By Oludayo Tade
The market for 2023 politics has been declared open by the son of Abibatu Mogaji who is also the ceremonial national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT). The Asiwaju of Lagos State had visited the president to intimate him of his intention to vie for the number one position in the country. As a political strategist, Asiwaju understands the first law of power which says ‘never outshine the master’. The master in the APC is the incumbent President who through his last exclusive interview with Channels TV, revealed that he also understands the laws of power. It was Seun Okinbaloye who asked President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) “You don’t have any favourite in your party (to succeed you) in 2023?” and the president responded: “No. I wouldn’t disclose (now). He may be eliminated if I mention. I better keep it secret”. Through this response, PMB displayed his understanding of the importance of concealed intentions as a powerful tool in ‘keeping off-balance and in the dark’, so that those thinking they are close to the President will be shocked by the time he unleashes the purpose behind his actions and unveil his favoured successor. But how is PMB’s position critical in the unfolding declaration of interests for the 2023 presidency in the ruling party? Will the Jagaban of Borgu find favour as the favoured successor the President spoke about in the interview? With all the powers at his disposal, why would the President be afraid that his favoured successor may be eliminated if he dares to name him and what does this say about the nature of Nigerian politics?
While expression of interest in the 2023 presidential race is still at infancy, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has stressed that it is his lifelong ambition to become the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and he has the right as the citizen of the country who meets the constitutional requirements to that office to so aspire. From activism, formation of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and foray into politics, the Jagaban of Borgu has been playing strategic politics towards realizing his ambition dating back to his ascendancy to the Governorship seat of Lagos State. He has since then been enjoying political patronage from within and stretching his sphere of influence outside the state. In terms of political sagacity, I am aware that Tinubu was the only surviving Alliance for Democracy Governor in the southwest who did not fall victim of the antics of the Olusegun Obasanjo government that swept others; that defeat shifted the structure of power and influence to the surviving governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the chief financier of the party. Turning Lagos to Industrial training space for politicians who would later be supported financially and morally to realise their own gubernatorial ambitions in Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo states, Asiwaju’s political clientelism is an investment which he hopes to leverage on at the right time. He must have realised that spread also counts in becoming the president of Nigeria and so wasted no time in raising political disciples to begin to preach his gospel as he expands his tentacles. As Lagos groomed politicians become Governors in other states in the region, Jagaban became the kingmaker and championed expansive politics oriented to position him in history. After unsuccessful attempts at getting the center through regional strength, Tinubu mainstreamed his politics to National through which he will be able to, in the nearest future build alliances that will ensure the realization of his presidential ambition. He later aligned with former political foe, the incumbent President, who also failed to clinch his lifelong dream of becoming a democratic President thrice. They formed a new mega-party that would unseat the Peoples’ Democratic Party. At the birthing of APC, compromise also had to be made as the vote from northern Nigeria would be needed as a payback to the support given to their son from Daura, whose shoes will soon become vacant.
As Tinubu continues to position people in the corridors of power and influence in the polity, he also ensures he breaks the barriers of religion and ethnicity by identifying with those who would be useful for him later, which may be now. This political tactician with academic resume in accountancy and experience in the oil industry would now reveal the desire to break the record of late Sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo to achieve the feat the great Awolowo did not achieve. This is also seen in what I consider as a political statement of promising to build on the foundation of PMB if he becomes the President. Was it to correct the mistakes made by some political warlords from the region in the past who revealed their true intentions and got their ambitions thwarted? Even at that, the Jagaban would have to solve the puzzle of PMB’s favoured successor, settle intra-party rivalries which will soon ensue and if successful, face inter-party battles and finally the Nigerian electorates. While lifelong ambition is good, how does the realization of an individual’s desire benefit the country positively? This is because the alignment of Asiwaju with President Buhari gave us the messy situation that Nigeria has found herself with all indices of human development going south.
For now, the body language and mannerism of the President determines a lot of things in our polity and that is why aspirants are going to Aso rock to intimate him that they are interested in wearing his shoes when he leaves in 2023. Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power comes in handy at this time. Greene counsels us never to outshine the master but ‘to make the masters appear more brilliant that they are and you will attain the heights of power’. Why should someone called national leader of a party go to the President first? It is the understanding of the fact that Tinubu must ‘make the President feel comfortably superior’ and this is why the husband of Oluremi has been able to master the art of Nigerian politics. But the President has given no clue who the favoured successor will be and this is a blank cheque to all aspirants, waiting for whose name the President will write on it.
I have a feeling of an impending shocker which I get from the response of the president on his preferred successor. The atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding where the pendulum of presidential preference will swing may have made the President to keep sealed lips and safe the anointed person from being eliminated. Our history is replete with unresolved ‘political assassination’ or if you like, ‘elimination’. Elimination is a law of power too. Crushing one’s enemy totally is reproduced in Pentecostal churches’ ‘die by fire’ prayers in which there is no time to take risk of allowing repentance of the enemy. In political parlance too, wiping out an enemy may be a strategy to neutralize a threat to your ambition and force a redirection to your side. Will the favoured successor of the President be Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu or another person? Then, will the President’s favoured successor be favoured by the Nigerian electorates going by their nosediving fortunes under this government? Only time will provide the right answers.
Dr. Tade, a sociologist writes via [email protected]