Nigeria: Beyond Tinubu

3 July 2020
opinion

Between Otto Van Bismarck and Claud Cockburn, one must have plagiarised the other. The remarkable wit, "never believe anything until it is officially denied" is attributed to both of them. In an extraordinary development a week ago, the Nigerian Presidency, whose most compelling trademark is lethargy, caught us all off guard with a peculiar swift response to media speculations on the personal relationship between President Mohammadu Buhari and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Although it was a mockery, nonetheless, when last can anyone recall the president responded with similar dispatch to reports of flare ups of Nigerians killing one another in hundreds in the low intensity civil war raging in Nigeria. To be prioritised in this manner, over urgent matters of state, must be very gratifying and flattering to Tinubu - that is if he is unable to read the mockery between the lines.The peculiar statement, not the least for the flippant language ("between the two of them, only they know how they manage their enviable relationship") is, by itself, a Trumpian red herring.- telling Tinubu not to believe what his eyes are seeing and what his ears are hearing. How logical does it sound to preclude one of the "two founding fathers of APC" from attendance in a meeting sponsored by the president for the fundamental purpose of pulling a party submerged in "existential crisis from the brink of collapse"? Similarly precluded are the leading lights of his faction including the founding Uncle of APC, Adams Oshiomhole and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, whose head was shaved in its absence with a peremptory dissolution.

The opinion of founding father Tinubu on the meeting sponsored by founding father Buhari was as follows: "After the fusillade of lawsuits and countersuits, two NWC members laid competing claims to the chairmanship. One legitimately elected at our national convention; the latter whose claim was based on the questionable suspension of the former".

The position of the president on the same meeting was clarified by Garba Shehu as "The President has received very convincing advice on the position of the law as far as the situation in the party is concerned and has determined that the law is on the side of Victor Giadom as Acting National Chairman. Because he will always act in accordance with the law, the president will be attending the virtual meeting Giadom called for tomorrow afternoon". The significance of the two positions is that what Tinubu deems 'questionable' is what Buhari deemed 'the law is on the side of Victor Giadom as Acting National Chairman'.

The president went further to send a message on those qualified to attend the meeting."In addition to the President, the Giadom meeting will hopefully be attended by our governors and leaders of the National Assembly." How do you interpret this invitation without speculating on those who are, conspicuously, not invited?

Tinubu is not, exactly, a good comparison to the precedent of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo save in the respect of the common experience of being a victim of their political reckoning. In a manner of speaking, the only relevance of the former is negative and it devolves on how to render him a politician of no consequence. I don't know how accurate is the description but he is the last man standing in the politics of the APC.

Take Tinubu out of political reckoning today and you look in vain in and out of APC for any active political leader with followership autonomous of Abuja. This observation is, of course, without prejudice to the consequential presence of world class statesmen like President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Professor Wole Soyinka and Colonel Dangiwa Umar.

What should bother us about the travails of Tinubu is that the move against him, within the context of the personality cult politics of Buhari, is reminiscent of a dictatorship purge.

It would be a disservice to his political sagacity and reputation to believe that Tinubu did not know he had it coming. The tragedy of his position is that, on account of his accumulated and well documented vulnerabilities, he is more or less trapped.

If he believes in prayers he had better start soliciting God that the offensive against him would stop short of the proportions of zero sum game. It is open to conjecture how valid and relevant is this recall by Awolowo "In the course of my contribution to the debate on the Anglo-Nigeria defence pact, Alhaji Mohammadu Ribadu rose up to say that the Prime Minister should take note that unless this man Awolowo is put in gaol, this country will not have peace".

In dealing with Awolowo, the Coker Commission of Inquiry and the predictable indictment came in quite handy. In the case of Tinubu, you do not even need to look, to get a treasure trove of incriminating evidence on his public footprints. He may yet rue the day he commandeered a naira and dollar loaded central bank armoured car to Boudellion road. One of his nemesis from the Buhari stable once boasted it wouldn't take him more than two and a half minutes to finish off Tinubu.

He, of course, knows his vaunted presidential aspiration is a non-starter and it would be unpardonably thick of him to believe otherwise. Ironically, however, projecting himself as actively seeking the office is an act of loyalty, goodwill and deference to the person who ultimately gets to decide his successor. Ostensibly seeking to succeed Buhari is not an act of autonomy or defiance, it is an act of loyalty and compliance-especially for someone as vulnerable as Tinubu is. Unlike the solid home support mitigation in the Awolowo and Moshood Abiola precedent, the perfect storm for him is how he is out on a limbo having lost considerable goodwill and legitimacy in the South-west.The easiest target for a predator is the prey who is isolated from its roost and sanctuary. With his purge, APC is now reduced to Buhari writ large Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). After finishing with the APC, the next target is obviously the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)- which, given the games governors like Nyesom Wike of Rivers State are playing, is a sitting duck.The potential saving grace of PDP

(which may preserve the facade of independent opposition party) is its utility as evidence of mimick multi party democracy; and its cooptation along with the APC as Buhari's six and half a dozen Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV). If the hour has not yet arrived, the day the PDP will join the APC as vanguard of the power politics outreach of the president is not long in coming. Now please don't get me wrong, in varying degrees, no member of the Nigerian political elite can pass the smell test, including President Mohammed Buhari-of whom Farooq Kperogi recently made this revelation "Buhari does his own stealing by proxy, which makes it impossible for anyone to trace anything to him. That was the evidence that came out from the probe of PTF. He was probably only aghast that Sabiu is too stupid to have that much money squirreled away in bank accounts in his name, not that he has stolen that much money".

Prior to Buhari's emergence as President in 2015, Tinubu was afforded the benefit of good counsel on the folly of believing he was going to share power in a democratic partnership. The logic of emergent dictatorship is that it would not just stop at not sharing power with you, it would divest you of the power you already have to render you of no consequence. Yet Tinubu could not even wait to display his ignorance of the new game in town when he manoeuvred to be dignified with the symbolically significant title of the 'national leader'. To be objective, such aspiration was even an inordinate overreach, given that, conventionally, the title belongs to the president elected on the platform of the party. The scenario that has been unfolding since 2015 and in which Tinubu is ensnared is too elaborate and deliberate for it not to be integral to a grand ulterior design. And it is in the nature of such agenda that majority of Buhari's regional constituency would be in the dark subject to the need to know basis.

No president engages in the outright appropriation of the institutional leadership of the three arms of government, the security services and the economy if he is not contemplating some kind of self-perpetuating civilian dictatorship. We have looked on in horror at how the leadership of the judiciary and the legislature have been willingly and unwillingly emasculated and rendered prostrate.The day Mr. Hope Uzordimma was appointed the Governor of Imo State will be remembered as a dark day in the history of the Nigerian judiciary. And it does not look like an escapade anyone would contemplate without the equivalent of a marching directive from higher quarters. You remember the Senate President openly swearing the oath of perpetual servitude to the president and the pathetic spectacle of his deputy kneeling before the president in abject obeisance. The more ominous method to the madness of the totalitarian take over is how it hacks back to the Abacha precedent. You will recall the spectre of the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, setting the stage for hanging the charge of treason on the opposition party a fortnight to the 2019 presidential election. Here is the refresher:

"Having realised that their fortunes have dwindled badly ahead of the polls, the desperate opposition is orchestrating widespread violence with a view to truncating the elections, thus triggering a constitutional crisis that could snowball into the establishment of an interim government.

"Before you accuse the government of crying wolf, let me tell you, gentlemen, that we have credible intelligence that armed bandits and Boko Haram insurgents have been mobilised to engage in massive attacks and other acts of violence in several states across the country, including Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Benue, Kano, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara.

"There is also an international dimension to the evil plan. Some armed mercenaries from Niger Republic have been contracted to attack top government functionaries, including state governors, across the North-west between now and the elections."

If anyone is in doubt about how the mind of this government works, Mohammed has given a cue.

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