BY CHRIS GYANG
Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT), who dressed up Mr. Buhari in the borrowed regalia of a messiah, paraded him round the democratic world as a man of integrity with the courage to fight corruption, reduce insecurity, enhance economic buoyancy and give impetus to democratic norms, now wants to succeed President Buhari in 2023.
Of course there is no problem in any qualified citizen aspiring to the number one position of the country. In fact, Nigerians across ethnic, religious and political divides are fervently praying and working towards ensuring that the next president extricates them and their country from this sweltering quagmire President Buhari has buried them.
Can BAT’s long-standing ambition be easily divorced from Mr. Buhari’s lackluster performance so far? In fact, many Nigerians feel that any of the aspirants who has played a key role in the about seven years of the Buhari administration must also bear the brunt of its unwieldy, toxic, baggage that is today weighing down the progress of the country and threatening to ground it to a halt.
Nigerians are now wondering whether Senator Tinubu and his co-salesmen still went ahead to market Candidate Buhari in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election well aware that he did not possess the sterling labels they lavishly attached on him.
And even when it became apparent that President Buhari had mired governance in religious and ethnic bigotry, why did BAT not call him out in the manner of a statesman? Rather, he largely chose to look the other way or, at most, made incoherent noises to at once placate suffering Nigerians and not to appear unduly antagonistic to Mr. Buhari.
His once stellar antecedents as a dogged fighter for democracy and human rights during the Abacha dictatorship belie the passivity he has adopted these seven years in which his buddy, Buhari, has turned Nigeria into a living hell. It has been suggested that it is very likely that Senator Tinubu has been so lukewarm since 2015 out of a sense of self-preservation – with an underlying political motive.
Perhaps, in 2015 and 2019 he made the South-West massively support Buhari, whether he deserved it or not, mainly because he knew it would further his political ambition of becoming president in 2023.
Political analysts say that this may have informed his strategy of concentrating most of his mobilization/campaign efforts so far in the North-West, Mr. Buhari’s sub-region. In fact, BAT has not hidden his preference for a running mate from that segment of the country – which is predominantly Muslim, like he himself.
This has informed his public pronouncements that he is very willing to run on a Muslim-Muslim ticket in the 2023 presidential election because the matter of religion is not so much of an issue in his native South Western Nigeria. Anyway, there has not been much resistance to this view in that geo-political zone – where BAT commands a lot of respect.
But other Nigerians view this stance as essentially callous and insensitive to the country’s religious diversity, especially at this point in time when most policies of the Buhari administration have created deep seated suspicions in the minds of Christians. The government is seen as generally being pro-Islamic, mainly pursuing a nativist, ultra-Fulani agenda.
Tinubu’s much vaunted Muslim-Muslim ticket is further construed as being akin to brashly and pompously talking above the heads of Nigerian Christians in the South-South, Middle-Belt, South-East, his own South-West and parts of the core north as if they do not exist and are therefore inconsequential in the country’s overall political algebra.
In his estimation, an exclusive alliance with Buhari’s North-West would automatically give him the presidency on a golden platter. He is also relying on the fact of his being a Muslim would guarantee him the support of the core north, especially Buhari’s North West – which is said to have one of the largest ballots in the country.
However, critics point out that if a power sharing formula between Christians and Muslims for the office of governor is strictly followed in Lagos State (which BAT enjoyed for two tenures of eight years), why is he averse to such equity and inclusiveness being extended to the much more diverse and polarized Nigeria where religious fault lines run deep and mutual suspicion is at an all-time high?
They put this down to Tinubu’s desperation to become president at all costs. Nevertheless, those who understand the inner workings of the minds of the political elite of the core north will tell you that Tinubu may as well be misplacing his trust and may be inadvertently positioning himself for a rude shock, sooner or later. This is because of the deeply entrenched notion in the core north that, in Nigeria, there are Muslims and there are Muslims.
We need not mention the political travails of the famous M.K.O Abiola, of blessed memory.
We shall continue this conversation in due course.
(GYANG is the Chairman of the N.G.O, Journalists Coalition for Citizens’ Rights Initiative – JCCRI. Emails: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com)