_By_ _Sogbeye_ _Eli_
Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a Muslim from Iragbiji in Osun State who found his way to Lagos and subsequently the Office of Governor of the State at Alausa, Ikeja in 1999 with a re-election in 2003, made his intent to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 known to the incumbent in the meeting captured in this picture. No news!!
However, the manner and timing of his declaration has left many taking angles to his aspiration. Can this man be trusted when he says a thing? Is he sensitive to the overall national mood? Is he in tune with the times or simply locked out by unbridled ambition?
One of the predominant views of those who are not rooting for the Jagaban, first of Borgu, and now of the Universe (whatever the latter means), is the feverish frenzy with which he was prodded or has pushed himself to join the 2023 presidential fray. First, coming out of a knee surgery overseas, Tinubu needed time to recuperate fully. But the bearers of his political cupcakes who turned his recovery room to a jamboree of hospital visits would have none of that!! Apparently done with the evidence of his endorsement of medical tourism and the associated capital flight which both his sojourn abroad and those visits represented, Baba jetted into Nigeria in a peremptory dash. It would appear in the days following that those who enacted the cacophony of Run, Run, Run for President or we die trips to Bourdillon actually did so to spare Tinubu of the embarrassment of planting more seeds of his poor health in the hearts of watching Nigerians with his continued medical vacation overseas.
These cannot be a mere string of coincidences. How Tinubu who bowed to pressure to tell Nigerians in November last year that he would make his intention about the presidency known in February 2022 walked out of that commitment by January 10, 2022 remains another stain on his personal integrity and strength of character. You say a thing; you stick with it.
Is this desperation taken too far or the President wannabe is reacting yet again to another pressure from his supporters after the statement by President Buhari in a Channel TV interview last about not naming his choice of successor to protect and secure a life forced a fait accompli on Tinubu and the permutations of his school of politics for 2023?
Can Nigeria afford a President now with some sort of puppeteer mentality? Can we cope with what is passing for a rehearsal of an action and reaction presidency?
Let us assume that none of the theories nursed by those who are skeptical about the vitality or pragmatism of a Tinubu presidency in a 21st century Nigeria is correct. Let us also assume that we won’t be wrong to give a “President” Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu the benefit of the doubt after his prolonged stay in the UK and the attendant flurry of “Hospital visits” to his London home accentuated genuine concerns for his health to lead Nigeria post-Buhari. Let us further assume that the man is truly younger than America’s great singer, Lionel Richie, and therefore by far younger than a President Donald J. Trump who is likely to seek a fresh term as POTUS in the next three years. But what do we make of the glittering Red flags he has presented already?
In 2007, Nigeria was faced with a similar tenure-ending transition in the Villa. President Olusegun Obasanjo, the nation’s 2nd President and the first to be elected on the platform of the PDP, had his ego badly bruised over the decapitation of his bid for a 3rd term against the spirit and letters of the Nigerian Constitution. OBJ grunted, huffed and puffed but had to leave the precincts of Aso Rock for a much younger and better educated President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua on May 29, 2007. Obasanjo’s successor was not an unwilling President. No one can say so. In fact, he presented the evidence of his statesmanship by admitting in his inaugural address to the nation at Eagle Square that his own election was manifestly flawed and taking his altruistic admission of guilt a notch higher, he promised extensive electoral reforms to the boot. His most formidable opponent in that year’s poll was this same President Buhari. But we know what his PDP which is today huffing and puffing exhaling carbon dioxide from their enlarged nostrils over the incumbent President’s grounds for withholding assent to proposed amendments to the Electoral Act did with the electoral reforms President Yar’ Adua promised. The last amendment to the Electoral Act in 2010 fell far short of the recommendations of the Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais panel set up by President Yar’ Adua. The net effect? President Muhammadu Buhari returned to the judicial trenches again in 2011 to challenge the outcome of the election of President Goodluck Jonathan.
All of the above because the health of a President Umaru Yar’ Adua who from ab initio showed signs of ailment and frailty eventually failed him. Failed his nation too and delivered a stillbirth of his promising presidency.
Fast forward to 2015. Nigerians overwhelmingly elected a General and veteran of the Nigerian civil war with several stellar command postings to his credit as President. Prematurely retired as a Major-General from a palace coup in August 1985 led by his Chief of Army Staff and self-styled “evil genius”, President Buhari was elected to take out the PDP from her President to majority of the seats in both chambers of the National Assembly as well as over two-thirds of the Houses of Assembly in the States of the Federation. It was a near complete rout!! So the APC came with not only her promises to an ailing nation; she came surfeit with enough national confidence on the ballot. Again, like his Katsina brother, President Buhari’s inaugural speech brought with it a national elevation. He promised to belong to everybody and to nobody!! President Buhari, a very good man; a soldier’s soldier; a Nigerian patriot of uncommon standing by any standards, has till date lived and worked by that creed, regardless of what his traducers feel, think or say. However, his personal hubris vis-a-vis the amount of work required to repair the breach occasioned by the PDP in 16 unbroken years had been the challenges to his health. And, of course, his age!! A factor he has personally alluded to much often as the cornerstone of regret on his belated presidency.
Proceeding from the Yar’ Adua and Buhari health debacle alone, the Red Flags on Tinubu are flying at full mast. Can the nation afford another abortion of her promise midstream? Can we ignore the potential danger of having a Muslim succeed another Muslim in a nation very sensitive to religious and geopolitical calculations in her internal affairs? Should we also ignore Tinubu’s manifest arrogance in ignoring how his ambition would hurt national cohesion and peace? Yes, Tinubu has in his political CV an amazing load of placing several men (and women) of talent in political positions at different levels. Most of his protege are alive, much younger, look more sprite and boisterous in health. Some particularly strike the geopolitical and religious balance Nigerians crave for the peace of their nation. They come from the South and are Christians!!
Yes, Tinubu has told us that his ambition to be President is lifelong. No problem but there are limits to everything we aspire to gain in life’s transient pathways. Told by the Three Witches that he would be Thane of Cawdor and it came to pass, Macbeth drove the ambition to be King over Scotland to the point of execution of Duncan. But even his more ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth, that prodded him on left a caveat:
“Thou wouldst be great
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it”. (Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 5).
Macbeth himself alluded to the failing of his heart faced with the fatal consequencies:
“I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on th’other”. (Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 7).
If I were Tinubu, I would progress with less haste on this evidently ensnared journey from henceforth. I would take a hard look at the national geopolitical compass. I would consider the national interest as far above mine and reach out to a much younger Southern Christian Nigerian with the appropriate compos mentis and experience. I would rally support for him across board from the universe of my supporters and enjoy the privilege of the respect I command as the Godfather and party Leader. I would rather savour my unfettered access to the highest office in the land and work to place my APC in a vantage position where the presidency is retained in 2023 than throw my hat in the ring; cause an unhealthy division; lose the presidency and everything my party has worked for to reposition Nigeria since 2015 and return home a regional powerhouse. The latter is a classical definition of a demotion. Q. E. D.
Sogbeye Eli, a lawyer, Humanist, politician and public affairs analyst, wrote from Port-Harcourt.