By the time you are reading this, the one-week long celebration of the life, times and politics of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu by his admirers would be over. One of the indicators that the politics of the 2023 election has resumed in earnest was the choice of Kano to kick start his 69th birthday celebration.
Kano is the biggest and the most politically radical city in northern Nigeria.
The debate on which section of the country will produce the next presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is still shrouded in a mist, but for Tinubu, who has not hidden his interest in carrying the party’s presidential flag, this does not matter. He has unilaterally thrown his hat on the ring.
If the idea behind the Kano venue was to measure his influence among the northern political elite, he achieved it with the array of people who graced the occasion. And if it was to know how the Talakawas of the north will react to his candidacy if he wins the APC presidential ticket, he got the answer.
The real beauty of the game of politics does not lie in deception. If a man plays to the gallery and he’s praised, it does not make him a man of the people.
He could as well be a skillful player in the mould of Maradona (who became infamous for the earning an unjust goal in the ‘Hand of God’s episode), it is when using your brain to survive attacks from opponents trying to stop you from scoring a winning goal that determines if you are politically savvy.
To a lot of people, 22 years is such a long time to remain as the boss in a state as metropolitan as Lagos which prides itself as the Centre of Excellence. But that is what Tinubu has enigmatically done. It is unprecedented in the history of politics in the country.
In this enduring spell, Tinubu has successfully installed six governors, in Lagos and beyond, numerous members of the National and state houses of assemblies and others outside the sphere of politics. To many, he is an enigma, a man who is larger than life.
At 69, Tinubu is one of the riveting issues in politics. His loyalists are split between those who advise him to take his leave of partisanship and others who think he should continue to play the game. Some say because of his influence in the affairs of Lagos State, he holds the purse of the state government and they conclude that it is condemnable.
To such people, he has fleeced the state too much. Yet others will counter this is as a false narrative, claiming that Lagos remains the only state in the federation that is self-sustaining. What’s more, it generates over N60 billion monthly in IGR.
They say the Lagos State Government is the only one in the country that is working. All others are barely surviving, including the Federal Government.
While some say that Tinubu should continue to be the godfather that he has been since 2007 when he left office as Governor of Lagos State; or that he should just quit politics altogether because he has been a bad influence on the system, his admirers say that the suggestion smacks of jealousy.
They even contend that the godfather and kingmaker should be allowed to be the preside over the country for once in order to sanitize the inefficiency at the federal level and make the system work as he did with Lagos. To them, he should be given the chance to replicate the magic of Lagos that is still working to date.
Today, while his adversaries are trying to bring him down, by all means, Tinubu is pursuing an unprecedented campaign strategy. As he is fraternizing with the working-class who feel strongly about the political culture in the country and are disillusioned by successive governments in the country, he is also trying to connect with the man on the street, the people who vote during elections in the country.
Of course, many presidential aspirants have their strategies, but that of Tinubu has been deliberately focused with an emphasis on the political class, the people most like to oppose his candidacy and the very people who will ensure that he gets the party’s ticket.
As things appear, most most politicians do not read their party’s manifestos, and most voters have made up their minds on what will determine where they vote. Also, the undecided majority will choose on the basis of personality, some by leadership qualities, and others on tribal sentiments; and not on election pledges.
Tinubu realizes that manifestos matter for two reasons: one, they count especially when there are movements along the political divide; two, because of the prevailing political situation in the country, it is the only thing that would be held as sacrosanct when issues get bloody.
Many pundits have predicted that the race to become the next president of Nigeria will be an especially nasty one, fraught with tribal sentiment and religious discord.
There is one consolation for the depressing instability being predicted in the polity. The next president will not be decided by an individual or a group of tribal leaders, but by the people. Any attempt to foist a candidate on the people will be met with stiff resistance. Tinubu knows this.
Tinubu is a complex and vibrant man – a firehouse of ideas, voluble and mercurial – yet cool under pressure. Above all, he is a strategic thinker able to adapt to changing circumstances.
His men adore him, not least because he takes care not to waste their lives in futile ventures, but he watches their back all the time.
But for all his political dexterity Tinubu also has some blind spots. He apparently has failed to see the opposition that is welling up against his aspiration among his supposed supporters. Bloated by ambition, he is said to have become prejudicial and narrow-minded in his quest.
His opponents complain that his ambition has made him place little value on competence and knowledge, but blindly depends on the loyalty of people who have gone rouge. If nobody notices this, his enemies, especially within the APC do. And that is the problem he will have to contend with as the national elections 2023 draw close.