherwise, and barring any underneath political embroidery, Adesina’s political structure, even in his immediate Nigerian community, is non-existent. A thorough technocrat he is, the political interplay that brought him this far had been of those woven by the likes of Tinubu, Buhari and seamlessly that of his former boss, Jonathan.
The only flicker of hope, however, is the possibility of the political goodwill of the mentioned figures being further showered upon him. This, however, barring any last miracle, is hard to come by, as at every camp is now a favourite protégé. In clear terms, in the effort to safeguard their interest, the cabal of Aso Rock would rather – as this is not new – advise the President against supporting any personality presumably with sophisticated credentials; and in his former boss’s camp are shakers and movers with their personal political interests. Relying on Jonathan’s endorsement may eventually mean standing alone.
According Jaganban of Borgu himself, his presidential ambition has been a life-long ambition, which obviously suggesting that it is not in his plan to drop his ambition. This unequivocally throws Adesina’s interest or possible ambition into the winds. And this will eventually mean one thing: laying rest of his lofty ambition.
The former governor of Ogun State and current member of senate representing Ogun central District had been touted in many camps to be nursing presidential ambition. Truth to this, he ultimately made public his interest last last week. Most of the heresies center on the possibility of using the machinery of his alliance with the president, and of the cabal in the first house to boast his ambition. The support of the cabal could mean a part of their political permutation to dislodge Tinubu camp. This is with the belief that backing Amosun will pull a strong competition to checkmate Tinubu at the regional level.
In any case, If this sinister motive is achieved, it will only severe the already sour relationship he has with Tinubu and most possibly, will not achieve anything different.
Amosun and Tinubu, aside being from the same political zone under the same – though factional- political camp, have both at some point in time realigned their political interests for a common goal. Their unparalleled political ideologies had in the past made the two to stand on the opposite side of the divide. While Tinubu remained staunched to his opposition root of Alliance for Democracy, which gradually transformed to the present day APC, Amosun started off as a PDP member and won his first senatorial seat in 2007 under the party. However, he ran into a loggerhead with the then Governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel. Looking for a redress, the rift propelled Amosun to shift camp and then moved to ANPP, the then political platform of President Buhari, arguably what united the two. ANPP could not secure Amosun gubarnitorial seat, which was widely assumed rigged in favour of Daniel’s PDP. This then forced him to pitch tent with the party of his former political opponents, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and it was in his search for justice that for the first time in their political sojourns Amosun and Tinubu aligned.
Suffice to say that the alignment fetched Amosun his ambition to govern the state, which went further to enlist him directly or otherwise as a beneficiary of Tinubu’s political horsepower as many observers believed that Tinubu provided strategic supports to Amosun to secure 2011 gubernatorial seat; ditto the former Oyo State governor Ajimobi. This incontrovertibly made Amosun politically indebted to his benefactor.
Notwithstand Amosun’s zigzagged journey to new opposition Allied Political Movement (APM) at the time when his interest was dampened by ACN coalition in APC in respect to his choice of successor of his former stool, his indebtedness to Tinubu however remains vacuum. And many believe that it will be honourable for him to use this situation to pay back his political debt, as even in any case, save for presidential and northern coalition backing, he cannot match Tinubu’s political strength.
If he wishes to run again for senate – which is not very unlikely, by 2023, Amosun will be a third timer in the red chamber of the National Assembly. This will automatically crests him one of the most senior legislative members. And when things like this happen, for any politician in Nigeria, the next natural thing to do is to vie for the presidency of the chamber, more especially when the first two national political posts occupiers have come from different geo-political zones. Another of Amosun’s ambitions, as earlier point out, is to fly the party ticket at the presidential level using the machinery of his alliance with the president, and of the cabal in the first house whose interest is to checkmate Tinubu’s influence at the sub-regional level.
This, whichever side it turns, does not look strong enough to cost Tinubu his ambition. Amosun for the deference of him being IOU, will have to let go of this ambition for the simple reason that his party presidential ticket has been zoned to his region. And the most likely person to fly the ticket has come to be his most senior political colleague and to whom he is also politically indebted. No doubt, and more painfully, the sacrifice that would go along with this would be Amosun’s political influence at the state level.
His recent invitation by the Anambra state government to be a key resource person in the training on good governance as organised by the Soludo administration is one of many posers that the two term governor of Lagos State, and two term super minister of work and infrastructure have the agility to lead a country. However, his political ties with his benevolent godfather seem to strongly stand in the way of this possibility.
“Yes, I am running. I am running to become the president of my home. My family needs their president back home.” This will pass for the most cryptic response to the question of why Babatunde Fashola is not running for the seat of president. To shove it down to the throat of many, Fashola made the statement himself.
Fashola owes his political gains to his master under whom he started his political journey. First, as chief of staff under the Tinubu government, to becoming his successor, which, going by the peculiarity of Nigerian politics, would not have been possible without the support of his predecessor full backing.
It’s on record that Fashola, by dint of his ruthlessness to the rule of law, and frank approach to governance, carved for himself a befitting accolade that resonates with ‘good’ and impactful governance. Throughout the federation, his tenure as the governor of the most economically, ethically diverse state has made him a shining star, an unrivalled best governor even after many years he had held sway.
No doubt, Lagos state is a mini project of Nigeria’s state—to be fair to the occupants of the first seat. Looking at its demographic composition and the economic complexity of the state, only a shrewd, highly eggheaded individual like Fashola can govern the state, and so he did exceedingly well in his time.
Even with the backing of Tinubu, It will be out of place to conclude that none of these exemplary prior achievements was considered in the bid by the current central government of enlisting him as not only a member of the federal executive council, but to also holding the most daunting pair portfolios. His stewardship in these new assignments so far can only be ignored at the table of sheer politics, and not in a rational setting.
However, why is this not enough for this capacity-driven Fashola to throw his cap in the ring to vie for the number one seat of the federation, after all, those whose capacity have in the past received some doubts are already out their making waves? The answer to this is simple: his principal’s cap is already in the ring!
The reality of this is in the sacrifice that a fine Fashola will rather choose to go back home to his family than striving to make sense of his country’s situations which in the long run promises to position the country to a prosperous path, just as it happened during his stay at Ikeja government House.
The debate on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s competency for the job has shifted to the question of loyalty and betrayal. The standpoint of this recurring argument is not unconnected to the moral justification of the former two-term attorney-general of Lagos state under Tinubu administration’s need to wrestle his former political benefactor in the contest for the first seat of the federation.
Like many others, Osunbajo’s immense political benefits are spin-offs of Tinubu’s political negotiations. Tinubu, by popular opinions, holds the records of being behind not only the nomination of Osinbajo as the running mate of this expiring regime of President Muhammad Buhari, but as well the general victory of the party at the presidential elections both, in 2015 and in 2019.
Hence, barring any secret pact between President Buhari and Tinubu in compensation for the latter’s efforts in the process of electoral installation of the current regime, it then nonetheless, according to Tinubu’s camp, demands that vibrant Osinbajo’s ambition be naturally sacrificed.
“I helped Mimiko get his mandate through court after two years that he was elected. I helped Fayemi get his mandate after three years. It took Aregbesola three years and 10 months to get his mandate. We have helped many people like that. We helped Buhari sack them (PDP)…”
Those were Tinubu’s words, mid March this year when he visited Ondo state council of traditional rulers to announce his interest in the presidential race. It is not surprising that afterwards of this statement, none of the mentioned personalities rebuffed it; given credence to the popular heresies that without Tinubu, Fayemi, et al, would have only smelt the governorship stool.
In a sharp contrast, however, The Ekiti State governor, early in May declared for the race. As many considered this a joke taking too far, the Tinubu camp goes further to demand that his ambition be squashed to give way for his onetime political godfather. Otherwise, his ambition may be seen as effrontery towards his benefactor.
Southwest, the big sacrifice
The zoning of the party ticket to the south has solemnly upset the policy as subregions of the zone have swung into shades of politicking in the effort to retain the party ticket to their subzone.
“Southwest leaders to meet Tinubu, Osinbajo, Fayemi, Amosun”, read the heading of news. The body of the piece goes further to reveal why, and your guess is as good as mine: the leaders have been stiffly worried over “the crowded field of aspirants”, hence, to negotiate.
Coming Just a few days after these political leaders of the southwest corner of the zone rallied its presidential hopefuls to round table discussion for, as it was known ahead of the meeting, to negotiate through a consensus, the southeastern part elders have also summoned its contending aspirants to talk them through the process of channelling their individual energy to a common goal of retaining the party ticket at the presidential elections.
However, why it can be said that the decisions of the southwestern elders to strike a deal amongst the presidential contenders within the subregion is a thoughtful and appropriate thing to do, it then ironically happened that it became an herculean task to even initiate a talk to prevail on Tinubu to cede his ambition for anyone else. Perhaps, the sole conclusion for this is that he arguably holds a major political power bloc in the region.
Well, while the southwestern parley failed to yield the expected results, it, however, did not fail to instil “Omoluabi ethos” into the Odùduwà presidential hopefuls.
As it stands, whether the other regions beat southwest to this scheming or not remains another plausible probable worthy of consideration. However, the major loss for the region will be the emergence of Tinubu as the party flag bearer when, without prejudice to his political sagacity, other aspirants who are more alert, smart and energetic could have been the better choice.
No doubt, with the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo steadily following, Tinubu’s candidacy is more pronounced than anyone else’s. Nonetheless, if the leadership of the party at the entire region can prevail on himself to cede his support for another candidate, then the talk of big sacrifices would be minimal. However, should the party concede to BAT, the regional sacrifices would be more pronounced than what the region has had before.
Abdullahi Ridwan Adetutu, writes from Katsina
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