Monday, July 15, 2024

Buhari, Tinubu and carpetbaggers

In the last few weeks I have not appeared on this page because I had surgery on my right eye. I am able to come back today because my eye has returned from the place of darkness. A lot happened during my absence. I will deal with them as much as possible but for this week it is meet and proper that I tackle the recent APC presidential primary which was won by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

In January 2022 President Muhammadu Buhari made a major pronouncement on his successor. He told Channels television in an interview: “2023 is not my problem. I don’t care who succeeds me. Let the person come whoever the person is. The important thing is I make sure I put them on record that nobody should ask me to come and give any evidence in court otherwise whoever it is will be in trouble.”

The carpetbaggers and other power elite must have told him he was wrong, that he needed to pick or push for the picking of his own man as the presidential candidate of the ruling party, APC, of which he is the national leader. As the day for the choice of the presidential candidate approached Buhari made a volte face. He started pushing for a consensus candidate that would emerge from a crowded field of 23 aspirants from various parts of the country. It was a herculean task but he would try because choosing his own man, though undemocratic would suit his own purpose. So the political choreography was put on display and everybody had to dance as the permutations and jiggery pokery went on display as well. Five issues were at stake. Let’s call them factors.

Factor number one: The Buhari government has a Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo who has served the President faithfully and efficiently. He has also articulated very eloquently the mandate of this government giving a sizeable dose of legitimacy to a government that has performed miserably on many fronts. They seem to work amicably. Some years ago when Osinbajo visited the Emir of Katsina, Abdulmumin Usman during the inauguration of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Clinic he said that the President treats him like his son. “I feel very much at home in Katsina. Moreso, because this is the state of the President who has taken me as a brother. Infact the President has taken me as a son in the way he treats me,” the 60 year old man said of the 74 year old President. The Vice President continued: “The amount of responsibilities President Buhari has given me shows he seriously believes we can live together as brothers. I pray the Lord will preserve our President to continue to lead the nation as he has to do. He seriously believes in Nigerian unity,” said Osinbajo.

Based on the assumed closeness between the two men, many people thought that if Osinbajo decided to throw his hat into the ring he must have received the nod of the President. Afterall the Vice President’s position is only a whisper away from the President’s and Osinbajo had vigorously defended the President’s policies for the past seven years.

Factor number two: Chief Rotimi Amaechi, the immediate past Minister of Transportation was the Director General of Buhari’s campaign organisation in 2015 and 2019. The logic is that if Buhari trusted him with such an enormous responsibility twice he can be trusted to protect Buhari’s legacy, whatever that may be. Besides, Amaechi had sited, to the discomfiture of many, several projects in the President’s hometown. One of them is a Transportation University planted in Daura, Buhari’s hometown. Also the Kano-Maradi Standard Gauge Railway was designed to pass through Daura. When the Emir of Daura turbaned Amaechi as Dan Amana Daura (the trusted son of Daura) many people speculated that it was Buhari’s way of saying “thank you” to Amaechi. And when Amaechi declared his interest in the presidency, many people thought “okay, a bigger thank you was about to come to Amaechi.”

Factor number three: Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the former Governor of Lagos State was the one who rallied people in several states especially the South West to give Buhari the APC mandate to run in 2015. Actually Buhari had said after failing three times to win the presidency that he was done with elections. So it is correct to a T to say that it was Tinubu among others who lured Buhari back to the political platform that had four parties cobbled together. Actually Buhari has said publicly that without Tinubu’s help he would not have been President since he would not have been the flagbearer of the APC in the 2015 election. Besides, during his preparation for his second term election, Buhari made Tinubu the Co-chairman and Chief Operations Officer of his campaign eventhough Amaechi was the Director General. He said “Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, my co-chairman will be fully in charge and is going to be on a 24-hour vigil. That is to say the operational buck of this campaign stops at his table and I therefore urge all of us in the leadership of this campaign in the field operations on the campaign trail and in the secretariat to consult with Asiwaju whenever guidance is needed.” And Asiwaju helped in shepherding the team to victory. So it was natural to think that Buhari may decide to pay back gratitude with gratitude since it is often said that one good turn deserves another. When it seemed obvious that some funny games were going on to possibly shut him out of the race Tinubu spoke out reminding all that he did Buhari a favour by helping to get him to the victory podium. It was also a subtle indication that Tinubu and his supporters were ready to take what may be thrown at them from any source. It must be noted that Tinubu did not come into the fray like most of the other candidates unprepared. Some of the APC Governors received his support during their governorship elections. Some of the members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party were beneficiaries of Tinubu’s largesse when they contested their elections in March this year. It was unlikely therefore that these Tinubu foot soldiers would simply stand at akimbo while there was a manifest attempt to unfairly turn the table against Tinubu.

Factor number four: Dr Goodluck Jonathan, a former President of Nigeria who was defeated in 2015 by Buhari suddenly appeared on the horizon, dancing merrily like a beautiful bride about to be given away in marriage. It baffled many that he should seek to return to the partisan political podium after he had retired. If he failed the elections in 2015 and did not seek a return to the podium in 2019 it was wise to assume that he had chosen the path of a statesman who would utter wise words when the nation was in need of wisdom. But the carpetbaggers were ready to tempt the man. Indeed he was tempted like Adam who was in the Garden of Eden. Power is addictive, as addictive as sex and Jonathan was ready for the temptation and addiction. But the idea of the South holding power through Jonathan for just four years in order for it to return to the north was revolting to many Southerners. Don’t forget that the 17 Governors of the South had announced at one of their meetings that presidential power must return to the South in 2023. Would they be ready to fight if that didn’t happen? No one knew, but it was obvious that it was a risky path to power. I had predicted that it would crash in my column titled: “Is Jonathan a beautiful bride?” And when it crashed I was not surprised.

Factor number five: As people were trying to unravel the Jonathan conundrum Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, Senate President strolled into the arena. He, too, wanted the job which already had more than 20 applicants. It was said that he was the northern joker card, the man around whom the north, all of the north, would rally around and knock out all the Southern Nigeria aspirants. The suddenness of his appearance shocked many who never had even an inkling of his presidential ambition even one month before he announced his arrival on the scene. There was obvious panic in many camps. Yes, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State is a northerner and he made a big splash at the Eagles Square in Abuja but many people knew that he was going nowhere. But when Lawan who is a frequent visitor at the Aso Villa picked the nomination form, many people thought that Buhari was about to show his hand. It got messy when we were told that the party Chairman, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu had picked Lawan as the consensus candidate of the party and had duly informed Buhari. Happily the APC Governors of the North and some NWC members of the party kicked because they knew that trouble was waiting for the party at the corner. Then there was the reduction of the list to five. Again wahala showed its face. Some of the aspirants shouted foul. Then Buhari thought if they could not have a consensus candidate, the number should at least be reduced to two or three. No dice. How would a party collect money from 23 people and then ask that the figure be reduced to two or three. I remember that a few years ago, the PDP was faced with a similar problem. It refused to sell its forms claiming that only one form was printed.

Our democracy is taking various unsalutary forms. It is worse in the states where the ruling party in each state scores 100% in election, where Governors just present someone of their choosing as the candidate of the party, no valid primaries. But at the APC elections the country was lucky that the APC Governors stood firm on the side of democracy, and Buhari yielded in the interest of the ruling party.

Tinubu won fair and square because he was ready to win. He prepared for it and policed every movement. His victory is that of strategy over gerrymandering. The lesson here is that if democracy – loving people stand together to fight gerrymandering will always be the loser.

Ray Ekpu
Ray Ekpu
Ray Ekpu has two degrees from the University of Lagos, a bachelors degree and masters degree in Mass Communication. He also has a diploma in Advanced Journalism from Indiana University, Bloomington, USA. He cut his journalism teeth at the Nigerian Chronicle where he rose like a meteor to its editorship position in 1977. Apart from editing the Sunday Times, Africa's highest selling newspaper at the time, he also edited the Business Times and later became Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Concord Group of Newspapers. In 1984, he along with three other friends - Dele Giwa, Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed - established the path-breaking newsmagazine, Newswatch. He became the magazine's Editor in Chief and Chief Executive in 1986. His writings have been published in several Nigerian newspapers and magazines as well as in such foreign publications as the Portland Oregonian, Milwaukee Sentinel, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, and the Journal of Democracy. He has contributed chapters to several books and edited Newswatch Best, A leap of Faith, Jogging in the Jungle: The Newswatch Story, Ojukwu and co-edited with Yakubu Mohammed Nigeria's Business and Trade Fair Journal. Mr. Ekpu's writing style has been studied in several Nigerian Universities while he has delivered Journalism lectures in several universities and media houses in Africa, Europe and America over the years. He has been given many awards, national and international including the International Editor of the year Award (1987) for Journalism Excellence


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