Tinubu, Presidency and the River Between

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PLSCOPE BY Eddy Odivwri    Eddy.Odivwri@thisdaylive.com

…. as Moniedafe Eyes Party Leadership

Eddy Odivwri

After what looked like a lengthy merry go-round, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, last Monday announced what nearly everybody had always known: that he is interested in contesting for the presidency of Nigeria. While he didn’t say anything really new, he was candid in saying that it has been a life-long ambition. That explains why he was emphatic in his desired transition from being a king maker to being a king himself. But has he really been making kings? At the dawn of this democracy, that is the third republic, he was not part of the crowning of Olusegun Obasanjo as President. He was not party to the ascension of late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, nor did he contribute to the emergence of former President Goodluck Jonathan, essentially because all three former Presidents were in a rival political party: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

There is however no denial that the collaboration of Bola Tinubu and now President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, resulted in the victory of Buhari, who until that collaboration had continued to suffer electoral defeat in four previous presidential polls.

Until recently, many had also credited the choice of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to Tinubu, who was the former’s boss, as Governor of Lagos State. Osinbajo had served as Tinubu’s Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General.

Latter day revelations have however shown that Osinbajo was not quite a nominee of Bola Tinubu. He (Tinubu) had indeed wanted to be the Vice Presidential candidate to Buhari but for the fact that they (Buhari and Tinubu) are both Muslims. Former senate President Bukola Saraki had strongly opposed a Muslim-Muslim ticket in 2015, a reason Saraki and Tinubu never really got to swim together politically. So, how many ‘presidential kings’ has Tinubu really made to be tagged a King-maker? Yes, he’s been a political bulwark bone in the South West, in a way that he is famed (albeit exaggeratedly) to have a regional control of the political dynamics of the South West region. Out of the six states in the region, he effectively controls just two: Lagos and Osun. Not more. In fact, one of the states in the region (Oyo) is governed by a PDP governor, just as two of the states (Ogun, Ekiti and even Ondo ) are not exactly lackeys of the Jagaban.

Yet, in all of these, Tinubu is believed to have a trans-territorial political influence in Nigeria. Many aspirants and candidates across regional boundaries practically covet his endorsement, as if to suggest that whoever he endorses has already won, regardless of the electoral worth and value of the contestant. It is remarkable that the last governorship election in Edo State foiled that belief, as the Tinubu-endorsed Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu failed to win the polls.

So, now that the ‘King-maker’ wants to be the King himself, who and who will make him king? Tinubu, in his “categorical declaration” last Monday, said he has informed President Buhari about his ambition, and that he is still consulting many people across board. Indeed, more than a year before now, his political lieutenants had besieged the political space struggling to mobilise various sets and groups of persons towards the Tinubu presidential agenda. The leading group—South West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA) had been in the fore front of canvassing support for the former Lagos State governor. But truth is that the Asiwaju will have many rivers to cross if he must become president

It is noteworthy that by going to inform Mr President of his ambition, it means that both Tinubu and Buhari are not on the same page on this matter. So, the question is: would Mr President support Asiwaju as his successor? This is crucial! Yes, Mr President would not have more than just a vote, but whoever he supports is bound to enjoy immeasurable support network.

Tinubu makes a casual reference to this hiatus when he said, “Mr President is a democrat, he did not ask me not to run…” Yes, Buhari cannot stop him from running, but did he ask him to run?

As it has shown, many more people would have to come inform Mr President of their ambition. A day after Tinubu informed the President, Dave Umahi, governor of Ebonyi State did the same thing. Already, the plan to do so by Senators Orji kalu and even Rochas Okorocha, are loading. A lot more will show up. No doubt, some will want to be merely listed as one of the also-rans The ring will surely be full.

Perhaps the first river Tinubu will have to cross is the issue of zoning. Will the APC, in all consciousness zone the presidency to the South west, from where Tinubu comes? Having produced former President Olusegun Obasanjo for eight years, and now Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for another eight years (by 2023), would the South West be deserving of the presidency, just yet?

The principle of power rotation may not be constitutional in the APC, but there is an understanding of power orbit rotating between the northern and southern regions of the country. In the APC, only the north has ruled for eight years as President with the Vice President coming from the South West. So, if the presidency comes down to the South, would it be fair and equitable for the region which produced the Vice President be allowed to retain the office of the President to the neglect of the South South or the South East? And the concern will be whether Tinubu will remain faithful and loyal to the party if he does not get the presidential ticket.

The other river would be that of health and strength. Tinubu, in recent years has been undergoing regular health-strengthening voyages to foreign countries, especially to the United Kingdom and France. Not long ago, a viral video of him with quaking hands circulated round the social media. Although he appears fit, given his middle-weight frame, those who know him closer say he does not have that much energy and fitness required of a president coming to salvage a gasping nation. What’s more, insiders say that Tinubu is much older than the age 69 he claims, describing 69 as a “mere official age”, as many of his contemporaries have long celebrated their 75th birthday. With the experiences of the recent past, Nigerians would be wary of any leader who is not exactly sure of his health status. The early years of the Buhari administration were dulled heavily because of health challenges, just as the Yar’adua presidency suffered huge draw back and confusion as a result of his prolonged sickness and eventual death while in office. Age is not on Tinubu’s side. That perhaps explains why he appears determined, if not desperate, to fulfil this ‘lifetime ambition’; because after now, Tinubu would have become manifestly too old, by the time the presidential pendulum swings back to South west.

Politically, Tinubu will have many deep rivers to cross. As it stands today, he is not in control of the national structure of the party, neither is the structure loyal to him. Try as he may, he has not been able to take control of the levers of control within the party. It would have been a lot easier for Tinubu to manoeuvre the party’s ethos and system if Adams Oshiomhole was still the national Chairman. But with Mai Mala Buni, as Interim Chairman, Bola Tinubu is neither here nor there, regardless of the bogus epithet of National Leader he tags himself with. The idea of providing a level playing field by a political leader is usually utopian. It rarely is. The leaders are not usually interest-free. So, where is Mai Mala Buni’s interest? Is it towards Tinubu or somebody else?

But one thing that will keep him afloat in this swimming contest will be the enormous goodwill he has. He is large hearted and believed to be very generous. Although his critics believe that he has used his political grit in Lagos to maximally over-reach himself in the acquisition of many material things, his fan-base is large. He had empowered thousands if not millions of people across religious and ethnic divides and who have become die-hard fanatics of Tinubu. They have become a large colony of devotees, many of whom will be willing to lay down their lives for the Tinubu presidential project. The months ahead will be quite telling both for the life of the APC and the fortune or future of Tinubu’s life ambition.

Whichever way it goes, will depend hugely on who runs the affairs of the party. Already, there are concerns over whether the February convention of the APC will hold or not. Some are pushing for a shift in date. But already, the Mai-Mala Buni-led interim leadership has overstayed its welcome. He has to be replaced. But by who?

Mr Sylvester Sonny Moniedafe is one of the many hopefuls who believe he can continue from where Mai-Mala Buni will stop. He wants to be the National Chairman of the party. A northerner by birth but of Delta (Urhobo) extraction, the graduate of Political Science from University of Maiduguri, and Master of Public Administration (MPA) holder from University of Lagos, believes he has all it takes to successfully run the affairs of the party in a way that its value-index will be greatly increased.

Moniedafe exudes very strong confidence, not only of his capacity but of his chances. He explains that as a northerner from Adamawa State, his prospects of emerging as the national chairman of the party is much brighter. Asked how much support he is sure to get from other regions on the country, Moniedafe stresses that “the support I get from outside Adamawa and even the North east region is much stronger than the one I get here (Adamawa)”. Believing that his being “luggage-free” is a great asset to the fortunes and progress of the APC, he said he will be a strong unifying factor that will not only build bridges for the stronger bond of all party members, he will also introduce progressive dynamics in the running of the party.

Moniedafe who, last September got coronated as the Jagaba Jimeta believes that the future of the APC will be greatly enhanced by paying due attention to the fortunes of the youths. According to him, his leadership of the party will “seek to expand the social space to enable our youths to go to school and succeed”, adding that “ we as leaders need to come together and develop workable strategies for dealing with existing challenges”.

In all, Moniedafe promises to be a remarkable asset if given the chance, hoping that the national vices of religion and region do not thwart and dim the shine he promises to be.

Sylvester Oromoni: Was Justice Served?

Eddy Odivwri

Early December last year, the story of the death of a young lad, Sylvester Nyerovwo Oromoni , aged 12, broke. It was heavy and troubling. The parents of the young boy said the boy before dying, had complained of bullying and heavy body pain, having been beaten by his some of his school mates at Dowen College, Lagos over the intent to forcefully initiate him into a cult in the school. The names of the accused students were mentioned. Right from that time, there has been some fire works of some sorts. The school was promptly shut by the Lagos State government which ordered a probe into the sad incident. Some of the accused students and some teachers in the school were arrested.

A fortnight ago, the result of the autopsy was released. The result claimed that Sylvester had no evidence of having been beaten or bullied and concluded that he died of “natural causes”. The Lagos State police commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu who read the so-called autopsy report was literally chewing his mouth as he struggled to pronounce the heavy medical jargons—( Septicaemia, lobar pneumonia with acute pyelonephritis and pyomyositis of the right ankle) that was loaded into the report as cause of death.

Arising from that report, the arrested persons have not only been released, the school has been cleared to resume classes. It rankled many.

Many people did not believe the report and argue that the resort to medical jargons is essentially to hide the believed cause of death. But what superior facts do we have to challenge what science is said to have shown? So why did the late Sylvester mention the names he gave? Why did the school first claim Sylvester had injuries when he went playing football? Suddenly, all the clues became dead ends? Did Sylvester have any medical history of Pneumonia? Is there any cult in the college? Are there cases of bullying in the college? Many are the questions but the answers are shrouded in medical jargons.

Sylvester’s dad, dissatisfied with the autopsy report has called for a second autopsy and has vowed not to bury his son until he gets justice, even if it takes him 30 years.

Sylvester’s mother has been releasing curses from the heart of an anguished mother on those who killed her son. The family lawyer , Femi Falana, has alleged “massive cover-up” in the death of Sylvester. So, who were the pathologists who conducted the test? Did they compromise their findings or were they true to their calling? As Patience Jonathan would say, “there is God -o!”

I had suffered a similar experience in 2009. A primary school classmate, then Queen Iwemah was arrested by the Police in Ikorodu, and taken to the Ikorodu police station where she was beaten and tortured to death by policemen. Upon her death, her body was merely dumped outside and his family called up to come carry the body of the lady. The family members noticed massive bruises , blood clotting, all over her body including her lips and around her neck. Her body was taken to the morgue. I insisted that an autopsy be carried out. Retired DIG Marvel Akpoyibo was then Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, while Frank Mbah was the PPRO in the Lagos command. The latter argued that Queen died of natural causes. I disagreed. After weeks of back and forth, the police ordered an autopsy which result claimed that she died of natural causes. Ever since then, I lost faith in the phrase “natural causes”, especially when it comes from arranged “medical experts” under the supervision of the police. May the soul of the young lad rest in Peace.