As Nigeria approaches 2023 general election, Wale Olaleye writes that the choice the country makes is critical to her future
How do you write about Nigeria’s political trajectory especially, her contemporary history and not devote generous pages to both Senator Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State, who is one of the most noted leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general election?
Misgivings notwithstanding, these two men have not only paid their dues, they have also earned their places in the annals of the body polity – positive or negative. Their current strutting of the turf isn’t some chancing by downright influence; they earned it, including the groundswell of supports they enjoy from many people and institutions across the globe.
In the dark days of the military, history has an enviable cache of their defining roles as much as the moves they spinned to get civil rule back on track. And regardless of the reservations some may have about them, they are today very popular, not because they were conflicted about their democratic predilections, but because they consciously etched their names, albeit after weighing many options, at the very centre of civil and democratic causes.
What’s more, they’ve given more than just their time, name, credibility and resources, but even made such personal sacrifices that could have forced them to paying the supreme price. That, of course, still accounts for their relevance, name recognition and the veneration they have continued to revel in.
How Lagos has turned out, including many parts of the Southwest and beyond, are directly proportional to Tinubu’s leadership, influence and political sagacity. Smart, strategic, assertive, talent hunter, high political networth and huge followership with a rather hypnotic war chest, Tinubu is this and more, although sometimes highhanded.
His capacity for assembling ‘skillful men’ for any cause and supervising same to a fruitful end, has been the most referenced of his credentials, not just as a hunter of talents, but even more instructive, as a manager of human resources, boasting though often pedantic, however, generally intelligent ideas about leadership and governance.
Side-by-side, the Turaki Adamawa has been around even much longer. His choice as former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s running mate and eventual deputy, wasn’t a random pick, but one informed by his rich political and democratic history.
Often referred to as the most prepared for the job of the president of Nigeria, especially, in the recent experience of 2015 and 2019 elections, Atiku’s ideas about leadership and governance stand him out a lot of the time, more so, his futuristic approach to leadership and coming from a liberal northern background, even though a devout Muslim.
Unfortunately, however, some equally more decisive factors, through the window of time, might have also shut them out of the 2023 presidential run. If anything and given the current state of play, neither of these men is today in the bracket of the desirable, beyond the evidently orchestrated media yearnings for their choices. Even as the available, the train has since left station.
First, the health of these two men is the number one factor and definitely not what anyone can downplay or gloss over. Whatever plans President Muhammadu Buhari had coming into office in 2015 were messed up by his sudden ill-health, which took a better part of his time during the first term.
Whilst it may be convenient for Tinubu and Atiku’s supporters to either lie about this or brush it aside for political expediencies, the fact of their poor health is already evident and public knowledge and definitely not a risk worth taking in larger interest.
Age and health combined have slowed them down significantly and even if their otherwise pretentious supporters choose to look away for whatever is in it for them, Tinubu and Atiku personally know that the leadership needed now to run the race of Nigeria is not the one with their kind of health. At worse, they are in it for sheer power and personal aggrandizement and not to change the country.
The race for 2023 is not the same as 1999. Tinubu and Atiku, without papering the truth, cannot hold a-six-hour meeting at a stretch. They cannot do any marathon meeting back to back, traversing the globe for those events that require their presence. They can’t even inspect projects as a chain of events.
Now, this is not about their respective ages, but their health, speaking stricto sensu. After all, Obasanjo is older than the two of them, and even as at today, he still travels the world like a teenager. He’s gifted good health and that’s God’s doing.
Both Tinubu and Atiku are good political strategists, no doubt, but it should be clear to them now that they are jaded somewhat, and this is evident even in the age of their ideas.
The reasonable and dispassionate lot are tired of their struggling to be king, when they should be kingmakers, by presenting younger elements for the office as well as helping governments at all levels to source the best hands that could help deliver on theirprogrammes, policies and projects.
Concerning, however, the fact that these two cannot even see anyone else apart from themselves emerging president at a time like this, not only speak to the fact that they might have been overrated as ‘patriotic leaders’, judging from the three factors of capacity, competence and character; but has further put a lie to the assumption that they are good talent hunters.
Apart from exhibiting unbridled poverty of ambition, their desperation for the presidency is now in the mode of a “do-or-die” affair, thus querying all that they ever claimed and boasted to be.
Atiku has been contesting for the presidency since 1993, and it was only in 1998, that he stepped down to contest the Adamawa governorship. But he was back in 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. This has thus made him a serial loser and the people are surely tired of seeing his name, both on the campaign and the ballot.
For Tinubu, he had the best chance of being on the ticket in 2015. Perhaps, if they had done that, it probably would have been the end of the ticket, as there might have been no victory for the APC.
Today, public opinion has shifted in favour of the younger turks in the ruling party, starting from the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to several others Tinubu was believed to have discovered and help put in the limelight as well as many others, who still defer to him as leader. The feeling is the same in the opposition party, the PDP.
Curiously, Atiku is interested in the presidency while his son, Adamu, wants to be one of the senators representing Adamawa. The same way Tinubu is itching to be president and at the same time, positioning his son, Seyi, to be governor or deputy governor of Lagos State.
While the moves to pass on the baton to their children are not in any way out of place, for as long as they are qualified and eligible, after all, their children too are Nigerians with legitimate constitutional rights, could they at least take one and leave the other in a manner that typifies their much talked about large heart for a national cause?
The challenge of the future is legion and daunting. Age is but a number. But health is not some chessboard political game to be brushed aside as though it would sort itself out. Indeed, ideas propounded to situations speak volume. And this is where a sound mind is not negotiable. Of course, the stamina for the job cannot also be underestimated.
This is why neither of these two is desirable for 2023. Indeed, if they love Nigeria as they often claim, then, it should be easy to let go of their ambition in collective interest. Their fixation or assumption that there isn’t any better candidate outside of them is actually the justification for their non-desirability. Neither of them is indispensable and Nigeria is greater than them combined.
Above all, this intervention is not to abridge their rights to contest in any way, but toeing the path of honour in the 2023 presidential run could help tone down tension and present the country with a better opportunity to truly change the tide.