Bola Ahmed Tinubu

There is usually this talk about the political sagacity of former Lagos governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. But each time I look at his politics, I often wonder, ‘where actually is this sagacity?’ Yes, no one would deny the fact that the Jagaban has done well for himself as a politician. He has achieved fame and fortune, and has won ‘accolades’ for being able to maintain his grip on Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital for over two decades and counting. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t find sound strategy in his politics. In fact, there is nothing beyond media hype and perhaps even delusions of grandeur. And his misadventure in Edo has for the umpteen time, laid this bare.

When I watched Tinubu’s advertorial in which he implored Edo people to reject their governor, Godwin Obaseki in the election that held on Saturday, I was, like many others, embarrassed. And the question that kept ringing on my head was, ‘who are his handlers?’ I know that Tinubu likes to feel good about himself. He loves big titles, such as ‘National Leader of the All Progressive Congress’ – whatever that means – and so on and so forth. Now he has taken up the title of ‘Leader of All Democrats in Nigeria.’ You simply can’t beat his capacity for title acquisition.

But ideally why politicians keep advisers is so that they keep their egos and excesses in check, while managing their public image strategically. Unfortunately, most Nigerian politicians prefer praise singers, and only entertain advise from the yes men around them. If Tinubu had any adviser worth his salt, I doubt that he would have made that advertorial.

First, it is demeaning to stay in Lagos and tell Edo people who they should reject and who they should support under flimsy grounds, especially coming from a person who already has reputation for employing sundry anti democratic means to retain firm grip on his state. And in view of the prevailing anti godfather sentiment in Edo, it was straight up thoughtless to give an impression that you are trying to be a godfather in the state, perhaps the super godfather with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole being the resident godfather. Everyone has an ego, most Edo people easily saw that intervention as an affront, and what Obaseki simply needed to do was to play that up, which he wasted no time in doing. Yes, the Edos are a great people with rich civilisation, and would not entertain an overlord from anywhere. It is as simple as that.

That advertorial undoubtedly, turned off the neutrals and gave fresh impetus to desire to retain Obaseki and end godfatherism. It cost Pastor Ize-Iyamu, though, Obaseki was always going to win a free and fair election. The campaign was predictably going to be counterproductive, and why Tinubu’s handlers couldn’t have so guessed says a lot about the quality of individuals he has around him.

But there are even bigger implications. What Tinubu and his handlers fail to understand is that as far as the APC is concerned, the game is up. Time has come for everyone to answer his father’s name. Increasingly, the gulf between the ACN and CPC elements would widen. The APC has served its purpose, which was to return power to the North. It is for this singular purpose that the North embraced the party and gave it their all. The idea, which seems to be prevalent in the Tinubu camp, that the region will return the favour in 2023 and back him to succeed Buhari is rather laughable. To be sure, the North of President Muhammadu Buhari is not enamored of Tinubu, and has shown it time and time again, but Tinubu has failed to read the handwriting on the wall.

Yes, in 2015, Buhari who already had the North at his beck and call, needed Tinubu to mobilize his Southwest base for him to be able to win, which he did, thinking perhaps that both will share power, and which made his supporters go to town to celebrate him as some sort of a champion who had used his political sagacity to install a president. But there is nothing sagacious about helping a super conservative northerner like Buhari to power, ironically under a would be progressive platform. If anything, it was a historical blunder, I dare say, second only to Emeka Ojukwu accepting to lead the Igbo to war.

In one of my previous interventions on this matter, I noted that the decision of Tinubu to back Buhari to power remained a tragic error whose consequences would be far-reaching. We are not there yet, perhaps. It seems, still, like morning yet on creation day.

But back to the Edo matter. Obaseki’s reelection is a slap on Tinubu’s face, and another message to him that his presidential ambition is a forlorn dream. Yes, once the Jagaban showed inordinate interest in Ize-Iyamu’s candidacy, it was easy to draw the conclusion that he was looking to build his support base against 2023. This, of course, is the last thing Buhari and his handlers want. It was the same game they played in Ondo with Rotimi Akeredolu in 2016. Once they were satisfied that he wasn’t a Tinubu man, they backed him against Segun Abraham, Tinubu’s favoured candidate.

As a matter of fact, Buhari started firing warning shots as soon as he took office in 2015. He snubbed Tinubu’s ministerial nominees and practically locked him of of the power loop, which prompted his wife, Remi to lament that her husband was being trashed. Of course, the president courted him again in 2019 when he needed his support for reelection. But with second term already in the bag, the train is on the move again. The scheming for 2023 has begun. Buhari who you could tell from his appointments and policies, would want to retain power, not just in the North, but in the hands of someone he trusts to continue his programmes, would not give Tinubu space to pose a threat.

Ultimately, Obaseki won comfortably because of Buhari’s decision to keep his word to ensure free and fair polls. It would be naive to think that the president has suddenly become a democrat. Even the suggestion that it is fear of visa ban doesn’t answer the question very correctly. It is simply, I believe, because Ize-Iyamu winning will presumably be a plus for Tinubu.

I have argued consistently that as 2023 approaches, Northern politicians will return to PDP in droves. The opposition party is most likely going to field a northern presidential candidate and that’s for them, what would matter. Yes, the North would retain power using the PDP in 2023. By then of course, the APC would have inflicted so much pain on the masses that the Northern street would gladly welcome an alternative. Even now, most Northerners are no longer enamored with the party and Buhari. It is mostly Tinubu and his Southwest APC wing that assume there is still a party in a sense.

Indeed, by 2023, APC would have become a much weaker version of the ACN. Much weaker because Tinubu has since erected a brick wall between himself and both the Southeast and South South; a wall he needed to remain in power in Lagos. In each election cycle, the sentiment often whipped up is that the opposition is an agenda for Easterners to take over Lagos. It doesn’t matter that the opposition candidates are Lagosians. The lesson is there for him and his handlers to learn. Whether they will is another question.

OBINNA EZUGWU, [email protected]