The speculation had dominated the political scene since the assumption of President Muhammadu Buhari almost three years ago, that one of the ruling party’s top notchers had been marginalised. When, therefore, Buhari recentlyappointed ex-Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, to reconcile all aggrieved members in many state branches, unsolicited political gossips openly asserted that Tinubu should not accept the party’s assignment.
Clearly, unlike Tinubu, these sceptics could not have appreciated the difference among politics, power and excercise of authority. Politics is merely an essential venture by a group of identical interests in pursuit of power to administer authority Only one man in that situation can at any given time excercise that authority and there can be no display of that power or authority without running into controversy. Those who were expecting Tinubu to turn down the assignment were not facing political reality. To be fair to Tinubu, he has not even complained about being marginalised, since he knows the influence he wields with easy and, indeed, unlimited access to power and authority. Even if Tinubu has grievances or feels marginalised, he can never value any alternative to his party, the APC, in power. With that situation, he, Tinubu, can always acquire more political influence than to be in opposition
For anybody, even Tinubu, to believe it would always be easy to dislodge a ruling party in Africa, is to underestimate the omnibus resources -‑ human, financial, luck, mobilisation of the electorate, response of frustrated voters, sacrifice of erstwhile political differences – which brought the APC to power in 2015. Largely, the PDP lost power because of the inability of the party’s leadership to reconcile its aggrieved members in its major stronghold, the North. If only the PDP realised that any party which controls the North in any presidential election would occupy Aso Rock.
President Buhari has made a major success of his presidential ticket with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Disharmony in such ticket in the past in Nigeria or other parts of the world had always laid the foundation for personal enmity or electoral alienation. Harold Wilson’s Labour government in Britain lost the 1970 general election owing to the prime minister’s long running wrangle with his deputy George Brown, a union leader. Four years later, the Tory government, led by Ted Heath was voted out owing to his irreconciliable differences with his unofficial deput, Maggie Thatcher, who won the 1979 election to become prime minister. Thatcher herself fell from power in 1990 following a challenge to her leadership by deputy prime minister Michael Hazeltine Another Labour prime minister, Tony Blair, could not hold the party together as he was repeatedly challenged after 10 years in office by unofficial deputy prime minister, Gordon Brown, who eventually succeeded him only to lose office to Tory David Cameron. Former American Vice President Al Gore would always lament his frosty relationship with outgoing President Bill Clinton for losing the election to George Bush Jnr.
In Nigeria, former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s humiliation of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar commenced the alienation of PDP on a long-term basis for eventual loss in major stronghold, the North, and subsequent defection. Even though the AD (later ACN and APC) did not lose power in Lagos State, Bola Tinubu himself tasted allegations of marginalising his political mentors in Afenifere, especially Chief Ayo Adebanjo and late Abraham Adesanya. Hence, first deputy governor of Lagos State, Kofo Bucknor Akerele, was impeached even after she preemptily resigned. Her successor, Femi Pedro, was similarly impeached. But even in any case of seeming marginalisation, the part can be kept together with a sense of belonging extended to and sustained in party hierarchy.
In effect, perhaps unknown to observers, Tinubu can easily pass for the most politically powerful person outside government in Nigeria. Is he, therefore, marginalised? Such views can be held only by inexperienced ones in politics. There was the arguement last time on a series of processes leading to the selection of Yemi Osinbajo as running mate of candidate Muhammadu Buhari, whose biographer claimed that (Buhari) all alone chose his running mate. Osinbajo had to clarify the situation by disclosing he was nominated by Tinubu as running mate for Buhari. In other political climes, Osinbajo’s claim would have ruptured the compatibility of Buhari’s presidency. If, therefore, a major concession was made to Tinubo to produce the second most powerful politician in Nigeria, how could Tinubu be said to have been marginalised? Tinubu does not have to be Vice President himself, let alone Nigeria’s President, to wield the political influence he flaunts today.
What is more, obviously in deference to Tinubu, Osinbajo has emerged the most comfortable Vice President of Nigeria, since 1999, not any way in the sense of corrupt acquisition of assets but in terms of being showered with a full sense of belong in the excercise of total executive powers. On the number of occasions President Buhari travelled abroad, in line with Nigeria’s Constitution, he handed total powers to Osinbajo, a protegee of Tinubu. No Vice President or deputy governor ever enjoyed such sense of belonging since 1999. Such sense of inclusion could not have been extended to Vice President Osinbajo if Tinubu were to be marginalised. In return, Osinbajo has so far well comported himself such that there is no threat to his position should Buhari be seeking a second term. It also takes a genuine human being to appreciate the goodness in an associate like Osinbajo.
Above all, as a fallout of the party’s non-marginalisation policy, the APC hierarchy must count its blessing for the stability being enjoyed in its first few years in office, with only one national chairman. In the past, such a party, within its short span, might have had a turnovef of no fewer than five national chairmen. By the way, those assuming army officers are not politicians may not be correct. Buhari, for example, must have been tactful for choosing Tinubu to reconcile all aggrieved members in various states. What do APC members expect in the matter of the party’ national reconciliator, Chief Bola Tinubu, and his national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun? It seems both men were off to a good staet when Tinubu met the party’s national working committe members at their party’s national headquarters in Abuja. Who will complain? Who will reconcile? Who are to be reconcilied?
Of all the states Tinubu is to reconcile, Benue may be the most knotty. Ordinarily, Benue is APC-controlled, but that must be before the menace of murderous Fulani herdsmen. Today, virtually, every family is boiling with anger and, should, by some miracle, any election opportunity present itself now or in the next few weeks, may God help the APC. It is not about religion or ethnicity. Rather, it is about the anger of a people. Looking for an alternative party or shifting political support is not their immediate consideration as they do not seem to trust politicians generally. Large-scale boycott will help neither APC nor PDP. For the moment and some time in the future, it is a period of community mourning. For the bereaved and deprived, voting will not raise the dead nor provide any relief. The situation could not have been helped by the foolish and tactless public utterances of those expected to be impartial but who, from hundreds of kilometers away, dismissed the Benue human tragedy as a communal clash. On its part, Rivers State government, with its very generous donation of N200 million towards relief effort in the Benue tragedy, put Aso Rock on the spot.
However, President Buhari’s visit to Nasarawa State should be seen for what it was – part of the wound-healing process. Emotion and tension are so high that matters must cool down to allow for Buhari’s visit to Benue. Threats have been made that should have been more circumspect. Public have been so incited for armed self-defence outside standard statutory requirements. Retired senior military officers in Benue are on record for publicly volunteering to command such unlawful armed groups. It was all in the heat of the moment that compels only strictly peaceful atmosphere for President Buhari’s visit to Benue State. Whether all the threats and incitements provoked by the Benue tragedy can be carried out or should be allowed to be carried out is not the issue. Authorities concerned have shown good understanding and should be commended for not inflaming the situation. But that does not mean the very charged atmosphere should be disregarded. Every effort should be made by all concerned to allow for the atmosphere necessary for Buhari’s visit. But in lieu of such was the visit of Vice President Osinbajo to Benue as part of the healing process.
In any tense situation, priority is placed on security. In November 1963, seeming national and indeed international acclamation of youthful President John Kennedy ended in tragedy at Dallas, Texas. Controversial former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto decided to return home to seek re-elecrion after years of exile in London. In a live interview beamed to the world, Sky News foreign editor Tim Marshall asked Bhutto about prospects for her security, the naive lady responded that whatever lay ahead, she was returning to Pakistan to contest the election. Bhutto returned to Pakistan but never lived to contest the election. While riding in a motorcade, Bhutto died from mysterious injuries to the head just like President Kennedy, who, in his own case, was shot by an assassin.
Time, the healer of all wounds, will come for Buhari’s visit to Benue.