Politics of 2023 has started and the process of brining onboard fresh heads for the plum seat, is in full throttle with the unabashed interest of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu to lead Nigeria, writes Emameh Gabriel
The 2023 general election is just around the corner with less than two years remaining for the incumbent administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the road to 2023 continues to garner interest.
While politicking for who succeeds him seems to have been in full gear with gladiators, groups and stakeholders clamoring and canvassing for who and what they deem is the way forward for the country, given the current challenges in the country, the next general election promises to be filled with intrigues and controversy as forces jostle for dominance.
One particular name and personality that has continued to ring bell, somewhat controversially, is that of the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Tinubu rose to political prominence in the current democratic dispensation through shrewdness and far sighted political orchestrations. A factor that has enabled him to continue to exercise political influences when many of his peers have receded into oblivion.
For him, like some of his contemporaries who made similar attempts in previous elections, this might be his last shot. The coast is near clear for him as power is expected to shift from the north to any part of the south in 2023. It is an opportunity anyone in his shoes will grab without hesitation, particularly for a man with deep pocket.
Tinubu as Governor of Lagos between 1999 and 2007 successfully resisted the incursion of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) into the Southwest region in the 2003 general election, and as ever since continued to gain strength and grounds, across the country, and becoming in 2015, the mastermind of the emergent APC victory at the polls. A feat that made him a domineering figure in the post – 2015 administration and politics, even claiming the title of national leader of the party.
It is widely believed that Tinubu’s support for the incumbent President Buhari in 2015, is premised on the ambition of subsequently emerging as the President of Nigeria. His hopes of first becoming vice president on a joint ticket with Muhammadu Buhari was dashed when forces within the formative APC resisted a Muslim – Muslim ticket, which left him with the only choice of deciding who emerges as the running mate of the then presidential candidate of the APC.
Tinubu decided to chose for the position, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a close associate, who was the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice during the former’s tenure as governor of Lagos. Having a professor of law on a joint ticket with Muhammadu Buhari caught the imagination of the public, shoring up the democratic credentials of the former military dictator and was a good sell for the APC propaganda machinery.
But with the emergence of the APC administration, pre – existing factions in the new ruling party began to crystallize and battle for supremacy, and much of the issues seems to revolve around the game plan for who and which region should succeed to the presidency in 2023. However, the South-west is believe to be in the best position to produce the next president going by permutations and Tinubu appears to be top on the ladder.
Why not? He (Tinubu) should get the offer of first refusal”, said Mr. Elton Onwu, a member of the 2018 APC National Convention Committee and a member of the Screening Sub Committee.
Similarly, a former leader of the socio-political group, Afenifere, Reuben Fasoranti, recently expressed support for the presidential ambition of Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
Mr Fasoranti stated this while receiving members of the South West Agenda for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (SWAGA 23), who paid him a courtesy visit in his country home in Akure.
He said: “Tinubu has all it takes to rule Nigeria. Considering his activities and track record, he deserves to be President, come 2023. May his prayers be answered. When he gets there, he will do all we want,”
Battle for the Soul of APC
APC which started as a union of five political factions in 2014 but after it ascended to power in 2015, two dominant tendencies crystallized to play dominant roles in the party affairs and general public administration. The northern tendency as symbolize by Nasir el-Rufai, Atiku Bagudu, Abba Kyari, Malami, Pantami and co, and on the other side, the Southwest faction led by Tinubu.
It was this power play that ushered the exit of John Odigie Oyegun as chairman of the ruling party and subsequently, Adam’s Oshiomhole. This tendencies do not fall strictly within geo – political/ regional lines as alignment and allies still exist across the geo- political regions. In the ensuing struggles, all sides seems to have laid claim to the moral ground but much of the final direction rests on the approval or body language of the president. As was the controversial deposition of Adams Oshiomhole as Chairman, a known protege of Tinubu.
Tinubu had sought key positions for his allies in both the government and party structures in a bid to fortify the pathway to his future aspiration. A desire largely responsible for his fallout with the leadership of the eight National Assembly and the subsequent determined imposition of the leaders of the 9th National Assembly.
But Tinubu’s hitherto free run of the party with former Edo State Governor and national chairman of the ruling APC, Adams Oshiomhole by his side came to an abrupt end with the intrigues that saw the emergence of Governor of Kebbi State, Mai Mala Buni as Chairman of the APC Caretaker and Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee. According to political observers, the subsequent APC registration and revalidation exercise by the new leadership of the party was intended to whittle down the remaining hold of the self styled national leader on the affairs of the party administration and scuttle his presidential ambition .
Analysts also believe that Tinubu may be in for the toughest fight of his political career as he contends with the latest forces arrayed against his interests. His case file was recently with rounds with the newly appointed Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa a supposed loyalist of the AGF, as the the anti – graft agency beams its search light on his dealings during his time as governor of Nigeria’s commercial capital.
A move seen by many as an attempt to damage his well crafted political brand for the eventual 2023 election. As a seasoned politician with a reputation, deep pocket and men to commit to a cause, the former Lagos State Governor is no doubt fighting back. He recently held his 12th Bola Tinubu Colloquium to his 69th birthday in Kano which saw a rich collection of important dignitaries. He is also said to enjoy the support of Kano and Katsina state governors as well as others in the region.
Although the Tinubu has not officially declared interest to contest in 2023, his body language has betrayed his intentions and with his campaign posters flooding streets in some parts of the country, it is obvious that he would no doubt throw his hat into the ring anytime soon .
While voices even in the north are calling for a southern presidency in 2023, making Tinubu a possible favourite, observers however opine that the new entry of Governors Dave Umahi and Ben Ayade of Bayelsa and Cross River states respectively into the APC, the raging agitation in the South-east for presidency will also contribute to the emerging permutations in the ruling party and the eventual decision of the party’s power rotation arrangement.
Osinbajo as Tinubu’s Joker
While Tinubu has been on the forefront of the multiple frays and absorbing the blows, Osinbajo, his protege and loyal lieutenant seems to have gone almost unnoticed on the political battlefield. The Professor of Law use to be a vibrantly visible character in the early days of the administration but as the intricacies of politics pulled his master away from the presidency, he has limited himself strictly to the scheme of things.
But some observers however averred that Osinbajo’s limited political stature may not be unconnected with the intention of the former to be visibly seen as the man at the heart of the play and a possible presidential successor in 2023. Osinbajo despite his electoral value to the APC/Buhari sellability propaganda in 2015 has always declined comment on the 2023 presidency candidacy .
But as Tinubu sets to contend against the obstacles ranged against the biggest prize of his political career, there are some who posit that VP Osinbajo may remain Tinubu’s only game if his original plan goes awry.
Tinubu has no doubt had a good run with the APC, beginning with the defeat of the ruling PDP in 2015 but his current quest seems to carry many luggages, which some believe may not stand the test of time.
“He knows what he is doing and he understands what is at stake. He is not desperate and at the same time, he will not watch them rubbish what he has built and the sacrifice he has made in the last decades. Yes, he might end up taking the bullet for one of his men”, a source from his camp told THISDAY.
Tinubu is a Muslim from the South, while being a Muslim from the South should ordinarily have been an advantage for his ticket as it would galvanize the northern Muslims to his cause, but on the contrary a Muslim succeeding a Muslim as president may not seat well with many people.
Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, the presidency has alternated between Muslim and Christian presidents. With Umar Yar’adua, a northern Muslim succeeding Olusegun Obasanjo, a Southern Christian, and Yar’adua subsequently succeeded by Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian who was also succeeded by a northern Muslim, Muhammadu Buhari.
Besides, it almost impossible to harvest a Christian from the north with good command of a fraction of the population in the region. This will be another mountain for Tinubu to climb.
Only recently, a group under the auspices of Progressive Consolidation Group (PCG), pleaded with Tinubu to shelve his ambition and support Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to contest the 2023 presidential election.
The group argued that for the purpose of re-strategization priorities of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency, Osinbajo is the best replacement.
“Both President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo must reach an accord for timely preparation of a more vibrant successor administration to be headed by the current Vice President while Tinubu should reconsider his ambition,”
However, having been in the thick of the annulled June 12, presidential election that witnessed a Muslim – Muslim ticket carry the day, may decide to seek a favourable balance that may hand him the presidential ticket of the APC, and some analysts posit that it may be possible through a balance with a popular northern Christian politician. No doubt one of the factors in former speaker, Yakubu Dogara’s recent political calculus when he returned to the ruling party.
But in the event that the ball slips out of his direct grip, observers believe that his best bet in retaining influence in the post – 2023 political dispensation is by supporting the emergence Vice President Yemi Osibanjo as flagbearer of the party. They opined that Osinbajo being a Christian from the South with a highly touted professorial status that enticed the Nigerians and galvanized the 2015 APC presidential ticket, It would be a better and easier sell, if it has the backing of Tinubu and the APC.
It is believed that the candidacy will unite and pacify many Nigerians, especially those who reckon that the Osinbajo as Vice President was lacking the presidential mandate and freedom to exercise his intellectual and political dexterity in dealing with issues and solving national problems.
While the clock ticks, it is clear that it would not be a smooth ride for the lion of Bourdillon, as Tinubu is sometimes known.