By OBINNA EZUGWU
Aldous Leonard Huxley, late English writer and philosopher once said “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.” Huxley lived long enough – through the 19th Century to the 20th Century – to have been able to arrive at his conclusion.
Indeed, the history of man is replete with instances of repeated history, often with tragic consequences. And recent events in the All Progressive Congress (APC) as it concerns former Lagos State governor and the acclaimed national leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu bears eloquent testimony to this inability.
In 2013, Tinubu led the Southwest into an alliance with the North to birth the APC with the immediate agenda of removing Goodluck Jonathan from power, and replacing him with a Northern president. The expectation must have been that the Southwest will take over by the time the North completes two terms in 2023, and obviously with him as the potential president. How wrong that calculation has turned out to be. Not that it could have turned out differently after all.
Although at the time of forming the APC, the primary focus of Tinubu’s Southwest was vice presidency, it was natural for the zone to have assumed that the alliance would return the favour of presidency when the North takes its turn. Tinubu had, of course, wanted to be vice president, but eventually had to accept the option of nominating a candidate to run with President Muhammadu Buhari, the eventual presidential candidate of the APC who flatly rejected the idea of him being on the ticket. The alliance was, of course, a product of Tinubu’s inability to learn from history, a reality now laid bare by the events of the past few days in the APC.
In January 2015, I had an argument with a friend of mine who was sold to the Buhari presidential project and who swore to me that Buhari was going to win the election of that year, and that after Buhari, Tinubu would take power. It was weeks before the election, and although I didn’t support Buhari, I wanted him to win, having been worried by the kind of political tension building in the country, not just in the North, but also in Lagos. I was quite concerned that if Jonathan had won, there would have been crisis and the Igbo would have been the target. I agreed with him that Buhari would win, but assured him that he would regret the victory, and that Buhari would never hand over power to the Southwest or indeed anybody in the South.
Not long after Buhari became president, the scale fell off his eyes. By 2019, he had become so disappointed with the president that he couldn’t stand anyone supporting him to return for a second term. But this time, I told him that Buhari would win again by any means necessary, and not only will he win, he would desire to go beyond 2023 or at best, hand over to another of his trusted allies from the North. It was an easy call and it often amazed me that such simple fact appeared to be lost on Tinubu with his acclaimed political sagacity and a retinue of political advisers who had rich history to draw lessons from.
For a start, the idea that the North will return power to the South was one I couldn’t explain. And if Tinubu had availed himself of lessons of history, he would have learnt a thing or two from the experiences of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, MKO Abiola and so on. Yet, more befuddling is the idea that Buhari, who had joined politics in 2003 to stop Olusegun Obasanjo, would be the one to return power to the South, even in the event of that unlikely scenario.
Obasanjo was supposed to return power to the North after completing one term in 2003. His insistence on going beyond that had led to the crystallising of the opposition against him in the North, part of which was the Sharia crisis of 2000. That opposition was eventually led by Buhari who built cult following in the region by challenging Obasanjo and the PDP.
I had noted previously, too, that the decision of Tinubu to help Buhari to power in 2015 was a historic political mistake second, only to Emeka Ojukwu going to war. The defeat of the East in the Biafra war helped to establish a hegemonic Northern power, Tinubu helping Buhari to power has sealed that hegemony.
The reality today is that not only will the Southwest not take power in 2023, power will not leave the North in a generation, unless there is an unanticipated event that distorts the current political trajectory. Buhari is, of course, using his presidency to consolidate Northern control of power in the country. His decision to cede control of all arms bearing security agencies to the North is no coincidence, neither is the decision to inflate vote figures in the North in the last election, and suppress that of the South.
What the president has said by the apparent fictitious results of the 2019 election, which saw vote figures from the North almost double that of the South, is that the North no longer needs the South to retain power. And with the force of arms firmly in their hands, they can afford to produce and reproduce the figures in future elections.
Sadly, while this dangerous pattern was being established, Tinubu’s foot soldiers chose to become willing accomplices, believing that it was about Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Yes, there is often the argument that Atiku is a Northerner as much as Buhari. Those who pursue this line of argument, however, fail to realize that Atiku’s worldview is pan Nigerian, and that’s the world of difference between him and Buhari.
What Tinubu’s Southwest has succeeded in doing by helping Buhari to power is putting the South into a form or political slavery. And given his kind of politics in Lagos, which increasingly creates a gulf between the East and the West, the South would remain ever more vulnerable and at the mercy of the North. Indeed, as it stands, the only serious obstacle to Buhari is the economy, which I imagine, will increasingly get worse and ultimately force certain fundamental changes in the polity as a way of avoiding total breakdown of law and order.
OBINNA EZUGWU, [email protected]