By Femi Aribisala
Many monuments have been built in honour of the man Bola Tinubu. He is acclaimed as the political genius of our times who not only engineered the taming of the PDP juggernaut, he caged it and confined it to the backwaters of Otuoke. Since the APC defeat of the PDP in the presidential election, Tinubu the tactician has been feted, celebrated and praised to high heavens. But all these encomiums have proved to be highly exaggerated.
The truth of the matter is that Tinubu, the veritable Jagaban of Borgu, is a master of political illusion. He is remarkable for the distinction of characteristically pulling defeat out of the jaws of putative victory. He mid-wifed the birth of the APC, only to be shut out of its vice-presidential sweepstakes. He engineered APC”s victory at the centre, only to see his arch-enemies take over the posts of Speaker and Senate President in the National Assembly. He piggy-backed Buhari to the presidency, only to be shut out of a say in the president’s cabinet nominees.
Tinubu is called the National Leader of the APC when there is no such post in the party’s Constitution. When a critical meeting of APC bigwigs was called to address the party’s imbroglio in the National Assembly, the “National Leader” could not attend because, in actual fact, he is not even a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party.
Sowing and reaping
In 2011, Tinubu was hailed for cutting his nose to spite his face. The PDP nominated his kinswoman, Mulikat Akande, as Speaker of the National Assembly. However, Tinubu conspired with recalcitrant PDP party-members to frustrate the plans of their party for his South-west homestead. Instead, he engineered the election of Sokoto’s Aminu Tambuwal, an APC wolf in PDP sheep’s clothing, as Speaker.
In 2015, Tinubu received payback for these shenanigans again to the detriment of his native South-West. The same Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto he schemed into the position of Speaker in 2011, repaid Tinubu by frustrating his efforts to install his Lagos acolyte, Femi Gbajabiamila, as Speaker in 2015. Taking a leaf straight out of Tinubu’s 2011 playbook, Tambuwal conspired with opposition PDP members to install another Northern PDP turncoat, Yakubu Dogara, as Speaker.
Tinubu’s comeuppance here is particularly savage because it was actually Gbajabiamila who reportedly convinced Tinubu that Tambuwal would readily act as traitor to his PDP party in 2011. It is therefore veritable poetic justice that the same Tambuwal became an equally ready tool of the PDP in the frustration of Gbajabiamila’s ambitions and the interests of Tinubu and the APC in 2015.
Moreover, Tinubu was repaid for his 2011 manipulations with interest. The same treachery employed to Tinubu’s political disadvantage in the House was also duplicated in the Senate. Bukola Saraki, another PDP turncoat, refused to abide by the dictates of APC Central, firmly controlled by Tinubu’s ACN. He snatched the position of Senate President without official APC approval, but with the support of the opposition PDP. So doing, he sidelined both Tinubu’s first-choice of George Akume, as well as his second-choice of Ahmed Lawan.
Just as Tinubu was licking his wounds at the denial of his “rightful inheritance” in the National Assembly after the APC victory at the polls, the news came that his political cookie had equally crumbled at Aso Rock. It had been popularly alleged that Tinubu’s portion in Buhari’s presidency would not be limited to the appointment of his political godson as vice-president, but would also include the allocation of no less than nine choice ministerial nominees to the discretion of the Jagaban of Borgu.
But by the time Buhari unfurled his ministerial list two weeks ago, the alleged dedicated slots had shrunk to zero. Many of us had warned in the heady days of the formation of the APC that those insistent that power must return to the North would be determined to checkmate Tinubu if and when the election was won. We warned Tinubu that even as he cannot conceivably be accepted nationally to rule Nigeria as president, even so can he not rule Nigeria by proxy. We warned him that the North would never allow Buhari to be his Man Friday in Aso Rock.
However, Tinubu was too far gone to listen. It would now appear that he even failed to take out insurance policies against such probable eventualities.
But once elected, Buhari started a romance with Babatunde Fashola and Kayode Fayemi designed clearly to sideline the Jagaban. While these former governors were previously members of Tinubu’s inner-circle, they had since run out of patience with the heavy handedness of their boss. Therefore, during the election campaign, both of them campaigned for Buhari above and beyond the call of party duty.
Fashola, in particular, was clearly fed up with being under Tinubu’s political shadow. In the struggle for who would be the APC governorship candidate in Lagos State, Tinubu did not allow Fashola to choose his successor, in the ignoble tradition of Nigerian governors. While Fashola favoured Dapo Sasore, the former Attorney General of Lagos State, Tinubu railroaded in Akinwunmi Ambode as the APC candidate.
While again, in the ignoble tradition of Nigerian politics, governors promptly transform themselves into Senators when their term as governor ends, this option was closed off to Fashola because Tinubu had already installed his wife as the Senator from Fashola’s constitutency. The only option left for Fashola politically was presidential ministerial appointment and, even there, Tinubu had put up a road block against him.
Tinubu prefers to nominate political nonentities for higher office in the South-West, so that he would be the only Iroko tree in the forests of the region. Therefore his candidates for ministerial appointment from Lagos were his little nationally-known former commissioners, Wale Edun and Yemi Cadosso, who could pose no threats whatsoever to his ascribed South-West political supremacy.
Alarm bells: But when Fashola and Fayemi accompanied Buhari to the G7 meeting in Germany in June 2015, alarm bells started ringing in Tinubu’s Bourdillon Road mansion in Lagos. This was clearly a signial that these former governors were intent on by-passing the official godfather of the South-West by applying to be members of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet on their own recognisance.
The Tinubu brigade would have none of this. Therefore, a campaign of calumny was launched to cut Fashola in particular to dimunitive size. Suddenly, the “memo” was sent out implying the former governor had developed political leprosy. When two books were launched simultaneously celebrating his achievements as governor, none of his APC colleagues from Lagos dared to attend for fear of entering the bad books of the dreaded Jagaban.
In order to nail the coffin on Fashola’s ministerial aspirations, it was leaked to the press that a whopping 78 million naira of public money was spent on the construction of his personal website. 139 million naira was also alleged to have been spent on two boreholes constructed in Government House, Lagos during his tenure. The intention here was to ensure that Fashola becomes ineligible for ministerial consideration on grounds that he would not pass Buhari’s anti-corruption integrity test.
However, Buhari was apparently unimpressed by these political shenanigans. When his list of ministerial nominees were unfurled, Fashola and Fayemi featured prominently among Buhari’s “first eleven.” None of Tinubu’s nominees made the list. Other nominees from the South-West were precisely the kind of people Tinubu did not want in Buhari’s team; people who would not be indebted to Tinubu but to Buhari.
While Buhari completely ignored Tinubu’s candidates, he included that of another South-West bigwig. Obasanjo’s favourite-son, Prince Olagusoye Oyinlola, former governor of Osun State, was included in Buhari’s list. Thereby, the president asserted the saliency of Obasanjo’s South-West influence in Aso Rock over that of the Jagaban. He even pointedly appointed Obasanjo as his special envoy to Guinea-Bissau.
This is certainly not what Tinubu bargained for when he decided to pitch his tent with Buhari and the APC. If he were to be furthermore overlooked in the appointment of BOT chairman of the APC, the marginalisation of the Jagaban in the post-election APC would be complete.
Comeuppance: Some of us saw this coming. In the heady early days of the APC coalition, we warned that Tinubu would be used and dumped. But we were labelled as PDP lapdogs and charlatans. That is why I say today: let no one cry for Bola Tinubu.
Anyone who hears Tinubu’s recent vicious attack on Saraki would realise these are the tokens of a frustrated man. Tinubu could not attack the President, therefore he poured all his venom on the Senate President. He accused him of indiscipline and disloyalty; the very things he celebrated in the PDP rebels who joined forces with him against their party in 2011.
Face saving device
The recent declaration that Buhari appointed Babachir Lawal as Secretary to the Government of the Federation at the instance of Tinubu is a face-saving device. The Tinubu camp forgot to tell us this until now. At the time of new SGF’s appointment, all the uproar was about the Northern lopsidedness in Buhari’s choices.
Observing the sidelining of Tinubu by Buhari, Senator Femi Okunroumu said: “I am having a good laugh. This is what I expected. In any case, Tinubu is stretching his luck too far as he wants to dictate who will rule Nigeria. Tinubu’s wings need to be clipped. With the ministerial list, Tinubu has been dumped. He should not just be dumped, he should be disgraced.”
On his part, Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said: “APC is not a party; it is a gang of people whose sole aim was to remove Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as president. In a real party, you share the spoils of office before elections not after elections. This is what is happening in APC. We warned our people, but they failed to listen.”
In the new politics of today’s APC, it is better to be the enemy of Bola Tinubu than to be his friend. The enemies of Tinubu become Senate presidents; they become Speakers of the House of Representatives; they become ministers of the Federal government. But the friends of Tinubu are sent to Siberia.
The Jagaban of Borgu himself has been slain politically upon his high places. How are the mighty fallen!
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