Tinubu and the paths once travelled
As All Progressives Congress governments at all levels in many places, not all, strike a pitiable or pitiful sight, it is impossible not to be overwhelmed by emotions.
So much goodwill, so much hope, so much disappointment and, now, so much anger! All within two years!
But blame the people first.
The climate in which the party thrived ahead of the 2015 elections was only genuinely ripe for deceit and empty promises by any candidate who could successfully inflame emotions, escape rigorous scrutiny even as he basked in ignorance of or poor preparation for the enormity of the task ahead.
Having been short-changed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for 16 years and particularly the Goodluck Jonathan-led brigandage, the people had every cause to abandon reason and hold on to emotions, such fertile breeding ground for gullibility.
Houses for all who had no shelter. Money for those who were out of jobs, for widows and the disadvantaged. Abundant life for the weak and vulnerable, the APC promised it all.
But what could compel disbelief more than the promises the party made then? What should have set the alarm ringing that Nigeria was in for a fantasy ride into fallacy than the promise of millions of jobs in a year? Should the promissory note on which the idea of social security-like payments to the poor was written not have been trashed by a discerning people? What could be less convincing than the avowal of true federalism in the manifesto of a party whose leading lights shunned the finest attempts yet at beginning the journey as represented by the 2014 National Conference?
Under normal circumstances, such promises as APC made would have been subjected to the most rigorous interrogation by the media and the people. But such was the incompetence of the then government and the odium of its ways that the more unbelievable the alternative was, the greater its appeal.
More importantly, that alternative had a political master gladiator as its leading salesman.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu had long established himself as a smart political tactician and grand strategist long before he teamed up with Muhammadu Buhari for the 2015 presidential election. He ran a good shop in Lagos, laid a good foundation for its development and entrenched a succession scheme that has worked very well so far. He perfected the art of surrounding himself with the best and the brightest and had constantly expanded the pool of talents from which he has always picked the most suitable for any assignment.
He also had fought and won many fierce political battles and cemented his reputation as a principled democrat.
He could be faulted on many things else but not knowing how to win would not be one of them. And in 2015, APC won.
Now, surely it is losing, though not yet at the polling booths, at least another APC governor took office last week in spite of the national bewilderment at the character of Change the party has brought to Nigeria. But in the minds and hearts of Nigerians it once locked up so tightly, APC is pain.
A man of the people, Tinubu is a quintessential political animal.
Having staked so much to ensure the enthronement of his party in government, having been so much of its public face, little wonder the darts APC has invited with its poor outing seem to hit Tinubu personally and directly in the face. Hence his tendency to see the party’s failure as a personal one and the need to do something about it. Indeed, as I once said, being one of the architects of the Change many Nigerians now hope or pray the Buhari government truly becomes, Tinubu’s conscience for some time must have been overwhelmed by guilt over the Change the once beloved government has not been.
For either altruistic or merely self-serving reasons, a quest to purge himself of this guilt, leading to a predilection for more than the usual enthusiasm for owning the process, a certain micro-management of the party’s affairs with a view to controlling everything and avoiding more mistakes in choices, would seem to have consumed the Jagaban of Borgu.
Of course, it was only a matter of time before even an emperor with the best of intentions over-reached himself. Indeed, most interpreters would say a poignant evidence of that was his meddling in the affairs of National Assembly’s leadership, in which he sought to anoint his candidate as President of the Senate, self-presumably, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari. When he allegedly ‘instructed’ the Inspector General of Police to barricade the National Assembly ahead of the leadership election, the fine line was said to have been crossed between process-ownership and hubris.
The same can be said about his attempt to have his way in the process that led to Rotimi Akeredolu’s election and inauguration as Ondo State governor last Friday.
When I listened to Akeredolu’s acknowledgment of Tinubu towards the end of his inauguration speech, which drew a loud ovation from the audience last week, I could not but notice the triumphalism in his tone, covered as it was, with a thin veneer of grace.
The background is fairly familiar: He was Tinubu’s candidate in his first attempt but the leader did not back him in the second bid and did everything to stop him, first, in the primaries and also, in the real election. He, in fact, took to the public space and denounced the process that threw up Akeredolu in the intra-party process, excoriated John Oyegun, the party’s national chairman, for allowing such a ‘charade’, and practically threatened to bring the roof down on the APC. In words that ought to be reserved for an opposition party, Tinubu, indeed, not only thrashed his own party for proclaiming Akeredolu winner of the primaries against all evidence, according to him, to the contrary, he renounced his
‘National Leader’ title.
Whatever the merit of his angst was not really known but its depth was obvious enough as he refused to join Akeredolu on the campaign trail and was even openly fingered as having worked assiduously for another candidate.
In spite of all of these, Akeredolu won, a victory that Tinubu acknowledged.
But in triumph, the governor-elect would not let the slight he had endured pass. He did everything to talk down the leader. This was his response to the question on why he did not acknowledge the National Leader after his victory: Tinubu was nothing more than another state leader of the party! If he were to start acknowledging such ‘mini’ leaders, there were 35 others!
It was therefore a matter of interest that one of the spectacles people waited for with bated breath at Akeredolu’s inauguration last Friday was Tinubu’s presence or absence and how he would be received if he showed up. And the occasion lived up to the billing. Akeredolu did the best to show some grace as he acknowledged party leaders and dignitaries in attendance.
Just when the audience thought he was done with his tributes, the new governor did another round of statements of gratitude and, as though, like many people, he had not expected his old benefactor to attend the occasion, thanked the National Leader for coming despite “the path he had travelled.”
A path Bola Ahmed Tinubu had travelled? That, from Akeredolu?
Now, the path Tinubu travelled against him may be worthy of note to the new governor. But the path the same man cleared for him and many others is more important. And history is replete with Tinubu’s shining accomplishments which can never be darkened by political differences, however deep. No one needs to be given a laundry of those again.
Suffice to say that when it mattered, for democracy and for Nigeria, Tinubu did not take the path of convenience. He may have missed a few steps and stepped on some wrong toes, but he never failed to take a step in the movement for the expansion of the frontiers of democracy and liberty.
Akeredolu has taken office. And it is time to govern. He, afterall, has a state to run and dreams of Ondo State’s people to bring to life. He should simply proceed with executing his mandate.
As exemplified by his alliance and eventual break with Tinubu, politics or the electioneering process in Nigeria remains a messy phenomenon. But those who get elected should transcend the process, edify the offices into which they are elected and do everything possible to add a little shine to the majesty of democracy.
Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist once said: “A country does not have to be deemed fit for democracy, it has to become fit through democracy.”