Southwest APC and renegotiating 2019
What Tinubu’s Candidacy Will Reveal
Assuming Asiwaju Bola Tinubu succumbs to pressure and throws his hat in the ring to contest the Presidential election in 2019, what could be the likely implications on the polity? First, he would be asserting his position as the political leader of the Southwest. Next, he would be acknowledging the fact that mistakes were made in 2015; and thereby, coming out would mean accepting responsibility and electing to lead in the path of correcting those mistakes. More importantly, Jagaban would be testing the loyalty of his political protégés and holders of various goodwill (IoUs).
However, as simple as that executive summary sounds, the journey to 2019 for the politically savvy people of Southwest geopolitical zone is not all about restoring the political glory of the former Lagos State governor, as much as, it is about rekindling the electoral supremacy of the zone.
It is not for nothing that the perception holds true that whenever the Southwest sneezes, Nigeria’s polity catches influenza. The foundation for principled opposition to political tyranny and bad governance was laid in the zone by such eminent political personalities as Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Bode Thomas, Chief S. L. Akintola, Majekodunmi, among others.
The tradition of political solidarity that took root in the first republic has survived in the Southwest, because after he founded Egbe Omo Oduduwa as a political consciousness movement, Awo succeeded in grooming a cult following of supporters, leading to the formation of solid political parties such as Action Group (AG) and Unity Party (UPN).
During the Ibrahim Babangida transition programme, Tinubu found himself within the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He was later to contest for the senate of Lagos West senatorial district election, which he won.
As Senator, Tinubu was active when the military annulled the 1993 presidential election, which Chief Moshood Abiola, was on the verge of winning. It was therefore in keeping with the Southwest approach to political commonality that gifted Bola Ahmed Tinubu with the ticket of the Alliance of Democracy (AD).
With that rich political resume, the leadership of Afenifere believed that Tinubu had paid his dues in championing the interest of the Yoruba nation, particularly during the NADECO days and thus placed him at a more vantage position to mount the governorship of Lagos State.
Upholding The Culture of Principled Opposition
As Governor of Lagos State, Tinubu, upheld the culture of animated and principled political opposition as Awo did in the first and second republics. Not minding that a Yoruba was President of the mainstream platform, Asiwaju kept fate with the political ideals of the sense of solidarity that defines Southwest politics.
It was during the political supremacy battle with the President Olusegun Obasanjo-led Federal Government of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that Tinubu rallied the rest of Southwest to his side. He went on to consolidate on that after a massive onslaught of the ruling PDP left Lagos as the only AD state in Southwest.
Perhaps, on account of that political reality, Tinubu saw the need to restrategise and reposition the party. But meeting some indifference from certain tendencies in AD, the Lagos State governor recalibrated a faction of the party as Action Congress (AC). His foresight paid off in 2007 as the new party went on to win back states earlier captured by the PDP.
Southwest Journey To National Prominence
Buoyed by the impressive outing in the 2007 general election, especially against the background of the membership of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and repackaging of AC as Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN); Southwest politicians lined up behind Tinubu. And identifying him as leader, the Southwest started a journey to the centre in a bold effort to mainstream its politics on the national turf.
Even when Atiku, the 2007 ACN Presidential candidate returned to PDP, ACN with Tinubu as pilot, navigated its way through the 2011 general election with a lone star Presidential candidate in the person of Nuhu Ribadu. Most ACN faithful still hold the view that fielding Ribadu was a mere stop gap following the failure of the party to fine-tune a political understanding with the then Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), led by retired General Muhammadu Buhari.
One crucial item, which parties to the alliance discussion could not cross out easily was the issue of who should be the running mate to Buhari as the Presidential candidate under the arrangement. It was during talks on that working relationship that Tinubu was said to have told Buhari that after serving as senator and state governor, the only position left for him was the Presidency.
Although most insiders in the erstwhile ACN believed that the planned political accord with Buhari’s CPC crumbled immediately the PDP reached out to the Southwest leaders, others maintain that the nuanced rejection of a possible Muslim/Muslim ticket by Buhari made Tinubu to lose interest in the arrangement.
However, at the end of the 2011 election, the Southwest, notably the ACN saw that it did not fare badly, as it not only retained traditional control of the six states that constitute its stronghold, but also got some lubricant to oil the party machinery.
Merger Of Vengeance
Perhaps, believing that the Southwest got its due in the bargain for 2011 election, both the Jonathan Presidency and PDP did not find further need to carry forward the political concord, like Obasanjo did by accommodating members of the opposition in the federal cabinet, or engaging ACN further in policy formulation and other aspects of governance.
Faced with the coldness, Tinubu and his foot soldiers did not want to retreat from their mission of reaching the centre to make a bold political statement. Therefore, when the former national chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, mooted the idea of merger, the Southwest leaders jumped at it.
But seeing in the new opening a golden opportunity to requite PDP and President Jonathan for their political arrogance, Tinubu and ACN went into the merger talks with the single agenda of ousting the PDP government, believing that as the engine room of the merger works, there was no way it would end up with the short end of the stick.
However, nearly three years after it went into what now looks more like a merger of vengeance, than a political accord among equal partners, the Southwest leaders are examining the balance sheet. Talk of positions of responsibility and strategic importance, the return to the former ACN stable is interesting.
Yet the Southwest leadership seems to have discovered how it has been dispossessed and distanced from the nitty-gritty of governance. Unless in pretense, none of the Southwest leaders that supported the merger with passion could say that the party’s input or imprint could be found in the proceeds of governance in the last three years.
Ratiocination, Solving The Identity Crisis
As the build up to the 2019 general election gains momentum, there is little doubt that the Southwest leaders have become sober. The recent meeting of Southwest APC stakeholders in Ibadan was acclaimed as a moment for the leaders to reflect on the past, review strategies and prepare for the ensuing electoral battle.
What the Southwest leaders appeared to be saying after the soul searching in Agodi was, in the language of the late Afro music legend, Fela, follow follow make you open eye! Tinubu and his supporters are not therefore pretending that they are no longer prepared to get into any political boat with their eyes closed or fixated on a single item.
Part of the strategies of the zone for real political engagement is to interrogate the leadership recruitment process. Although he rebuffed all overtures to rethink his single minded supported for Buhari, Tinubu knows that the former military ruler was not the best or brightest among the aspirants for the presidential ticket in 2015.
By covertly zoning the Presidency to an individual, Tinubu and Southwest followers negated the ideals of democracy and free competition. The famed savvy political aptitude of the Southwest was thrown to the ground, when the leaders in the merger arrangement adopted less than just and fair methodologies to accommodate strangers for the single purpose of gaining access to national power.
The CPC leaders that participated in the merger talks, especially Hadi Sirika, believed that the Southwest leaders were outfoxed in their haste to con the north politically. They maintain that if its support for power to return to the north was for altruistic reasons, dislodging political structures in some states to accommodate the strange ideological bedfellows from nPDP should not have been.
For instance, there are APC stalwarts that still hold the belief that the party would have still defeated Jonathan and PDP without the help of nPDP interlopers. Even former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa stated that by absorbing the troublers of PDP and their indiscipline that APC lost its claim of change.
Even former Jigawa governor, Sule Lamido, refuses to accept that APC defeated PDP in 2015, saying that so-called Southwest progressives conspired with PDP renegades to afflict Nigeria with a Buhari Presidency.
Also, most of those who watched the 2011 Presidential debate argue that if Southwest and the legacy parties in APC were looking for ideological cleansing or rebirth of the country’s politics, the former governor of Kano State, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, trumped Buhari on all departments.
Consequently, in the midst of all these points of view, particularly the winner-takes-all disposition of Buhari and his loyalists, the Southwest must have come to the realisation that it must reclaim its political sobriety to assert its famed pedigree in multi-party democracy.
That realisation was captured by Chief Bisi Akande’s declaration that there is as yet nothing like closet bargain for presidential ticket, as it is open for all Nigerians. Whoever would aspire to be Nigeria’s President in 2019 must, going by Akande’s assertions, be able to convince the Southwest on where s/he stands of devolution, fiscal federalism, state police, among other issues that are very dear to the Yoruba nation.
Of course, there is no better way to engage the presidential aspirants than having their leader, the Jagaban Borgu, on the discussion table as Presidential aspirant too. By being on the Presidential ballot, not minding which platform, Tinubu and his Southwest allies, would bring back the beauty of competition, compromise through dialogue and political socialization that deepens democracy.
Furthermore, in the expected national conversation, Tinubu’s aspiration would help the Southwest to ascertain how far their recent positions had gone to ‘disorient’ such people like Governors Ibikunle Amosun and Rotimi Akeredolu, Babatunde Fashola, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Muiz Banire; among others, away from the sense of solidarity that defines Southwest politics.
Indeed, a presidential aspiration in 2019 will help Tinubu to regain his leadership role in Southwest politics, because even if he may not necessarily be contesting to win, he would have played himself back to reckoning and thereby remain relevant in national politics. Southwest seems to be on the march again.
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