Tinubu’s Mission Impossible, By Shaka Momodu
I must confess that I am not a clairvoyant, neither am I a politician. And let me admit beforehand that if I were a politician, I would probably have been a poor one at least within the context of how it is played in this clime. I was raised in the very simple and principled way of life – to stand for something, value hard work, integrity and honour my father’s name. I cannot claim to have always excelled, but I can claim to have reasonably acquitted myself. These are the values that have defined me and my interactions with my fellow man.
You can hardly find these values in the conduct and behaviour of our politicians. Theirs is about the politics of money, material acquisition, godfatherism, cult membership, human sacrifice, etc. It has nothing to do with a dream or a vision for society. And betrayal is the currency of their trade. I can hardly belong here. But I have come to the realisation that at some point, we may have to throw our hats into the ring in an effort to reorder our politics. We cannot just sit down and lament day in, day out. We have to come out and put our money where our mouth is and then walk the talk. My generation is too complacent. We want change but lack the courage and will to effect it.
Now let’s go back to the main thrust of this article. Let me make a very categorical prediction here: Tinubu’s task to reconcile the APC is doomed to failure! Certainly, there is no gainsaying the evidence of this prediction as is right in our faces. The attempt at reconciliation is a last-ditch effort to save a rudderless ship bound for the bottom of the ocean. The party that duped Nigerians with the sweet-nothing promise of change, only to exhibit the worst of the very behaviour it had condemned in others, is about to implode and there is no one to save it from its original sin.
To start with, Tinubu is the wrong person for this reconciliatory effort if the intentions were truly to reconcile the many aggrieved members before the 2019 general election. Tinubu himself is a factor to the crisis rocking the coat of many colours. Often overrated as “the greatest political strategist in Africa” by his lackeys and hangers-on and buoyed up by the media, he has an insatiable sense of entitlement, and has remained implacable over his loss of the control of the party, sulking over his inability to hand-pick and impose his preferred candidates on the party at the national level.
Consequently, he has had a running battle with the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, whom he had a very public spat with over the conduct of the Ondo State primary election to choose the APC governorship standard-bearer in 2016. Tinubu went to the extent of even accusing him of corruption, undemocratic behaviour and demanded his resignation. It was one of those moments Tinubu tried to flex his ACN muscle. When his call was largely ignored, Tinubu quietly withdrew into his shell to lick his wounds. The irony here is that it was Tinubu who was alleged to have pulled all the stops to make Oyegun the chairman of the APC, perhaps in the hope Oyegun would be used as a stooge in the implementation of Tinubu’s not-so-hidden-agenda to take over the structures of the party. Well, men’s fortunes do change and new alliances are forged. Oyegun found new friends and drifted away from the original unspoken intent and the unwritten script to the chagrin of Tinubu.
Make no mistake, Oyegun is a sycophant of the current finger-pointing government. He has been talking like a man whose life depends on President Muhammadu Buhari running for another term. He daily pleads with Buhari to seek another term “to continue the good work” he and a few others see. In his warped thinking, God sent Buhari to save Nigeria. He is an unfeeling chairman who represents everything a New Nigeria should move away from. And so is Tinubu. They are both more interested in Buhari’s continuation and advancing their relevance than condemning the killer herdsmen who continue to wreak havoc on lives and properties across the country.
I am sure Tinubu himself does not expect he would succeed in reconciling his party of coat of many colours. It was not a coat made by a loving mother whose love is eternal and never fades. The APC is a coat of many colours made by a mixture of “walking wounded politicians with a vendetta ideology” of different shades and vices and experts in propaganda. A party of strange bedfellows which succeeded in wresting power from an incumbent – a victory well beyond its own imagination and which unfortunately has saddled it with a responsibility to govern – a responsibility now provably far beyond its capacity. For a few of us who saw through the massive propaganda in 2015, we are not surprised by the tragedy that has become this coat of many colours and a “vast reservoir of inner nothingness”.
If Tinubu thinks his reconciliation would succeed, then it shows how extremely naïve he is. I suspect there may be other reasons for picking him other than a true desire at reconciliation. It may be to keep him busy and give him a false sense of relevance from the abyss he was sidelined to. Otherwise, how can it be that the Aggrieved Commander-in-Chief is suddenly the right person to reconcile a fractious party? Has Tinubu reconciled himself with the party’s players who “trashed” him after the party won, as stated by his wife just recently? Has he reconciled himself with Muiz Banre and Babatunde Fashola within his Lagos domain? Has he done likewise with Kayode Fayemi and Rotimi Akeredolu within his South-west domain? A man who cannot fix his own house is now saddled with the task of fixing the crises in several state chapters of the party? There are two court cases instituted by Muiz Banre in Lagos, a direct fallout of the last local government elections. And what am I hearing that Tinubu’s headache just got bigger with the split in the Lagos chapter of the APC? Sometimes, it not only rains, it pours. How can Tinubu be a fair arbiter in the crisis rocking the Kogi State APC chapter when he is a factor in the crisis that has seen some members at daggers drawn with the governor’s faction?
The kind of talisman he would use to reconcile the intolerant and tyrannical Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai with Senators Shehu Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi whose house was demolished on the orders of el-Rufai a few days after Tinubu was appointed to reconcile the many irreconcilable enemies in the party remains to be seen. In Rivers State, the Rotimi Amaechi/Magnus Abe feud is festering. Amaechi wants to be the godfather who determines who gets what, like Tinubu is in Lagos. Will Tinubu be able to tell Amaechi to keep his empire dream in abeyance for the good of the party? Is that not wishful thinking?
What magic wand will he wave to resolve the war of attrition between Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso in Kano? Tinubu would soon find out that his Lagos sphere of influence does not extend to Kano, Kaduna, Kogi Adamawa, Rivers, Oyo, etc. In Ondo State, the governor, Akeredolu, has practically declared Tinubu persona non grata in his state, advising him not come to the state with his reconciliation committee. It remains to be seen whether other state governors will follow in his footsteps. Before I forget, has Tinubu truly made up with Bukola Saraki and Aminu Tambuwal? Saraki went against the party/Tinubu’s choice to emerge the Senate President in 2015. Tambuwal was said to have stabbed Tinubu in the back when he refused to support Femi Gbajabiamila’s quest to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives and instead, backed Yakubu Dogora.
I have been intrigued watching the way Tinubu has approached his “presidential assignment” with obvious relish. It is more as if he saw an opportunity to resurrect his grudge fight with his own party chair or those he had disagreed with in the past. If you doubt me, read the condescending and very commanding letter laced with accusations he wrote to the chairman of the party. Let me provide excerpts here for my readers: “You have taken it as your own personal ambition to thwart my presidential assignment in these key states. While this may place you in significant affinity with those parallel officials you hand-picked, this machination suggests no improvement in the welfare of the party in Kogi or at the national level.”
He accused Odigie-Oyegun of rushing to Kogi to inaugurate a new parallel state executive without reference to the appropriate organ of the party. Tinubu told Odigie-Oyegun: “It is my understanding that your dissolution of the duly-constituted state executives and the hurried naming of the above-mentioned caretaker group were not approved by the NWC. You had let this situation fester for months on end. Only when I was appointed to help resolve internal disputes and when you realised I might focus early on Kogi, did you stir from your indifference and inaction.” Consequently, Tinubu stated, “In furtherance… I request that you make available to me the status reports and all the pertinent information regarding the state chapters without further delay.”
Even though he used the word request to disguise his order, it sounded more like a command to Odigie-Oyegun. Then of course he threw in the catch, “my presidential assignment” for effect – clearly an undisguised attempt to seemingly intimidate and barrel his way through any likely resistance.
Can this tactic work in the pursuit of peace, in an environment where the president is badly weakened by his own poor understanding of party politics? Here is a president who has largely remained aloof and uninterested in the internal politics of his party. Without mincing words, Buhari’s after-victory attitude to his party is at the root of the APC dysfunction. The party could have stood a chance at transforming from a contraption into what nearly looks like a party despite its poor foundation, if Buhari was interested. But he was apparently more interested in the victory than the vehicle he used to achieve that victory.
At the height of his popularity when his body language was doing wonders, he could have stamped his moral authority on the party, before that authority unraveled. But he failed and allowed the competing forces for power and influence to fester and even in some cases his name was dropped to advance certain interests. For all he cared, the party ceased to matter after his win. It is that failure to build the party that is now about to spell the end of it.
His ethnic agenda and nepotism since coming to power have more than anything damaged him in the estimation of not only his party members but the generality of Nigerians – that is if it has not completely eroded his authority. Now, faced with a daunting task of being re-elected and a moral authority that is not worth more than paperweight, he is attempting to act, albeit belatedly.
Buhari suddenly realises he needs the party as a vehicle and the support of the competing interest groups and factions in unison to win a second term. Unfortunately, many of these interest groups and factions have solidified their blocks within the party and every so often go to war with one another in their battle for supremacy. It is now a fight to the finish in many states.
Many of the actors duelling it out in these warring state chapters, not only detest Tinubu as a person, they loathe his politics. It is unlikely they will be charmed by the opening salvo contained in his letter. Before we forget, Tinubu’s mandate is to reconcile aggrieved members and unite the fractured party ahead of 2019. Does anyone think Tinubu is really going to succeed, especially going by his approach which bears all the hallmarks of one who sees an opportunity to avenge an old slight? At the end of his “presidential assignment”, I can bet an arm and a leg that the APC would be more divided. The 12-month tenure extension granted Oyegun and other principal officers of the NWC by the party’s NEC is not only a forceful rebuttal of Tinubu and his tactics, but a ringing endorsement of Oyegun. He has been “trashed” again. Obviously, the self-proclaimed national leader does not have a national following. Where does Tinubu go from here? As me, I know when I am being ridiculed. All his investments in the quest for power is going up in smoke. There is no better way of seeing what happened last week – the extension of Oyegun’s tenure despite Tinubu’s opposition. Tinubu should take heart because it was “party supremacy” at work.
No doubt, Tinubu is a very successful and experienced politician, but he has been very lucky as well that he has had loyal successors who decided to play the good boys. With all his successes in politics, his temperament seems unsuited for the assignment he so enthusiastically accepted. In this, he certainly needs tutoring in the art of diplomacy. It is also possible but highly unlikely that Tinubu is about to outsmart those who sidelined or better put “trashed” him. It is either he wants to cause more chaos and division and then have the last laugh, or that he may be genuinely naïve about his political reach.
Either way, we’ll find out soon. Let me not discount the significance of the fact that some good can come out of Tinubu jetting around the country in pursuit of the so-called reconciliation. Since Buhari is rumoured to be offering a carrot in the form of 2023 presidency to Tinubu to get his endorsement for 2019, there is one benefit that will most likely accrue to Tinubu, if he can see it: an opportunity to identify crucial players, key indicators and build new bridges in critical states for himself in furtherance of his ambition ahead of 2023 under the cover of the “presidential assignment” to reconcile aggrieved members.
If Buhari wins the 2019 election (God forbid)! Tinubu’s eyes would be opened to the “true lies” and deception he has been sold. Drawing from that, let me make one more prediction: Tinubu’s political reign is about to end, whether Buhari wins or loses. But I guess Tinubu has probably decided that he is probably better off sticking with Buhari than ditching him because if the opposition party should win the presidency, the Tinubu political empire would inevitably be a prime target for a total decimation.