By Sufuyan Ojeifo
President Muhammadu Buhari was demonstrably unfair to have saddled Asiwaju Bola Tinubu with the responsibility of reconciling aggrieved members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2019 general elections. Buhari’s order to him to undertake the exertion was a Hobson’s choice of sorts. Confronted with such a single-minded order and positive expectation by the president, Tinubu was bound to accept it and nothing else.
As a leader of the APC, Tinubu had every reason to look in the president’s face and tell him point-blank that he could not do the job. The major plank on which he could have grounded his rejection of the order is the principle of fairness in law: nemo judex in causa sua (rule against bias or that you cannot be a judge in your own matter). It is a fact that Tinubu is an aggrieved leader of the ruling party. He should, therefore, have been allowed to recuse himself from driving the reconciliation process.
If there is any individual in the APC who needs reconciliation the most, it is Tinubu. If the narratives about his having been undermined, sidelined and dumped in the post-election activities leading to the formation of the government were considered as incredible or impossible, the recent confirmation by his wife, Senator Oluremi, that her husband was “trashed” after helping the party and the president to victory has put the issue back in context.
The strongman of southwest politics needed to be reconciled with those that used the platform of the presidency to batter and shatter him such that he could not influence ministerial appointments or enthrone his favourite candidate as APC’s governorship candidate in Ondo state. There were successful attempts to massively degrade his base. If not for the steadfast loyalty of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Tinubu would have been pushed back and restricted to his Bourdillon Mansion in Lagos.
While this was on, Buhari had made it clear at a meeting in the Presidential Villa that there is only one national leader of the APC and he (Buhari) is. It was a subtle move against Tinubu who was then being widely referred to as the national leader of the party. In any case, Buhari may be the National Leader; nothing stops Tinubu from being a national leader. He is in his own right. He has earned that badge of honour, regardless of what the Presidency feels.
The confetti of indignity, notwithstanding, Tinubu had stoically carried on, contemplating his political future in the APC. Amid that contemplation, Buhari had resorted to the same man, whom he used and dumped after 2015 electoral victory, to salvage and repackage the APC and his presidency ahead of the 2019 general election. I do not need to be told that Buhari is simply interested in frostily using Tinubu to win again the southwest in 2019 after which he would now be shredded, not just trashed.
From all indications, the 2019 presidential election is a battle between Buhari as a candidate of the APC and Nigerians. Nigerians are now very sensitized and are conscientious enough to deploy their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) for public good. The PVC is the licensed AK-47 with which every eligible voter will shoot any candidate that is considered a danger to the wellbeing of the nation. It is thus understandable why Buhari has brought in Tinubu to coordinate the southwest for him.
The so-called national reconciliation is a way of committing the Jagaban of Borgu to Buhari’s re-election in 2019 and, it is, to that extent, secondary consideration. Buhari has already lost the southwest. Even if some states in the southwest decide to vote for APC in the governorship election because it is a local election and their sons and daughters are involved, the presidential election may not elicit that kind of sentimental attachment.
Besides, it is a historic fact that for any candidate to win the presidency of Nigeria, he must win either southwest or northwest or both. The two zones have massive votes that can swing the pendulum of victory to any candidate that wins them. In 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo from southwest lost the zone but won northwest and the other zones to become president. In 2003, Obasanjo, as an incumbent president, won in all zones except northwest, which Buhari tucked in his kitty. In 2007, Yar’Adua, instructively, won in all the zones. In 2011, Jonathan won in southwest while Buhari won in northwest in the same election. In 2015 elections, Buhari, remarkably, won in both zones.
There is no doubt that Buhari will still win northwest in 2019 if he contests. If he loses southwest and he is not able to make remarkable showing in south-south, southeast and north central zones, he may find it difficult to get the required two-thirds spread in at least twenty-four states to win the election. If the opposition PDP picks a formidable presidential candidate from the northeast, then Buhari cannot guarantee that the northeast would abandon its own to give him bloc votes. It is against the backdrop of this scenario that Buhari has decided to pamper Tinubu in order to recommit him to delivering southwest to him in 2019.
Southwest is an enclave where the agitation for restructuring of the federation is on and the leaders expect the APC government to do it before the 2019 elections. Ditto in the southeast, that has suffered from decades of political marginalization. In fact, the zone has never had it worse than under the APC government. If not for the constitutional provisions, Buhari would have even denied the zone ministerial appointments for giving him only 198,000 votes (five per cent) in the 2015 presidential election.
In the south-south, the traditional PDP enclave, a number of considerations will play out. One of them is that the zone will see the 2019 election as an opportunity to pay back Buhari in his own coin. He dislodged Goodluck Jonathan in 2015; therefore, it will help to dislodge Buhari this time round for any other candidate that it is sponsoring. In the north central, the menace of Fulani herdsmen and the shambolic handling of the issue by Buhari’s presidency will be a major determinant in 2019, especially in Benue, Plateau, and Nassarawa states.
The son-of-the-soil consideration will work to a large extent for Buhari in northwest. If the PDP picks its most formidable candidate from the northeast, the son-of-the-soil consideration will likewise play out in the zone. So the two leading candidates will balance out in the northwest and northeast zones, except that the northwest votes outweigh those of the northeast. This is why Tinubu has become indispensable to Buhari in the 2019 presidential battle. Buhari has his eyes on southwest votes, especially now that he has lost the support of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Therefore, if not Tinubu, who else can he rely on to deliver?
But as it is, can Tinubu deliver in circumstances where all other Yoruba leaders are speaking with one voice against the Buhari administration? Tinubu seems to have in his hands a ctach-22 situation. How can he navigate the political terrain that Buhari has wittingly or unwittingly laden, to the detriment of his re-election, with the mines of nepotism, ethno-religious chauvinism, religious bigotry, anti-restructuring posture, etc.? What will Tinubu tell the Yoruba about Buhari before and during the electioneering?
Truth is, securing southwest for Buhari , no doubt, appears an impossible task for Tinubu to accomplish, given the political dynamics and calculations that do not support and sustain Fulani’s irredentism to which Buhari is callously committed. Asiwaju should not have been coldly confronted with this kind of Hobson’s choice in the garb of a tokenistic reconciliation task amid obvious lack of good faith by Buhari. But what is really on Tinubu’s mind?
Ojeifo contributed this piece via firstname.lastname@example.org