Those steeped in politics may bat no eyelid over the line-up on the starting blocks for 2023, even before the referee’s final whistle has gone for the 2019 polls. The politician is said to think only about the next election, while the statesman thinks about the next generation.
There was reason and purpose in Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s lecture in Lagos the other day. He made a comment on how to dethrone godfathers; days after that, the only cock that crows in Lagos politics, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said he was under pressure to contest for the presidency. That contest could only be the forthcoming one. The next presidential election would hold in 2023, except the court rules in favour of Atiku Abubakar in his current legal contest of the last elections, which he insists he won.
The jostling has begun. Tinubu has declared early interest, giving a clear inkling into the political battle raging with some of his foes prior to the last elections. Senate President Bukola Saraki did say that Tinubu had an eye on that seat, but some short-sighted critics did not see what he saw. Now the rain is gone for the sky to become clearer. El-Rufai may be just the mouthpiece of his people on the matter. Tinubu came early, to draw out opponents, and retreat to map out new strategies. His early show at the starting block will unruffle some feathers as it has done.
There had been brickbats about where the pendulum of power should swing in 2023. The South-East made a case for it, one which had no political backing, going by the pattern of voting. The South-West also wanted it, going by the pattern of voting, and the thinking that after President Muhammadu Buhari the Presidency should head southward. There may be indications that the calculation may not go down well with the political elite in the North, who would rather have the presidency remain in that region.
El-Rufai, who hardly shies away from battles, may be speaking for his people in the guise of dethroning a godfather. Tinubu’s early start could also become the nemesis of some candidates in the National Assembly perceived to be his loyalists, but the battleline would have been drawn.
He has helped the North to get back the Presidency, but it remains to be seen if he has enough strategy to make the presidency leave that zone. Some people have spread the rumour that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would be let loose on him. We await that coming spectacle. His opponents say they have enough baggage from his past to make him anathema to voters, but Tinubu is not one to shy away from a political battle. He would get the hard lesson about power, how it has put a wedge between allies and friends. He would come to know how late Bashorun Moshood Abiola, the now recognized winner of the 1993 presidential election, parted ways with his military friends, including Ibrahim Babangida. His current allies, whom he deployed his powers as godfather to enthrone, have already begun to bad-mouth that attribute on which they rode to power.
The signs are clear that the road may be blocked against him by the same people he helped to power. If he insists, he may find, to his chagrin, that the prison doors that took in Abiola can open under another guise. I admire his courage, but the fight would show him the new face of treachery, an attribute he may have seen as a politician. The South East seems to be on the road to political orphanage, which is why I have seen the wisdom in Ohanaeze’s insistence on restructuring because the political elite evidently have shut out the South East in the presidency equation. Way back in 1998, when Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu’s hand was a stretch away from the presidential ticket of the Natiional Republican Convention (NRC), a determined political elite shoved him aside overnight, and handed the ticket to Olu Falae because there was a deliberate move to give the presidency to the South West. Falae, did not win but Olusegun Obasanjo, from his zone, did. The elite has no plans to concede the presidency to the South East, which is why restructuring would be the way out. The people would, by that act, not labour for a collective that has consistently excluded them.
In 1999, there was a deliberate move to get a president from the South West. That can be done for the South East, but the rest of Nigeria seem to be scared of the people. They are needlessly scared of a people who live in all parts of the nation, not like strangers, but build and develop those places with even greater gusto than they do their area. In spite of the vagaries of the civil war, the people have embraced Nigeria, stretching out to every nook and cranny. The Rochas Okorochas of that zone have been emasculated, and may even walk into the waiting hands of anti-graft agencies after office. Former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, still battles to get his head out from under the EFCC axe dangling over him. Anyone who shows interest in the presidency is demonised. The examples above may rankle some, and may not represent the best from the Igbo stock, but I have become a pessimist in that regard.
Nigeria is neither prepared nor willing to make anyone from the South East president. The people must come to that realisation and push for restructuring. The road to the presidency is strewn with thorns. That road is, in fact, closed.