Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
When President Donald Trump began his foray into politics in 1999, he organized a press conference and the turnout was poor. There were several empty seats that could slur the words of a speaker who holds himself in high esteem. The billionaire went on to announce a rally which was expected to attract about 20,000 people.
Trump was headlining the event alongside a popular American motivational speaker, Tony Robbins. Trump met the target but many of the attendees didn't come to listen to him, it was the motivational speaker who was the second speaker that stole the show. From that moment, Trump understood that the American voters were not interested in listening to politicians. From that day, he was convinced he stood a chance in the presidential race; it was just a matter of time. He went on to premiere his hit reality show named 'The Apprentice' which projected him as a successful, decisive, goal-getter which he played on TV. This identification and other controversies played a big factor in his ascendancy as president in 2016.
Ukraine also removed a sitting president this year to replace him with a comedian and actor, Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky despite his lack of experience in politics and public administration. Sebastian Kurz of Austria, Emmanuel Macron of France, Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, and Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia have also profited from the desire of the people to see new faces in politics rather than the usual figures with grey hairs, wrinkled faces and tired legs.
This factor is gradually coming into play in Nigeria too; people are wary of the core politicians who have amassed huge fortunes out of their careers spanning over decades and are still trying to be relevant despite being far-spent. APC perceived the public disposition towards core politicians and made interesting adjustments. President Muhammadu Buhari whose major baggage was alleged dictatorship as a military ruler between 1983 and 1985 was painted as a dirt poor cattle-rearer who couldn't afford the party's nomination and interest forms. He claimed to have obtained a loan from the bank to make necessary purchases. The party also picked another clean technocrat as his running-mate in the person of Professor Yemi Osinbajo. In fact, they went for a Christian cleric from one of the biggest religious ministries in Nigeria, The Redeemed Christian Church of God which has over 15 million members in the country. The decision was well-measured and calculated. With due respect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is significantly different from these two figures in terms of reputation.
In a democratic process, one of the toughest the challenges a politician faces is public trust and believe me, this is a very arduous job for any media team or PR firm to achieve for politicians. Even when you have the best political structure, you might still fall short on election day. Nobody will drink from a tank of water if rumour emerges that a drop of the Sniper insecticide was mixed with it by domestic staff. You simply don't want to take chances even when your chances of survival are high. This was a problem a former Vice President and presidential candidate of the People's Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar had to deal with. In spite of having the war chest to fund any sort of campaign strategy, his political influence, beautiful manifesto, and perceived frustration of the people with President Muhammadu Buhari, his main opponent, he still lost. Well, the loss is still being debated in court but let's work with the official results by the INEC.
The Lagos State godfather, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is rumoured to be interested in the number position in Nigeria shares the same fate with Atiku as per reputation. There is always a 'but' when his praises are being sung by his benefactors. People murmur about it and then you hear, 'Nobody is perfect, are you a saint? Politics is like that' and the talk ends but the doubt persists especially for people without personal interests. Most of the die-hard supporters of Tinubu today are majorly those who have benefited directly or indirectly from him.
Another Achilles heels of Tinubu could be better explained in terms of football. Spanish giant, Barcelona could nail any team at Camp Nou in the UEFA Champions League but their away matches could be pathetic and ridden with lacklustre performances like the infamous experiences at Roma and Liverpool. Tinubu is a master of Lagos politics. At his present form, he could make a dead man the governor of Lagos State and intellectuals will celebrate him but outside Lagos, he struggles with inconsistencies. He was schemed out of the Kogi gubernatorial race in 2015, his preferred candidate lost to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in Ondo in 2016, the Osun governorship result obviously came with external influence and underhand tactics, his anointed candidate in the 2019 Oyo gubernatorial race, Adebayo Adelabu crumbled like a pack of cards. Tinubu also struggled when he chaired the reconciliatory committee set up by Buhari to resolve the differences of the party members. In fairness to the stupendously rich politician, he got the desired result in Ogun State in the governorship race this year even against the will of the then sitting governor, Ibikunle Amosun. What this is telling you is that Tinubu doesn't even have a firm grip over the south-western part of Nigeria where he hails from.
The story of the fall of former governor of Lagos State Akinwunmi Ambode as allegedly orchestrated by Tinubu has sent the wrong messages to the general public. It was a pyrrhic victory! Ambode's downfall is yet to be concluded. The former GOAT-turned-scapegoat is presently at the noose and dagger of the anti-graft body - EFCC and the Lagos State House of Assembly investigating him for alleged corruption. He has been denied a seat in Buhari's cabinet and with the way things are going, his traducers might so taint his image that he will be appearing in public spaces in disguise out of shame. Tinubu's show of influence despite pleas from influential party individuals might also be a lesson to Buhari and his men who may be scared to help him become president. They might suffer a similar fate with Ambode if they fall-out in the nearest future. Politics is not built around love and affection anywhere in the world. Let's be sincere, a cerebral person like Tinubu will never love a 'certificateless' leader like Buhari, it's all about personal interests and ambition. Even the general public is scared of what Tinubu could do with power and authority when offended. It's Ambode today, it could be them tomorrow.
Another factor that will work against Tinubu is his firm belief in zoning the presidency ahead of the 2023 presidential election. I don't know the level of assurance Tinubu has but the fact is that the South-western part of Nigeria has been promised the seat likewise the South-east and this was thrown like a bait to secure the support of the region during the last presidential election. Politicians like Rochas Okorocha, and Orji Uzor Kalu will be itching for such an opportunity to realize their biggest political dreams. While Tinubu is also hoping, Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State is warming up for the presidential race as a sign that any unwritten agreement of power-sharing is a ruse and will not be honoured. If the rumours that Tinubu is one of the brains behind the present travails of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for being a stumbling block to his presidential ambition are true, then he should be ready to weed out more people from his team as they remove their masks. There are more enemies to be unveiled in the nearest future.
The APC might also find it disadvantageous to field a Yoruba man as a presidential candidate who will go up against someone in the PDP that will likely be from the North. Matching Tinubu with a running-mate from the North might have so real impact. The Vice President's position in Nigeria is almost ceremonial and the electorate know this. The North has got the numbers, we can't deny the political power at their disposal and I doubt if they would follow Tinubu considering how divided Nigeria is today. I don't see a replay of the contest between Moshood Abiola and Bashir Tofa in 1993 where the voting patterns were devoid of tribal, religious and regional undertones.
On these premises, Tinubu might be building his castle in the air if he believes he could be president in 2023. But wait a minute, a political upset in Nigeria could be interesting. As a fan of boxing, I never believed Mexican heavyweight boxer, Andy Ruiz could beat Anthony Joshua let alone drop him 4 times but it happened. Although Nigerian politics mostly leaves we Political Scientists with no surprises except the casuals, let's allow things play out for the purpose of history. Tinubu has nothing to lose as long as his private firm, Alpha Beta keeps raking in money for him through the management of the Lagos State Internally Generated Funds.