By Dr. Bisi Olawunmi
The high voltage presidential election primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is down to the finish line in what promises to be a political slugfest in Abuja from June 6 to June 8, 2022 as the ruling party holds its convention and primaries to nominate its flag-bearer for the 2023 presidential election.
An event on Thursday, June 2, 2022 in Abeokuta that has greatly animated the public is what is considered Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s thunder statements in the Ogun state capital. It would seem that Tinubu went to Abeokuta to bare his mind, all gloves off. In his address to the Ogun State delegates to the APC presidential primaries that Thursday, Tinubu literally went at those he said he helped attain power, who are now ganged up against his own ambition of attaining the presidency of Nigeria. Tinubu had delivered his address in Yoruba language, recounting how he had gone to Gen. Buhari, after his third presidential election defeat in 2011, to offer him electoral support for a successful outing next time around.
That next time was 2015 and Tinubu, actualising his support pledge that culminated in the formation of the APC , led to Gen. Buhari winning the presidency at his fourth attempt ! The understanding in that arrangement, according to Tinubu, was that the Yoruba will not be relegated during Buhari presidency and that after his tenure, it would be the turn of Southwest. And when it comes to the Southwest, it must be his, Tinubu’s turn, he asserted. Some took offence at his assertiveness and reference to Gen. Buhari weeping on national television after his failed third attempt. The TV incident was the truth and the intent could be to highlight Buhari’s positivism, that from the depth of frustration, Gen. Buhari could be persuaded for a fourth try and eventual romp to victory. I think this projects the gung-ho, never-say-die spirits of both Gen. Buhari and Tinubu and should not ordinarily constitute an offence.
Tinubu recalled that Gen. Buhari even wanted him as his running mate, until some mischievous people put spanner in the works by pushing the dubious bogey that a Muslim- Muslim ticket would not fly, thereby truncating his ambition. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is named as one of the arrowheads who shut down the Muslim-Muslim ticket prospect. Senator Bukola Saraki has publicly admitted his role in aborting Tinubu’s dream of being a running mate to Buhari. Senator Saraki, who worked against Tinubu’s ambition later defied the APC leadership and fostered his own ambition by wangling his way to the position of Senate President, the third most powerful office in the land. Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, a Tinubu nominee to the Presidency, eight years on as Vice President, is also now a frontline presidential aspirant trying to shut down Tinubu’s presidential ambition, a second time. Tinubu’s Abeokuta chief host and Ogun state governor , Prince Dapo Abiodun , whom Tinubu told the gathering he fought for to get his mandate as Ogun state governorship candidate against the overwhelming forces of Governor Ibikunle Amosun has become a principal supporter of Vice President Osinbajo. The APC Convention/presidential primaries is slated for June 6 to June 8, 2022. Given this background and apparently feeling that time is running out on him, Tinubu must have convinced himself that the situation has reached the point of ‘ Oto ge ‘ (enough is enough) and therefore coming to Abeokuta, was like taking the battle to ‘enemy camp’, with no apologies. ( apology to U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater)
At this stage, let us intellectually, sociologically, psychologically and contextually interrogate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s outing in Abeokuta, which has drawn flak from many quarters.
Psychologically, Tinubu must be a traumatized person seeing how his most vicious contenders and critics are those from his ethnic group whom he had helped to attain high political offices. He must be ruing the Yoruba saying that ‘’ ile ni ase ni ngbe ‘’ ( the enemy is in the house/within ) So, going to Abeokuta, he must have decided to go for broke, daring the ‘enemy’ to bring on the ammo, in a public showdown.
Sociologically and culturally, Tinubu’s mentees who are now his opposition elements, are pushing the Yoruba norm that ‘ a ki i sore ka joko ti ‘ ( you don’t insist on payback on good deeds done ) but the Yorubas also say ‘ e ni ti a se lore, ti ko dupe, bi igba ti olosa ko ni leru ni ‘ ( those we assisted who fail to reciprocate our good gesture are like robbers who have stolen our goodwill ) So, it is a matter of different takes. Each group claims a justification.
Politically, Tinubu apparently sees himself as a strategic political investor by getting people to high public offices on the hope of reaping political dividends of his investment, as political IOUs, by way of support for his political ambition only for his political debtors to declare that he made a bad investment. This must have drawn his ire, hence is going on the offensive, realizing that he had laboured in vain in the political vineyard. The above interrogations put Tinubu’s conduct in Abeokuta in context.
The dramatic scene in the Abeokuta encounter is Tinubu’s apparent putdown of Governor Dapo Abiodun, the video of which has gone viral. He had recounted how he had helped many people to high public office, many of whom are now opposed to his ambition. And for dramatic effect, he had looked back at Governor Abiodun, sitting behind him, cynically noting that this one, ‘’ Eleyi ‘’ , couldn’t have been governor if I did not stand up for him when he was about to be overwhelmed by Governor Amosun’s forces at Abeokuta stadium where he was to be denied the party flag as governorship candidate. It takes a person of Tinubu’s caliber to refer to a governor publicly, derogatively as ‘ Eleyi’ , apparently aimed at cutting the governor to size. Many felt outraged at Tinubu’s condescending remarks about the governor.
But some others contend, however, that governors generally treat members of the public with disdain and that it was time somebody give one of them a black nose. The social media has since been in a frenzy over the incident with jokes and cartoons now circulating designating Governor Abiodun , ‘The Eleyi of Ogun State ‘ !!! . Some have criticized Tinubu for his Abeokuta outburst as an indecorous act and a display of lack of emotional control. Maybe, and maybe not. There are those who have also criticized Tinubu the way he spoke about President Buhari in Abeokuta insinuating that he risks dire political consequences. Of course, there are always consequences. One expects that Tinubu, as a veteran political warrior, should know that he must count the cost of his actions and factor them into his calculations.
What seems obvious is that Tinubu, heading to a dicey finish line in the presidential primaries race, is an exasperated person who must have been wondering – ‘ki ni mo se fun won to yen’ , – what wrong have I done to them, to deserve opposition, as payback, from those he helped to high office from his ethnic group.
Well, Tinubu survived Hurricane Obasanjo that swept all other Alliance for Democracy governors in the Southwest from office in 2003, remaining the Last Man Standing. Can he survive a Buhari Tornado at the APC Presidential Primaries ? We won’t have long to wait.