APC Presidential Primary: Ailoba Ahonkhai Mirrors Tinubu In Perspectives i

APC presidential primary which kicks off today has thrown up huge debates as Ailoba Ahonkhai, a public affairs analyst lends his voice

Two things are now becoming clearer: Bola Tinubu will not clinch the APC presidential ticket if it is to be decided through consensus. The second thing is, he’s determined to be on the presidential ballot in 2023 (even if it means contesting on the platform of a different party).

Asiwaju Tinubu’s political career is one that is steeped in irony and drama. When he was a regional (southwest) leader, he was able to control his boys and consolidate his influence. He became the kingmaker feted by all who want to be president in post-Obasanjo’s Nigeria. Jonathan struck a deal with him in 2011 and Buhari sealed one 2015.

Tinubu’s mistake is his inability to adjust to the new political dynamics post-2015. His usefulness as kingmaker was only because he holds influence over the Southwest. As soon as that influence begins to diminish (as was seen in the 2019 elections), and as soon as he made open his intention to succeed Buhari, he’s no longer a kingmaker but simply a king-wannabe at the mercy of other kingmakers.

The truth is, no Nigerian politician comes into contact with power at the center and remain the same again. If Tinubu had remained a regional leader, he would still be in control of the Southwest, and presidential candidates would be trooping to Bourdillon seeking his alliance. Asiwaju is merely a victim of his own successes.

By choosing to go national, Tinubu not only risked diluting his own influence, but also exposing his boys to the federal side of political power and patronage never experienced before. His former commissioners and proteges are now vice presidents, ministers and presidential advisers. They have now experienced the enormous patronage of federal power in a way that enable them to outgrow his influence.

One after the other, his boys whom he had nurtured out of political obscurity started having problem with (and even plotting against) him. The only ones that stayed loyal are the ones who still need him. Osinbajo, Fayemi, Fashola, Ojudu, Aregbesola, the list is endless. His political capital begins to depreciate and people begin to perceive the Tinubu brand less favorably, gradually becoming a liability with the masses but still a force to reckon with due to his formidable political structure.

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Success has its own price. The list of his adversaries keeps growing: his estranged political boys, his natural enemies in the PDP and Afenifere, and even those Buhari haters who must bring Tinubu into their hatred of the president. It didn’t help that the president was underwhelming, and it didn’t also help that after over 20 years of ruling Lagos via proxies and unprecedented growth in internal revenue, the city still remains a pastiche of everything that’s wrong with Nigeria.

Tinubu’s candidacy in the APC is insurmountable because he has problems with 3 groups of stakeholders: his own southwest group who see him as a dying political brand that is running out of steam. To them, Tinubu must choose between dignified political retirement or humiliation. One thing that cannot be disputed is that Tinubu made them or contributed greatly to their making. And their decision to abandon him exposes him to political attacks elsewhere. Little wonder that he’s now more promoted by northern politicians than his kinsmen from the southwest.

In the Buhari camp, there are two school of thoughts: one camp believes by virtue of his contribution to the Buhari project, the president should support Tinubu in reciprocity. The other camp argues that having given Tinubu the privileges of appointing the vice president, senate president, speaker of the HoR, ministers and other senior officials, Tinubu is more than compensated for his support and the president should not be beholden to any promise real or imagined.

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Then there’s a third group of APC governors who are the real powerbrokers in APC. This group has mixed feelings about Tinubu from favorable to unfavorable. Governors want a president that will listen to and even consult them. Tinubu’s treatment of Ambode (despite interventions from his governor-colleagues) and his recent public lashing of Governor Dapo Abiodun are good indicators of the group’s opinion about Asiwaju. If they cannot count on his respect and consideration now as a candidate, what if he becomes president?

In all this mix, you have Bola Tinubu the politician on one hand, lamenting in the language of political betrayal, tired of being a kingmaker and ready to rock the boat if his boys and allies will not reciprocate his past support. And on the other hand, you have President Buhari who – true to character – has failed to groom a successor and does not even have a succession plan in place because he basically has no legacy to protect and no ‘personal’ scandals to cover up.

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It is easy to understand Asiwaju’s pain if all that he built was predicated on personal ambition alone. Purpose determines reward. We cannot blame people for their ambitions, we can only discuss them based on our understanding of history and interpretation of current events. As Tinubu gets ready to gyrate full circle in his last political dance, one single misstep will condemn him to the wrong side of the stage, and of history.

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