By Bola Bolawole
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Political chicanery did not just start yesterday. Deceit and tomfoolery are as old as society itself. Former President Goodluck Jonathan once described himself as the most criticised or the most vilified Nigerian leader ever. He might have been right as at that time but it is doubtful if there is any Nigerian leader that has ever escaped the sharp and caustic tongue of Nigerians, except, perhaps, those saved by untimely death such as Gen. Murtala Muhammed and Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua. “Iku b’asiri”! Death covers secrets, as the Yoruba would call it. Even at that, stories of their shenanigans exist in the public domain. Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar is the least criticised of the country’s surviving former leaders but the story of how he, within months, put up a palatial mansion that rivals IBB’s Hilltop mansion as well as how MKO Abiola died in his custody may have to be told one day soon.
The farce that Muhammadu Buhari has become has given Jonathan some respite. Had Buhari performed, Jonathan would not have been able to walk the street, not to talk of opening his mouth to comment on public issues, up to the point of defending his tenure and even taking Buhari to the cleaners. It is the same Buhari’s abject failure that has given ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo the mouth to talk and the hand to write letters. Today, people accept the message from Obasanjo but waste no time in throwing the messenger into the dustbin where he rightly belongs. Can we experience anything and anyone worse than Buhari? We used to think nothing and no one could be worse than Jonathan! How mistaken!
Tinubu is not president yet but he is one political leader that has been much maligned or vilified – rightly and wrongly, I dare to say! Does he deserve the trailer-load of criticisms that trail him at every turn, the recent being the dissolution of the APC’s National Working Committee said to have been under his armpit? The two-term Lagos State governor has, for a long time, been the butt of cruel jokes at vendors’ stands, beer parlour joints and corner-shops where people gather to discuss the politics of this country. Virtually every tribe or ethnic group has harsh words for the Jagaban Borgu or the Lion of Bourdillon. The South-south people hold him accountable for Jonathan’s loss in 2015. The Igbo see him as the stumbling block to Igbo presidency in 2023. His own Yoruba people accuse him of misleading and railroading them twice into the tragedy called Buhari. And the Northern cabals that he had served so meritoriously see him as a dangerous fire they must not leave on their roof-top.
Where is Tinubu loved in the Nigeria of today? Importantly, what has he done wrong and where did he miss it, if at all? What goes on in the inner recesses of his mind right now? Each time he is railed against or each time he suffers what appears a setback, how does he think? Has he realised his mistakes, if at all, and is he ready to make amends, do u-turn or re-assess his strategies and tactics? Someone said Tinubu’s mistake or what the French call faux pas is that he attaches a string to every favour he dispenses. He has a pay-back time that he demands from each and everyone he helps to climb up the ladder of success; making him and or his agenda not to be as altruistic as they may seem on the surface. Control and returns apart, the price they say every one Tinubu helps must pay is queue behind him in his quest to become the president of this country.
Recently, I took another look at the issue and, reflecting on happenings in the country, decided that ambition is not a crime. Humans, and not animals, will be made president any way. Nigeria has been too unfortunate to have thrust on her unprepared quantities well past the age and prime of their relevance. While this is not saying that Tinubu must be president willynilly or that he, too, has not outlived his welcome or entered the stage of diminishing returns, I have, nonetheless, reviewed and modified my opposition to his presidency or, indeed, to the presidential ambition of anyone from the South for that matter. In 2023, if this country survives up to that point, the presidency must not remain in the North. The way Northerners have appropriated unto themselves the entire country under Buhari’s watch leaves much to be desired. Many things have got to be reversed. And we need a president from the South who will do just that.
Tinubu is yet to openly declare his presidential ambition; he said only last week that it is too early for him to do that; and that 2023 is still a long way ahead. But the rumour is all over the place and there is no smoke without a fire, as it were. Then I began to think and I came up with other Yoruba personalities that have made a go at the presidency of this country and the routes they took. The first was the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. According to reports, Awo knew the North and its leaders so well that he kept a distance from them; preferring to dine with them with a long spoon while appealing over their head to the masses. In the end, Obasanjo as military Head of State reportedly held that against Awo, saying he made Awo the Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University so he could worm his way into the heart of Northern leaders. But, according to some reports, Awo failed to do that; while going for duties at Zaria as ABU chancellor, Awo reportedly would carry his food and water along with him from Ikenne! So, on that account, he reportedly failed Obasanjo’s test. That, perhaps, was why Obasanjo said ahead of the 1979 elections that the best candidate might not win that election. And they followed up with the twelve two-thirds judicial mathematics to give the presidency to Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
MKO Abiola came dining, wining and whining with the North. He must have learned from the mistakes of Awo – or so he thought. He went ahead and won the 1993 presidential election in a fashion never before witnessed in this country. But the same North, without any reasonable excuse, annulled the election and went ahead to imprison Abiola, eventually murdering him in prison. Now, Tinubu is making efforts to succeed where his two compatriots have failed. Learning from Awo’s mistakes he wormed himself to the heart of the North. Learning also from Abiola’s, he warmed up to the most conservative cabals of the North by helping to deliver the presidency to them, first in 2015 and again in 2019. Everyone knows Tinubu has paid his dues – fully. If he is denied, we must ask the question: How does anyone dance to the music of the North? Like Ebenezer Obey wondered in his evergreen song about a man and his donkey, how do you please the North? Jesus said when John the Baptist and his disciples came fasting, the people complained. When the same Jesus and his disciples came eating and drinking, the same people described them as gluttons. Awo was not good; Abiola was not okay, and they will have none of Tinubu; I ask: Who can ever please the North?
It appears the North only values slaves. The only man from the South that has assumed the leadership of this country is Obasanjo, first, fortuitously in 1976 at the assassination of Murtala Mohammed. He was said to have gone into hiding and not that he staked a claim to leadership. If he had, he might probably have been denied; which was why he said it was against his personal wish and desire to succeed Murtala. Hence, he was figure head or titular head of state. He only held the cow for the North to milk. Second time it was the same Obasanjo in 1999, again, fortuitously. Once again, he served the interests of the North. He never showed interest in the presidency in 1999 and was said to have quipped when they came for him: How many presidents will you make out of me?
We must note that a Southern president, like Obasanjo, serving the North’s interests, is not what we need in 2023. We need a fighter who will be his own man and who will stare at them eyeball to eyeball and take the fight to them full blast. The battle of 2023 must be fought to a standstill. Tinubu appears as a fighter. He once fought Obasanjo to a standstill. He has fought and won many battles. I want to see if he is THAT fighter that the South needs. I will no longer discourage or oppose him. I will instead encourage him to go the whole hog – beginning from now. This is, however, not to discourage other Southern politicians who are fighters and who may want to throw their hat in the ring. Liberating this country from the shackles of Northern cabals in 2023 is a task that must be done. The Yoruba and the South must stop fighting amongst themselves, pull forces and resources together and face the common enemy. The manifest destiny of this country and its long-suffering people must be fulfilled.