Tinubu On The Cusp Of History by Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú
A few days to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) senatorial primaries, he had 63 banked delegates and he needed 70 to edge out Funso Williams, Dr. Dominic Adegbola and emerge as the party’s flag-bearer for Lagos West Senatorial district. There was only one path to winning the primaries – get the delegates and secure them against defection. His politically suave mother sent him to Justice Akinyemi Obe. He told Justice Obe he needed 7 delegates, Obe told him delegates can defect before and on the day of primaries. He stressed the need to have more delegates than the number needed to win. From Obe’s network of contacts came 10 delegates, who were lodged, fed and closely guarded until the primaries. As predicted, 3 delegates defected leaving him with exactly the 70 he needed to win the primaries.
Tinubu the politician was born. When it comes to political strategy, Asiwaju Tinubu is in a class of one. He is the bell cow of Nigerian politics, a quick study and a tenacious worker with a manic work ethic. He it was, who prevented the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) overrun of the Southwest and single-handedly extricated us from the death grip of the PDP. He is canny, irascible, and ruthless but he alone saw the need to recast, remold and refocus the middling Southwest into a real political machine. With the formation of All Progressives Congress (APC), Tinubu is on the cusp of history, he knows it, we know it. He needs to eschew self-importance and make history. He must set aside all forms of ego and help us find and elect a leader who can lead this country. The candidate to beat Jonathan must be young, driven, patriotic, articulate and must be adaptable to compromise and triangulation.
Goodluck Jonathan is beatable in 2015, he is more vulnerable than venerable. He can enjoy all the powers of incumbency, with the deepest pockets in the race, surrounded by a thousand Joe Trippi, he will still lose and lose big. We know he is willing to bet the nation’s resources on 2015, preferring a Hail Mary strategy to the march of developmental progress but that is still no match for people’s will. The path to electoral victory for the APC is easier than the path for PDP. The APC can take the Northeast, Northwest and the Southwest with pockets of plurality of votes from the middle belt. Jonathan can cling to what is left of his South South base and the Southeast. The 2015 campaign must adopt the American model with dueling attack ads, poll driven political positioning and dumbed-down campaign themes.
With spiraling youth population, 2015 election must focus on getting out the youth vote and be the most technologically adept campaign in Nigeria’s history. The APC must device shrewd political tactics that can leap cultural and linguistic barriers in a single bound. Every effort must be made to highlight and project Jonathan’s swashbuckling arrogance. The opposition must arm itself with guttersnipe politics knowing every voter has interest in acquiring more information about candidates than they can get from their neighbours and the feel-good glimpses on television. Jonathan has amassed enough language and acts of impunity to bury him. The opposition only needs to stay on the message and distance itself from the clotted conformity of Nigeria’s enemies. They must prove and convey the sense that the political machinery of the PDP is greased by insincerity, graft and greed. Nigeria’s reality calls for ceaseless attack on PDP as a party and on Jonathan’s lack luster record and years of failure. The PDP, her skein of looters and economic saboteurs must be called out.
PDP as a party is ripe for picking but the opposition must not take them lightly. They should enlist an army of bright boys and girls, and vast foot soldiers to knock on doors and ask for votes. Retail politics is capable of big and stunning surprises. They should seek to cash in on the great class divide in Nigeria and its deepening social and class contradictions. Tinubu and his fellow planners and strategists must conspire to bring about positive change. Every Nigerian; old and young, poor and rich aspires to a better life and in longing for a strong leader, who will help us beat a path out of our collective mess and execrable standards. We all accept that we need a break from the mediocre culture that has engulfed many of us as demonstrated by our lack of work ethics, penchant for short cuts, easy money, stealing and conversion of public funds, indiscipline, lack of patriotism, erosion of traditional values and dislocated religious beliefs.
The stakes are high and the time for Tinubu to build a lasting legacy is now. The problem with Tinubu’s is there’s no political hack job too low he won’t be involved in. That has to change. He relishes and thrives on the nitty-gritty of politics, which is not bad in itself. For the love of man and country, he must begin to reign in those destructive impulses. How can a great politician not listen to people? The wounds of Action Congress of Nigeria’s (ACN) loss in Ondo state is still fresh. The opposition must learn from ACN’s electoral defeat in Ondo State. Asiwaju by his own ill-crafted maneuver humiliated the existing power structures and fractured the fragile coalition that was fiercely anti Mimiko. For Asiwaju, Chutzpah is graduating into hubris and he needs to get the memo fast. He cannot claim to know it all. In your face imposition is what created a contest in Ondo state, without it, there would have been no contest, the Labour Party (LP) would have self-destruct.
Poverty defines politics in Nigeria. Candidates only needs to distribute rice, T-shirts and Ankara for the poor masses and money for the traditional rulers to get elected. Our people’s psyche has been twisted by poverty. Asiwaju understands this and plays the cards deftly; he honed his political skills in Lagos where he’s bred a fanatical base of supporters throughout his career. Poverty must not be discounted from the winning strategy. It is hard to think right when preoccupied by bread and butter issues. I admit he is a master strategist, tactician and a certified hustler with dye in the wool qualities of made in America political hucksterism. I also know his successes is beginning to exact its detrimental cost. He’s fed his base on a cocktail of merit, cronyism, area boy style patronage and intense graft. He must actively seek to lessen the potency of this cocktail. Imposition of candidates are a given in our political landscape. Even our revered Chief Awolowo imposed candidates but he did it by stealth. Every political party in this country without exception has always rewarded loyalists and favourite sons and daughters with positions. They all put forth anointed candidates and actively discourage contested primaries. The difference is, Asiwaju does his without care and respect. He came to Ondo state, rubbished people and asked them to capitulate or go to hell. He thought they would say yes sir. To hell they went and became masters in hell compared to serving in heaven without defined job description.
What Asiwaju does not know is that he does not need to build himself anymore. He is already built. His attempt at remodeling himself by his frequent ego trips is a wild goose chase. I hope he can see the missing variable in this equation of power and solve the puzzle. He has the unique opportunity to lead and leave a lasting legacy for his people and Nigerians by helping us find and elect a leader and staying in the background to help us build formidable political institutions. Time, energy and resources are at his disposal if he can conquer his self. Asiwaju is a great man, an icon and no one can take that away from him. Show me that Yoruba man except Chief Awolowo with the political bonafides he has? A leader must embrace influence to gain power. That is the lesson for Tinubu. I hope he listens, for the love of country over self.