From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The dust over the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has settled and has thrown up winners, losers and even perceived traitors and it is no more news that after the exercise, former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerged the standard bearer of the ruling party.
Since Tinubu picked the APC presidential ticket, his emergence has generated a lot of reactions and has been interpreted differently by many people. For some, he represents the best material the ruling party can parade to retain power beyond 2023. Yet to others, his emergence is a bad omen for the future of the party.
Those on the positive side of the divide have continued to argue that he remains the only person among the other presidential aspirants with the magic wand, the war chest, experience, network, political structure, capacity and competence as a tested election veteran to match the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, in terms of resources and strategy.
To attest to his readiness for the battle ahead, Tinubu, had in his acceptance speech, promised to replicate his economic blueprint and feat as governor of Lagos which made the state the fifth largest economy in the world if he finally becomes the president of Nigeria.
Luckily, as a kingmaker of many years standing, his political godsons and network have grown into empires across the country, to guarantee him the needed structure to actualise his life ambition. Though feeling betrayed and had even expressed disappointment against some aspirants that contested against him, he will still rely on their connections to ensure lines fall in pleasant places for him.
As a tested political godfather, his capability and potential to provide leadership are never in doubt considering the fact that his administrative antecedents and experiences as a Senator and two-term state governor will all count positively in his favour.
After emerging the APC standard bearer, critical observers believe that he started well by embarking on a healing process with his physical visitations to almost all the major presidential aspirants. Again, despite the hostilities against his winning the ticket, he looks strategically positioned to give candidates from the other political parties a good run for their money.
As the candidate of the political party in power, and as a politician of repute who has the knowledge of winning elections, Asiwaju Tinubu apparently seems to have everything working in his favors, all things being equal.
As a politician with a network across major states in the northern part of the country, in addition to his religious inclination, Asiwaju has a chance to win the 2023 presidential election.
Many believe Tinubu expects it is time for President Buhari to pay him back having immensely contributed to his victory in 2015.
Asiwaju has also contributed to the emergence of certain persons winning some major and minor political positions in several geopolitical zones in the country and principal officers of the National and State Assemblies.
Aggregating all these advantages he has over other presidential candidates, one can easily conclude that Asiwaju winning the 2023 presidential election will just be a stroll in the park when the election is conducted next year.
However, the realities on ground show that the odds against Asiwaju are also as big as those in his favors. Apart from what many refer to as an unfavourable perception index, there are many internal forces and hostilities against him within the ruling party.
For example, he would have to contend with the battle cry from the South East aspirants over the supposed injustice meted to the zone by the ruling party. Unfortunately, he had started wrongly visiting other APC presidential aspirants he considered more important without any report of his reaching out to the aggrieved aspirants from the South East region.
“As if a carry-over of the build-up to the party primary, where he never visited any State in the South East, his actions and inactions against South East aspirants seem to suggest a negative impression and an attitude of ‘I can win the presidential election without the South East geopolitical zone,” an APC chieftain quipped in confidence.
Again, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told his supporters while formally closing his campaign office in Abuja after the party primary that they may have lost the battle but not the war; some interpreted it to mean that he has not sincerely keyed into the Asiwaju presidential mission.
According to him; “this movement is a movement within a party also, we are not doing something that has not been heard of before. What is new is that we have a firm belief that a new Nigeria is possible and it is possible through us who are here.
“We went to the convention, and the results showed us clearly that we lost, but it is only a battle, it is not a war. There are battles ahead, but we will win the war for a new Nigeria. I have no doubt in my mind that we will win that war for a new Nigeria. That is why our movement for a new Nigeria must remain strong and firm. And we will do everything to keep our movement strong and solid,” he noted.
More instructively, for a candidate, the build-up to his emergence sharply divided the national leadership of the party, the unanswered question would be how soon the political sins could be forgiven or how fast the healing process can be achieved before the commencement of major campaign activities to the presidential election.
Apart from Osinbajo’s perceived disloyalty and the strained relationship with the APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, there are still more battles Asiwaju must fight in his South West region to be in pole position for victory.
He will not only face hostilities from the division in his ruling party, but also from the opposition party that will be spearheaded by his arch rival, Bode George, who has threatened repeatedly that he will go into exile if Asiwaju becomes the president of Nigeria.
Above all, there have been serious concerns about his health status and despite his assurances that he is not participating in an Olympic Games as the president of Nigeria to test his physical fitness, the anxiety over his health has persisted.
And smarting from the ugly experiences of President Buhari spending a large chunk of his first tenure in health facilities in London, Nigerians may be psychologically uncomfortable to see the emergence of another president with any slightest health challenge. For many of them, they don’t want to go through such an experience again.
Added to these myriads of hurdles confronting Asiwaju’s presidential bid, will also be how he contends with the increasing negative perception many Nigerian electorate nurture against the APC, as a twin devil with the PDP that has dwarfed Nigeria’s progress.
He may also have to go extra miles to counter the looming revolution from the Nigerian youth angling for the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi.
Already, the fear is palpable and capturing the situation, APC National Vice Chairman (North West), Salihu Moh Lukman, had noted: “the claim is that APC has mismanaged the economy, divided Nigerians and created insecurity.”
“Part of the argument is that Nigeria is now the ‘poverty capital of the world’. The so-called poor performance of the APC-led of President Buhari contrasts with so-called ‘achievements’ of 16 years of PDP between 1999 and 2015. Many PDP leaders and their supporters have even claimed that if PDP fails to win the 2023 election, Nigeria will collapse.”
Head or tail, the reality on ground is that there are humongous challenges ahead of the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Tinubu and they include but not limited to religion, tribal sentiments and negative perception about his source of wealth.
However, beyond all these, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, judging by the perception of many chieftains of the party who believe that Tinubu is the best candidate for the job.
From President Buhari, his Vice, Osinbajo, to the party chieftains, and even the opposition party, all seem to be united in paying glowing tribute to him and predicting he shall win the 2023 presidential election.
Extolling his virtues while tipping him for the job, President Buhari said that he is the right person to safeguard and improve on his democratic achievements and legacy.
“What we can all agree on is that the APC remains the party that can best deliver on the priorities of the Nigerian people. But the way to demonstrate that we can get on with this job is to unite. The movement we created in 2013 is beyond individuals. Together, we made history by becoming the first party in our country’s history to unseat a party in power and propel our candidate into the Presidency through a peaceful democratic transfer of power.
“We strongly believe that Ahmed Tinubu will safeguard and improve on this democratic achievement and legacy. He is the right candidate for Nigeria’s aspiration because he is the APC’s candidate and under the continued stewardship of our party. Nigeria can achieve greatness and fulfill its destiny in Africa and the World,” he said.
For the former National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, “Tinubu’s emergence is a reaffirmation of his much-acclaimed unique capacity to headhunt, mobilize, motivate and empower the best minds, irrespective of their tribe or religion, and use their combined creative efforts to translate his vision into reality.
“This is a key asset of leadership that he possesses which over the years has differentiated him from others and positioned him well above his contemporaries. He represents a movement, a force, full of energy and radiating hope of a brighter future to come when Nigerians hand over to him the baton of leadership, which he is well prepared for and ready to accept with all its attendant responsibilities.”
Vice President Osinbajo was not left out in endorsing him for the position when he emphasised: “For many decades, our flag bearer has shown passion, patriotism, courage, and determination in the cause of nation-building. His sterling contributions to our democracy and its progress stand him out. His wealth of experience will certainly be critical in our party’s continued efforts to attain a more secure and prosperous Nigeria.”
Though aggrieved, Pastor Tunde Bakare has words of ratification for Tinubu when he noted: “I congratulate the winner of the APC presidential primaries, Asiwaju Tinubu, for his victory. His emergence as the flag bearer and presidential candidate of the APC is a testament to his significant contributions to the cause of the South West as well as his labour towards the formation and establishment of the APC as I have said in times past.”
Speaker House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, was more pungent in the assessment of Tinubu for the job of president, noting: “I commend Asiwaju’s doggedness, determination, resilience and tenacity in pursuing his ambition without indulging in any activity that would affect other aspirants and the image of the party. This is a victory for APC, a victory for its members, and indeed a victory for Nigeria and its democracy.”
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, may have been disgruntled over his failure to clinch the ticket as the consensus candidate but has words of encouragement for Asiwaju.
“His glittering track record of public service, foresight and grit in party building and administration, as well as the courage he continues to demonstrate in fighting for the entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria make him worthy of the high esteem and trust of our party members everywhere in Nigeria as exhibited at the National Convention.”
The appraisals were not limited only to the chieftains of the ruling party, as the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, equally extolled his capabilities, noting: “His emergence has shown his political strength and wide acceptability. It is our sincere hope that Asiwaju would bring forth ideas to tackle the problems we are faced with as a nation and we are also counting on his experience to bring forth a lasting roadmap to the positive development of our great country as he has evidently done with Lagos state.”