The race to 2023 has started. A big contender declared ambition for president yesterday. The consensus of opinion is that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s aspiration to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s election is in the national interest.
As a matter of courtesy, he visited the Commander-in-Chief at Aso Villa, Abuja, to intimate him with his plan. Consultations with Nigerians continue. It is an exciting time because he is a household name.
Tinubu, Third Republic senator, former governor of Lagos and national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), is progressive to the core.
To observers, the eminent politician is qualified to run the highest office. He is not clueless. He has beautiful ideas to propel progress. Tinubu, many believe, is prepared for the challenge.
Three reasons have been adduced to justify his fitness for the number one office.
Tinubu has paid his dues. He has laboured for Nigeria and toiled for the progressive bloc. As a federal legislator, pro-democracy crusader and National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), governor, and arrowhead of the opposition, and one of the founding fathers of the APC, he is a bridge-builder.
Tinubu has the experience, exposure and capacity to rule Nigeria. He is a financial surgeon and successful technocrat before his foray into politics. He was a model governor, who harvested many talents to fuel the fire of development in the Centre of Excellence. His legacies speak for him. Many Nigerians want him to replicate his achievements in Lagos at the centre.
Also, most importantly, Tinubu, apart from being an apostle of unity in diversity, is a lover of the masses; a believer in the welfare of the downtrodden. Like his Third Republic leader, the late Chief Moshood Abiola, the APC leader is dedicated to the slogan of the abolition of poverty. The masses, his constituency, are in the majority.
When factors of political understanding, tolerance, accommodation, foresight and incisive wit are considered, Tinubu is a reference point.
Tinubu’s declaration of bid will shape public opinion and shift attention to next year’s succession battle. He stands before the mirror of history. What is discernible from the mirror? A record of patriotism, resilience, focus, dedication, consistency and belief in one united Nigeria capable of guaranteeing happiness to citizens, irrespective of ethnic, religious, political differences.
Although other contenders may now be motivated to declare intention, Tinubu is an aspirant with a difference.
Before his declaration, former Senate President Ayim Pius Ayim, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, had declared from the platform of his region. Likely aspirants, including PDP stalwarts Senate President Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, his Bauchi counterpart, Senator Bala Mohammed, and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, are expected to join the race.
Others being touted in the ruling party are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello, Transport Minister Rotimi Amechi, Works Minister Babatunde Fashola, Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola, Labour Minister Chris Ngige, and Senator Ibikunle Amosu.
There have been reports about the plan by former President Goodluck Jonathan to vie again. They cannot be substantiated.
After a successful career in Mobil, where he rose to the position of treasurer, Tinubu entered politics as a chieftain of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). He scored the highest number of votes as Senator from Lagos West. The Third Republic was, however, short-lived.
The senator became one of the fiercest critics of military rule and one of the arrowheads of NADECO abroad. The pro-democracy struggle heralded the Fourth Republic.
Having placed his hand on the plough, there was no looking back. In 1999, Tinubu bounced back as governor on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD). He ran an administration that was second to none between 1999 and 2007 before handing over to his Chief of Staff and Commissioner in the Cabinet Office, Fashola.
Although he wanted to return to the Senate, the coast was not clear.
Between 2003 and 2011, Tinubu stood in the gap at the main opposition strongman. Tragedy had hit the poll-confident Southwest. The earthquake swept the five governors of Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Ekiti. The former Lagos governor was the last man standing.
However, through sheer determination and synergy with stakeholders, Tinubu’s struggles led to the ascension of Fayemi, Amosun, Aregbesola, Olusegun Mimiko and Rotimi Akeredolu, and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as governors of Ekiti, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Edo states. All of them, except Mimiko, emerged on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
As from 2010, reality dawned on Southwest progressive leaders, led by Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande, the late Alhaji Lam Adesina, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, Senator Biyi Durojaye, Prince Tajudeen Olusi and Oba Olatunji Hamzat that unless progressives across the six zones came together, PDP will finally lead Nigeria to doom. Yet, due to distrust and lack of understanding, the proposed parley between Tinubu and Buhari forces collapsed.
Around 2014, both sides have learned from the past. The pact for a mega party was sealed, leading to the birth of APC, which was a fusion of ACN, ANPP, CPC, a faction of APGA, and some aggrieved PDP chieftains. They voluntarily surrendered their registration certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Tinubu, a risk-taker, was the architect and moving spirit of the successful negotiation.
APC subscribed to an agreement on presidential zoning or rotation between the North and South. It is not written, but it is undeniable. It is also possible that top leaders also had a mutual agreement on succession.
Yet, after the consummation of critical negotiations, Tinubu was denied the vice presidential ticket, after Gen. Buhari became the standard-bearer. Detractors cited religious reasons, oblivious of the fact that Abiola and Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe, who were Muslims, won the most credible 1993 presidential election. He accepted his fate with philosophical calmness.
The onus was on Tinubu to nominate Osinbajo as Buhari’s running mate. He also worked for the success of the ticket during the 2015 and 2019 polls. For the first time, Southwest, his political base, joined mainstream politics.
Since then, he has been an active supporter of the Buhari administration, offering wise counsels and lending support to the sustenance of APC in power in its strongholds at the state level.
Speaking with State House correspondents, Tinubu lauded President Buhari’s achievements. He promised to build on the feats.
It is, therefore, instructive that he would be canvassing for a progressive government of continuity.
Through the first leg of declaration yesterday, Tinubu, who believes that power is not served a la cart, has survived inexplicable political intimidation by people always anxious to deny the country of quality leadership.
He has presented himself for service, which is consistent with his antecedent as a politician. Nigerians have started assessing him.
He needs to cross three hurdles: the challenges of the APC national convention, shadow poll and the presidential election.