By Jesutega Onokpasa
In Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress, APC, actually arguably has the very best electoral product in the history of the politics of this country. Indeed, in Bola Tinubu, we do not have a candidate we need to defend before anyone; we have the easiest candidate to sell in the entire history of Nigerian politics. In Bola Tinubu, we do not have a candidate to apologize for; we have a candidate to be justly and justifiably proud of. We are the ones with the very best product to sell in these elections, and, we must never forget that.
I am a lawyer and evidence is my religion. Bola Tinubu met Lagos a pigsty, a ghetto and a concrete jungle; he left it Africa’s first true megacity and the envy of every other state of the federation. Bola Tinubu is the first man since Obafemi Awolowo to demonstrate to us how government can work for the people and what people-oriented governance is truly about.
Bola Tinubu showed us how a state can function devoid of federal support and without being tied to the apron strings of the federal government. Bola Tinubu taught us how to tax and spend, and, was the first, in the present republic, at least, to make us understand that the people are willing to pay their taxes as long as they see what they are deployed to and that it is for their welfare and to their benefit.
It is Bola Tinubu that taught Nigerian states about internally generated revenue and its painstaking and judicious use for the benefit of the masses. Bola Tinubu taught the Federal Internal Revenue Service, FIRS, what internally generated revenue is all about! This is a man who sets the pace for others to follow! Bola Tinubu did not learn from Abuja; Bola Tinubu taught Abuja what modern governance should be about.
Yes, Peter Obi is a good man but Bola Tinubu is a far better man and I cannot leave the better product for the merely good enough one, for that would be utter foolishness. Yes, Peter Obi left Anambra better than he met it but Bola Tinubu left Lagos far better than Peter Obi left Anambra!
So I’m sorry my dear Obidients – I know you have a good product but I just happen to have a much better one! Indeed, you may have a good candidate but I have a truly great one. In Bola Tinubu we have the very best man to run for the Presidency of this country since 1999 if not ever! That is how utterly unassailably solid my candidate is.
As far as politics goes, there is simply no basis for comparison. Peter Obi could not retain the leadership of APGA, a one state party; Tinubu retrained the leadership of not just a national party but the ruling party, something he proved beyond all reasonable doubt at the APC national convention! Peter Obi could not retain leadership of Anambra, just one state; Tinubu, not only retained Lagos but retrieved the rest of the South-West from PDP in 2007!
Since it certainly cannot be said that Obi left Anambra better than Tinubu left Lagos, what then is all the hullabaloo really about? Indeed, whereas Obi left Anambra better than he met it, Tinubu left Lagos far better than Obi left Anambra despite being constrained to finance the entire local government structure of Lagos State on his own with the entire local government allocation of the state seized by the Obasanjo administration! This happened right before our eyes, in this nation of short memories and pathological amnesia.
Is it Tinubu of all people that should be difficult to campaign for? We have way too much to campaign with for this man. If nothing else, Bola Tinubu is a campaigner’s dream come true! We have nothing to explain – just a candidate to sell!
There is just way too much to campaign with – the problem is probably what to pick and choose for the purpose of simplified and coherent messaging. In Bola Tinubu a campaigner is presented with the easiest candidate to campaign for in the entire history of presidential politics in this country. Indeed, we have ourselves a man that is by far the easiest political product to market to an electorate desperate for performance.
You want a poster child for administrative performance – it is Bola Tinubu! You want an icon of administrative excellence – it is Bola Tinubu! If you can point to a single politician that has ruled or performed better than Bola Tinubu since 1999, I will stop supporting him. Find me one – just one; I dare anyone!
In any case, and, for all the genuine merit of Peter Obi’s performance as Anambra Governor, I have never heard of anyone looking up to Anambra State as an example to copy. On the contrary, every state doing well today has Tinubu’s Lagos as its reference point!
Peter Obi had Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu and Victor Umeh as godfathers but has woefully been unable to produce any godchildren. Tinubu has no godfather but has managed to produce numberless godchildren from governors to senators to a vice president.
In Delta, we have a saying: “who him help?” You can say that again and again and again about Peter Obi. If you were to say that about Bola Tinubu, countless people would immediately jump up and shout: “me, me, me!”, and these are not just the average Joe; they are the masses but also governors and senators and, indeed, a vice president and a President, for that matter! That is the mettle of my candidate; show me the quality of yours.
As between Tinubu and Alhaji Atiku Abubarkar, there is absolutely no contest in the real sense. Nigeria may not be a country adept at moving forward but it is certainly one that knows how not to fall over the cliff! It always has a way of achieving the requisite national consensus not to go over the precipice.
The national consensus of this country is that one Northerner shall not succeed another! It is a consensus for power to oscillate between North and South for the preservation of national unity. Therefore Atiku is simply going absolutely nowhere!
In any case, there is no basis for any comparisons between Atiku and Tinubu. While Atiku stole the turn of the South, Tinubu had to earn the turn of the South. Atiku simply played ethno-religious politics with Aminu Tambuwal as is partner and enabler in sectionalism.
On his part, Tinubu, who should have had the right of first refusal in consideration of the herculean labours he had wrought for the APC, still had to fight tooth and nail for the ticket. Tinubu is the product of genuine and authentic internal party democracy.
As for experience, Atiku is a complete nonstarter. This is a man, the entirety of whose experience in government was as Obasanjo’s deputy.
There is nothing of any substance to the candidature of Atiku Abubarkar. Indeed, I have kept wondering what vote bank my good friend, Senator Dino Melaye, keeps talking about with respect to Atiku?
Which votes, for heaven’s sake? Votes that belong to Goodluck Jonathan, whom Atiku severally challenged, and consistently sought to undermine throughout his presidency? Votes that belong to Peter Obi who Atiku frustrated from PDP? Votes that overwhelmingly came from the same South whose turn Atiku is adamant to deny it? Who has ever really voted for Atiku in this country, anyway?
The notion that you need a Northerner to win a presidential election is as false as it is an existential threat to this country. Even if the North votes for you, as they did thrice in a row for President Muhammadu Buhari, you are still not going anywhere unless you also succeed in executing an electoral handshake across the Niger. Same goes if you clear the South but are unable to shake the hand of a critical mass of the Northern electorate. In short, the only way to become President of Nigeria is for a pan-Nigerian consensus to have crystalized in your favour. President Jonathan proved this in 2011. Buhari did the same in 2015.
Atiku cannot do the same in 2023 because he has stabbed the entire South in the back and must now depend on votes he has clearly misidentified as Northern votes, when in actual fact, they are the personal votes of President Muhammadu Buhari, a man he also arrogantly undermined! The so-called Northern votes which Atiku and co are banking on are actually in the vault of an electoral bank that belongs to a gentleman by the name of President Muhammadu Buhari. They are not, at all, necessarily available to just any Northerner! They are not Northern votes, as such by any means!
On the contrary, they are actually just Buhari’s votes and if Atiku and the PDP think they will be automatically theirs, simply because he is a Northerner, they clearly have just as much contempt for the entire North as they have wickedly displayed towards the South. These PDP jokers have such contempt for our Northern compatriots that they feel they would vote for someone simply because he is from the North! Just imagine! Did they not vote for MKO Abiola against Bashir Tofa, their own son? Did they not vote in their millions for President Goodluck Jonathan?
They will just abandon Tinubu, who helped their son, Buhari, and simply fall over themselves to vote for Atiku?
Go back to your history and check out how Northerners have voted through the years. They have never voted for anyone as they voted for Muhammadu Buhari. They voted for Buhari because of Buhari – not because he is a Northerner. Northerners are simply too electorally sophisticated for that.
Indeed, who are these Atiku’s supporters in the entire North that he is supposed to be relying on. His fellow Northerners simply don’t give a toss about him and everyone knows that! How many votes has he ever gotten from the North, anyway?
Who is he banking on in the North? Show me one Atiku supporter from the North and if for every one of them that you can show me, I don’t show you ten from that same North who are for Bola Tinubu, each of whom has ten times the political weight of an Atiku supporter, I will stop supporting Asiwaju! Atiku’s fellow Northerners can’t even stand him! They never have and never will; he just simply is not their kind of guy!
His support base has always been in the South. Even when he tried to upstage his boss, Olusegun Obasanjo, back in 2003, his chief supporters were South-southerners like James Ibori and late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. The only people that have ever stood with Alhaji Atiku are the people of the South-south and South-east, the same people he has now so wickedly stabbed in the back! Of course he never had any support to speak of in the South-west and cannot hope for any now with Tinubu solidly, massively and most intimidatingly on the ballot!
Who is going to make Atiku the President of Nigeria? Steal the turn of the South and then steal Buhari’s votes? What a capper! What a scheme! What a scam! What a party!
2023 is going to be the very worst showing of Alhaji Atiku’s quixotic presidential attempts thus far! And there is supposed to be a contest? We are waiting!
I happen to be a man of faith and Tinubu’s journey to the candidacy of my party has been most instructive. Bola Tinubu campaigned for the ticket with the seriousness one would expect with respect to the general elections as opposed to the internal exercise of a party primary. He took nothing for granted and earned his candidacy by the greatest dint of the hardest quantum of work imaginable. He humbled himself throughout the process and staved off the greatest opposition ever mounted against a candidate within or from without his own party! And this was a party he had done more than anyone else to build into what it is today!
I believe God wanted Tinubu to pass through the eye of the needle to get the presidential ticket of the APC. I believe God wanted to teach him something through the entire gamut of the shenanigans and the ups and downs of the presidential primary process, a process which, unless we want to deceive ourselves, was only as tedious and melodramatic as it turned out to be, for the sole and single purpose of stopping Tinubu!
Yet, as the same God would have it, Tinubu ended up winning, anyway! As a person of faith, I am inclined to interpret Tinubu’s remarkable emergence as presidential candidate as God preparing him for the presidency of this country. That, alone, is more than good enough for me to support him.
I am not the one making a mistake as to my choice of candidate; I have the best presidential material in the history of this nation and I am not abandoning him for a product of inferior quality. Let us not be drawn into talking about what they want us to talk about; let us rather insist on talking about what will move this country forward. Let us not allow them to set the media agenda, dictate the topic or set the slant of the debate of public discourse; let us be adamant about telling Nigerians what our candidate has to offer.
Who is campaigning for a Muslim/Muslim ticket or even defending one? Who has that time? We are campaigning for a man called Bola Tinubu and his running mate called Kashim Shettima and what they are bringing to the table for a country hungry for leadership that truly works! Bring me a Hindu/Hindu ticket or a Buddhist/Shintoist ticket and, if it will make my country better, I will vote for it!
Don’t be drawn into the inanities they would prefer to tie you up discussing and defending; insist on what you have to say about Tinubu/Shettima and you will have more than enough to say anytime, any day! At the end of the day, we are the ones with a candidate we can always market; they are the ones stuck with unmarketable candidates they should be constrained to keep defending.
Anyone counting Tinubu out does so at their own peril. Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a confirmed serial winner of elections who has won absolutely each and every election he has ever contested. Indeed, he is such a winner of elections, he regularly wins elections for other people! Bola Tinubu is so utterly, shockingly good at winning elections, he has probably won more elections for himself and for others than absolutely any other politician in the entire history of Nigeria, dating from colonial times! That is how good the city boy of a President-in-waiting called Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is, at winning elections.
Lest anyone might have forgotten, Bola Tinubu is the architect of the first and one, and, only defeat of an incumbent President in Nigeria’s history. I am not making a mistake but I don’t know about you. What I know for sure is that I have much to look forward to and absolutely nothing to fear from a Tinubu presidency. What is the very worst thing Tinubu can do to my country, Nigeria? It is to leave it far better than he met it! That is probably something that has never occurred in the history of this country. And, if that is not a compelling enough reason to make a man your President, then I do not know what we really want in this country.
In the 2023 elections, it is not Tinubu that is contesting against Obi or Atiku; it is Atiku and Obi that are vainly trying to contest against Tinubu. We have a Jagaban to make our President. Let’s do this, people!
Onokpasa, a lawyer, writes from Warri.