What charge would be levelled against Babatunde Fashola, the man who first flew the kite of returning the presidency to South-West in 2023?
Almost from nowhere in politics, he emerged in 2014 as the running mate of APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari. Even for eight consecutive years as Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Yemi Osinbajo (Nigerias vice president since May 29, 2015) distinguished himself in his law profession than being engrossed in controversy associated with politics.
However, since the campaigns of 2014 up to his tenure as vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo has earned a personal distinction as a loyalist, administrator and vivid example of the role of a vice president. First, President Buhari is on record that he regards Yemi Osinbajo more like a brother. That trust is mutual. In clear terms, Vice President Osinbajo has earned for himself a reputation as the sole bastion against all the malicious campaigns by their political opponents against President Buhari.
Yemi Osinbajo? He is the voice, the credibility, the stability, and the truth of the administration. In any storm – the bitter experience of governments all over the world – when Osinbajo speaks, calm returns not just for normalcy but because most Nigerians believe him that that is the correct position. That is why, on this occasion, he merely expressed personal wish rather than party policy. Vice President Osinbajo reportedly assured Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, Alaafin of Oyo, that South-Westerners must vote for President Buhari’s second term to ensure the zone (South-West) recaptures the Nigerian presidency in 2023.
Ordinarily, such personal wish could be expressed by any Nigerian in a vacuum. But there is no such vacuum at the moment since President Buhari has committed the APC to conceding the party’s presidential ticket to the South-East zone. Admittedly, Buhari made his position known through Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation. To be sure, even when triple Minister Babatunde Fashola made a contrary statement in line with Vice President Osinbajo’s stand, President Buhari, for the second time, dispatched Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Federal Government, to repeat the assurance to South-Easterners that the APC ticket for the Presidency in 2023 was for that zone.
At that stage, the issue is no longer debatable. Coming from someone of President Buhari’s part of the country, after the (sometimes violent) struggle for national political leadership of the past decades, it shows how far we have come to the imperative that, for stability and justice, every part of the country must enjoy a sense of belonging.
For purposes of political convenience, but rather wrongly, opposition PDP have exploited this controversy by accusing Vice President Osinbajo of political ambition. The man (Osinbajo, that is) has with his antecedent so far proved not to be the type. This is not to say Osinbajo, barring certain factors, is not a worthy candidate. When faced with situations others crudely exploited in the past for personal and group political interests, Osinbajo remained loyal to President Buhari and saved Nigeria from constitutional crisis.
How many Nigerians in that position would not have lost their bearing as we witnessed in the past?
There is, therefore, nothing now to suggest that Osinbajo is driven by personal ambition. What is more, if PDP accused Osinbajo of personal ambition, what charge would be levelled against Babatunde Fashola, the man who first flew the kite of returning the presidency to South-West in 2023? A better reading of the situation is that since the two men are from the South- West, they might be voicing as twin Esau for their Jacob. In which case, they must discard the new role of slaves and preserve their reputation as blue blood. Both men must shine their eyes. The nearest illustration was the man who assassinated Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1939. Hardly did it occur to the assassin that by, his action, he was plunging the world into war for the second time in 25 years, the first one being 1914. The Second World War was so devasting that, till now, the whole world dares not risk a third world war.
Nigeria will not plunge the world into any war with the potential political crisis in 2023. But the political reality is that Buhari is the sole unifying factor in APC. Take him out of the party either as a result of the dispute building up towards 2023 or the end of his second term without mutually agreed succession plan, the party’s core stronghold (the North) will be free to vote for another party. That in itself enhances democracy but you don’t appreciate what you have until you lose it. In that situation, on which platform will the South-West elements in APC attain their ambition in 2023? A disintegrated APC?
The pro-2023 South-West elements are even unconsciously creating problems for Buhari, who, twice,
has assured South-East of the party’s presidential ticket in 2023. With the undisguised contrary posture of the South-West bloc, it is obvious that during his imminent campaigns throughout the country, either at public campaigns or at town hall meetings, he (Buhari) will be asked in South-West to clarify his and the party’s position on 2023 and the promised presidential ticket. Will Buhari maintain his stand or renege in favour of South-West as being clamoured by that wing of the party?
This controversy has also thrown up essential questions on the state of APC. Who is the leader of the party? Who speaks authentically for the party? It is better for history to record that President Buhari reneged on his assurance twice that 2023 APC presidential ticket would be zoned to South-East than for history to record that South-West blocked that chance against South-East. There is so much mistrust, contempt, suspicion, if not hatred, between the two groups, South-East and South-West. A reflection on past causes of this situation will make unnecessary controversy over 2023 undesirable.
There is no limit to what might be at stake. First is the integrity of President Buhari, his strongest selling point at home and abroad today. It is unthinkable that a pledge publicly made twice in his name to South-East will be dishonoured. Equally important is the soul of APC as a promising natural governing party.
There should be no illusion that, after winning in 2019, it would necessarily thereafter be easy victory for the party in 2023. Many factors will come into play, not the least the lot of South-East and South-West in the party.
Above all, the party’s major stronghold, the core North, will have to show whoever is the presidential candidate whether the cult followership so far is for President Muhammadu Buhari as a person or the party as a whole.
Extension of IGP’s tenure
There have been speculative reports that the tenure of Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, would soon be extended for at least six more months from January 2019, when he was due or might be due for retirement. The crux of the report was the latent insinuation that either President Muhammadu Buhari was setting a precedent or IG Idris was enjoying that favour strictly as a northerner.
That was mischievous. We were in this country when former President Olusegun Obasanjo extended the tenure of former Inspector-General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, such that, after Obasanjo left office, Ehindero remained in office to enable him unsuccessfully prosecute the alleged accused in the murder of ex-Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige. Whoever complained about the extension of Ehindero’s tenure? If nobody did, was that not a precedent for Buhari to follow?
We were also in this country during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan when the army hierarchy featured General Azazi, General Minimah and General Ihejirika, all in, succession. That was okay. But worst still, President Jonathan extended the tenure of General Ihejirika beyond the defeat of PDP in the 2015 elections. Did anybody complain?
Criticisms of, and/or opposition to, government actions are always dictated by who are involved and their part of the country. What is more, if the speculated extension of IGP Idris’s tenure is true, it is the only sensible action for the government to take. We are on the eve of the 2019 general election. How could a new Inspector-General of Police be expected to cope with the challenges of the elections and on which the same critics are already enlisting their foreign mentors to alarm us with prospects of post-election bloodshed?
The decision on the extension of the tenure of an IGP is the prerogative of the Commander-in-chief. President Buhari should not shy away or allow himself to be intimidated. Accordingly, he should proceed with what is in national interest.