By Chinelo Obogo
Following the recent visit of former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, to Aso Rock, where he informed President Muhammadu Buhari that he intends to contest for president in 2023, there has been much criticism with many alleging that he is not qualified to seek the highest office.
Some of his critics said Nigeria needs a younger candidate without health challenges, while others like former national vice chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olabode George challenged him to reveal his academic credentials and explain how he made his money.
But the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has come to his defence, with the publicity secretary, Seye Oladejo, saying that the party leader is academically qualified to lead the country and has all it takes to make Nigeria prosperous. The party spokesperson said they are not losing sleep over speculations that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will contest for president since he has not openly declared his ambition.
On Tinubu’s age, education, wealth
I will like to address some of the issues in the public space about Tinubu’s source of wealth, age and his health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defined good health as a complete state of physical, psychological and social wellbeing; it doesn’t mean in the absence of deformity and diseases. When Asiwaju had to do surgery, everybody knew about it and they literally turned London to Mecca. He didn’t hide his medical situation to his people even though he was at liberty to say it is private business and this point in time, it remains his private business because he is a private citizen.
If you observe, since he came back from that trip, he has been everywhere. You won’t find people over 50 years that don’t have an issue they will need to pay attention to. When he becomes the president, he might probably be the healthiest president Nigeria has ever had.
On the issue of his age, he has always celebrated his birthday with a colloquium and on March 29, he will be 70 years old. Who is the person that can become the President? It should be a Nigerian from 35 years old and above and must be sponsored by a political party. It is simply bad politics to want to play up these issues.
The discrepancies that happened with his academic qualification when he became the governor were genuine errors committed by Tokunbo Afikuyomi who filled the forms on his behalf. At the time, there were petitions from two anonymous people against him and when the House of Assembly set up a committee to investigate the issue, they invited the petitioners but they didn’t show up. They went to the addresses of the petitioners, they didn’t see them. The committee did a thorough job, they invited all those involved and it was established that those were genuine errors.
He attended Richard Daley College and thereafter, Chicago State University where he got his degree in Business Administration, specialising in accounting. This should put an end to the controversies. His wealth cannot be measured in naira and kobo, I will rather measure it according to the measure of goodwill he has garnered by building men who are willing to play their part at a time like this, when they feel they should reciprocate his good gestures which they have enjoyed for many years. These men are spread all over the world and when the time comes, you will see for yourselves.
We should be excited that for once we have someone who is a willing aspirant, he is not being forced on us and he is not being thrown by circumstances to run for the office of the president, contrary to what some people would want to pick on, that it is his lifelong aspiration.
As we speak, we have over 1800 different groups across the country clamouring for Tinubu’s candidature. Let me assure you that he is well-grounded because over time, he has built a whole of goodwill and bridges across the country. He has been overtime the man of the people and maybe for a very long time. We are very optimistic and it is going to be fun because the opposition will have their say and people will have their way.
As a politician, it is within the right of the vice president for him to want to aspire as he has been in the saddle as a vice president for the past six years. It is also possible that he might not necessarily be a willing aspirant and for reasons best known to some people, they are trying to push him into the race. I think our party can handle it and it might not be the vice president alone; there might also be other people who also want to aspire. Tinubu is a democrat and he believes that it is the more, the merrier. I am sure with the various people that are also supporting him, there is no reason for us to lose sleep over anyone’s aspiration especially someone who has not openly declared.
We are looking at a situation whereby at the appropriate time, the presidency will unfold. It is a matter of conscience, morality, principle and a gentlemanly agreement that was made at the inception of this party, that the presidency should come to the South and micro-zoned to the South West. There are a lot of things that we don’t necessarily have to put in the constitution of a party. A whole lot of prominent people in the party and in the government have made it clear that it is the right and appropriate thing to do.
It is not impossible for people to be aggrieved, in a political party; definitely there would be disagreement as a result of these ambitions; as a party, we have the internal mechanisms to address the various conflicts when they come up. If you agree to be members of a political party, you have to submit yourselves to the constitution, rules and guidelines of the party and respectfully agree to what the mechanism has employed to resolve conflicts instead of resorting to litigation which is not good for the party.
In the various local government especially since we have the last congress, the major thing the chairman elect has been busying doing is calling various constituencies and local governments to look at their various areas of conflicts, by and large; he made me understand that life and politics is give and take; the important thing is for everybody to have a sense of belonging.
APC convention, primaries
In Lagos State, we always have acrimonious primaries because this is a winning party. There is no basis for PDP to have acrimonious primaries, because they won’t win anything, they will struggle to pick candidates for the various offices, it is certain they are going to lose, there is nothing in it for them, the APC in this state is like you pick the ticket and your victory is assured. From time, despite the acrimonious primaries, we always put our house together before the election. We always find a meeting point to reach an understanding and the coming election will not be different.
We are very hopeful that it will be seamless. As the ruling party, I am of the opinion that we should have managed our success better, we should have been more focused on the business of governance and achieving cohesion within the party rather than be distracted by the politics of the next election. It is the politics of the next election that has remained an aberration and clog in the wheel of having a successful national convention, we will pray and hope that the 26th February will remain sacrosanct and it will hold.
South East presidency
If the PDP would want to lay any claim to fair play and justice, their presidential ticket should be zoned to the South East because since 1999, the zone has been very loyal and committed to the party. We can safely conclude here that the South East is for the PDP, so if there is a party that should consider the South East, it should be the PDP. You will agree with me that the South West, led by Tinubu wrestled the power from the then ruling party, we should expect as a matter of right that the presidential ticket should be zoned to the South West because we have earned it.
On PDP’s threat to take over Lagos
PDP has nothing to offer this state, let me just assure you, in the coming elections, despite all the challenges of the recent past, Lagos State still remains in the firm grip of APC. It has become an obsession for the likes of Bode George and his co-travelers that anytime the issue is about Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, he wakes up and starts threatening fire and brimstone.
When the question becomes the issue of reputation, integrity and principle, there are some people in this country that should not be seen or heard and in the forefront of that are the likes of Bode George. He was the governor of Ondo State and as a chairman of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), he did not cover himself in glory, so people like that should just be onlookers when we talk about politics in the state and country.
If you call Jandor a movement, then he is a movement without motion. When you see crowd at rallies that is largely paid for, you assume that is a popular support. Most of us know that the crowd don’t win elections. Just a few years ago Jandor was a struggling cameraman with Lagos State Television (LTV) and questions should be asked how he suddenly got money and was busy throwing money about, saying he is now going to contest for the governorship. People should learn that there are rules and processes to some things, he is not willing to learn and one can see how he has been making a lot of false errors even in his movement to PDP, putting the cart before the horse. He first declared his intention, later on, he started moving around to meet the PDP leaders in the state. A well-grounded politician would have done it the other way round, meeting the leaders first before declaring his intention. Mark my words, he is not going to pick the governorship ticket of the party and he will move to another party. In the next few months, you won’t hear anything about Lagos4Lagos again.
We have our suspicion that there could be people in the APC sponsoring him. We know that on the basis of what is on ground, he doesn’t have the resources on his own but this will count for nothing. In politics, when someone has sponsors that are faceless who will not want to be identified, it counts for nothing.