By Abiodun KOMOLAFE
Without being immodest, the structure of political campaigns in Nigeria has shown that Bola Tinubu’s dexterity and mastery of the game of politics is actually solid. The organisation of his campaigns, the strategy and the choice of the places he has been going, either for consultations or campaigns; and the responses he has been getting, have all been fantastic. Indeed, these are good signs of a man who actually plans to win.
Except one is also stretching the truth, the followership and the enthusiasm with which Nigerians have been thronging the campaign grounds to welcome the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential flag-bearer can only be matched with that of MKO Abiola in his days. Yes, the acceptability profile of the Bola Tinubu/Kashim Shettima presidential ticket is similar to that of the Moshood Abiola/Babagana Kingibe of the ‘Hope 93’ fame. Needless to repeat that it was also a Muslim/Muslim ticket!
‘Politics is a game of numbers.’ Therefore, as the campaigns are gradually peaking for the 2023 General Elections, it behoves Tinubu as the candidate to beat on February 25, 2023 to watch whatever he says. Why? The configuration of Nigeria and the structure of the society are such that one cannot open up and tell Nigerians all that one has in his coffers. As we know, some statements will always be (viewed as) controversial and will always divide a contestant’s votes. Essentially therefore, certain things must be kept close to one’s chest!
In the 2nd Republic, Obafemi Awolow’s campaign machinery became decapitated the moment he told the Igbo race that, if he became Nigeria’s president, he would not only ban the sale of fairly-used clothes, commonly referred to as ‘bend-down-select’ but also stock fish (due to its deficiency in nutritional values). At the end of the day, ‘Awo’, as he was fondly called, had his say but the Igbo voting public had its way! In the North, the feudal lords who are the custodian its values rejected Awo’s ‘Free Education’ offer because it was antithetical to feudalism. Of course, the rest is history! And, as if the gods were angry, Abiola also got into trouble somewhere along his political journey!
For the good or otherwise of the game, it is also important that Tinubu doesn’t promise what is not realisable in the shortest possible time. Take it or leave it, the Nigerian society is now anxious; and expectations are high! So, what he must promise must be something that can happen in a few months, to assure Nigerians that he knows what to do and that he also means well for them.
“It behoves Tinubu as the candidate to beat on February 25, 2023 to watch whatever he says. Why? The configuration of Nigeria and the structure of the society are such that one cannot open up and tell Nigerians all that one has in his coffers.”
At times, Bola Tinubu’s approach to politics is more like a class suicide! How? The ‘Asiwaju of Lagos’ is a very rich man. No doubt about it! That he also has sympathy for the poor is incontestable! That mantra alone is problematic! Why? Well, while it is a statement of fact that the rich don’t joke with things that can undermine their class, helping the poor may also translate into undermining the interest of the rich. Therefore, Tinubu should prepare for antagonism from that very particular sector of the society. For example, that the presidential candidate said he would tackle the petroleum subsidy ruckus was enough for some people to go against him because that’s where they derive their meal tickets. So, it is advisable that he waits until he takes over the mantle of leadership before making sensitive policy statements and/or announcing programmes that are not likely to go down well with the entrenched poachers of our patrimony.
On April 29, 2006, yours sincerely did an eloquent piece, entitled ‘Surpassing Bola Tinubu’s legacies’, on the ‘Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom’ in a national newspaper! Many more thereafter! Till date, my assessment of this man of perpendicular uprightness who harbours no grudge against anyone has not changed! Flowing from this position, while it is good for the presidential hopeful to sustain the tempo of his confidence, it is also important he doesn’t relent or rest on his oars until he has won the election.
Since it is not going to be over until a win is recorded, the ruling party, vis-à-vis its foot soldiers, must not dither until after the election. That’s the only way to win massively and convincingly. That prospective voters have collected their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) is not enough! What if they don’t come out on the day of the election? What if those cards have been sold to, or bought by, the highest bidder? Thank God: Tinubu already knows that it is hard work to win; that victory doesn’t come by accident!
In the game of politics, everybody is important! Weeks leading to the election, Tinubu must try all that’s humanly and strategically possible to win over those who are opposed to his candidature as well as appeal to the undecided voters to see those who can still come to his side.
The Campaign Council must endeavour to commit sufficient funds into security, especially, in all the places that the campaigns are being held. This will dissuade ‘tantalizing storytellers’ and never-do-wells from causing violence in a way that may mar, especially, Tinubu’s image. Surely certainly, there’s nothing the enemy or the opposition cannot do to discredit a winning team.
Still on the issue of moneybags in politics, it is not just about Tinubu having money, but, if the emphasis is on issues, then, Nigerians are looking up to him to begin to look for people who are competent – people with track records and people whose religion will not matter in their service to dear fatherland. And, as Abiola set the pace in the Muslim/Muslim ticket, and Nigerians voted massively for him, let Tinubu also rise up to that challenge and sustain the rhythm.
Providentially clarified, Nigeria is on edge and only good leadership can bring her up out of the dark ocean in which she’s presently – and, conveniently, too – immersed. Come to think of it, isn’t it a shame that, in 2023, people can still be exploring the womb of ethno-religious, geopolitical and other pedestrian sentiments as smokescreens for leadership recruitment. It is however interesting to note that Tinubu has done it before, as governor of Lagos State! And Nigerians are looking up to him to do that, nationally! This time, too, he must be ready to ensure that competent hands run the country even as we embrace best practices in all human endeavours. Standards must be set and respected. For instance, the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) standard must not be compromised. It is one of those things that are killing us! Let the youth be able to say that, though he or she is from Sokoto State, he got admission into the University of Ibadan, purely on merit. Such a soul will be bold and can stand before any man; and compete favourably for any job. This should be our goal as a nation and society. If Tinubu succeeds in doing that, he will have etched his name in gold!
Lastly, Tinubu should be able to develop a way forward for politicians in Nigeria. He should be able to forge a detribalised, religion-neutral politics with the fierceness of his roused sentiment. With him as the arrowhead, all those issues that have become inhibitions in politics with their wonders of clumsiness should be set aside while a new and ideal political paradigm is allowed to evolve.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
*Komolafe wrote in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria ([email protected])