I was reflecting on a recent newspaper report that an attempt to remove the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, from office had hit a dead end.
And I told myself: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whether the old or new faction, will never forget this son of the Sokoto caliphate.
Remember how Tambuwal became Speaker. PDP had blown both hot and cold on its own zoning formula. Before the 2011 presidential election, it said there was no zoning. Immediately after the election, however, it zoned key offices, ceding the number four position of Speaker of the House of Representatives to the South-west. In its characteristic anti-democratic way, the party even penciled down Mulikat Akande-Adeola, as the person to occupy the position.
Then breezed in Aminu Tambuwal from the North-west. Against all intimidations, all shenanigans, he ran for speaker, and won resoundingly. He garnered 252 votes to the 90 by Akande-Adeola. Lesson one for the country: there is an extent to which you can guide democracy. You cannot control the tide forever. Water will always find its level. Democracy is about building of coalitions. The person that builds the larger coalition will always run away with the diadem.
Lesson two. Mind the kind of foundation you lay for whatever endeavour you are embarking on. Build on quicksand, suffer a quick collapse. Build on wood, hay or stubble, get consumed when you are tested with fire. But build on the rock, and stand steady and sturdy when the buffeting comes. What has stood Tambuwal in good stead today is the kind of foundation on which he emerged. His election was facilitated by elements across party lines, and he has remained steadfast and true to his supporters over the past two years. That now makes it difficult for him to be removed, no matter the artifices or financial armada deployed against him. Mind the foundation you lay. It may serve you positively, or do you in, at the critical time.
See how Tambuwal has built a national profile and reputation for himself since he emerged in June 2011. He could have chosen to ingratiate himself to the leadership of the party he had initially defied, and remain at their mercy, subject to their whims, caprices and mood swings. But no, he preferred to swim in the bigger pool. Wherever anything laudable is happening, you find the Speaker there, irrespective of party affiliations. The State of Osun is launchingOpon Imo, the computer tablet, Tambuwal is there, despite political party differences. North, East, South, West, you find him building bridges of harmony, of friendship, of amity. And he tells you he’s Speaker of Nigeria, not just of the PDP. In Osun, he spoke of the good works being done by Governor Rauf Aregbesola, and in Ekiti, he had positive things to say of Gov Kayode Fayemi. No wonder he was honoured by the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti with the title of Bobagunwa of the town.
In the PDP implosion, you find it difficult to pigeon-hole Tambuwal, which is the proper thing for a man holding such position. The Old PDP comes, he’s there. The New PDP comes, he’s available. That was why he gave Abubakar Baraje and his compatriots audience when they visited the House of Representatives last week. The Yoruba have a saying: ilu da si meji, ti oba lawa o se. When the town breaks into two, we will side with the king. But I say not always necessarily. Will you still side with the king if the monarch is the one in the wrong? Those who are AGIP (Any Government In Power) will always side with the king, because their god is their belly, but those who are discerning or independent minded will either be neutral, or even position against the king. May we as a country never be bereft of men who can stand by their convictions. May God give us men who can always stand on their own, not those who will always follow the leader sheepishly, whether the leader is right or wrong.
President of the Senate, David Mark, equally said he would not declare the seats of any senator vacant, even if they identified with the New PDP. This was in direct opposition to what Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the splintered PDP had said. David Mark has not been known for rocking the boat. But while pursuing reconciliation in his party, he has done well by not taking sides. Even when former Gombe State governor, Alhaji Danjuma Goje, courageously declared himself a member of New PDD on Wednesday, Mark did not call for his head. I think developments in the polity will yet produce better democracy and democrats.
But back to Tambuwal. It took courage for him to have convened the House on a Sunday that day in January 2012, when the Federal Government sneaked in new and astronomically high fuel prices, on New Year Day. The intervention and resolution by the House of Representatives went a long way to douse tension in the land. For that, Tambuwal became our Man of the Year at The Sun Newspapers. He surely deserved it. He could have chosen to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. But the Speaker decided to speak for the people. He has chosen the right thing, which will never be taken away from him.
Now to the Speaker’s dilemma. What does the political future hold post-2015? His name is being mentioned for the highest office in the land – president – while others are saying he is the man Magatarkada Wamakko will be comfortable to hand over power to as governor of Sokoto State. Let’s consider the latter scenario first. Tambuwal as Sokoto State governor? He is already the country’s Number 4 man as Speaker, House of Representatives. Won’t aspiring to be governor be a demotion? Well, there is a precedence in Aminu Masari, a former Reps Speaker, who has also been seeking to be governor of Katsina State. His dream has not become reality yet. But will Tambuwal leave higher stakes for provinciality?
The higher stake has hurdles, very high ones, no doubt. Tambuwal has national appeal, good education, and other advantages. Some power brokers prefer him. Don’t forget the endorsement of former military president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, earlier in the year: “His conduct has shown that the upcoming generation has the capacity to sustain the labour of our heroes past. When leaders like Tambuwal have delivered on their electoral promise, we advise them to try something higher.” This means as far as IBB is concerned, Tambuwal can only go up, to the presidency, not the governorship of his state, Sokoto.
But the hurdles! On what platform would Tambuwal run? PDP? If yes, which one? Old or New PDP? If Old PDP, President Goodluck Jonathan is there, and he will use power of incumbency, (which really means money and manipulation), to get the ticket. And if New PDP, you have Atiku Abubakar, who I hear is already revving up the engines to give the presidency another shot. Will Tambuwal not then be banging his head against the wall, as good a candidate as he will be?
Okay, he looks towards the new opposition mega-party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Will Tambuwal be willing to quit the PDP as a seating Speaker? If yes, at what point? And if he would, the APC cannot dare be undemocratic in the choice of its candidate, as Nigerians are watching. If former head of state, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, aspires for the ticket, can Tambuwal match him? It is on record that Buhari is the politician that has the largest following in terms of popular support in the country today, spanning the North, particularly, and a good portion of the South. Will APC then give the ticket to Tambuwal or Buhari? Dilemma. And what of former Kano governor, Ibrahim Skekarau, and Nuhu Ribadu, the last presidential candidates of the defunct ANPP and ACN, respectively. Will they still run? APC is then not a cinch for Tambuwal, or so it seems. But two years, even one week, is a long time in politics, and there will surely be realignments and reconfigurations before the 2015 polls. We wait and watch.
In my earlier piece, Tambuwal 2015: What is IBB cooking, I had concluded this way (please permit me to borrow the conclusion again): “For me, the redemption of Nigeria is the main thing. This country is in a mess – on all fronts. It’s begging for redemption, for salvation. Does Jonathan need another term to achieve it? No law broken, except on the moral front, since he had allegedly promised PDP stalwarts in 2010 that he would do just one term. Is it Tambuwal that will get the job done? Let him go ahead. Or is it any other person we do not know yet? All I know is that Nigeria needs to be redeemed. And by 2015, may we be able to say, ‘“now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed.”’