It is pretty obvious Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu has suffered his worst misfire in his entire political career to date. And what is pretty serious is that it is not just another misfire.
It is one that is about to lead to his own political demise, perhaps via involuntary political suicide. And that will in the circumstances come with dire consequences for his Yoruba people. And, finally, for the entire South.
A rehash would help a little. Tinubu charmed his own heart that he was the master of the game, the political game. And he played a wildcard. He gave his belly-warm support and those of his Yoruba people to candidate Muhammadu Buhari, General retired.
However, it is on record that Tinubu was severally warned, advised, cajoled never to get into that electoral marriage. It was to be a funeral foretold, if he dared, he was forearmed. But Tinubu was convinced he was a genius. And, apparently, he had a credit line of having done magical things with Lagos State, politically, to show for it. For example he had beaten President General, retired, Olusegun Obasanjo, to it – securing Lagos while other Yoruba states fell. At that moment of glory, Tinubu looked like the wiliest Caesar in the Imperium. Perhaps he was.
But in being Caesar in his purpled triumph, Tinubu forgot one crucial lesson of warfare. Terrain, terrain and, yet again, terrain. The point is clear, man is still an animal. Despite all the cities we have built, despite having flown to the moon and back, man is a Hominina. And, since Aristotle, this has been pithily put. In politics, man, a Tinubu, remains, as Aristotle said of him, a political animal.
And animals are best only in their terrains or habitats. They are thus inefficient otherwise. The croc is given as a famous example, at least by the Igbo. It is aptly named Agu-Iyi, that is, master of the game, but only in the seas. That implies that the croc is not a very deadly guy if you can corner him out of his watery habitat for a duel.
Anyway, for those interested in looking back, one of the finest illustrations of this was the clash of the Germans against the Russians in winter. Russians are literally a winter people. And despite the efficiency and lethality of the German war machine, Russians pinned them down with snow and a few tanks. And, remarkably, Russians also did this to the French under the imperial thug, Napoleon. And the French, under Napoleon, it is well to recall, were the greatest fighting force in Europe and possibly in the known world then. Yet terrain kicked Napoleon, whose name is today a metaphor for big ticket bravery and military genius, out and down. Terrain is divine, that is what I was taught at Biafra’s Military Academy. Terrain is an iron lore.
And back home we all seem to forget that it was terrain that humiliated the ambitious upstart, Usman dan Fodio and army. In their wild dream of being lords and masters of the middle belt, the vegetation of the middle belt purged them out of their vitality. His horsemen, their horses, couldn’t just endure the bite pangs and serums of tsetse flies. And to make things worse, their horses did not know how to turn the thickets and forests of the Middle Belt into pliable highways for their hooves, or master’s ambitions. And dan Fodio and his army, ambitious for blood and plunder, were crippled by terrain, just terrain.
What we are saying is this: immediately Tinubu crossed his comfort zone, his home terrain and habitat, for other zones, he suffered imperial overreach. His capacity to project power and levy sanctions, force or cajole alliances, persecute dissenters or mutineers are vanished outside his terrain. They are gone beyond his reach. Literally, Tinubu playing the political general at the national level does so without any armory or even an army. He is literally on his own, weathering storms, or surviving by his wits. In a word, he is become a hustler, a political hustler. And the signs and wonders of these are all over the place. He has been so devastated that his own beloved wife couldn’t hold back her tears. And she has cried out, they have “trashed him” and yet for excessive love of country he suffers the more. He is now only fit for the dustman to clear, the wife implied. And that reminded us of the masterpiece of Mother A’Endu, Rites of War and Peace. She may be translated loosely as: All politicians out of office are patriotic. All politicians in office are power-tropic. This is the iron lore. All else is humour.
But the latest sign of Tinubu’s discomfiture is his latest open letter. That was a terrible self-betrayal by a war-tested political general. I have been in this game for a thousand days and more. And I know the signs when I spot them. In the power game and politics, nothing, repeat nothing, is written or autographed until it is agreed upon and about to be executed. You don’t request power by literary applications. If things happened that way, Soyinka, who writes better than the rest of us, would have been more powerful than Napoleon. But the great old one is trapped at his Abeokuta redoubts battling mere herdsmen.
So, the rule of the game is that what you cannot get by demanding it, you assume you cannot be granted by inking it. But to bring matters into the open is to confess that you are desperately shopping for alliances, moral alliances, and even if you got that, you at best would be a Pope, not a Caesar. And we recall Stalin, a modern Caesar: “How many divisions has the Pope?”
Those who command the divisions at work and play in the Buhari war machine are Hausa-Fulani. Not one, repeat, not one, is Yoruba. And one does not need to consult a babalawo to know that Tinubu has lost the war, the war of divisions, of loyal troops. At any showdown, he will be crushed. This is the iron lore of power. So Tinubu’s whole strategy is to avoid a showdown. What a non-motorable bind to drive oneself into!
But the question is, why is Tinubu making these “unforced errors” and mistakes? My guess is, it is the Alcibiades syndrome. I have defined it once in my work HOW AND WHY THE YORUBA FOUGHT AND LOST THE BIAFRA-NIGERIA CIVIL WAR. But lately I read the cerebral Jon West zero in on the matter. So we lift things off him. “Alcibiades complex: an inability to own up to a moral, intellectual and spiritual cock-up.” (Jon West).
It is at this point that the matter gets interesting. Tinubu is heavy with the Alcibiades indisposition. He is not likely to want to save himself as to insist he was never wrong. And this should mercifully be understood. He is under the danger he thinks that, if he opens up to his error, he may lose his gravitas and actually be trashed. So his game is to hold on, even as the ships go down.
But the ships that are to go down are the Yoruba nation and the South. This is where the Yoruba genius is desperately called for. They should close ranks and broker a deal with Tinubu. The deal will be in the following guise:
Tinubu’s position as the greatest Yoruba since Chief Obafemi Awolowo, politically, should be conceded him. He should next be advised in his own and in the larger interest of the Yoruba to retire from active politics. He would now be given a godfather’s role. This would be reminiscent of what happens in Japanese politics. Immediately a factional leader falls out of luck or favour in Japan, he is replaced, but not dismissed. He is maintained in great dignity in some royal attic and visited or consulted every now and then.
With that kind of accommodation, Tinubu would be allowed to submit any six names out of which the remaining conclave would choose one to lead in the interim Yoruba charge for history. Or three names would be given Tinubu out of which he would choose one to lead the new pan-Yoruba alliance via a transition. And, of course, a tidy list of key Tinubu boys are to be given sinecures in the emergent dispensation. But Yoruba might have to come under new faces to save itself and the rest of us.
In summary, Tinubu will be dismissed from future greatness but not from history. It is for the fear of their place in history that men, especially the Alcibiades of this world, yearn to destroy our collective futures. This is an iron lore. Yoruba ronu.
With this home truce, Yoruba can now use up their block votes to ally properly with others and save themselves and save the South and save their nation.
One last word. I am not Yoruba. I am Oru, not even Igbo, though not many Igbo know the difference. The fact is that my interest in this is simple. The Yoruba, in spite of themselves, hold the key to the way the nation swings now. They are almost without intending it a brace power. But they cannot be that by being split into two or more parts, pro-Tinubu and non-Tinubu and, feasibly, anti-Tinubu factions. And this is exactly what the heirs of the dan Fodio dream are plotting, to split the Yoruba axis or to domesticate Yoruba into being a dan Fodio habitat.
If, however, the Yoruba get their acts together, then a future of immense brightness is about the nation. Nigeria ronu.