Is it not possible that pundits are missing the signs of a ‘forward to the past’ in the politics of the man popularly called the Lion of Bourdillion? Politics hardly follow a linear trajectory but the indicators point to a likely re-enactment of 1993. That is the Abiola scenario – an individual whose many sidedness positioned him to beat all the junta manipulations deployed to block him till he first breasted the tape. The election was annulled but at a time a clean copy of the result was almost at hand.
This is not a matter of anyone’s favourable or unfavourable disposition to Bola Ahmed Tinubu, aka BAT as a person or a politician. It is not about legality or ethics at this point. Those are matters which the other political parties and the candidates they will come up with would resolve in time. It is about what is on the ground in the on-going struggle for supremacy within the All Progressives Congress, (APC), and about interpreting same critically.
The APC, Nigeria’s ruling party is, like the country itself, at a cross-road. It has as much chance of overcoming its dangerous political health condition as it could simply dissipate out of history. But, it didn’t arrive at the cross-road today. It has ever been very sick. Only one doctor has kept it alive and it is debatable if that doctor is anyone other than BAT. Doing so in all the forms and sites requiring political transfusion has given him so much clout across the country. Has anything happened or can anything happen so quickly that will annul this benefactor status acquired from sending lifeline of men and cash to states that do not have APC governors, especially in the 2019 contest when the party was nowhere to be found for such needs? Can such an actor be easily cast away when he would not fail to deploy the legitimacy he acquired therefrom in a test of strength? Any such scenario is very unlikely, more so that this party is in deficit in terms of empowering most members. Many who fought the 2015 as well as 2019 electoral battles on the platform of the party are today in ruin? Is it not a foregone conclusion what the result will be should there be a tussle for power between the man and the party?
That’s one dimension of the multiple areas of strengths that will count in contemplating BAT’s political fortune if, indeed, President Buhari or the North is out to stab him when neither of the two appears to have the capacity to accomplish such anymore. Not only is the president beleaguered, he has suffered casualties in the first of the skirmishes that marks the stabbing process by ending up handing over the party to the man who is supposed to be the victim.
This is the List of the APC Caretaker Committee and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee: Governor Mai Mala Buni (Yobe) Chairman; Isiaka Oyebola SW; Ken Nnamani SE; Stella Okorete – Women Rep; Governor Sani Bello NC; Dr. James Lalu physically challenged; Sen. Abubakar Yusuf- Senatè Rep; Hon. Akinyemi Olaide – Reps; David leon – SS; Abba Ari –NW; Prof. Tahir Mamman – NE; Ismail Ahmed – Youth and Sen. Akpan Udoedehe- Secretary
Out of the 13, no less than 10 are solid BAT guys or connected to him one way or the other. It is possible that the dynamics could work out eventually that they would shift camp. Even that is not going to be easy. The incentive for ditching BAT does not exist for most of those names, more so as the president has not empowered people and as the Buhari persona wanes very rapidly by the day. Worse still, the actors behind the seemingly anti-Tinubu coalition are each in trouble in their backyards. Most are not standing on two legs.
The claim of troubled backyards for each of the anti-BAT coalition drivers is almost there for all to see. Is it the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai? Apart from the interpretation of his Muslim-Muslim ticket in governing Kaduna as a message, there are political enemies, especially those he annulled or blocked their election in 2019, waiting to pay him back. It is doubtful if he can he muster a coalition that can counter-balance a BAT in a test of strength. Would he be able to make amends so quickly as to be anything but a liability of a Vice-Presidential candidate in 2023?
Who among the governors in the North apart from Plateau State governor that would go to war with el-Rufai today? How many men can gentleman governor, Lalong, put to the task when the push comes to shove? It is easy to lead seven governors to Lagos in mid 2020 and hope to find a Yoruba presidential material that would turn the tide against the one who has planted himself as the Field Marshal, the fact that one such possible candidate has had to quickly deny such entanglement should signify the future of that project.
The situation is not very different in places such as Rivers or Ekiti states. If most of the key actors spoiling to takeout BAT have problems back home and if majority in the power machine now running APC are loyalists, then hasn’t APC been handed over to BAT through the backdoor? And shouldn’t the president be regretting by now if he were still in the mood to be worried about those things?
The presidency’s sensitivity to the hint of bad blood between President Buhari and BAT thus simply and deliberately missed the point. Nobody has been talking of that, the dominant interpretation having been one of Buhari and/or the North stabbing BAT and a ruling party endangering the country as it staggers as if suffering from a spasm of drunkenness. This much is there in the first paragraph of the statement from The Presidency viz “The very essence of the requests put to the Emergency National Executive Committee meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by President Muhammadu Buhari, which were unanimously approved aim to pull back the party, faced with an existential crisis from the brink of collapse, follow the constitution and take everyone along”
Of course, the statement was silent on the bundle of procedural transgressions surrounding the progression of Oshiomhole’s fall, including the use of dead exparte order at some point. Almost everyone right up to Oshiomhole and the president are implicated in the transgressions. And now the lines are so drawn that should someone go to court, given the jurisprudential attraction in doing so in the case, then a lot more could unfold. It is not Oshiomhole as a person being sent packing that is the problem. It is the lack of smartness in doing it the way it was done. PDP at this moment can afford to do that because it is not the ruling party but not the APC. This must be why everyone seems to be eager to step back from exacerbating the crisis because it has simply become an all consuming affair.
All these stress the interpretation of the latest of beleaguered Nigerian president’s move as stabbing BAT. Even if that were his mission, the president has bungled it on two points. Not only has he handed over the party to him through the back door, he has also committed the grave tactical error of alerting him too early that he might be on a stabbing mission. It is a grave error to send such a signal to a highly motorized warrior such as Bola Ahmed Tinubu in this matter. It is too early to do that to a politician who, apart from Atiku Abubakar, would emerge the winner should the presidential elections be held today, with or without Buhari, even as an incumbent.
On which front is Buhari, even as incumbent, capable of successfully blocking BAT, as zigzag as politics might be? With the president surrounded by crucial state functionaries influenced into such positions by BAT? If his media aides have to circulate nerve soothing but question begging press statements a day after the first round, what is the guarantee they can hold out without the Abiola scenario of defeating Bashir Tofa in Kano repeating itself?
BAT can meet his waterloo in politics. Outside APC, he can be blocked, depending on who the PDP or the other surviving parties bring up and the quality of newness of the issues they raise. BAT might also need to beware of the historical roadblock against rich politicians making the presidency in Nigeria. In other words, the dynamics could play out to push BAT to the club of the Ibrahim Waziri, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, MKO Abiola and, to date, Atiku Abubakar. But, even then, each met his roadblock in different circumstances. And the circumstance today is vastly different from that of each of the gentlemen in the above list.
Other than that, he has not been stabbed even if the aggressor meant to do that. The coalition that aims at him have engineered sufficient turbulence but it seems everyone has suddenly realized the balance of terror is too stable to move further. Without the inaugural skirmish being a crippling and irresistible blow, everything appears lost because what it takes to make things happen in Nigerian politics today makes even one minute Early Warning to a BAT a disastrous move. In the days ahead, this thesis will unfold nearly exactly.
The starting point might be BAT and Oshiomhole’s statements on the crisis, BAT’s statement full of underbelly meaning, ever referencing the president which is not an innocent practice, refraining from declaring a presidential ambition but neither denying it, alerting the world that the machine is off track but targeting no one as such. Uhmmm!