Could Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), be that unifier a sundered Nigeria needs? What are his antecedents as regards respect for diversity and sensitivity to inclusion? Well, as governor of Lagos, Tinubu had a diverse cabinet; in fact, he is reputed to be one of the few governors who appointed non-natives into state cabinets at the time – when it was unsexy to do so.
Tinubu showed his expansiveness as governor of Lagos. And over the years, he has shown an aspect of himself as a Nigerian flag-waver. Tinubu cannot be put on trial for religious or ethnic prejudice. He can be accused of any other character errancy, but not of sectarianism, insularity or dogmatism.
I believe Tinubu’s presidency is the south-east’s best chance at re-centring itself in national politics. At the moment, Tinubu is the only candidate from the south who enjoys plural support across the divide, groups, zones and regions. So, it is only logical that consciences and interests in the south are mobilised behind him.
I thought by now the south-east must have learnt from the perils of political naivety. It is imprudent of a group of Igbo elders under ‘’Igbo Elders Consultative Forum’’ to declare publicly that they are not in support of Tinubu’s presidential bid. This was the same path these elders toed in 2015 against Muhammadu Buhari which resulted in the political blackballing of the zone. I am of the opinion that elders should be temperate and circumspect on matters of this tenor.
I suggest, they should be fair and equitable in their support for Peter Obi. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. Scorched-earth politics will only leave the land barren. They could have elected to be neutral or stay aloof. They could have also deployed tact in managing all political interests without publicly showing preference for any.
The south-east must cast its net wide and consider some possible outcomes. The APC and its presidential candidate are options they must explore. Going all head in in politics is injudicious.
We should be wary of repeating the same mistakes of 2015. We must not let our emotions colour our reality. We must not walk starry-eyed into political Siberia. We must not attempt another hara-kiri.
As I said in a previous column, the Labour Party is not a viable vehicle to ride to victory. It is a rustled-up contraption without deep roots across the country. The south-east regaining its place means it must look beyond a solitary party – that is the Labour Party (LP). It must put itself in the thick of things – at the centre — and play realpolitik. To sit at the table, it must wrest itself from the enchantment of the Labour Party and its candidate. We go all in and throw all in but get nothing out.
One Igbo leader who seems to be reading the hieroglyphics of the times right is Orji Uzo Kalu. Kalu is playing realpolitik. He understands the art of the deal. Orji Kalu, despite his reputational flaws, could be the politician that would take the south-east out of political Siberia.
He said in a recent interview: “Presidency is not a regional issue. I asked the political parties to zone the presidency to the south-east. When they didn’t do that, and since the presidency is not a regional issue, I had to withdraw. I have no problem with the Igbo man being president, but we have to do it with other Nigerians. If we don’t do it with other Nigerians, it will not work, no matter how popular you are. It’s the president of Nigeria, not the president of Igbo land. But for now, our presidential candidate is Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Tinubu is strategic. He will make his presidency beneficial to the Igbo. The Igbo will be the biggest beneficiaries of Tinubu’s presidency.’’
I agree, Tinubu’s presidency will be of great benefit to the Igbo. Really, it will be a coup de maître if more Igbo leaders join Orji Kalu in his crusade for Tinubu. Who says the south-east and the south-west cannot work in political consonance?
However, it is important that Tinubu begins now to show the prospects of inclusion and of sensitivity to diversity in his disposition, plans and policy paradigms. It is important he emphasises that there will be no perpetuation of exclusivist proclivities which deepen national strife and insecurity.
Tinubu should reach out to the south-east, traditional rulers, political leaders and everyday citizens with intentions and plans of bringing them into one composite fold where all Nigerians can exist under justice, equity, peace and harmony.
It is in the best interest of the south-east to support Tinubu. I believe Tinubu’s presidency will be for all Nigerians.