The Problem with Tinubu

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It goes without saying that former Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State may have unwittingly boxed himself to a corner, writes Olawale Olaleye

Perhaps, it is instructive to assume that former Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State and one of the national leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had a presentiment of what laid-in-wait for him post-2015 elections. Events leading to the change movement were a garish dynamics, most of which he understood even their complexities.

He took a furtive decision to flock with strange bedfellows, but not without extracting certain virtual commitments from the prospective partners in the power game. Nothing was though in black and white, an understanding was yet reached for a new political family to birth.

Say what you think, Tinubu has been around for a while to play the fool. Only a few, probably, not more than two or three, can level up with his political intelligence, especially his ability to read the climate with near precision. Even more to his credit is his ability to devise solutions around practically every situation and push such through, even if it means bullying his way.

This political barracuda is one of a kind. He has spent nearly the last 25 years, long before the return to civil rule in 1999, building a political consensus cum family that is today a household name. His approach, more often than not, could be machiavelian; very few had alluded to that since he always gets results. This has earned him resounding applause, recognition and awards in different parts of the world and reverence amongst his peers, such that he is almost developing god complex.

This notwithstanding, the last one and a half years have been less than promising for this political samurai. A critical stakeholder in the birth and rise to power of the APC, Tinubu has been completely alienated in his own house. He is neither near the party he co-formed nor anywhere close to decision making in their government, even though he was an active agent in bringing forth the APC dream. Everyone suddenly found him impossible to work with and technically, there is a conscious attempt to reduce his influence and restrict his control to his base in Lagos.

It is interesting, although ironical, that whilst rising in defence of Tinubu and exposing the alleged attempts to reduce him, members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been more visible and up to task. Former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode did a good job recently even though he was a bit melodramatic and characteristically overboard in his intervention. He nearly killed it save for a few inuendos that were totally extraneous and further stoked the embers of discord.

Thus, taking it one by one, two factors may have been directly responsible for Tinubu’s predicament and they are self-made. Unfortunately, these factors have not only formed the nucleus of his everyday political disposition, he is unlikely to see them as the problem that they are. And except he reviews this fast declining approach, his present ordeal will be a child’s play in the fullness of time and it would be sad if he goes down on that account despite his irreducible contributions to the contemporary political evolution of this country.

The first factor is his Darwinian approach to politics and power. It is the manifestation of the “I” element in his political philosophy. This way, no political placement leaves his immediate environment and his preferred disciples. Everything must revolve around him and his creation (people he’s made), thus reducing the spread and expansion of power outside of the areas of his influence and reach. He would do everything humanly possible to influence everything to himself and decides who gets what.

The expansion of his territory in South-west cannot suffice as a counter-argument for this because while he made conscious and spirited moves to extend his empire across the region, his inability to completely take over everywhere can still be located in the Darwinian factor, which naturally encourages desperate elimination process.

And because this attitude has become his political culture, he carried it over to the national front despite its huge palpable failings. It was certain that with time, this Tinubu approach could not survive the stiff competitive nature of national politics, where attitudinal integration, political compromise and power concession are critical elements for survival.

It is not a debate that President Muhammadu Buhari is worse off in this regard, when juxtaposed with a Tinubu take. The president is primitively sectional and limited in the knowledge of the game and its dynamics. Tinubu, however, betrayed the expectations of a game taken a notch up with all its nuances. The efficient tricks of the Lagos and South-west Ludo game refused to fly in the face of Abuja’s complex chess board.

The other factor and equally crucial is Tinubu’s deliberate and systematic decimation of the political class – the potentially promising politicians. Either for fear of a political coup that could see to the upstaging of his leadership or the general fear of the unknown, Tinubu has refused to let anyone of his so-called disciples grow in equal strides. And whoever shows the trait of such capacity is led up to a point before he is stopped abruptly and by every means possible.

The succession battle in Lagos is the least interesting because of Tinubu’s sense of ownership, which has continued to precipitate his dictation of the power equation. It is his idea or better stated philosophy that “power is not served a la carte”, yet, he does not encourage anyone who seeks to take power, either through hard work or having risen through the ranks to get it.
It is at the point people are tagged “too independent-minded” to be trusted with power. He refused to keep his soldiers closely knit. He has never found worthy, anyone of those who drive the mobilisation process of his party’s electioneering for offices. The politicians do the dirty work and his so-called technocrats will come and take the shine.

Have you noticed the subtle clean-out of politicians of certain categories and age groups in Lagos State and beyond? Have you observed, for some minutes, the deliberate undermining of some politicians of certain political pedigrees in the state?

Whether it is a factor of trust or sheer complex, there is a growing disdain for the political class, people who have worked with him for many years and suddenly finds them unfit to be governor or further their political career at other levels. Rather, he finds it convenient to raise new team and expects that when the chips are down, the new team will protect him more than the old folks with whom he started the journey.

Partly a carryover effect of the Darwinian element, this second factor has bred serious resentment amongst the political class, a majority of whom would even look away if privy to where and when an evil conception is being plotted against him. He has for the excessive love of self, destroyed relationships and created deep-seated mistrust.

Maybe if he looks back and genuinely analyses those he believes are truly forming alliances against him or plotting to tear him down and put into perspective, how far they have come together, he would make sense of this intervention. Such a sense would be better situated if he is also able to analyse and ponder any of the old folks he’s discarded that could have done the same if roles were reversed?

What is however instructive is that the Yoruba as a people cannot afford to watch anyone or group of people destroy Tinubu. That would be a major attack on them and their heritage. In contemporary Nigerian politics, especially as it relates to the Yoruba people, a lot had been built around Tinubu as the de facto face of the race that they cannot afford to let him go into extinction on account of some people’s inordinate ambition.

Much as he is largely his own problem, he is by providence an illustrious son of the Yoruba, who has truly paid his dues and intervened at the highest level of decision-making and as well, the cause of the Nigerian project. He therefore needs to do a lot of introspection and talking to oneself in collective interest. The tendency that the Yoruba race, regardless of creed, faith or political leaning could rise in his defence is high and that is what he still has going pretty well for him. But it is not inelastic and so, shouldn’t overstretch this uncommon grace.

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Taking it one by one, two factors may have been directly responsible for Tinubu’s predicament and they are self-made. Unfortunately, these factors have not only formed the nucleus of his everyday political disposition, he is unlikely to see them as the problem that they are. And except he reviews this fast declining approach, his present ordeal will be a child’s play in the fullness of time and it would be sad if he goes down on that account despite his irreducible contributions to the contemporary political evolution of this country