By Mideno Bayagbon
Email: [email protected]
Understandably, the return of the medical tourist, the Jagaban of South West politics and acclaimed leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu to Nigeria has dominated the news for two weeks.
A master of media ‘puppetry’, the well orchestrated, manicured return and the attendant media deployment is quintessentially Tinubu! How his political opponents must be green with envy.
Apart from former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, no other politician in Nigeria has mastered the act of tailoring the media to enhance their image, like the current lord of South West political space. His tentacles are spread wide; and deep. And this is not just because he owns his own media empire, which cuts across the full traditional media spectra of newspapers, radio and television. It predates his foray into media entrepreneurship.
As Governor, and subsequently as the grandmaster of Lagos, Tinubu made sure he had media helmsmen in his corner. At a time, what used to be called the Lagos Ibadan media were all fully at his beck and call, especially during the bruising fight he had with the federal might of a President Olusegun Obasanjo. Oftentimes the media is always on the side of the weak. In this fight Tinubu was the victim and the weak. He had lots of people on his corner of the ring.
In every medium, he had his men, from the middle to the topmost ranks. And he was and is good to them. He positions himself as a friend of the media. And a lot of friends he has among the retired and serving journalists.
The online media space, where anyone with a phone and N100 data is an emergency journalist is of course a different kettle of fish.
That does not mean some of the mega online stars are not within the nodding gaze of Tinubu. This perhaps informed the unjust vitriol of some of his opponents, in the aftermath of the EndSars protests last year where they insinuated that Bola Tinubu knew a thing or two about the massive youth protest. Even the protesters turning against Tinubu’s media empire did little to assuage the hardliners.
But then, has anyone noticed the conspiratorial silence of the media when it comes to the Pandora box exposures consigning Tinubu?
The allegation was that Bola Tinubu’s nephew, the Governor of Osun state, Gboyega Oyetola, used shell companies to buy the Jagaban’s current London home for him from an ally of Dieziani Madueke, an alleged fugitive who has since fled Nigeria to avoid corruption charges by this administration.
It is in this same house Bola Tinubu received President Muhammadu Buhari and all those who flooded London to visit him recently when he was recuperating from an undisclosed surgical operation.
Tinubu’s romance with them is perhaps why he is likely going to ride on the cushion of the media to bamboozle his way into pole position among the aspirants who want to succeed President Mohammadu Buhari in the APC.
This, nevertheless, is in spite of the major handicaps ahead of him. It is taken for granted, for example, that he has enough financial dunlop to water the pockets of the deciding APC delegates across the 36 states and Abuja.
Like one of his opponents recently noted, with a N1 billion budget per state and Abuja, which is considered chicken feed for the Jagaban, some of the perceived hurdles ahead of the man, who created for himself the position of National Leader of the APC, a strange appellation to the party’s constitution, might be easily crushed. None of his assumed opponents have the financial fire power to rival him.
We have to wait to see, however, how he will confront the few remaining hurdles. The first of these is the Aso Rock mafia, the kitchen cabinet of President Buhari, who want to do one of two things. They want to retain the Presidency in the north and they want one of their own to be the one to succeed President Buhari.
There is also the little problem of the feeling among some top northern leaders that a Tinubu as President might not serve the interest of these leaders. He is considered by some of them to be too strong-willed, too independent, too crafty, too corrupt, to be trusted to serve their interest.
Add to this the fact that the current lords of northern politics are of the moslem faith who definitely are not willing to have Tinubu, a fellow moslem as President, and his northern vice president, a Christian.
They would rather, if the presidency must shift to the south, have one of their own as a strong vice president to a Southern Christian as President.
Though the Tinubu camp are telling all that care to listen, that the Abiola and Kingibe fomula of a moslem-moslem ticket can still sail through in the turbulent religious landscape that the government of President Buhari has foistered on the country.
The palpable fear among the strategic thinkers is that today’s Nigeria is too troubled, too divided, to accept such a coupling.
More troubling to the Tinubu camp is the fact that those close to Buhari and his style, know of his seeming indifference and aloofness, his seeming unwillingness to assist those who might expect him to play the deciding card on who succeeds him. The Tinubu camp knows this and fear that his opponents can use the EFCC to truncate his ambition.
Buhari cannot be relied on to push for a Tinubu presidency and stand by it. While he is not expected to be against Tinubu vying for the position, insiders already know that the new “born again democratic” Buhari will not lift a finger to help Tinubu or any other contestant before the primaries. Which leaves the field open for the Jagaban to roam and possibly conquer. But then, there are other formidable roadblocks.
For example, there is the seeming irritant, the problem of those prodding Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, to jump into the race and transit from number two to number one citizen of Nigeria.
Not a few groups have sprung up, and are springing up, to canvas for an Osinbajo presidency. Surprisingly, most of them are fronted by northerners.
Osinbajo’s recent body language and public posturing seems to suggest he might be interested in throwing his hat into the ring. But observers are consigned that the loyal Osinbajo, a protege of Bola Tinubu political group, cannot go against and contest the APC primaries if Tinubu is in the race.
But should the contrary be the case, how will his godfather, Tinubu, who himself has been preparing for this day, for years now, for enthronement as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, handle it?
Though the vice president cannot be said to have any significant political base, either in the South West or nationally, can he galvanise some of the disenchanted but mute voices in the South West to his side?
Also, who, for example, will people like Raji Fashola, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, Dr Kayode Fayemi, (also nursing a presidential or vice presidential ambition); loud, empty mouth Femi Fani-Kayode and a host of others support? Who between them will the Afenifere, the Yoruba Social Cultural group, for example, support?
Tinubu’s cup is further compounded by the perceived ambition of Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, the gadfly with a shaky home base but solid national tentacles, to contend with.
As most political pundits speculate, in the final analysis, Tinubu’s main opponent for the decisive vote for the candidature of the APC will be Amaechi who has more support base among the northern political leaders, especially those who were speakers of the houses of assembly, members of the governors forum and the strategic groups, who all pulled their strengths to bring about the Buhari presidency.
Close watchers already know that the turmoil in the APC, which threw out the pro-Tinubu Adams Oshiomhole national leadership, was an in-fighting among groups loyal to Tinubu and those seemingly loyal to Amaechi. Situate this too with last weekend’s imbroglio which engulfed the APC state congresses mostly in the southern states.
But then, Amaechi, who is the two term Transportation Minister under the Buhari government also comes with his own basket load of hurdles which will come under the microscope next.
Interesting times are truly ahead.
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