Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) is the APC presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential election. During the preparation for the presidential primary, he went to President Buhari to solicit his support to ascend to the lofty position as a candidate to a ruling party. In his own words, he has come to inform the President of his life long ambition to be the President of Nigeria. Life long means that all his calculations from the time he was born and acquired a sense of reasoning have been channelled towards being the President. All his generosity, political empowerment, wealth accumulation, decimation of political opponents and enemies and so on were geared towards becoming the President of Nigeria.
The life long ambition assertion is undoubtedly true judging from the antecedent of this astute politician. In 1999, Tinubu’s ambition to become President started from his ambition to govern Lagos State. If he lost the opportunity, most likely, he wouldn’t have been a presidential candidate today. Funso Williams was to be the Afenifere choice for Governor of Lagos State, but Tinubu displaced him. I asked people how Tinubu pulled this stunt. I was educated that while they were in exile to the United Kingdom, Tinubu principally took care of them abroad, so when the chips were down, he reminded them of his sacrifices for them in exile and they acquiesced to his ambition and thwarted Funso’s ambition. If Afenifere raised your hand in primary in the South-West in 1999, you were as good as having won. Adesanya raised Tinubu’s hand to be the Governor of Lagos State in 1999 and he became Governor.
Any association that was so powerful like Afenifere must be a stumbling block to a powerful man who wants to become President in future if he disagreed with them. Unfortunately for Afenifere, they raised the hand of Olu Falae, over Bola Ige, but Falae lost in the general election. This point was not lost on Tinubu. No matter how powerful any socio-cultural organisation is, within its people, without the collaboration with other peoples of Nigeria, its local influence was not enough to win a presidential election. Obasanjo won the presidential election without any support from Afenifere and South-West. Tinubu understood that the highest Afenifere could get him was a Governor and since being a Governor was not his life long ambition, Afenifere became politically irrelevant for him after 1999. If they can stop Bola Ige with the votes of 9 men, they can stop him in future. He made up his mind that it was either Afenifere became subservient to him or be made politically irrelevant. Of course, Afenifere, underestimated him and fell woefully under his superior political machinations. In 2003, Afenifere supported five governors of the South-West except Tinubu. Tinubu openly supported the PDP presidential candidate, Obasanjo and even supported the non-fielding of presidential candidate by Alliance for Democracy (AD), paving way for Obasanjo to win the entire South-West. After the election, Tinubu won and all the other five governors of the South-West, supported by Afenifere, lost. Afenifere became politically irrelevant in the South-West till date and this brought him to the fore front of South-West politics and he grabbed it with two hands.
Obasanjo was the only more powerful politician in Yoruba land. If he could vanquish him, he will be on top. By 2007, the journey to dismantle Obasanjo’s influence in South-West commenced. Tinubu discarded the Alliance for Democracy and founded a new political party, the Action Congress (AC), upon which he commenced his political take over of the South-West. AC was a direct affront to the dominance of PDP in the South-West. After the 2007 election, AC retained Lagos, which has become the exclusive property of Tinubu, but captured Ekiti and Osun States through the instrumentality of the judiciary. With these states, he acquired 50% of South-West politically and foisted his men in power. Obasanjo was still breathing politically but heavily beaten. His men like Segun Oni and Olagunsoye Oyinlola, were wiped out of the political maps of the South-West States. In 2011, he obliterated Obasanjo from the politics of South-West which culminated in Obasanjo’s daughter losing her Senatorial seat and Obasanjo’s gubernatorial candidate losing Ogun State. Obasanjo retired from politics from there, leaving Tinubu, the undisputed and unbeaten heavy weight champion of South-West politics. Those who supported him got promoted, those against him, got destroyed. He pocketed South-West till date.
One point was also not missed on Tinubu. A South-West man, Obasanjo, concluded his second term as President in 2007. If the zoning arrangement must be faithfully implemented as it should be, it will take another forty years to get back to the South-West. This must be stopped or modified because by the next 40 years, Tinubu will no longer be viable to become President. If he supports the discarding of the zoning arrangement totally, he knows that the North will latch unto the post of President forever with their superior numerical strength. He settled for the modified zoning arrangement, which implies that when it concerns the issue of the President, rotation between North and South replaces zoning among the six Geo-Political Zones. This will enable him to aspire for the post after every 8 years. He made the first attempt at becoming Vice-President in 2007 with Atiku Abubakar but failed. Atiku chose Ben Obi from the South-East and Tinubu collapsed the ticket in the South-West. He was determined not to support the emergence of any politician from the South-East as President or Vice till date because certainly that will be an obstruction for his life long ambition. The only majority tribe in the South, apart from the Yoruba, is the Igbo and every effort must be geared towards tearing them down in any party he is in. Of course he succeeded. The only periods in history that Tinubu supported PDP in presidential ticket were 2003 and 2011. In both occasions, no politician from the South-East was on the presidential or vice-presidential ticket of the party. His life long ambition was intact.
Tinubu never supported the same party consecutively twice in a presidential election until the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013. According to him, he single-handedly brought in Buhari from retirement and made him President in 2015, so that in 2023, it will be his turn to be President. So the whole idea of bringing back Buhari had nothing to do with Nigeria or Buhari, but the surest way of achieving his life long ambition and yet again, he succeeded. Not even the conspiracy from the South-West, North and South-South could sway or defeat him. The APC Chairman conspired to foist Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President, from the North, as consensus candidate, with due consultation with the Presidency, but failed. The Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, broke ranks with Tinubu and contested against him but failed. The South-East cried marginalization and injustice, but failed. The South-South was also defeated. Tinubu again emerged the champion.
If the South-East had a politician like Tinubu, the South-East would have overwhelmingly won the presidential primary in at least one of the two major political parties. The summary of his strategy was simple. He was able to capture the state he served as Governor till date. No South-East politician survived his state for one term after stepping down from office as Governor. He projected his powers into other states of the South-West and captured South-West. No South-East politician crossed the boundary of his State to another state of the South-East. He bade his time and collaborated with other zones in the North to support his presidential aspiration. No South-East politician was able to build alliance with the North on his ambition. He neutralised all conspiracies to emerge. No South-East politician was able to neutralise the conspiracies against him to succeed. He got his proteges to step down for him from the South-West. No South-East politician was able to get one fellow South-East aspirant to step down for him. South-East politicians stepped down from the race in protest and some even stepped down for Tinubu.
The height of the problem of the South-East is that the politicians do not even know how to manage their failures. Immediately after the APC primaries, Governor Umahi blasted Ohaneze and other fellow South-East politicians over his failure to win the presidential primary election. He proclaimed that from henceforth, he will be interested only in the political fortunes of Ebonyi State. He concluded that he will support his party’s choice for President. This is surprising because if Umahi is following the Tinubu example, he would have not made any of those statements. 2023 is the first time Ohaneze will come out to back South-East quest for President in all the political parties. They threatened consequences in the event of failure of the political parties to fulfil that. If Umahi had projected himself throughout South-East as their champion, like Tinubu, in the South-West, he would have muscled his way through, whether Ohaneze supported him or not. Ohaneze is a socio-cultural organisation, not a political one and can only advise but cannot enforce, especially, within political parties. Afenifere has been at loggerheads with Tinubu since 2003 but Tinubu won because Afenifere is a socio-cultural organisation not a political one. Umahi vowed to support Tinubu in 2023, while Tinubu has never supported anybody from the South-East for the Presidency in his entire political career. Umahi declared that supporting Tinubu will be an injustice to the South-East during his manifesto at Eagle Square, yet Umahi decided to perpetuate the injustice, after the primary, by supporting the same person that was the cause of the injustice.
The only choice left for the South-East politicians, irrespective of their parties, is to use the occasion of the 2023 election to make a statement, even if they are not sure to win. This is the Tinubu example. Tinubu made a statement with the 2007 presidential election when he withdrew support for Atiku for fielding a South-East vice-presidential candidate. He made a statement to Buhari when he refused to support Buhari-Bakare ticket in 2011. Even though he didn’t win, his statement was loud and clear; neglect South-West and Tinubu at your own political peril. The South-East has a leeway in 2023 to make a political statement, even if they don’t win. If they sincerely believe that they have been treated unjustly by the two political parties, they must decide to become Obi-dient to any ticket that will guarantee them the equity and justice that the two parties denied them. Whoever is a Nigerian who votes for any candidate that cannot rebuild Nigeria and is equally against the interest of justice is part of the problem of this country and is not Obi-dient to our collective aspiration for a new country.