Since Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Jagaban Borgu, announced that he would contest the February 2023 presidential election, it would appear that all hell has been let loose.
In the aftermath of throwing his hat into the ring, Tinubu has become the dominant figure in the political landscape and he is equally trending on social media. But he is not the only candidate who is eyeing the exalted seat in Aso Villa.
There are well over 16 Nigerians, according to media intelligence reports, who, like Tinubu, want to be president of Nigeria. They are well within their rights to contest and test their popularity during the presidential election when it holds as scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); that is if they are nominated by their parties.
“Tinubu bashing” has become the favourite pastime for some and a full-time job for others in a highly hypocritical society. “Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are” is a popular cliché. Until there is a significant shift in the way we “think and behave”, nothing is ever going to change.
This is not a curse before I am misunderstood but it is important we know that everything we “think, say or do” starts with the mind. To what extent are our national core values holding us together and propelling us to achieve a higher purpose?
Why would one man attract so much venom from different quarters? What is his offence? The “poisoned arrows” aimed at Tinubu is like giving him more ammunition to fight on. By the time the dust settles down, Tinubu would have fought the fiercest battle of his life.
I don’t envy him, but it is becoming evident that he will not go down without a fight. Tinubu and his minders know that the 2023 “high stake” election will be his best and last chance to become Nigeria’s next president. Age is not exactly on his side but what should we also say about Joe Biden and Donald Trump when they squared up against each other in the 2020 US presidential election?
Three times, APC – the party that has been playing poker with destiny – allegedly postponed their national convention just to “contain” Tinubu and “cut him to size”. Thankfully, the convention will now hold on February 26, 2022.
The Tinubu factor is real. My free advice to the leadership of APC is that they should not lose their focus because of Asiwaju who is determined to become the party’s flag bearer. When Tinubu said it has always been his ambition to become Nigeria’s president, I don’t think he is bluffing; he should be taken seriously.
The late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and late Chief MKO Abiola came very close to achieving the same ambition. After Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, will it be Tinubu’s turn to be Nigeria’s president from the South West region?
APC’s leaders seeming obsession with Tinubu’s political ambition and the plot to stop him at “all cost” may backfire and prove to be an unintended but expensive gambit that could favour the opposition. By the way, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, is watching and waiting down the road for APC to play into their hands due to the unending crisis of confidence within the party.
In truth, there’s no difference between APC and PDP. My theory is that they are two sides of the same coin. Unfortunately, we are left with these two options as we count down to next year’s general elections because they are the dominant parties.
The idea of a Third Force is necessary but each time promoters of the idea come together to test the idea, they fall apart like a pack of cards. Apparently, they are not ready.
Having “conquered” other territories, Asiwaju Tinubu, from all indications, is poised to overcome every obstacle on his way to winning the top political prize of his career. How would he achieve this goal? Tinubu has his game plan but historically, winning depends on how well he can achieve a broad coalition and secure the major voting blocks.
But it is too early to say which way the pendulum will swing because, after the APC national convention, the primaries to elect the party’s flag bearer will follow. The mode of conducting party primaries may allow for consensus candidates, a very dodgy affair that is open to manipulation. Whether it is indirect primaries as it was in 2015 or direct primaries adopted in 2019, our politicians know what is at stake and they will cut deals to survive.
Tinubu has been enjoying the largest share of voice – whether positive or negative – in the media even before his famous trip to Aso Rock to inform President Muhammadu Buhari of his intention to contest next year’s presidential election. He is also enjoying first-mover advantage after declaring his ambition ahead of others.
The controversies created around Tinubu by his adversaries — without them knowing it — are actually helping to enhance his popularity index and increase his brand equity. In building successful brands, top of mind awareness is an important part of the brand equation.
Since Tinubu has become a major factor and talking point, let us digress a little bit by asking some fundamental questions to enable us provide relevant contexts and evaluate a similar scenario in order to understand his brand essence.
So much has been written about how Tinubu “captured and pocketed” Lagos State but no one, to the best of my knowledge, has conducted any rigorous research on the subject. Students of politics and strategy should investigate this phenomenon and find out how Tinubu “captured” the richest state in Nigeria.
How, indeed, was it possible for one man to “capture” Lagos? How did he do it? What happened to the rest of us? Does it mean Lagosians went to sleep while one man was working round the clock to become the “owner” of Lagos?
How come, as alleged, that he is also responsible for all the key appointments in Lagos State and beyond or who is awarded which plum contract? Then Tinubu, whom we are often told is not from Lagos or whosoever is vested with similar skills, must be an enigma and extraordinary genius!
It is understandable that some of Tinubu’s erstwhile associates – indeed benefactors – have “rebelled” against him for one reason or the other. Please don’t lose sleep over the matter; it is the way of politicians and they are always open to reconciliation driven mainly by enlightened self-interest.
Now, take the case of Donald Trump, the former President of the United States. Knowing what he stands for and without compromising the values of his brand personality, Trump followed his heart and joined the vocal Republican crowd to pursue his dream and life-time ambition.
It does not matter whether we like him or hate him; Trump is also an enigma of the rarest kind. Some of my friends tell me they like Trump because he is “bold and fearless”. It doesn’t matter that he tells bare-faced lies or that he created two Americas within the United States, they still like him.
A showbiz impresario, reality television star and real estate entrepreneur, Trump has always craved media attention; it is the oxygen he needs to operate forcefully from his bully pulpit enabled by his sensational and provocative tweets before Twitter banned him.
How did Trump win the Republican nomination for president of the United States in 2016? How was he able to beat other notable contestants when it looked like he did not have a whiff of a chance of becoming the Republican Party nominee?
From 17 major candidates that entered the race, it eventually narrowed down to three: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich. Trump went on to score landslide victories — an interesting phenomenon – and became the Republican Party candidate.
He was the dominant news item on a daily basis. Trump, a master of subterfuge and an excellent salesman, loves to hug the spotlight, a deliberate tactic he uses to promote his brand power. In spite of his own hubris, Trump won the November 2016 elections, beating Hilary Clinton who looked set for the White House.
Like Tinubu, Trump is also controversial and his cult followership turned out to be the biggest threat yet to American democracy arising from the insurrection he masterminded at the Capitol on January 6 last year. Clearly, the Trump story is another case study for researchers.
What am I getting at? Thrashing Tinubu and making him look like a villain even before the primaries is a familiar story. I concede that Nigerians are becoming more aware of our current circumstances and want a President who will give them hope that they can hold on to, believing that tomorrow will be better than today. In fact, for some Nigerians, where the president comes from is not important as long as he or she can be trusted to perform and deliver the dividends of democracy.
Apart from Tinubu, there are other candidates in the race but the media attention and frenzy has been more on the former Governor of Lagos State. Tinubu is enjoying massive publicity and it is precisely what you need to build a great brand. Tinubu could become the biggest beneficiary from “sympathy” votes due to unrestrained bashing if he is able to scale the primaries.
Those who are bashing Tinubu know themselves and they also know why they have embarked on their “messianic” mission. The social media is literally on fire over Tinubu but how many of them have voter’s card?
Some of the media attacks have been toxic, shambolic and libelous. Their aim is to stop Tinubu but can they? How do you demonise a candidate without naming alternatives and explaining why they should be the preferred candidates?
The Tinubu obsession, it seems, has become a disease that is spreading fast like cancer. My position is that every candidate should be given the same opportunity. Mind you, we can only have one president at a time. I have no doubt in my mind that the politics of 2023 will produce a lot of surprises and casualties but it is better to try.
There have been appropriate responses in defence of the Asiwaju. Segun Ayobolu, a former chief press secretary to Tinubu when he was governor of Lagos State, analysed the key issues recently and explained the circumstances responsible for the constant Tinubu bashing in his comprehensive rejoinder.
As a kingmaker, the critics argue that the Jagaban Borgu cannot become a king but Tinubu has made up his mind. A keen political observer told me he will not vote for Tinubu because he was one of those from the South – the other prominent person being Rotimi Amaechi, the Transportation Minister – that facilitated the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as president in 2015.
Different strokes for different people. But it is not enough to say Tinubu cannot be president when the primaries have not even taken place. How are we so sure he will get the party’s ticket?
Media reports indicate that apart from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who has declared his presidential ambition, vice president Yemi Osinbajo, Yahaya Bello (Governor of Kogi State) and Rochas Okorocha (former Governor of Imo State) are also nursing the same ambition to contest.
Others are Rotimi Amaechi (Minister of Transportation), Godswill Akpabio (Minister of Niger Delta Affairs), Kayode Fayemi (Governor of Ekiti State), Babatunde Fashola (Minister of Works and Housing) and Dave Umahi (Governor of Ebonyi State).
On the other side of the aisle, the potential PDP presidential candidates include Goodluck Jonathan (former president), Atiku Abubakar (former vice president who also, like Tinubu, has a life-long ambition to be president of Nigeria), Aminu Tambuwal (Governor of Sokoto State) and Chief Dele Momodu, the Chairman of Ovation Media Group.
The others are Bukola Saraki (former Senate president), Peter Obi (former Governor of Anambra State), Nyesom Wike (Governor of Rivers State), Bala Mohammed (Governor of Bauchi State), Pius Ayim (former secretary to the federal government) and Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa (former Chairman, Nigeria Economic Summit Group).
We also have Kingsley Moghalu, a former presidential candidate, in the race and until recently, Akinwunmi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, is being touted as an excellent choice. Pat Utomi, professor of political economy, is also keen to contest.
Whether these presidential hopefuls eventually contest or not, we should encourage them; they are all welcome to the party. Our analysts and concerned stakeholders should be more interested in what these candidates have to offer. Everyone has a past and if we believe these candidates cannot pass the smell test, we should allow voters to determine their fate. The choices we make in a free and fair election are in our hands.
But one thing our commentators must also understand is that politicians engage in a lot of horse trading, lobbying and negotiation. Politicians know how to position themselves to get what they want. Political circus shows come and go like seasonal reality television shows while the rest of us remain as spectators, helpless, hoodwinked and caught flat-footed by their scripts. What has changed since 1999?
As in every game, politicians don’t win all the time. Unfortunately, how much money they are able to throw around is usually a deciding factor. In a game of chess, you can sacrifice a pawn or two as part of your winning strategy. When it becomes necessary, you may also sacrifice a bishop or knight in a highly competitive game to achieve your objective. It also happens in politics.
Winning comes from deploying the right strategy. How will tradeoffs be achieved with so much poverty, anger, hunger, youth unemployment, double digit inflation hanging in the air around us amid a climate of uncertainty, fear and insecurity? It is doubtful if this trend will change before 2023.
Advocacy for transformational leaders should continue for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians but it will not happen overnight; it is an ongoing process. We should not be tired of pointing the way forward by searching for Nigerian leaders with a transformative vision, sense of purpose, intelligence, a reliable network of tested achievers, competence and ability to turn things around.
We need leaders who can think on their feet and I want to believe that Charles Soludo will live up to expectation as governor of Anambra State.
Those who can actually make the difference are few and they do not have the required political capital to take them to the seat of power in Abuja.
Until we are able to overcome this challenge and produce a paradigm shift, our story will not change. This should be our focus right now and not bashing Tinubu – or pulling down any contestant for that matter – which is rather unhelpful.
The political field will eventually narrow down to two political gladiators: one from APC and one from PDP. Who will they be? Your guess is as good as mine. God bless Nigeria.
- Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)