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OPINION: 2019 Presidency, Tinubu and Political Circumspection

By Sufuyan Ojeifo

I read a series of reports about the possibility of a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, running for an elective office in 2019.  In the reports, which were variously slanted by the media that published them, Tinubu was quoted to have said it could be office of the president, senator or even local government chairman.

It was very clear and certain to me that the Tinubu story would become a subject of devil’s advocacy in the days and weeks to come, which was why I was not surprised at the further exploratory slant that was given to it, barely twenty-four hours after, by a respected national newspaper with strong bias for political reporting.  I read the report and the response by the Tinubu Media Office.

I sincerely believe the response was to fulfill all righteousness-that the report was, after all, rebutted.  Rebuttals, sometimes, do not necessarily diminish or obliterate the facts of stories.  In this instant case, I do not think the rebuttal did.  Rather, it only succeeded in giving a clarification of the conditions under which Tinubu would contest for the presidency, to wit: if President Muhammadu Buhari is not contesting.

Tinubu might have tried to obfuscate the direction he was coming from and the destination he was headed, the inevitable conclusion that any perceiver of opinionated whiffs would reach in the circumstance of this political speak was that the Asiwaju of southwest politics would throw his hat in the ring for the presidential contest in 2019 in the event Buhari does not seek re-election.

Indeed, the talk about other options, like running for a senate seat or local government chair, failed to detract from the bigger picture- presidency, which is the only enclave that is big enough, as it were, to contain the Jagaban Borgu without bursting.  His vast and well-funded political structure, politics, rhetoric and wherewithal for almost limitless mobilization combine to present a formidable political force that can take the nation by storm.

I personally consider it instructive that Tinubu chose to speak on this sensitive, tentative and tendentious issue after his visitation to Buhari in London.   Did he see or observe anything that suggested that the president may not be interested in re-election in 2019?  Is there something Asiwaju is not telling us and would want us to read his lips and body language?

These are testy times for our nation.  Subjecting Nigerians to the pastime of reading the lips and body language of political leadership may be dangerous as a misreading could cause inflammation of political tension where vested interests are under real or even imagined threats.  I am sure Tinubu never contemplated a misunderstanding or misreading of his sanguine intention.

He is a grounded politician and consummate political leader, not given to dissembling or dissimulation, or even hiding behind a finger.  He has the capacity to engage and speak truth to power.  He has done so from within and outside government.  In the Third Republic, he was the leading light of the pro-democracy group, National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) that fought the military junta for the revalidation of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election presumably won by Chief MKO Abiola.  As governor of Lagos state, he dared the federal government on the creation of local council development areas.  He created 37 out of 20 Local Government Areas in Lagos.

Now, let us for a moment assume without conceding that Tinubu would run for the office of president if Buhari is not contesting.  The prognosis is scary, particularly for the APC.  Other ambitious politicians in the APC would join the fray. For a moment, let us imagine the like of Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwakwanso, Aminu Tambuwwal, Rochas Okorocha, Adams Oshiomhole, Rotimi Amaechi, Nasir el-Rufai, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, Bukola Saraki, et al, in the race.  The dialectics and dynamics of presidential politicking will pull at the fragile soul of the APC.

The likely consequence is that the party may just be headed for the road to Kigali: for a battle of unimaginable magnitude.  The battle for the soul of the party by supposed party leaders would unravel with its casualties both individually and corporately.  The case of individual casualties is manageable, but not when the party itself becomes the major casualty.

Let us further imagine that Tinubu emerges as the presidential candidate of the APC, will his candidature sit well with the northern region which should, in all fairness, be allowed to hold down presidential power for two terms of eight years?  If the opposition party to the APC decides to field a northern candidate, what happens would not be different from what happened to former President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP in 2015.

Ethno-religious sentiments will kick in and I can see, a desperate opposition party, mobilising its members and supporters in the south to queue behind its northern candidate in order to wrest power from the APC.  Will Tinubu be able to contain this possible scenario or put differently, how will he relate with this scenario?

Again, let us imagine Tinubu failing to clinch the party ticket at its presidential primary, will he be ready to make yet another sacrifice to deliver the southwest to whoever emerges as the candidate against the backdrop of his lingering experience of betrayal by some of his followers who, after following the Tinubu political trajectory to earn national recognition, decided to challenge his “suzerainty” and work, in concert with politicians from the north, to stymie his humongous influence?

Yes, Tinubu will not run in 2019 if Buhari will run.  He will surely stand behind Buhari to show his unalloyed loyalty.  Who does not know that it is suicidal to challenge a sitting president in the primary of his own party?  Only a fool will commit that political hara-kiri, especially with a man who loves and knows how to use power, not like Goodluck Jonathan who failed to rein in party members and his government officials with the powers of his office.

Finally, if Buhari does not run, whether Tinubu decides to run or not, he will become the beautiful bride to be wooed or cajoled in a utilitarian manner that will conduce to the strategic empowerment and positioning of the cajolers.   That is the truth; and, this represents the totality of Tinubu’s politics, no matter his political circumspection.

Mr Ojeifo, journalist and publisher, sent this piece via ojwonderngr@yahoo.com



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