By OBINNA EZUGWU
Having, in his reckoning, secured the structure of the ruling All Progressive Congress with his long time ally, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as chairman, and President Muhammadu Buhari now guaranteed to run for second term in office, and quite possibly, retain power, former Lagos governor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu have begun strategic positioning for 2023 presidency.
As part of his push to sell himself to the strategic Northern interest and affirm his credential as a presidential material, the former governor last week used his media platform, Television Continental (TVC) to organise a national summit on conflict resolution tagged “Towards an Enduring Peace,” wherein he surprised many with an attempt to rationalise the killings and displacement of communities across the country, especially in the Middle Belt by Fulani herdsmen.
The former governor stated that the herdsmen crisis was as a result of water scarcity and that the best way to solve the problem was for the federal government to provide unused lands in various parts of the country for grazing.
Tinubu who spoke at the event through his representative, Sunday Dare, an Executive Commissioner of the Nigerian Communications Commission, said:
“The government must help herders gradually shift from their traditional nomadic existence to a more static lifestyle. We have to face the reality that modernity is making the nomadic way counterproductive and inefficient. Unoccupied, isolated land can quickly be turned into grazing areas in the affected states. In the long run, this will enable herders to better maintain their livestock and thus their own livelihood.
“An acutely thirsty man remembers neither Bible nor Quran very well until his thirst is quenched. Dire need often pushes a man to behave as if bereft of compassion for a person in equally dire circumstance. No doubt the problem has exacerbated during the past decade. We must assume climate change plays a role.”
It is a position similar to the grazing reserves, cattle routes and cattle colony which the President Muhammadu Buhari government has consistently, alternately proffered as the solution to the menace to which he has shown little commitment to stopping.
And as would be expected, it has continued to generate backlash especially from the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, with whom Tinubu has engaged in a war of words over the suggestion.
Afenifere had in a reaction to Tinubu’s assertions, said in a statement by Mr. Yinka Odumakin, its spokesman that the APC chieftain was free to play politics the way he liked, but warned him against toying with people’s lives by making outlandish propositions.
But the former governor did not take kindly to the group’s caution. He proceeded to berate the person of Odumakin, criticising him for reacting without fully reading his message.
“Asiwaju Tinubu did not mention South-West in particular and what he said had a context to it: ‘Unoccupied, isolated land can quickly be turned into grazing areas in the affected states,’ Tinubu said in a statement through his media aide, Tunde Rahman.
“It is not only some states in the South-West that are affected but several states across the country. Why Odumakin suddenly gets hot under the collar may not be far-fetched.
“The usual frenzy and self-righteous mentality he portrays is on full display. Perhaps next time, he should read through the whole submission and caution himself from self-righteousness and displaying in full glare anarchical emotions.
“And if Odumakin’s delusion still allows him to read, perhaps he should read through of the full chunk of what was said by Tinubu at the summit will educate him better.”
Tinubu’s response drew even stronger reprimand from the socio-cultural group. In a response, Afenifere mocked the politician’s statement as an attempt to hide behind a finger, while criticising him over his inability to condemn the incessant bloodshed perpetrated by the herdsmen.
“I have gone through the hiding-behind-a-finger response by former Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu to Afenifere’s disagreement with his “suggestion” that the Federal Government should take over unoccupied and isolated lands in the country and convert them into grazing reserve, a demand Miyeeti Allah has always put on the table,” Afenifere said in a statement signed by Odumakin on Thursday.
“But for someone who has lived a life of denials, there is nothing for Tinubu to rebut in the offensive suggestion as all his playing with the intelligence of the public only said he did not mention the South West in the suggestion as if the zone is not part of Nigeria. Assuming this is even true, Afenifere means that the good we want for ourselves is what we want for others. We would not support any suggestion that put any section of the country in harm’s way.
“That Tinubu has maintained sinful silence as herdsmen launched vicious attacks on the South West and other sections of the country with thousands of lives lost in the last three years does not remove the fact those who wear the shoe know where it pinches .
“He can play all the Ostrich he wants but we know he was mute when herdsmen kidnapped Chief Olu Falae. He could not find his voice when herders killed people in hordes in Yelwa, Oke Ogun, Akure, Ekiti and the Middle Belt. Neither did I hear a word from Tinubu when herdsmen kidnapped and killed a Permanent Secretary in Osun(where Tinubu and I are from). How can he say South West is not part of the affected states in a desperate bid to be in the good book of Meyitti Allah and its patrons?” Afenifere queried.
The group did not fail to remind the Lagos politician how he has over time detailed from being a federalist to a promoter of Fulani interest; and ultimately advised him to stop digging while in the ditch.
“It is also a total disintegration for Tinubu who postures as a federalist when it suits him to suggest that the Federal Government should “take over” lands that are vested in the governors for the use of Cattle herders who are doing private business and who should apply to the State Executives for land allocation if they want to do ranches.
“Let Tinubu know that he has found himself in a hole on this and it is better for him to stop digging .
“I have seen the disingenuous attempt to divert this into personal attacks in order to blur the issue in focus and which is why I have made this response personal to show that however he takes this fundamental issue that affects the lives of people all over Nigeria, like Fela Anikulapo “I go open book for am.”
But it would seem immediately obvious that Tinubu is only staging a bid for presidency in 2023 and is trying to appeal to President Buhari’s constituency. Indeed, Tinubu’s support for Buhari’s second term bid many have said has been informed ostensibly by his intention to succeed the president in 2023.
In a brief spat with the former governor, few months ago, Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki spilled the beans, revealing that in several discussions with him on the state of affairs of the country and the APC, their major point of departure was on Buhari’s second term.
According to Saraki, Tinubu insisted that he would support a Buhari on wheelchair because he knew that power would return to the South West in 2023.
However, Tinubu’s quest for power has never really been a secret. It had apparently informed the very idea of merging his former party, the ACN into an alliance with Buhari’s CPC and a few other partys to form the APC.
His idea had been, according to sources, to run alongside Buhari as vice presidential candidate of the party, with a view to succeed him in 2023. But the idea of Muslim/Muslim ticket caused quite a stir, prompting Buhari to shelve it and instead only opted to allow the former governor to nominate any individual of his choice. Tinubu picked Osibanjo.
But not until after several attempts to get Buhari to change his mind, including calling him to a meeting, a source said, at Bourdillon; a meeting that had Oshiomhole, then governor of Edo State and Rauf Aregbesola, Osun State governor where he insisted that the South West had decided that his being on the ticket was the only condition upon which they would give their support for his presidential bid. Still, Buhari refused.
Long time in planning, the ambition had informed his insistence on pushing out former chairman of the APC, Chief John Oyegun and ensuring that his right hand man, Oshiomhole took the job. The idea was to take hold of the party structure going into 2023.
Determined to appeal to the Northern constituency, the former governor has also, noticeably jettisoned his pro federalist and restructuring stance, the plank upon which his rise to politics was made possible.
Tinubu was an integral part of the NADECO movement in the 90s. Himself alongside a number of his contemporaries lived in exile during the days of the late General Sanni Abacha’s dictatorship. It was the days of intense fight for restructuring and Tinubu was a front line soldier in that war.
“There is a need for us to condemn that statement by Ashiwaju,” said Aremo Oladotun Hassan, YCYW, in reference to Tinubu’s attack on Afenifere.
“Ashiwaju should not let his quest for power make him seem a boot licker to the North.” Hassan warned that Tinubu’s support for Buhari is like riding on the back of a tiger. And in any case, he is riding on the back of a tiger and he might at the end of the day, end up in its belly.
“It is unfortunate that he is losing grip of what made him,” Hassan said. “He should not have responded to Afenifere’s advice in the manner that he did, saying that Mr. Yinka Odumakin is suffering from amnesia.
“We believe that even if the leadership of Afenifere cannot comprehend his wordings, it is absurd to have talked to Afenifere in that manner.
“He cannot be damaging his own constituency in order to be more appealing other interest, especially the Northern interest. The Yoruba say that charity begins at home. If you lose the home, you have lost it all. The child that disparages his own house is hanging consequential nemesis on himself. That’s what Tinubu is doing; he is doing a lot of disservice to Yoruba interest.”
He has not been able to cultivate the ethos of Awolowo. We have Omoluabi ethos in Yoruba land, the ethos of justice,” he concluded.
The SLG convener, Comrade Adeniyi Alimi Sulaiman lamented that the former governor had “missed the road” and is not, according to him, qualified to run for the office of president.
“Tinubu has already missed the road; he is misleading himself, the South West and of Nigeria,” he said.
“He is not even qualified to be president, just like Buhari who he brought and made president. Buhari has not been able to provide his certificate; the same thing with Tinubu. It was for that reason that the late Gani Fawehinmi filed a case against him. Tinubu doesn’t have a single certificate.
“He is desperate to get into Aso Rock, not because he loves Nigeria or the people of the South West. It is for his selfish interest. But he will fail woefully.
Sulaiman regretted that the Buhari government has done little to curb the incessant killings by herdsmen, and berated Tinubu for suggesting that lands be given to the herders for grazing.
“Look at how they are killing people,” he said. “And Tinubu has the temerity to ask for people’s land to be given to them. Why can’t they get their own land? Is it not their private business? If an Igbo man wants to do his business, he would pay for a shop. But if they are looking for free land, we will still advise Buhari to give them Sambisa Forest. It is a very expansive land.
“They are killing people here and there, and Tinubu is now defending them because he is expecting that the Fulani will support him to become president. Well, we will see.”