February 2, 2023

A plea to the North: Don’t foist Tinubu on Nigeria

Bola Tinubu

By Olu Fasan

IN the end, my view may not matter. In the end, most Nigerians may not see what I see. In the end, they may elect Bola Tinubu as the next president this month. But this is a patriotic stance and I’ll be on record for making it: for saying unequivocally, even vociferously, that a Tinubu presidency would be cataclysmic for Nigeria; that it would bring Nigeria utter embarrassment globally; and that no one who truly loves this country would want Tinubu as its president. Well, with just over three weeks before the presidential election on February 25, I want to continue that advocacy by appealing to the good sense and patriotism of a critical component of this country: the North!

Last week, I took President Muhammadu Buhari to task over his “unquestionable” support for Tinubu. Each time a prominent Tinubu supporter questioned Buhari’s loyalty, as Alhaji Tanko Yakasai did recently, the president often quickly professed his unflinching commitment to Tinubu’s electoral success. Surely, those calling for Buhari’s muscular support for Tinubu believe that only with such strong backing would he harvest enough votes in the North to win the election. Tinubu’s entire calculations are based on replicating the electoral pact between the core North (with Buhari’s fabled “12 million bloc votes”) and the South-West (Tinubu’s base) that won Buhari the presidency in 2015 and 2019.

Indeed, Alhaji Yakasai, a chieftain of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, once came up with a “winning formula” for Tinubu. He said: “With the South-West, all Tinubu needs is for him to get about 45 to 50 per cent of the North’s votes to win the presidency.” That permutation suggests that even if majority of South-East and South-South voters shun Tinubu, as they might, he could still breast the tape in the presidential race if he scraped enough votes from the North and secured massive votes from the South-West. The North is thus the ultimate kingmaker and could make Tinubu Nigeria’s next president.

Well, that’s scary. But why would the North foist a Tinubu presidency on Nigeria? Why would Northerners inflict such a monumental calamity on a country they presumably love? Sadly, some Northern politicians say: “The North is indebted to Tinubu, and it’s payback time.” Indebted for what? Well, they’re referring to how Tinubu helped Buhari to become president. Tinubu himself famously said: “I made Buhari president”!

But what an utter insult on the collective intelligence of Northerners to say that because Tinubu opportunistically helped Buhari to gain power, the North is indebted to him! Is the North better off today because of Buhari’s presidency? Well, not with 20m out-of-school children, not with 86 million (65 per cent) multidimensionally poor people, compared to the South’s 47 million (35 per cent), and not with several thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced due to chronic and acute insecurity. The North is today a world-class basket case! 

So, why does the North owe Tinubu a debt for helping Buhari to become president? In truth, Tinubu didn’t do it for Nigeria’s sake or the North’s or even Buhari’s, but purely his own. He rubbed Buhari’s back, so to say, in the expectation that Buhari would rub his. It was purely opportunistic and self-serving; there was no love lost between them, and there still isn’t! In his book My Participations, Chief Bisi Akande, former Osun State governor, wrote that after Buhari refused to make Tinubu his running mate in the 2015 presidential election, following opposition by “the Northern Interest Group” to a Muslim-Muslim ticket, Tinubu said: “I don’t trust Buhari.” That distrust has endured and led to Tinubu’s now twice bad-tempered Abeokuta outbursts against Buhari for suspected treachery. 

Truth is, if Tinubu became president, he would, sooner or later, show undisguised animosity towards Buhari and his acolytes, such as the APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, who he regards as “betrayers” for trying to impose Ahmed Lawan, the Senate president, as a consensus candidate in an attempt to stop him from getting the APC’s presidential ticket. Of course, the party’s Northern governors came to Tinubu’s rescue.

Well, several disaffected APC leaders, such as Naja’atu Muhammed, who recently resigned from Tinubu’s campaign council and from APC, Rotimi Amaechi, former transport minister, and Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, former Minister of State for Education, have publicly said that Tinubu “bribed” APC governors, delegates and fellow aspirants to clinch the party’s ticket. But let’s leave that aside and stick to the APC Northern governors’ public reason for supporting him. 

Nasir el-Rufai, the Kaduna State governor, said that in deciding that power should shift to the South, APC Northern governors asked themselves what their founding fathers – Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa or Aminu Kano – would have done. Of course, they would have supported power shift to the South after eight years in the North in the national interest. But would they have supported a Muslim-Muslim ticket? No, because they valued not only Nigeria’s ethnic diversity but also its religious diversity. “Unity in diversity,” Sir Ahmadu Bello proclaimed! Yet, while the “Northern Interest Group” rejected a Muslim-Muslim ticket in 2015, APC’s Northern governors support it now. They betray their founding fathers!

And would the North’s founding fathers have wanted someone as fatally flawed morally and ethically as Tinubu to be Nigeria’s president? Again, the answer is no, because the Ahmadu Bellos, Tafawa Balewas and Aminu Kanos had moral courage and high ethical standards. Think about it. If Tinubu became president, he would be the first Nigerian president with a drug-related criminal forfeiture against him in a foreign country; the first multibillionaire president, with private jets, yet with no known legitimate source of his stupendous wealth; the first president whose pedigree is shrouded in utter dubiety; the first president with the worst character and integrity deficits. Would the North’s founding fathers have wanted him to be Nigeria’s president? Certainly not. Sadly, their descendants have no such reservations. But here’s my message to the North. You are a critical kingmaker in choosing Nigeria’s next president this month. Act patriotically in the national interest. Don’t foist a disastrous presidency on Nigeria.