By Femi Aribisala
Let me re-introduce myself in case you have forgotten. I have been an implacable critic of the politics of Bola Tinubu.
Among others, I have written articles against Tinubu entitled: “What Does Tinubu Want?” “Time to Get Rid of Tinubu’s Cronies;” “Time to Disgrace the South-West Godfather;” and “Don’t Cry for Bola Tinubu.” I stand by every one of those articles, even though the warnings I gave in them went largely ignored.
Although many Tinubu supporters don’t seem to realise this, my opposition to Tinubu was not personal. My opposition was based on the grounds that Tinubu’s politics was shortsighted. In that regard, my position has been proved right. The strategic political objectives of Tinubu were unattainable and have been not been attained.
In the first place, Tinubu’s recent politics were designed to make him a key player at the national level, as he has been at the regional level. He really wanted to become the vice-president of Nigeria. This has proved unattainable, and we warned him about that. Most of his so-called friends at the national level are fair-weather friends. They never really liked him and were afraid of him. Under no circumstances would they allow him to duplicate his stranglehold on South-West politics outside the South-West.
The reality of Tinubu’s politics in Nigeria is that he can be a king-maker but will not be allowed to be king. The best Tinubu has been able to achieve has been to nominate a vice-president who, to all intents and purposes, is not even a major power-broker in government.
As vice-president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has only succeeded in being a fall-guy; for the collapse of the naira and for the failure to date of the 2016 budget.
In the second place, the strategic design of Tinubu’s politics was to make him a power behind the throne at the national level. This objective has also proved to be a pie-in-the-sky. Since becoming president, Buhari has largely ignored Tinubu’s counsels. Not a single Tinubu nominee became a minister in the president’s cabinet. Those who made it from the South-West were deliberately the people he did not want.
Tinubu nominees failed to make the position of Senate president or Speaker of the House of Representatives. The APC has also failed to make Tinubu Chairman of its Board of Trustees. To date, Tinubu has no statutory post in the party he midwifed. The party chairman, thought to be a Tinubu man, has been bought over, so much so that Tinubu is now asking for his resignation; but to no effect.
Having used Tinubu to win the election, he has been dumped like a used rag. It was because we anticipated this reversal of fortunes, that some of us were loud in warning Tinubu in the heady days of APC coalition-building. It was in that context that I later wrote my article saying: “Don’t Cry for Bola Tinubu” on the grounds that he deserved what happened to him. We warned that this would happen but he refused to listen.
But now times have changed.
The bombastic change platform on which APC fought and won the election has failed to materialise. The change we are now facing is one far worse than anything hitherto experienced. It is absolutely incredible that, in spite of the grandiloquent promises made during the 2015 election campaign, the dollar is now exchanging for the naira on the parallel market at virtually 500 to 1. Like the naira, the Nigerian economy is in freefall, going from bad to worse.
But another change has also taken place and this one is political. It is finally apparent to Bola Tinubu that his friends in the APC are really not his friends at all. That is why he has now complained publicly and resigned as inconsequential “National Leader” of the party. Having used him to achieve their ends at the polls, his fair-weather APC friends have now indicated that they are not merely interested in dumping him, their plan is to decimate his ranks and render him powerless. They are now out to use their new-found vantage point to attack him in his hearth of the South-West and to split his coalition by sponsoring those in opposition to him and, if necessary, by rigging them into power at his expense.
Given this development, this is not the time to tell Tinubu “we told you so; we warned you but you did not listen.” This is not the time to say: “Don’t Cry for Bola Tinubu.” This is the time to cry for Tinubu. As a mater of fact, this is the time for all true progressives to rally round Bola Tinubu. The reason for this is simple.
Now that Tinubu has hopefully learnt his lesson, he should be more open to those of us who he thought were his enemies in the past but should now realise have always had his back. Tinubu should now be more amenable to wise counsel. Now that he has resigned from the honorific, but irrelevant, title of leader of the APC, he should start making plans to extricate himself from the APC altogether.
At the very least, he should leave no one in doubt that he would not be taken for granted by leaving the door open for a realignment with a more agreeable coalition as the APC begins inevitably to unravel.
The nullification or dilution of Bola Tinubu’s power in the South-West, at this juncture of Nigeria’s economic hopelessness, renders Nigeria at the mercy of Abuja’s incompetence for the foreseeable future. Since coming to power, President Buhari has been unapologetic about the Northernisation of the Nigerian government. He has completely jettisoned any pretensions to the principles of federal character but has placed Northerners in every strategic sector of the government. This is part of the rationale behind the resurgence of pro-Biafra agitators, as well as the emergence of the Niger-Delta Avengers. In the process of consolidating the North, the agenda is now to decimate the South-West. This should not be allowed to happen.
At the moment, Nigerian democracy has no opposition; which is why nobody is complaining about the disastrous collapse of the naira and the adverse economic climate. The government is even floating the idea of further increases in the price of petrol, and nobody is up in arms. The PDP is at war with itself, and the cynical anti-corruption campaign of the government has been used effectively to silence it. That is why the burgeoning attack on Bola Tinubu deserves a rallying response.
Progressive Nigerians should not allow anyone in these climes to make a fool of Bola Tinubu. We must help him to consolidate and even enhance his position. At strength, Buhari can only be a one-term president without Bola Tinubu. All Tinubu needs to do is to start making plans to form another alliance that links truly progressive Northerners with those of the South-West, South-East and South-South. The possibility of that happening should give him a new fillip. At the very least, it would put him back into reckoning, ensuring he can only be ignored at great cost.
Without Tinubu, Buhari would not be the president of Nigeria today. Buhari’s wife, Aisha, acknowledged as much after the 2015 election. Without Tinubu, Buhari would not have secured the presidential ticket of the APC. Without Tinubu, Buhari would not have had the semblance of widespread national acceptability. Without Tinubu, Buhari would not have had the funds to mount a national campaign. Without Tinubu, Buhari only obtained 370,000 votes from the entire Southern Nigeria in the 2011 election. Without Tinubu, Buhari has no political future; unless the unproductive hegemonists currently ranged against Tinubu succeed in turning him into a toothless bulldog.
Therefore, I insist, this must not be allowed to happen. This is the time for all truly progressive people, North and South; East and West to rally to Tinubu’s support. Let us forget the past; even the immediate past. In politics, there are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends. Let us be united in one purpose; the unity of Nigeria is paramount. Nigeria should not be conceded to hegemonists. It is now abundantly clear that those that have clamoured for power for long and have now attained it have no clue what to do with it; other than to put their kinsmen and family members in key positions, while the nation’s economy has gone to the dogs.
We must not be in any doubt as to what is going on now. Instead of investing in the future of Nigeria, the only real investment taking place now is towards the hegemonic control of the country by a small segment of the population for the foreseeable future. This is not only anti-democratic; it is anti-Nigeria. It must be resisted politically with wisdom and clear-sightedness. It must be resisted adroitly by the formation of a new, truly national non-sectarian coalition that stretches across the Niger. In this design, Bola Tinubu would be invaluable once again as one of its principal architects.
Equally important, the South-West must learn from the past when Akintola was used to divide it from Awolowo. That kind of history must not be allowed to repeat itself. From my point of view, the bottom line is as follows. My democratic instincts have always made me opposed to Tinubu’s status as the godfather of South-West politics.
But under the present circumstances, I would rather have Tinubu as the godfather of South-West politics, than have Buhari as the godfather of South-West politics. To the extent that a Tinubu can never be the godfather of North-West politics, then Buhari must never be the godfather of South-West politics.