Critical Conversations

Presidential Contenders Who May Succeed Buhari: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (Part 1)

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As momentum gathers steam for Nigeria’s 2023 elections, the list of presidential hopefuls is expanding with a lot of speculations, though very few have come out openly to show their desire to vie for the top position.

There are issues like rotational presidency, support base of the party, Igbo presidency, and previous political agreements that would shape the flow of candidates in each political party.

For instance, in the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), the general consensus among many players seems to be the agreement that power must move down South. Many Southern politicians feel that since presidential power has been in the hands of the North through President Muhammadu Buhari for two terms, then power is expected to shift to the South.

Although this has not yet been unveiled as the official policy of the ruling party, one can notice many members of the APC gravitating towards some Southern political leaders with national appeal. This is done probably with plans to eventually pitch their tents with a specific political leader as soon as the political time-table gives permission for full-blown political campaigns.

Tinubu

The list of presidential hopefuls from each geo-political zone is pretty long. But we are poised to separate the contenders from the pretenders in each geo-political zone as we begin with a top contender from the Southwest political zone–Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Most observers will agree that any individual nursing the ambition of running for the presidency in 2023, especially within the APC, will know clearly in his heart that Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be his biggest obstacle in this titanic contest. The former governor has been a national leader of the party from its inception. His political tentacles are reminiscent of an octopus with nine lives. Both leaders of the National Assembly, a good number of governors, and senators are all from his political camp. Tinubu already has a good number of party delegates in his kitty even before nominations–all things being equal. Defeating Tinubu in next year’s APC convention, where a free and fair party primaries for the presidential ticket is expected to take place, would be an incredible feat.

Although so far, he has remained silent over his presidential ambitions, activities of political henchmen pushing for his candidature make this silence quite deafening. Bola Tinubu, in the last six years, has acted well as a loyal party man. Despite efforts by some political players to put him at loggerheads with the presidency, he has made every effort to remain in his best political elements by supporting all government initiatives, congratulating the president at every turn of victory, and addressing socio-political issues without unnerving the presidency.

Tinubu’s capacity to govern is acknowledged by many, especially with his visionary document that radically transformed the internally generated revenue (IGR) of Lagos by leveraging its advantage as the economic hub of the country. Subsequently, Lagos State IGR template was borrowed and adopted by some states to boost their revenue.

Tinubu also has friends across Nigeria, so it will not be difficult for him to form a broad coalition and expand his political base. For a tactician who is admired for his generosity, kindness, and immense goodwill, Tinubu will harvest block votes, especially from the Southwest region. In addition, many state governors will align with him because he has been “good” to them – it will be payback time for Tinubu when he decides to contest. There is a Tinubu Support Group (TSG) working behind the scene to launch his presidential bid whenever there is the green light from the electoral body and the party to do so.

Indeed all through his political career, Bola Tinubu has shown that he is an enigma, thinker, and strategist. After three unsuccessful attempts by President Buhari to win the presidential election in 2003, 2007, 2011, a broad coalition of ACN led by Tinubu and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) led by President Buhari and other legacy parties resulted in a new national party, APC, which eventually paved the way for him to win the presidential election in 2015.

The victory was the outcome of strategic planning, political horse-trading, and consensus agreements reached with the legacy parties. Asiwaju Tinubu was a key factor in the entire process. Many analysts believe it would be most uncharitable for Buhari to only show passive interest when the man who led his two victorious campaign teams is contesting an election.

Apart from expected goodwill, what Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing, and former Governor of Lagos State boldly declared as a “gentlemanly” agreement within the party at inception would strongly favour Tinubu if it is strictly followed. Fashola described the agreement as one of ‘honourable brothers’ and hinted that the party’s existence may be threatened if it decides to repudiate such a foundational pillar. This assertion is supported by a lot of APC chieftains from the Southern part of the country.

The last visit of some political allies of the National Leader of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to President Buhari, was shrouded in secrecy. Tinubu was led by former governors of Osun and Ogun states, Chief Bisi Akande and Aremo Segun Osoba respectively, alongside Chief Tajudeen Olusi and Dr. Yomi Finnih However, it was eventually decoded that the meeting was to reinforce the agreement that was reached in 2015 during the formation of APC.

Reports reveal that before the ceding of the presidential ticket to a junior member of the alliance, there was an agreement that after the tenure of the CPC candidate, the post should rotate to the ACN group. Inside sources claim Buhari was part of this understanding.

The details of the meeting were not disclosed to the media but a close source said what necessitated the meeting was the perceived frosty relationship between the presidency and Tinubu, especially in the aftermath of the #EndSARS crisis, where some forces have accused the national leader of being the brain behind the protests to topple Buhari’s administration.

It is obvious that Tinubu’s allies are running from pillar to post lately to keep him as the frontline contender in the 2023 presidential race. Every Achilles must have an exposed heel. Despite the strength of Bola Tinubu’s Presidential ticket, there are many weaknesses as well.

Top on the list is his perception baggage. A politically powerful and critical audience as well as many kingmakers are not happy with what many call Tinubu’s “stranglehold” on Lagos State and its resources. Most kingmakers feel if he becomes President, he will extend his massive control of Lagos to the entire country. Coupled with his huge financial chest and political sagacity, most elites feel he might become very arrogant and totally unapproachable.

Looking at Nigeria’s past leaders, political elites have always given preferences to leaders who are pliable and controllable- from Shehu Shagari to Goodluck Jonathan.

There are strong indications that the consensus of the elite, especially those in the North might not favour Asiwaju’s candidature. And many of them have assembled under this platform to ensure that he does not get the ticket.

Read Also: TINUBU COMMENTS ON NIGERIA’S UNITY

The issue of age and religion are other factors other contenders are willing to exploit. Religion is still a very strong factor in Nigerian politics today. Many Nigerians would feel after 8 years of a Muslim President, they would not want to vote for another Muslim President who may stay for eight years and return the baton to another Northern Muslim. This propaganda can be exploited effectively in the Southeast, South-South, and parts of Northcentral. These are areas other contenders hope to harvest a good number of delegates to neutralize Tinubu’s grip on the Southwest.

On the issue of age, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu will be 70 in 2023. In this era that young people are screaming for the not- too -young- to- run platform, projecting a 70-year-old prospective president might not appeal to most young people, especially when there are options among the young.

These factors and many others are the issues that give other contenders the boldness that the candidature of Bola Ahmed is beatable.

Ntia Usukuma

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