By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, you must be wondering what this title is all about. Please, calm down, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one of Nigeria’s iconic politicians, is not about to dump his party, APC, for PDP, the party he fought hard with others to sack from power just last year.
The reason for bringing PDP into this article which largely concerns the Tinubu conundrum is very simple and straight-forward. PDP has suffered calamities upon catastrophes since General Muhammadu Buhari sacked President Goodluck Jonathan from office. It is hard to imagine, or believe, that a party that held Nigeria by the jugular for 16 solid years could attain meltdown so soon and almost disappear into oblivion.
One would have expected PDP, despite its electoral misfortune, to provide a formidable opposition to APC and keep President Buhari on his toes but that has not been the case. APC has wasted no time in sending PDP to an early grave by throwing poisonous darts at it from every angle.
The war against corruption has been a most veritable weapon with stupendous impact used by APC to scatter most of the PDP apparatchik to the winds. The strategy was to weaken them by showcasing the humongous corruption that was perpetrated and perpetuated during their reign. The PDP brand was thus obliterated in a jiffy. Many of their bigwigs confessed to nefarious and horrendous crimes of looting and brigandage. They coughed up or vomited incredible sums of cash.
All entreaties and shouts of a vengeful witch-hunt against President Buhari fell on deaf ears. The more they screamed the more they were horse-whipped into submission and made to weep bitterly.
As if that was not bad enough, PDP engaged itself in a war of attrition and became a house divided against itself. It was only a matter of time before it crumbled like the proverbial cookie does. Today, PDP has become its own worst enemy with the brickbats being thrown at one another by members of what used to be touted as the biggest political party in Africa. How are the mighty fallen!
The aim of my piece this week is to attempt what I did in 2014 when I wrote a permutative article titled ‘In Search of Mathematicians’. That was how I predicted a win for Buhari when many pundits still doubted such possibility. I intend to do so again in this column by painting a picture of what to expect in 2019. If you think that year is still far away, perish the thought.
The battle for the next Nigerian Presidential election started as soon as the last one was lost and won. The hurly-burly of the elections had not yet settled down when the potential gladiators picked up their gauntlets in readiness for the next combat.
The ruling party APC has suffered its own casualties as a result of its self-immolating wars of anticipation. What do I mean? The new men of power are already thinking ahead and wondering who may be too ambitious within their own fold. Any of such recalcitrant and ambitious rebels must be cut down to size, no matter his or her contribution to past victory and glory. Without mincing words, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, is the first victim and he has suffered massive collateral damage on account of suspicion. APC itself has suffered almost fatally in the process. The only thing holding it together for now is the fact that it is the party in power and thus presumably has limitless opportunities to distribute largesse to the army of party operatives and their cronies.
By this time next year, as this government enters its third year in power, reality would begin to set in and President Buhari will begin to discover and see original animals in human skin.
I foresee and predict a re-alignment of political forces from 2017. President Buhari will be encouraged and persuaded to run a second term by those who are currently profiting from his government. It is only normal and it is their legitimate right. Nothing stops the President from seeking a re-election within our Constitution. The only snag is that many politicians are going to gang up against him because they see him as an outsider in politics who has benefitted from their massive support but in return has been messing things up for them.
If the President remains stoically stubborn and refuses to play ball with politicians, he would have to fight dirty to win his ticket. It seems to me that he would have to do everything to retain the loyalty of one man by all means, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It is almost impossible for any candidate to become President of Nigeria without the overwhelming support of the Yoruba and their current generalissimo, Tinubu, in particular.
Tinubu derives his stranglehold on power from his iron grip on Lagos. Lagos is a microcosm of Nigeria. Whoever controls Lagos owns the commercial nerve-centre of Nigeria, just like the California of America. Tinubu has been very lucky in that his anointed candidates, Babatunde Raji Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode, have been very cerebrally successful. The current Governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, is already set, after just one year in office, to surpass all expectations.
According to impeccable sources, Buhari may therefore be forced to risk and pick Tinubu as his running-mate if push comes to shove. Tinubu’s protégé, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, is the current Vice President, who comes with intimidating credentials but may not have enough political muscle to deliver enough votes to the kitty. The dilemma for Buhari is whether he should buck the trend set by his predecessors, starting from Shehu Shagari, and jettison his Vice President, especially when a cordial and mutually respectful relationship exists between them. In addition, Osinbajo has been doing exceedingly well and he is seen as one of the few shining lights of this Administration.
There is also the fact that Prof Osinbajo is a highly regarded and esteemed senior Christian figure and the President has needed him to silence those detractors that consider him an Islamic fundamentalist.
However, I believe that the controversy that could ensue from a potentially volatile Muslim/Muslim ticket may have been fixed substantially. Firstly, there is a precedent set by Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola the acclaimed winner of the 1993 elections who picked a fellow Muslim, Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe, as his running-mate and still won in Nigeria’s freest and fairest election to date. Secondly, though Tinubu is a devout Muslim, his beloved wife is a hard-core Christian and a top-notch member of the same Redeemed Christian Church of God as the Vice President. Thirdly, there is the fact that Tinubu supported a Christian, Akinwunmi Ambode, as his anointed candidate for Governor of Lagos State, a deft move calculated to pacify those who may wish to foment religious crisis and conflagration then and in the future.
Tinubu is believed by many to have served Nigeria meritoriously and selflessly by suppressing his own personal ambition for that of others and it is believed that the kingmaker deserves a chunky reward the next time around if he so desires. He is acknowledged as being one of the most knowledgeable leaders in Nigeria today and a lot of people feel that his background in business and politics could bail Nigeria out of the economic quagmire of the moment. He is known to be a practical politician who knows how to make the world better for most people.
If the hawks succeed in getting Buhari to snub Tinubu because of his perceived threat to the President himself, the APC may split like PDP did before the collapse of the Jonathan Presidency.
One potential candidate is hovering in the wings and that is the Turaki of Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who has never hidden the fact that he wants the Presidency by all means. My next permutation is that the former Vice President and Tinubu who are two of the three most powerful and influential politicians in APC today (the third is Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki with his firm control of the Senate) may combine forces to thwart a Buhari re-election bid. They have been old allies since the time of Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. If they join forces, it may therefore spell doom for those seeking the re-election of President Buhari.
After the seeming lull in the Buhari-Tinubu love, it seems the recent appointments given to some of Tinubu’s acolytes appear designed to assuage his feeling. But would this be sufficient to bury the combustive ambition of a man who believes he still has so much to give to his country?
The third option which also involves Tinubu in the mix is one on which for a variety of reasons Buhari chooses not to run again. Without doubt, there are several other forces contending for power in case Buhari decides not to seek re-election. In this category, Tinubu’s name still features prominently. No one can deny the ability of Tinubu to transform Nigeria the way he did in Lagos. It is presumed that Buhari may generously want to pay Tinubu back for the support he gave him. He may also want to leave a lasting legacy and shed the toga of an ethnic jingoist by handing over to a Southerner. If this happens, I foresee the visionary Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, a core Buhari loyalist, becoming Tinubu’s running-mate, notwithstanding that this is another Muslim/Muslim ticket. Many APC loyalists believe this combination may fly.
There is a fourth option and this is coming from the direction of PDP. The theory here is that PDP can still spring a surprise on Buhari and pay him back in his own coin. The PDP apologists believe the North has lost more under Buhari despite allocating many political appointments to the region. They are of the opinion that former President Jonathan did more for them and gave them access and respect than their own man Buhari who they accuse of being standoffish. This is the reason that many Northerners, apart from his kinsmen in the South South, have become the biggest promoter of PDP.
In case you think Jonathan is dead and buried politically, perish the thought! He still holds the biggest ace in PDP. In fact, many in PDP today see him as their best candidate in 2019 because some of his transformation agenda are beginning to come to fruition. They are hoping and banking on Buhari becoming so unpopular that Jonathan would be sorely missed by Nigerians who would practically beg him to come back.
The rising profile and the promotion of Jonathan in the international community is part of that systematic way of re-polishing, repackaging, redefining and preparing him for a return to power. Every attempt to smear him with a tar brush would be rebuffed by his die-hard loyalists who see Buhari as someone trying to kill any future role for Jonathan as Nigerian President. They are totally committed to ensuring that Jonathan is well protected between now and next year when serious politicking would have reached a crescendo again. The hope is that as a former civilian President, he can bounce back to power like President Mathieu Kerekou did in Benin Republic, when he returned in 1996 after quitting in 1991.
Who knows tomorrow?