BEHIND THE FIGURES
BY IJEOMA NWOGWUGWU
My initial instinct was to title this article, ‘Different Strokes for Different Folks.’ It was supposed to lay bare the double standards that have characterised governance under the Muhammadu Buhari administration. The administration had found a leader of the ruling party and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, free from sin just because he is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Tinubu without fear or equivocation had questioned why anyone would take aerial photographs showing bullion vans entering his residence on Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, on the eve of the presidential election. According to him, he does not work for any agency of government, nor had he been awarded any contract, so there was nothing wrong with him spending his money as he deemed fit. “I’m on my own and I am committed to my party… so even if I have money to spend in my premises, what’s your headache… if I have money, if I like I give it to the people for free of charge as long as it’s not to buy votes… So who are those watching my house and looking at bullion vans, they must be mischief makers. They report falsehood…,” he told reporters who had tried to confirm the veracity of the pictures that had gone viral on election day.
Tinubu, no doubt, has a right to spend his money as he deems fit. If his preference is to give away his money to the poor in and around Lagos, good for him. He would be joining a long list of philanthropists around the world such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mo Ibrahim and Aliko Dangote. The big difference is that unlike him, they channel their excess wealth through the foundations that they have set up and through legal financial channels that can withstand scrutiny. Tinubu, on the other hand, is no different from the numerous past ministers and governors that served under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, but today are being tried for allegations of money laundering and handling cash outside regulated financial institutions in the days running up to the 2015 elections. But then again, these men and women, whom his newspaper The Nation gleefully gives considerable front page mention, are “sinners”. Tinubu, in contrast and owing to his membership of the APC, is worthy of sainthood.
But let me not waste too much time on what is very obvious to every Nigerian, except to the mindless sycophants who were around Tinubu when he spoke to reporters and yet found his response hilarious. I’m sure that those persons who were with Tinubu are no longer laughing as they contemplate and head into the governorship elections next Saturday. The Jagaban, as they sometimes call him, is facing a clear and existential threat that could consume him, depending on the outcome of the governorship elections in Lagos and perhaps Oyo State. That threat, ironically, is not from the non-indigenous residents, led by the Igbos, in Lagos, but from the enemies within.
Tinubu’s influence in Lagos, like I have long suspected and alluded to in passing, is fast waning. He has used the monetary patronage that Nigeria’s commercial capital illicitly provides him to rule the state by proxy for as long as he can, but even that no longer appears to be foolproof. On the day of the presidential election, he assigned his thugs and street urchins to scare away Igbo residents from polling units and has continued along this path, days after the election in order to suppress voter turnout during the governorship election in areas populated by non-indigenes. Unsurprisingly, Igbo residents in Lagos are seething and questioning what right Tinubu and his men have to deprive them of their civic rights in a place where they reside, as guaranteed by the constitution; are generally law abiding and contribute to the economic development of the state.
My advise to them is that they should try not to get caught in a proxy war that is no business of theirs. You see, Tinubu’s greatest fear is not the Igbos living in Lagos but members of his own party, the APC, who are circling like vultures and waiting to rip his carcass apart. In his party, Tinubu has made a lot of enemies that would like to see the back of him and get the same treatment that was meted out to Senate President Bukola Saraki in Kwara State just a few days ago. The presidential cabal does not like him, Akinwunmi Ambode wishfully prays for his downfall, Nasir el-Rufai cannot stand him, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi detests him, Ibikunle Amosun does not want him anywhere his state, Ogun, while the likes of Rotimi Akeredolu, Kayode Fayemi and Babatunde Fashola, barely tolerate him.
Within the APC, they see him as a spent force, quietly acknowledge that he has long been overrated and allege that he could not even deliver Lagos at the just concluded presidential election. They were unimpressed with the performance of the party under his watch in Lagos (and the Southwest), despite the suppression of voters and state-sponsored violence. Given what they all know, it is in Tinubu’s interest to suppress the Igbo vote if he must maintain his vice-like grip over Lagos. But my take is that he bears no personal grudge against the Igbos resident in the state and recognises their usefulness and contributions in making it Nigeria’s economic hub. The major snag, however, is that they pose a stumbling block to his desire to hold on to Lagos. Without it, he can kiss his presidential bid in 2023 goodbye. Without it, he will not be able to fend off the federal might using a section of the Lagos media and civil society groups that he funds and controls. Without it, he is finished!
Depending on the mood in Abuja, two scenarios are likely to play out in Lagos on Saturday, March 9, the date slated for governorship elections: One, is for the federal government to provide security cover to non-indigenes and other Yorubas who want an end to Tinubu’s reign to exercise their franchise without the looming threat of his hired goons. Some might argue that Tinubu was able to hold on to Lagos for 16 years when he was in opposition, despite everything that the federal government threw at him at the time. Yes he did, but they miss one important point: The PDP-led administrations, even under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, were not as vicious and unafraid as the APC-led government of today.
The second scenario is to allow Tinubu to have his way by not providing the security cover to those opposed to his hegemony. Should the latter happen, Tinubu would most likely hold on to his precious Lagos and install his anointed candidate Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Then, come 2023, when he turns back to the same non-indigenous residents and their brethren in the Southeast and South-south to back his presidential bid, I wonder what their response will be. Surely, Tinubu cannot be banking on the North to support him in 2023. That is a pipe dream best left to his imagination.
Besides, by his own doing, Tinubu has made Lagos irrelevant in the scheme of things politically. States like Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Borno and Katsina, according to the results produced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had better voter turnouts in the presidential election than Lagos with the highest number of registered voters in the country, effectively downgrading the state’s status as a bargaining tool for future elections.
But it is not just Lagos Tinubu has set his sights on winning next Saturday. He is also zeroing in on Oyo, the second largest state in the Southwest geopolitical zone. To many people’s surprise, Oyo fell to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the presidential election. And this has caused Tinubu nightmares, which he has set out to overcome. He has convinced the former governor of the state, Christopher Alao-Akala, who holds considerable influence over his base in Ogbomosho, a major voting bloc in Oyo, to jettison his governorship bid on the platform of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) and return to the APC. The goal is to ensure Adebayo Adelabu, the APC governorship candidate, trounces Seyi Makinde of the PDP. It remains to be seen if Tinubu can trust Alao-Akala to deliver, given Makinde’s popularity and the general dissatisfaction with Abiola Ajimobi’s stewardship as governor of Oyo State for the past eight years.
Of course, Ogun State is a no go area for Tinubu. Amosun has in words and deeds made it abundantly clear that he wants to remain the head honcho in the state. Tinubu cannot even approach Ladi Adebutu or the aggrieved faction of the PDP in the state, as Amosun was quick enough to get them in his corner to support his candidate Adekunle Akinlade of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
My fervent wish is that Tinubu does not succeed in his grand design to hold on to Lagos and get the bragging rights over Oyo. Despite my opposition to the APC and particularly its policies, I cannot but stand with Tinubu’s enemies within. The grand theft and violation of Lagos must come to a close. Lagos, contrary to what its media would have the public believe, continues to punch well below its weight relative to other mega cities globally. The absence of or failing infrastructure, a workable waste management system, perverse corruption, dilapidated health care and education facilities, and chaotic transportation network in Lagos, are symptomatic of everything wrong with Nigeria. If Lagos is allowed to become the reformist and transformational pathfinder that it has the potential to be, the rest of Nigeria will follow suit.
Tinubu’s greatest fear is not the Igbos living in Lagos but members of his own party, the APC, who are circling like vultures and waiting to rip his carcass apart. In his party, Tinubu has made a lot of enemies that would like to see the back of him… Within the APC, they see him as a spent force, quietly acknowledge that he has long been overrated and allege that he could not even deliver Lagos at the just concluded presidential election.