The declaration, the other day, by the former governor of Lagos State, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, for the presidency of Nigeria has elicited some exciting reactions in certain circles. Some of the interjections seem to suggest that the man means business. Some others have dismissed his declaration as a mere attempt at testing the waters.
Regardless of whatever his declaration suggests, it would be unimaginative to think that Tinubu would not do what he has done. The 2023 presidential election is the last opportunity the man might have to gnaw at the presidency. Before now, he had imagined the office from a wonderland. But now, he is making public his private imaginings. But that is as far as it goes. The man possibly knows that he is not primed or programmed for the office of President. But as someone who has dominated the politics of the South West for a reasonable length of time, Tinubu needs the whimper that his declaration is eliciting. To this extent, his wink at the presidency is paying off. The public stunt that goes with it may well be his final trophy in politics. As an accomplished politician, he cannot not just go home without some noise. He needs the parting acclaim. It is a necessary footnote in his final symphony in the world of politics.
Tinubu, to all intents and purposes, may have been propelled by a certain sense of self-worth. Regardless of the embedded conceit in his action, we must strip the issue of all its ornamentations and situate it for what it is.
I suspect that the former governor’s primary motivation could be the oft-touted impression that he helped to install Muhammadu Buhari as President in 2015. No doubt, Tinubu’s South West was in cahoots with the North in the frenzied bid to bring Buhari to power, but the plot would have failed if the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, did not join the plot to oust him. But that is a matter for another day. Suffice it to say that Tinubu has been carrying on with the impression that he paved the way for the Buhari presidency. This is in spite of the fact that the claim has repeatedly been repudiated by some elements in the North. Whatever may be the case, Tinubu is being driven by an entitlement mentality, to wit, that the South West, which supposedly played a prominent role in Buhari’s ascension to power, deserves to succeed him more than any other group or zone from the South. Whatever the merit, or lack of it, of this thinking, the point must be made that the South West has reaped bountifully from the Buhari presidency. The zone boasts of the Vice-President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives under the Buhari dispensation. As a matter of fact, it is the only southern zone that is comfortably accommodated in the Buhari order. But it appears that the zone wants more. That may explain the decision of the Tinubus of the South West to step forward for the office of President.
It is also possible that the South West gamble is driven by the belief that anything is possible in politics. If we proceed with this trend of thought, it will be safe to say that the South West could be persuaded to think that it could grab the presidency in 2023, if only it can step forward to be counted. After all, is it not often said that power is taken, not given? This being the case, Tinubu’s South West may have decided to take a chance at the office of the President. All this can make sense in the realm of gambling. But we know that the presidency of the country is not the gambler’s pastime.
Let us, at this juncture, move closer to the realistic realm. Two possible scenarios exist over the 2023 presidency. The first is that the North, which is holding power at moment, may be tempted to want to retain it. The second is power shift to the South. Whereas the first is being repudiated and assailed for reasons that are hardly disputable, the second aligns neatly with the mood of the nation, largely on grounds of equity and justice. But that which seems equitable and just is turning out to be as hydra-headed as its promoters ever imagined. So, what are the hang-ups in this matter?
Nigerians of goodwill agree that it is right and just to shift power to the South in 2023. But there is fear and apprehension over this. The morbid fear here revolves around the South East. Since the zone, most justifiably, deserves the presidential slot in the likely event of power shift to the South in 2023, the powers-that-be in Nigeria appear to have been thrown into hysterics over this. How do they cede power to a people they dread? How do they entrust power to a people they do not trust? This morbidity of distrust is the issue at stake. The North is weighing the options: to retain power beyond 2023 or give the South East a chance. But the North is scared stiff of the idea of giving the South East a chance. An atmosphere of uncertainty surrounds this option. The North is ill at ease with it. It is this uncertain state of affairs that has emboldened some elements from the South West. It has given them the effrontery to want to take power a second time when the South East is yet to enjoy a single slot. This South West gamble is being experimented with in utter disregard for its implications for national unity and integration. The ultimate impression the South West presidential aspirants leave us with is that they are unpatriotic. They do not care a hoot about the entity called Nigeria. If they were interested in the peace and progress of the country, they would not be jostling to seize the reins of governance at the expense of their South East brothers.
Beyond their unpatriotic displays, you can also see mischief in the actions and activities of the South West gamblers. They want to cause as much disruption in the polity as possible. They are aware of the deep reservations which the North has about the South East. They now want to cash in on it to cause more division and acrimony between the two regions of the country. As a matter of fact, what the Tinubus of the South West are doing borders on crass opportunism. They know it for a fact that Nigeria cannot cede power to their zone at this time. Yet, they have oiled their engine of mischief with the aim of throwing a spanner in the works. They are mere pretenders to the throne. Those who love their country do not drive it to the precipice.
The case of the northern oligarchs is a different ball game. They are reluctant to face facts. And the fact is that you cannot exclude a major and critical segment of the country perpetually from power. It has worked for them thus far owing to the peculiar circumstances of the past decades. But that old order is no longer sustainable.
What the wise do in situations like this is to swallow their misguided pride and embrace solutions that work. The solution that will work in the present circumstance is to make the South East an integral part of the country it was forced to belong to. Continued willful exclusion is a recipe for instability. Is that what Nigeria wants? I doubt it.