8 months ago

BusinessDay 15 April 2018

14 C002D5556 Sunday

14 C002D5556 Sunday 15 April 2018 Politics 2019 and Tinubu’s new calculations ZEBULON AGOMUO The election time-table has since been released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Perceived political allies and foes are aligning and realigning to actualise their political ambition come 2019. What is happening on the nation’s political turf, to the mere observers can only be captured in the expression, “The more you look the less you see.” In politics, there are no sentiments. Self interest is the determinant factor. This is why many astute politicians take decisions that leave keen watchers tongue-tied. One of such hard decisions this time around is the determination of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to throw his weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari’s return bid. While many Nigerians are asking “why”, the Jagaban is fixated. Ordinarily, many observers had expected that Tinubu would give the President cold shoulders this time around, but the reverse appears to be the case. The permutation Those very close to Tinubu say he is supporting Buhari with his eyes wide open. It is said that the former governor of Lagos State decided to take that route because it would be more beneficial to allow Buhari complete four more years and leave the stage than to allow a fresh person from the north to come in and spend eight years, which could affect the chances of the south. A source said: “Many people do not seem to understand where Asiwaju is coming from. He has decided to give his full support once again to President Buhari because he is looking at a bigger picture. However abysmal Buhari may have performed, it is better to tolerate him for additional four years than allowing another northerner to do fresh eight years. If Buhari wins in 2019, he will only do four years and go home; then a southerner will come up. Don’t forget that Tinubu still has an eye on the presidency.” The source further said: “Asiwaju is not a neophyte in politics. He weighs his options and makes moves that he knows he will not regret. There are ‘bad bellies’ who are not comfortable with his profile and they want to badmouth him before the President. But they have been found to be liars and featherweight politicians. They have not got the political sagacity to galvanise a support base that can give the President victory next time around. “They have done a lot to bite the finger that fed them. Without Tinubu, many of them wouldn’t be in politics let alone amounting to anything in the country. I want to tell you as a matter of fact that Asiwaju remains as relevant to the electoral success of President Buhari as he was in 2015, and the President knows it and he would decide to toy with his relationship with Asiwaju to his own hurt. Politics is not all about trailer-load of money. If you don’t know the strategy, you go home in regret after an election because you find out that after spending the money you still did not make any impact. Asiwaju knows how to wisely deploy experience, men ???????????????? and money to achieve success. That is why the President must court his friendship, at least for now.” In an exclusive interview recently with Ayo Opadokun, a former secretary of National Democratic Coalition (NA- DECO) and the convener of the Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms, (CODER), told BDSUNDAY that Tinubu “knows what he is doing.” Opadoku believes that the APC leader must have read the signs very well and has a clear compass of where he is going. Asked why Tinubu would support Buhari again in the midst of alleged failure of his administration on governance, and if such an endorsement did not amount to Asiwaju ‘dancing on the grave of Nigerians who have died on account of anti-people policies of the Buhari administration’, Opadoku retorted, “Asiwaju is playing politics. Leave him alone, he is playing politics. Asiwaju is playing politics.” There was a rough time Recall that the relationship between Buhari and Tinubu had been everything As if that was also not demoralising enough, the seemingly “who are you” attitude of John Odigie- Oyegun towards Tinubu compounded the man’s alienation, Odigie-Oyegun was installed by Tinubu as the national chairman of the APC, but a huge gulf appears to be existing between them but rosy until late last year. Shortly after the inauguration of the Buhari administration in 2015, the President went solo, abandoning those who made his victory possible. And when he was being advised to constitute his cabinet, he was quoted as saying that he was not comfortable working with ministers, but would rather work with civil servants. He was also said to have described ministers as “noise makers”. Then Buhari began to ride roughshod, picking all manner of people from his native state of Katsina and his close associates, to work with, leaving in the cold those who spent their time and resources to enthrone him in Aso Rock. At the same time, Tinubu had also lost out at the National Assembly as his calculation of foisting a leadership there was punctured by the witty moves of Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, Senate president and House of Representatives speaker, respectively. The bicameral legislature was totally fenced off from the Asiwaju meddlesomeness. As if that was also not demoralising enough, the seemingly “who are you” attitude of John Odigie-Oyegun towards Tinubu compounded the man’s alienation. Odigie-Oyegun was installed by Tinubu as the national chairman of the APC, but a huge gulf appears to be existing between them. For the above reasons, the Jagaban became an unhappy man. Aisha Buhari sensed the ugly state of affairs and spoke out and up against the injustice. She noted that those who never sowed into the party were the ones reaping heavily, whereas those who laboured have been pushed away in harvest time. The First Lady was particular about the treatment against Tinubu, who she had confessed was instrumental to the success of her husband in 2015. “My husband, General Muhammadu Buhari has been contesting presidential elections for over a decade now, but this particular election is unique because our leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu jettisoned his personal interest for the sake of Nigeria,” she said. After Aisha’s observation, an analyst was quoted as saying that “Asiwaju as I see things today is on his own. The President has since surrounded himself with his brothers. But it is not unexpected. It is only those who refused to believe the history that doubted what the president is capable of doing when in office. Before the elections, many people said and wrote so many things about the likelihood of a severance of relationship between the two party chieftains. Today, such predictions as it were, are coming to pass.” The analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, further said: “Recall that in order to be part of government, Tinubu had wanted to field himself as the vice president, a move that was shot down by many interests. When that dream caved in, Yemi Osinbajo was fielded instead.” Tinubu until recently had been left in the lurch. He was neither being consulted nor intimated with government’s plans. Loyalists of Tinubu had listed some hostile actions against the former governor. Some of the issues raised include the exclusion of Tinubu’s candidates from Buhari’s final ministerial list, the alleged gang-up against his candidate, James Faleke, in the Kogi governorship election, who was the late Audu Abubakar’s running mate, and the alleged fraud against Olusegun Abraham, his candidate, in the Ondo governorship primary. It was said that Tinubu lost out during the appointment of political office holders, members of the Federal Executive Council inclusive. This, according to observers, was part of the Buhari administration’s plot to build a new power base, detached from Tinubu’s stranglehold. In December 2016, Cornelius Adebayo, a former minister of Communications and Works, who was also governor of Kwara State in 1983, alluded to the impasse between Tinubu and Buhari, saying, “We cannot avoid having differences of ideas, opinions or approach to issues or governance. In any party, any member may have his own different view. But differences within party membership are not strange. The APC is a coalition of independently existing parties, before they coalesced into one. So, it is not strange that there are differences in opinion and approach. What they (Buhari and Tinubu) should try to do now is to harmonise their positions and do what is best for Nigeria.” While in Akure, Ondo State in November 2017, Tinubu had declared that there was no automatic ticket for Buhari in 2019. At that time, Tinubu’s next movement with APC and Buhari was unknown. He had begun to seek out old friends and acquaintances in the Afenifere, pan- Yoruba socio-cultural group. He went to greet the leader of the group, Pa. Reuben Fasonranti. He came heavily on some APC governors who had endorsed President Buhari for second term, saying that whoever would represent the party must be selected through a transparent primary election. He had insisted that the party would not violate its law to grant Buhari automatic ticket. Condemning governors who had already publicly endorsed President Buhari for 2019, Tinubu said the governors lacked the power to do so, as such action

Sunday 15 April 2018 C002D5556 15 Politics contravened the APC constitution. “No governor can appropriate the power of endorsement to themselves,” he said. The renewed love Before the renewed love between Buhari and Tinubu, a source had said: “We won’t be surprised if the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission wakes up tomorrow to say they are probing Tinubu or his associates. They may even send the Department of State Service after him because that is the step the Buhari government has taken against all their perceived enemies. Asiwaju knows that they may come for him.” But on October 30, 2017 the President met with Tinubu at the Presidential Villa. The meeting sparked controversy among Nigerians, with many saying that it is just a ploy to curry Tinubu’s favour as election year is drawing near and the credibility of the party is waning. Tinubu announced to the whole world, “I just met with the President. Our discussion was fruitful, productive and it was about the country and leadership as a whole.” Since after the October rapprochement, things appear to be going for both party men. In an apparent celebration of a successful fence-mending, Tinubu was among those on the entourage of President Buhari to the 5th European Union-African Union (EU-AU) Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire late last year. Again, in the heat of that celebration, the President, openly acknowledged Tinubu as “our leader.” Recall that Tinubu severally denied openly the friction between himself and the President. He also refuted allegations that a cabal existed in the administration which hijacked power and shoved him aside despite his huge efforts in helping the party come to power, saying that he has confidence in the leadership of the President. “I have confidence in this President; there is no doubt about that. We worked hard to bring about the government, there are certain things that are unpredictable and those are things that can lean itself to gossips, insinuations and all of that. “But once you create leadership and it is functioning, you don’t have to babysit that leadership unless there is a loss of confidence and I don’t have that,” he said. But despite the picture Tinubu painted of a robust relationship between Aso Villa and Bourdillon (Asiwaju’s residence in Ikoyi, Lagos), observers say that the alarm raised by Aisha Buhari, the First Lady, that a cabal may have hijacked power, cannot be a myth. For close observers, Tinubu was just playing the normal politics of not washing the party’s dirty linen in public. A chieftain of the party in Osun State was quoted as saying that “This is the beginning of the end of the APC. The party will shatter into smithereens. We are ready for them. They are going nowhere.” Desperate moves BDSUNDAY gathered that when it dawned on President Buhari that he would be needing Tinubu again to achieve his re-election ambition, he began to send emissaries to Bourdillon. Today, the former Lagos State governor has become a beautiful bride to be courted once again. In what analysts describe as desperation on the part of the President, some of his recent pronouncements could be said to be pro-Tinubu. For instance, contrary to the endorsement by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) of a oneyear extension of the Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC), Buhari reversed it, ostensibly to placate Tinubu. Although he had earlier supported the extension, President Buhari made a volte face, saying it was an illegal as it contravenes a section of the party’s constitution. “On my own part, I have taken time to review and seek advice on the resolution and what I found is that it contravenes both our party’s constitution and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said. Tinubu had clapped, saying that “President Buhari’s action saves the party from a serious legal turmoil. If the elongations were deemed illegal, then all subsequent party actions, including the nomination of all of our candidates for elective offices, might also be of questionable legality. “Such a predicament would constitute an unnecessary and a mortal blow to the party and its role in promoting progressive governance in Nigeria,” the national leader submitted, in reaction to the President’s decision on the tenure extension. Three weeks ago, the President moved his seat from Abuja and relocated to Lagos just to please Tinubu. He was the chairman of the 10th Colloquium to commemorate the 66th birthday of Asiwaju. The belief out there is that the President must have used the occasion of the visit to sandpaper some rough edges of their relationship as he spent extra day after the event. Growing the economy, improving governance, and integrating the nation Continued from back page clearly the wrong type of value to impart in our young people. What needs to be done? * So we need to step back, agree on what the centre must do and what can and should be devolved to the lower tiers of government. We must devolve powers and responsibilities to the federating states. Much of what is currently in the Exclusive Legislative List need to be moved to the concurrent List. We don’t need federal roads, federal hospitals, and federal schools. They should be transferred to the states along with the funds expended on them. At best the federal government may establish regional centres of excellence in medicine and research in each of the geo-political zones, which can act as models for state governments. The federal government should hands-off the administration of local governments. States should have the power to create as many local governments as they wish or to not create any. With the devolution of power to state governments, people in each state would know who to hold responsible if their roads are not fixed and if their hospitals have no medication. And the devolution of power to states must extend to political parties. Out political parties should not behave in a unitary manner and expect a robust democratic federal system for Nigeria. Having the party headquarters in Abuja dictate to state (and even local government) branches even on purely local matters is not healthy for democracy and federalism. Such highhandedness promotes corruption and impedes attention to minority interests and local peculiarities. * We need to also follow the letter and spirit of such existing mechanisms as federal character and other affirmative action policies to help manage distributive conflicts until such a time when we do enough to enhance production in order to reduce the scarcity that drives our conflicts over distribution. Inevitably in federal systems, component units will bicker over the distribution of resources, including revenues, location of investments and other opportunities. We need to acknowledge that much of our conflicts over distribution are driven by scarcity. That is why I strongly believe that our efforts at redistributive justice must be accompanied by efforts and reforms to improve the productive capacity of our country. We need to remove all impediments to and provide all necessary incentives for the emergence of a truly productive economy. We must invest in infrastructure, education and innovation, and health care. And these will be more difficult if we maintain the current “unitarised federal” structure and the overblown government bureaucracy. Rather than relying on revenues from oil we should create a really private-sector led thriving economy that creates enormous jobs, reduces poverty, and creates wealth commensurate with our potentials. When our economy starts creating so many jobs that we will have a hard time filling them, employers will pay less attention to the place of origin of the applicant. The willingness and ability to do the job will become paramount. When we have enough university spaces that our universities compete for students to fill those spaces, they will pay little attention to place of origin of the prospective students. * Transparency in policy making and implementation are also critical. Our distributive system needs to be fairer and seen to be so by the vast majority of our people. If we promote merit even in the context of federal character (best from each area) conflicts will reduce. * In determining access to public resources and services, our emphasis should be on place of residence rather than place of origin. The cause of national unity and integration will be better served when we encourage mobility of persons across the country as opposed to encouraging people to stay in their places of “origin.” Obviously the use of place of residence rather than place of origin will be easier to sell under a very productive and growing economy rather than one characterised by low productivity and contraction. * It will also help if we improve governance. A well-governed people tend to worry less about where their leaders come from. While citizens may maintain their identities, these do not define their attitude to the state or leaders per se. And the most sustainable way to ensure good governance is by improving our democracy and electoral system so that the people’s choices are usually elected. Thus we must ensure internal party democracy, reduce the role of money and godfathers in our elections, reduce the use of state resources for electoral advantage by incumbents, and strengthen the independence of our electoral umpire. * There is also the need for political majorities to be more sensitive and accommodating to the interests of the minorities. The self-restraint of majorities is critical for the maintenance of peace and harmony. Nigeria’s self-restraint in the ECOWAS and AU, despite her overwhelming power, population and resources, is, in my view, a secret to the endurance of those organisations. Nigeria’s political majorities can do the same here in our country to help ensure peace and harmony. If we restructure our federation, make compromises, and govern better, we will have a greater chance of transforming our diversity into a national asset. And enduring changes to our structure and redistributive systems can only come about through negotiations and compromises by leaders of our diverse groups and zones. With a spirit of give and take, the capacity to empathise, to walk in the other’s shoes, compromises will be easier. I wish your fruitful deliberations at this symposium, and I thank you for your attention.