By Femi Aribisala
Bola Tinubu is not a democrat, has never been a democrat and will never be a democrat.
There is a popular Yoruba song that says: “Eko o gba gbere rara o.” It means: “Lagos does not take any nonsense whatsoever.” It is high time for Lagos to fulfil the intent of this song by putting a stop to commandeering of the political processes in the state by Bola Tinubu and his cronies.
Enough is enough. The domination of Lagos politics by one man has gone on for too long. Lagos must be wrested from the control of Bola Tinubu who has enslaved the politicians in the state and privatised its resources for the last 16 years. Senator Femi Okurounmu, a Yoruba Afenifere leader and co-coordinator of the recently concluded National Conference, said early this year: “Now that the Yoruba people have known that the APC is worse than PDP- in corruption, impunity and lack of internal democracy- we have to vote against APC.”
The shenanigans of Tinubu at the just concluded APC gubernatorial primaries in Lagos provide strong confirmation of the veracity of the Senator’s position. Nobody should be fooled; the primaries were nothing but one big charade. Those of us who have insisted that there is nothing progressive or democratic about the APC were sadly proved right once again. Tinubu frustrated every pretension to democracy in the elections and manipulated his cronies into office; all in the interest of sustaining his domination of Lagos politics.
In the process, he has sown the seed of his own downfall. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Tinubu has effectively divided the APC in Lagos. It is now up to the PDP to capitalise on his high-handedness by coming up with a candidate that can be sold to Lagosians. If it does, the days of slavery to Tinubu in Lagos will certainly come to an end on 29th May, 2015.
We have seen this before. In 1991, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) seemed to have Lagos under lock and key. In the House of Assembly election, the SDP won an overwhelming 26 of the 30 seats. However, it lost the election of governor to the National Republican Convention (NRC). Sir Michael Otedola became governor of Lagos as a result of conflict and split within the SDP and he was the beneficiary of the resultant protest vote.
The evidence suggests that, thanks to Tinubu’s high jinks, history might repeat itself in 2015 with the probable loss of Lagos by the ruling APC to the opposition PDP.
Bola Tinubu is a political leopard that cannot change its skin. The man is not a democrat, has never been a democrat and will never be a democrat. The truth of the matter is that democracy does not suit Tinubu’s the political agenda. In a moment of Nebuchadnezzar exuberance before the Ekiti poll, Tinubu declared: “Nobody, no one under the sun, under the United Nations Human Rights Charter, can stop Bola Tinubu’s ambition.”
After what we witnessed on Thursday at the APC primaries for the prospective governor of Lagos, it is clear that the onus is now on the Lagos electorate to put a stop to Tinubu pomposity in Lagos.
Tinubu never even found it necessary to pretend in the past to be a democrat. According to his own choice of expression, he fashioned his political style in Lagos State and, indeed, the entire South-West, grandiloquently as “godfatherism,” claiming: “godfatherism is biblical, which is why Christians refer to God as their father.”
However, Tinubu’s “godfatherism” is more akin to that of unscrupulous mafia dons in Sicily. It is certainly anathema to democratic norms and principles. Tinubu’s “godfatherism” means candidates for public office of his political party are not elected by popular vote but selected from Tinubu’s bedroom in Bourdillon Road and then imposed on the party. They are then held under a tight leash by the Jagaban and are required to do his bidding on pain of being summarily replaced or impeached.
Bisi Akande, former chairman of Tinubu’s legacy ACN party, declared unapologetically that democracy had no place in the internal arrangements of the ACN. “Anyone that is not comfortable with that should go and contest in another political party,” he said.
Nothing has really changed in this stance beyond the fact that ACN has since metamorphosed into the APC. The first test was the so-called election of the chairman of the party. Recognising that his choice candidate might not be elected in a free and fair democratic poll, Tinubu engaged in backroom deals whereby, instead of electing a new APC chairman, Odigie-Oyegun was rigged into the office.
APC governors went along with this charade out of fear Tinubu might otherwise lose interest in the new party and deny it valuable South-West support. The lie was sold to the convention that all other candidates had agreed to step down for Odigie-Oyegun. As a result, he was declared the new consensus chairman of the party.
Unfortunately for Tinubu, he had to contend in the APC with new people who were not beholden to him and refused to be subservient to him. Thus, Tom Ikimi blew the whistle on him, insisting he never dropped out of the race for Oyegun but was forced out because, at that time, Tinubu had designs for a Muslim/Muslim APC presidential ticket, with him as the vice-presidential candidate. Ali Modu Sheriff was even reported to have been so incensed by Tinubu at an APC NEC meeting that he threatened to beat him up. Both of these men have since left the APC.
With these antecedents, it is not surprising therefore that the APC primary for the party’s gubernatorial candidate for Lagos State was yet another sham orchestrated by Tinubu. Long before the election, Tinubu had unveiled Akinwumi Ambode as his preferred candidate. Oba Rilwan Akiolu, who Tinubu arrogantly announced is one of the very few Obas worth his salt in the entire South-West, had already publicly endorsed Tinubu’s irrefutable choice.
But there were already rumblings that some were not going to take this lying down this time. Muiz Banire, one of Tinubu’s former acolytes, declared publicly that the imposition of a candidate on the APC should be resisted. He said: “I want to encourage our people, particularly APC people, to shine their eyes. They must shine their eyes this time around and not allow anybody to pull the wool over them. They have their votes, their rights, and they must go all out to ensure that we have and enjoy free, transparent, and just primaries.”
But this was not to be. Tinubu manipulated the process from beginning to end. Delegates were not chosen from the 20 local governments recognised by the APC constitution. Instead of direct primaries in the different local government wards, indirect primaries were held, enabling the powers-that-be to select their preferred disciples and give them voting instructions. To that end, the delegate list was not made known to any of the candidates, except favourite-son Ambode.
Once the results started to be declared, the other contestants realised they had been conned. They all stormed out of the venue in protest; leaving only Ambode and Ganiyu Solomon. Tokunbo Wahab, one of the aggrieved candidates, declared: “I can say categorically, that what happened today was not a primary but a pre-orchestrated drama. We shall be making our positions known to the party and INEC within the next few hours and we shall pursue this to a logical, legal conclusion.”
It should be clear to any but the most politically naive that in a truly free and fair election, Ambode is no competition for many of the other contestants. Ambode is not a politician, and he is an unknown political quantity in Lagos. How then can he prevail over far more popular and better–known politicians in APC, including Ganiyu Solomon, a serving Senator; Adeyemi Ikuforiji, a long-standing Speaker of the House of Assembly; and other household names like Femi Hamzat, the State Commissioner for Works.
The results themselves gave the lie to the entire process. Political lightweight Ambode received a whopping 3,735 votes; while Hamzat could only manage 1201 votes; Ganiyu Solomon 272 votes and Adeyemi Ikuforiji 182 votes.
Tinubu pleaded with aspirants to accept the contrived outcome, saying: “You are 12 aspirants and like the 12 tribes of Israel you have some differences but you must remain one and united.” Someone needs to inform the Jagaban that the 12 tribes of Israel were not united. As a matter of fact, they split, with two tribes becoming the kingdom of Judah and the remaining ten the kingdom of Israel.
Tinubu’s machinations are all about power and control. By choosing a candidate without grassroots support, Tinubu is ensuring that he would not be a threat to him if he becomes governor. Moreover, he would not be able to rely on his own independent sources of power outside of Tinubu. That way, the man would be at Tinubu’s beck and call. This ensures that Tinubu would emasculate the governor; making him entirely dependent on him without having a significant political structure of his own.
If the governor grows wings after a few years in office, the threat of impeachment by Tinubu’s henchmen in the House of Assembly would be held as a sword of Damocles around his neck to keep him back in line. Through the same flawed process, Tinubu loyalists also swept the APC House of Assembly primaries, even as his supporters swept the election in the 20 LGAs and 30 LCDAs. With this clean sweep, Tinubu’s continued control of the state legislature is assured should the APC candidates prevail at the polls in February.
It is therefore imperative for the Lagos electorate to throw out Tinibu and his gang lock, stock and barrel in the coming elections. For too long, Lagos has been run as the personal estate of one over-bearing man. This must come to an end. Come February 2015, Lagos voters must send Tinubu into early retirement, recognising that a vote for APC again is a vote for political slavery to the whims and caprices of one insatiable godfather.