Turn-by-turn Nigeria Ltd

“It is my turn. I’m educated; I’m experienced. I have been serving you for a long time, bring me the presidency, it is my turn. When Atiku was being flogged out of the PDP by Obasanjo, he ran to me for help, I got the ticket for him. Nuhu Ribadu came to me and I backed him.

“It has been over 25 years now that I have been serving them. This one sitting behind me, Dapo (Ogun State governor), can he say he can be the governor without me? We were together at the MKO Abiola Stadium. He was intimidated, they didn’t want to give him the party’s flag. I was the one that handed the flag to him. He knows that he cannot be the governor without the help of God and my support.

“If not for me standing behind Buhari, he wouldn’t have become the president. He tried the first time, he failed; the second time, he failed; the third time, he failed. He even wept on national television and vowed never to contest again but I went to meet him in Kaduna and told him he will run again; I will stand by you and you will win, but you must not joke with Yorubas and he agreed.

“Since he became the president, I have never got ministerial slots, I didn’t collect any contract, I have never begged for anything from him. It is the turn of Yoruba. It is my turn.”

Those excerpts are from Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s controversial pitch to party delegates in Ogun State in continuation of the ongoing jostling for votes by aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

“Onisuuru l’o njoba l’ausa”, is a popular Yoruba saying which translates to, “Only a humble and patient person can become king among the Hausas”.

The Yoruba worldview is informed by keen observation and acquisition of wisdom from every direction of the compass. Power is celebrated only to the extent that it is deployed in the service of the common good. Those seeking power are therefore required to begin their quest with a show of humility, as a foreshadow of the kind of leadership they will provide.

In the old Oyo Empire, the king had power of life and death but there was always the spectre of the ritual calabash hanging in the background as a check to any ruler with despotic tendencies. Any mis-step beyond the traditional red line — and the king was toast.

I think that, before one says anything else on the Tinubu speech which has set cybersphere afire, one must acknowledge the contribution of the former Lagos State governor to democracy. He also deserves commendation for his role in the pro-democracy movement after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by M.K.O Abiola.

As governor of Lagos State, Tinubu did well when compared to many of his contemporaries. But it is stretching the truth to claim, as some of his fanatical supporters do, that he is the inventor of modern Lagos. You’d wonder where all those loudmouths were when Lateef Jakande was reinventing Lagos, establishing a new university, radio and television station, printing complex, waterworks, low cost housing estates, ferry services, expanding educational facilities at primary, secondary and tertiary levels etc — all within only four years!

No, Tinubu is not Jakande but, judging by the standards of his era, he did reasonably well as a two-term governor.

As the leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the legacy parties that joined four others to form the APC, Tinubu has earned his stripes as a shrewd political calculator. His well advertised role in supporting the emergence of Buhari as the coalition’s presidential candidate is also acknowledged.

But I don’t think the Nigerian presidency should be reduced to the pedestrian level of the usual Nigerian political roulette of what I call ‘Turn-by-turn Nigeria Limited’. The presidency is not the same as a military coup, where one coup leader lines up his co-conspirators to take serial turns at the helm.

The Abraham Adesanyas, Ayo Adebanjos and other leaders of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) who endorsed Tinubu as the party’s candidate in 1999 did so, I believe, because they thought he was the best — not because it was his turn. And they could not, on account of their support, expect Tinubu to be beholden to them forever.

Whereas the rotation of electoral offices between the different parts of a country or any of its constituent parts is normal, rotation between individuals — from a Buhari to a Tinubu, just because the latter had assisted the former — is not. The argument for ascendancy to high office ought to be based on loftier indices.

Where are the people in all of these schemings? I would have thought the most important statement any candidate could make was that he would meet the pressing needs of the people in specific areas: sanitation, education, health, infrastructure, etc., with bullet points on how he hopes to achieve all those promises. A candidate should be selling a vision, not advertising how long he had been associated with the public till.

Tinubu’s speech also brought the issue of decorum to the front burner. Although much of our moral values have been eroded in this age of ‘anything goes’, the least that presidential aspirants can do is not to add to the rot in their comportment and choice of lingo. A presidential aspirant, I insist, has to sound presidential. The moment you descend into the street channel, you lower the bar and demystify yourself.

I have watched the video of Tinubu’s Ogun State outing over and over again. Some words may be excusable when you’re rallying the troops at the back of your campaign headquarters, away from the cameras and listening devices. However, when being officially received, the least you should do is extend maximum respect to your hosts, even if they’re 100 years younger than you.

No aspirant should be considered too big to benefit from professional grooming and advice on appropriate messaging.

The run-up to the APC presidential primaries has been hectic. President Buhari’s request that he be allowed to play a major role in the emergence of the party’s candidate has thrown the spanners into the works of many erstwhile lords of the manor. However, a presidential hopeful shouldn’t ‘lose it’ in the face of pressure.

It beggars belief, for instance, that Tinubu would refer to the Governor Dapo Abiodun as “Eleyi” (this one)! The APC leader’s spin weavers have been trying to justify this craggy style. They are welcome to continue in the way they know best, but this kind of language is not just rude but infra dignitatem. Compare that with Governor Abiodun’s calm, respectful and dignified response.

The kind of politics we practice in Nigeria is largely based on godfatherism. The parties are like the Cosa Nostra. The godfathers demand total loyalty and obedience. It is a crime for a mafiosi to aspire beyond his current station, unless otherwise catapulted by the Boss. Thus, governors have a vice grip on the states and determine who gets what. In some of the parties, too, the inner caucus subscribes to an equivalent of the code of Omerta.

If governors could influence the outcome of primaries at the state level — or, at least have a major input in deciding who flies the party’s flag, isn’t it expecting too much to think that Buhari will stand akimbo while the issue of succession is dollarised and elective positions auctioned to the highest bidder? Tinubu himself has, to put it mildly, played a major role in the emergence of his successors since 2007.

However, nobody is God. Indeed God does not brook competition. Ask Lucifer if in doubt. The fact that one person helped another politically does not make the helper God. Nor does it make any sense demonising the former subordinate as a Judas for seeking the same office as the supposed overlord. We all pray that our children attain greater heights than us. To vocalise the ugly thought that a position as crucial as the presidency of Nigeria ought to be reserved for any particular person is to summersault back to the 16th century when the theory of the Divine Rights of Kings was propounded.

Did Mahatma (Mohandas Karamchand) Gandhi ever rule India? Should a nation’s destiny be reduced to the personal ambition of one man?

Whichever way the pendulum swings at the APC convention, I can’t wait to see who APC will be fielding to slug it out with Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of the Labour Party.

So, whose turn is it? It is the turn of the candidate that can lift Nigeria up from the current mess.

Wole Olaoye is a public relations consultant and veteran journalist. He can be reached on [email protected]. Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021.