By Ochereome Nnanna
ASIWAJU is hungry. No matter how he and his media aides want to twist the issue, the truth is out. Penultimate Saturday, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, with the full compliments of his political flunkeys and acolytes, stormed Akure the Ondo State capital, for the inauguration of his estranged political protégé, Barrister Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as the new Governor of the Sunshine State.
As if on cue, a reporter asked him a lead-in question: “will you consider running for president in 2019?” Tinubu readily said yes, adding (according to media reports): “I will not brush aside that possibility”. This interesting piece of news, understandably, made the headlines and trended on the social media. The following Monday, Thisday newspapers, in its usual adventuresome approach to such political news, went to town, painting a picture of a Tinubu campaign platform that already features the names of possible Northern running mates, all of them Muslims like Tinubu.
The following day, Tinubu’s camp issued a rather panicky rebuttal of the Thisday report, saying he never indicated any specific office for his political ambition. Declaring his “loyalty” to Buhari whom he helped into the presidential seat, he affirmed that he would never run against the ailing Daura General. In other words, he would only run in 2019 (a) if Buhari is not available for a second term contest, and (b) if he is available and decides not to run. He did not declare what he would do if Buhari is available and unable to run but indicates interest in another Northerner stepping in to “complete the North’s turn”, which will likely stretch their turn to 12 years and put the presidency beyond Asiwaju’s reach.
I dare say (and please take note): if for any reason Buhari is alive but unable to run for a second term in 2019, he will not be able to go against an overwhelming Northern desire for another Northerner to replace him and complete their “turn”, no matter how “dearly” he loves Tinubu and the South west for putting him in power. We will return to this shortly.
For me, that Tinubu, whose shrewd political capacity has long been established, to even admit a presidential ambition in 2019 in the midst of grave uncertainties over Buhari’s health status is a great, deep insight into the seriousness of the situation. I do not think that if the President is “hale and hearty” as we have been consistently lied to, even by Acting President, Pastor Yemi Osinbajo,
Tinubu (with his profuse profession of loyalty to Buhari) would even remotely entertain a presidential run in 2019, let alone voice it out. He would have seen the need to dismiss the question out of hand. How can someone who is “hale and hearty” (Osinbajo), or “neither sick nor hospitalised” (Lai Mohammed) require such a frenzied call for prayers in mosques all over the North? Why would he require to “rest” indefinitely away from the presidential seat for which he contested four record times? Lies have a way of shaming its peddlers!
Let us even assume (as mentioned above) that Buhari, for one reason or the other, will not run in 2019; what are the prospects of a successful presidential run for Tinubu, whether on the All Progressives Congress, APC, platform or even on a new, expedient coalition platform? I dare say, (and take note again): his chances are slim because Tinubu is condemned to be a kingmaker but not king. If he tries to cross from one threshold to the other, he will meet nothing but tears, frustration and futility. I have my reasons for saying so.
Number one: our ugly geopolitical culture is not friendly or easy for a South West Muslim or a Northern Christian to emerge as an elected president of Nigeria. Qualification for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not based on merit.
If it were, Buhari would never have qualified. More so, a Professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, would not be his Vice President. Our warped geopolitical architecture puts the cart before the horse, which is why the nation never moves forward. Compare progress the nation has made in the one month when Buhari has been out of the way and the past two years when he was fully in charge: the difference is clear.
But it is not the fate of today’s Nigeria for the best hands to be handed the number one job. Even though there are numerous well educated, brilliant, nationalistic and enlightened North Muslims who can lead this country to greatness, they are never favoured because they don’t have deep religious and ethnic clout to pull out the millions of voters rooting for a “Mujahid” to capture the Nigerian Presidency for the North and enforce the archaic fancies of the defunct Sokoto Caliphate on the rest of the citizenry.
For a South West Muslim to make a meaningful presidential run, he would have to run a Muslim/Muslim ticket, and that will not sell in today’s Nigeria. Tinubu and Buhari tried to swing it for the 2015 elections, but because of its political “unbankability”, Tinubu had to step down and forward Pastor Osinbajo’s name as Buhari’s running mate. A South West/North Muslim-Muslim ticket will suffer a greater fiasco because religious intolerance has worsened since the days of Moshood Abiola/Babagana Kingibe all-Muslims ticket.
The need to balance a presidential ticket to accommodate tribe, religion and geopolitical sections has increased, and the North is very unlikely to “donate” a Christian Vice President to represent them! Any attempt by Tinubu to try and force through a Muslim-Muslim ticket will end in futility.
The more immediate impediment to a Tinubu presidential run in 2019 is the fact that the North, under our unofficial rotational orthodoxy, still feels very “entitled” to that position. Incidentally, the nation appears to concur that 2019 is still for the North.
In fact, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, has already zoned its presidency to the North for 2019. I do not see how the North, with the APC controlling its 17 of its 19 states will concede to Tinubu’s South West (five states) with its turn not fully exhausted. The North is already feeling frustrated that what happened to the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua is again threatening to rear its ugly head. They are unlikely to tolerate any attempt by Osinbajo to continue in 2019 if the worst happens. That would be a re-enactment of the Yar’Adua/Jonathan situation all over again.
Because of its size and the determination of its people to dictate the pace of Nigerian politics and the fractious and weak nature of the Southern blocs, the North cannot be thwarted in its claim to power, especially when the claim is still reasonably justified as the 2019 occasion is. Being in charge of the Federal Government is too important for the equanimity of the North for them to tolerate the midway thwarting of their opportunity. It is only when we restructure the country that any qualified and competent Nigerian, no matter the circumstances of his birth and faith, can run for president and probably win.
And that brings me to the third reason Tinubu’s run for president in 2019 (or any time at all) may not work. I do not see how Tinubu will become the President of Nigeria and not push for restructuring and true federalism. He is quiet about it now because of his fear that pushing for it under Buhari could amount to playing with fire. Until Nigeria gets better, no one who is a known ardent advocate for true federalism and restructuring will emerge as the presidential flag-bearer of a political party (like the APC) which is massively dominated by the North.
I dare say (yet again): Tinubu must, like Macbeth, must remain a kingmaker. The moment he goes for the crown as Macbeth did, he won’t even go as far as Macbeth did. The ambition will be dead on arrival.But, of course, he can always try!