By Mideno Bayagbon
s political symbolism goes, last week was an interesting moment for watchers of the political race for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Two distinct journeys by two gladiators of the APC for the presidential slot, arrested the national attention. First to go was the self acclaimed National Leader of the party, the one we all call either Jagaban or Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu. He embarked on a one week or so journey to the United Kingdom in what his traducers quickly ascribed to seeking further medical help, in their words, for his failing and not very sound health.
Most commentators, of the gang of those opposed to his ambition, described the trip as yet another medical tourism. Unwittingly, the media and Alhaji Tinubu’s opponent sold the image of a Tinubu that is not strong enough, well enough, and young enough to withstand the strenuous rigours of campaigning, and replacing the Chief Medical Tourist of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As symbols go, the impression sold is that we are in the process of replacing one sick president with another one, should Tinubu succeed in plotting his way to the presidency. Can Nigeria afford another eight years of a President who will make London, and Europe his second home, in quest of medical attention? That was the question they wanted ordinary Nigerians to ponder about.
Not so, his handlers quickly reassured their teeming supporters. The Asiwaju’s London trip, they informed is to consult with political groups and supporters in the United Kingdom, and indeed Europe. This, they say, is in furtherance of his quest to clinch the presidential ticket of the APC. Specifically, his media aide, Tunde Rahman affirmed that his principal was in the UK to hold meetings with the UK branch of the APC. But whether it was programmed to last no more than ten days, or exigencies of the times warranted it, the Jagaban, arrived back to Nigeria Sunday night to a well manicured reception and media fest.
In the same week, Transportation Minister, the one his admirers call the Lion of Ubima, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, symbolically contested for our attention. He, too, flooded the media space with the news of his turbaning as the Dan Amanar Daura. The title, in English, translates as the Trusted Son of Daura. His supporter of course made a national mince meat of the event, using the occasion as a subtle avenue to showcase the intention and popularity of the minister in the APC. It appeared a prelude to an envisaged expected outcome: the formal declaration of the minister to contest for the flag of the APC in the Presidential race.
A lot of political and self serving noise flooded the national space. The newspapers, radio, television, and the social media were heavily bombarded with the story and trending photographs of Rotimi Amaechi dressed in different regalia of the proposed turbaning. Musical tracks, in Hausa, eulogising the former Governor of Rivers State, were hurriedly recorded and enjoyed massive airplay. The installation eventually held last Saturday in Daura to a tumultuous crowd of well wishers from all over the country.
Some have asked if I was there. No, I wasn’t. I was neither invited nor even wished to go. For as with the recent turbaning of the son of the President, there was no way a reporter, even if he could muster a private jet, could be accorded an array of security forces to ensure a smooth trip. For, let us not forget, the President’s home state, like most states in the country wracked by insecurity, is not one to just casually visit. Only the foolishly brave dare embark on such journeys; especially now, in that part of the country.
Let us assume that the reader just landed from outer space and is curious to know why an otherwise ordinary chieftaincy title grabbed the national attention like that of Rotimi Amaechi did. Still out of curiosity, he/she may ask why his friends, most of them new found, were so ecstatic about a South South, Igbo man, being turbaned as the Trusted Son of a far away emirate. What is the import of a serving minister, in an outgoing regime, being selected and singled out for such honour? Whose imprimatur is veiled behind , whose is the unseen hands?
Shockingly, the answer is simple. I don’t know how many people remember Alhaji Isiaka Adeleke, the late former governor of Osun state who was famously hailed as Serubawon, or what we describe in Waffi pidgin lingo as Panic Them. My one kobo is that this is a positioning event. It is symbolic that it is the President’s emir who conferred it. It is sending shivers down the spine of rival camps.
Though he is yet to formally declare his interest in running for the office of the President, friends, probably have read his body language. They know it is now a matter of time before he jumps into the fray. And there is no hiding it after this, He, Rotimi Amaechi, is running for the presidency of the country. He will do so under the APC. The Daura event is to send warning signals. It is designed to awe. It is a Panic Them strategy.
As all close watchers of the political game in the ruling APC know, the real fight is between the Tinubu group and the Amaechi tendencies in the party. The slugfest will fully manifest next month when both camps come out in their true colours to try and take control of who get elected as members of the National Executives of the party. As we know, the long postponed convention of the party is scheduled for March. That is where the real symbols will unravel.
If current readings of events in the party are anything to go by, it will be a bruising fight. The Jagaban could be in for a shock.