The perceived presidential ambition of a National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu is unsettling the North and already dividing its leaders.
The former Lagos governor had last weekend in Akure, the Ondo State capital hinted that, he may contest for Nigeria’s presidency if there will be vacancy in 2019. He has since clarified the statement credited to him. The clarification notwithstanding, Northern leaders are already divided over his perceived and real intentions.
Speaking with newsmen at the inauguration of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in Ondo State, on Friday, February 24, 2017, Tinubu said vying for any office in Nigeria is an opportunity to serve the country. He added there is nothing wrong in aspiring for the office.
His words, “You see, there is nothing wrong with such ambition. It depends on the timing and the environment and what political leadership dictates. I will not brush aside such an aspiration.
“Resilience, determination and clarity of purpose are what one needs. Maybe, as a senator, as a president, you cannot rule it out. How can I rule such a thing out, the opportunity to serve my country, but you only do that when there is vacancy.”
Speaking in an interview with Saturday Sun, a former Vice Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and member of Northern Elders Forum, Professor Ango Abdullahi, felt sorry about the development, referring to it as a surprise especially as it was coming from Tinubu, urging party members to take note and watch closely for the next few weeks.
According to him, “I’m really surprised that a leader or somebody who is called a national leader of the party in power and not only party in power but with a President on seat that is less than two years old in position of leadership, he is himself talking about his ambition in 2019. There is nothing wrong in ambition. Of course, Bola Tinubu had always had ambition. It was his ambition that made him become governor of Lagos State. So, that is alright.
“And of course, there were a lot of discussions about his purported ambition to be Buhari’s Vice President which was also in the papers. But the significance of this news item, here is a leader of a party, a national leader with his President on seat, he’s talking about the possibility of contesting election in 2019 and I don’t know whether he’s talking about the APC platform or whether he’s talking about another party.
“Whatever platform he’s talking about, I consider this totally insensitive of a leader who should show some humanity; this is a speech that is coming at a wrong time. And I can only feel sorry for Bola Tinubu if he indeed came out with such a statement. Already also, in fact he’s not worried about the party so called APC. This is for party members to take note. But their party to my mind is either dead or it’s dying. We can then wait and see what happens in the next few weeks.’’
Also, a second republic lawmaker, Junaid Muhammed though denied speaking for the North said, there was nothing wrong with credible Nigerians like Tinubu to have ambition for the highest political office in Nigeria. He added that, there is nothing criminal about it because by the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, such has nothing to do with zoning or no zoning.
According to him, ‘’As far as I am concerned, there is nothing bad about it. Tinubu’s ambition has been open for over a decade. So what he’s saying now is not new about his political activities and there is nothing criminal about it. And I think Tinubu is credible. At least, he has a party whether the party will survive or he will float another party that is what I don’t know and I don’t speak for him.”
He vehemently opposed zoning arrangement, which has now become the talking point of political actors in the country asking “If the late President Umar Yar’Adua could spend less than four years, what arrangement is there on ground that it is a must for anybody to spend eight years?”
“The constitution of Nigeria is the supreme law of the land. That constitution did not provide zoning or rotation. The constitution provides that, in the event of a sitting President being dead, incapacitated or in any way infirm, and such a person is unable to perform the duty of his office, provision has been made on how to deal with that situation by the National Assembly.
“There is concern now that we have a President who is sick out of the country. The constitution has provided for transfer of power from the sitting President to his deputy to act as President. That is happening now.
‘’Beyond that, I think it will just be mischief or opportunism to comment on the issue because we have not tried the system provided for in the constitution. It is only when we try and it fails then we can start speculating.
“But at the moment, there is system in place and it seems to be working. There is acting President for the country while the sick President is trying to recover. So saying that whoever is there must be there for eight years is non-issue because there is no provision for that in the constitution”, he added.
However, former Governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa differs on the issue. He wants zoning arrangement introduced by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to continue for the sake of national unity and sense of belonging, suggesting that, power should rotate to Southeast after North may have spent its eight years.
As far as he is concerned, whether Tinubu or anybody else is ambitious to run for any elective office is not his problem but their own problem, suggesting that, the rotation should continue because it has benefited South-west, South-south and now North.
According to Balarabe Musa, “My concern is that Asiwaju Tinubu says he may run, it is mere speculation, but in view of his relevance in the country, he is not somebody that should be dismissed as such. He should be seen as confusing the political situation in the country.
“This is because we now know that in Nigeria, there is this system of zoning, it is a policy of the PDP, but it is also a policy that other political parties have adopted, so even though it was originated by the PDP, it has been accepted and implemented by the other political parties and their predecessors.
“And the reason for the zoning is to give every section of Nigeria a sense of belonging, and to enable peace, progress, development and national unity. Now why should it be jettisoned now at a very critical time, a critical time in the sense that the north has benefitted from zoning more than any other section of Nigeria, which is, zoning of the presidency in particular.
“The West has benefitted from it once, the south-south has benefitted from it once, now it is the turn of the south east which has never benefitted from it, and now there is this talk of the north continuing to finish…, I don’t know what. And in the midst of what is happening, the one person who single handedly brought about the northern presidency, that is our friend, Asiwaju Tinubu, is now saying that he wants to run before the time of his region and before the south east has it, even for the first time, it has not had it. This should be confusing the situation.
“And now that the economic situation is so bad, we never had this economic hardship in this country even during the civil war, the economic situation during the civil war was never like this as it is today. And now this rumour is bringing about confusion and another hardship.
“I hope our friend, Tinubu has not been misquoted, but we should sound a warning before there is an attempt to make it a reality because this is how rumour becomes a reality in Nigeria. I think we should exercise more care and caution in jettisoning this zoning system.
“And even if Tinubu’s ambition is rumour, I don’t think south east will be happy about it, and every Nigerian who wants peace and national unity and national development should join the south east in opposing this ambition. We should let the south east have their own turn of the presidency.
“But this is something I should say, for instance, I believe that we should zone the presidency to the south east, either in 2019 or 2023, I say either of the two because the south east themselves, I understand, are agreeing with the north. Now if south east is agreeing with the north, because they are aggrieved, and the beneficiary (north) is agreeing with them, then, there is nothing anybody can do, this is power politics.
“If they agreed, which is being rumoured, then, it means, the south east will cooperate with the north again, because this is not the first time they cooperated with one another to bring about the leadership of the country.
“If they decide, by 2019, it should be the north continuing, continuing what, I don’t know. And if they agreed that north should continue in 2019, and south east should come in 2023, we should oppose it, but under the present circumstance, even if we oppose, it is rubbish. It is just like when the north decided that the presidency should go to the south west because of what the north did to the south west over the June 12,1993 election and that was the only reason for Obasanjo’s presidency. The north decided to do this, virtually unilaterally and if the north and south east again agreed that this should go to the south east in 2023, there is nothing we can do.
“But I think we should not do that because what does the north want that they have not had. When you look at the presidency, at least, civilian presidency, the north has had it twice, while other sections of the country have had it once each, so why is the north still wanting to have it again?
“Secondly, if you take it into account, both military and civilian presidency, the north had always had it because look at how many military presidents came from the north. Another issue is that this time, we shouldn’t make the situation like donating the presidency to the north, donating the presidency to the south west, donating to the south south, lets the people all over the country bring anybody from whatever region to contest, and whoever wins is the peoples choice.
“What I am saying is that let’s not make previous mistake by donating the presidency to the north, south west, south south. Let’s not make that mistake again by donating to the south east, and allow them to bring anybody. This time around, we should not do it. We should attach quality to the choice.
“Let’s make efforts as Nigerians of bringing about the emergence of the equivalent of the Zik of Africa from the south east, not just anybody from the south east, no, the equivalent of the Zik of Africa. Zik of Africa originated from Nigeria, he was the pride of Nigerians, who came from the south east. And I know when you take everything into account, late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe behaved as a true Nigerian, and that is why people call him Zik of Africa.
“It is possible to bring about the equivalent of the Zik of Africa from the south east. I know there is the problem of the deciding role of money power in politics and election, but all the same, we can do it, we almost did the same thing with late Moshood Abiola, but the system subverted us. We can try it again, and return the Zik of Africa”.
Speaking in the same vein, a member of the National Executive Council (NEC), Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Muhammad Alhaji Yakubu, warned that Tinubu may end up disgracing himself if he eventually makes up his mind to run for the presidency.
Yakubu advised Tinubu to remain faithful to playing godfather’s and king making roles in the nation’s politics, pointing out that the APC leader should not forget that he was the major brain behind the enthronement of President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
“My reaction, I mean my personal reaction, and not that of ACF, is that in a democratic race, every Nigerian, provided you meet the criteria to aspire for any elective office is allowed to contest. But as regard the national leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, I think if the godfather himself decides to put his hat in the ring, he may demystify himself. I don’t think that will be proper. As a kingmaker, I think it will be more respected to maintain the aura of a kingmaker than to go into the presidential race.
“And another fact is that if he decides to go into the race, he may scuttle the chance of the north, though, it is an unwritten agreement in APC, but I don’t know whether they have it in their constitution, but I know that it is PDP that has it in its constitution of eight years in the south, eight years in the north.
“But one will expect that the current President is still alive, he is still on the throne, and it is too early for anyone to start contemplating succeeding him. Nobody knows who will be alive in 2019; what if the President decides to contest again in 2019, what happens? So I think it is not wise for anybody to start making this kind of permutation.
“As I told you earlier, if Tinubu decides to run for the presidency, it will amount to demystifying himself. If he decides to run against Osinbajo, his godson, and Buhari, who he brought and supported for the presidency, all the aura, all the honour and respect bestowed on him as godfather, as kingmaker will be stripped. So Tinubu should not forget that he is the one who brought Buhari to run for the presidency, and as such he should support him either in good or bad health”.
Count me out for now – Tinubu
With the controversy media reports about his ambition generated within three days, Tinubu was left with no option but to backpedal on his earlier position, with a statement on Tuesday when he said he will never contest against President Muhammadu Buhari nor will he support anyone who does so.
In a statement released on Tuesday to react to a news report on his perceived preparations for a run for the presidency, the former Lagos State governor denied it, stating that he was not preparing to contest for the presidency in the 2019 elections.
He said the story was aimed at placing him at odds with Buhari, adding that it was baseless. According to him: “First, Tinubu is not gearing up for a presidential run. So there will not be any doubt about this core matter, we shall state Tinubu’s position clearly and unequivocally.
“As long as that patriotic and committed man named Muhammadu Buhari holds and seeks to hold the mantle as our president, then Tinubu stands behind him in unwavering support and confidence.
“Tinubu remains faithful to the mission of progressive reform and change that President Buhari, he and the All Progressives Congress (APC) members have started.
“Tinubu was instrumental in the formation and success of the APC. His toil and efforts helped establish this government. He is not one to tear down something he laboured so dutifully to build.”
The statement said the report misrepresented the mild banter Tinubu had with journalists at the inauguration of Ondo State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
“When asked about future political office, Tinubu said he could not discount that possibility if the nation called upon him for such service, provided, he emphasised, that all political conditions were appropriate; particularly the office in question would have to be vacant, even if it’s local government area chairmanship.
“In our political lexicon, this means the office is not held by a member of the APC in good standing. We all know this. Moreover, if you really listen to his words, Tinubu did not mention any office or any timeframe. The conditions he mentioned may not become ripe for years to come and they might not pertain to the presidency.
“In effect, all he said was the position that any political figure would hold.
As a politician, he cannot preclude the possibility of running for office in the future because no man knows what the future will hold,” the statement added.
It further stressed that Tinubu has not held any planning meetings for any such presidential campaign and is not contemplating any such meetings. “He has no present list of possible running mates because he has no present intention of running.”
Real reason he backpedalled
Beyond the claim in the above statement, Saturday Sun gathered that the APC leader backpedalled due to enormous pressure mounted on him by prominent Northern leaders between Friday last week when he indicated interest in contesting the presidency and Tuesday this week when he eventually softened his earlier stand.
Some of those who spoke with Tinubu include a former Minister of Defence, Gen. T.Y. Danjuma and his wife, Senator Daisy Danjuma. Daisy was actually said to have visited Tinubu to convey their message to him. Gen. Danjuma is a very close friend of President Buhari. Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr Babachir David Lawal, who is the strongest ally of Tinubu in Buhari’s camp, also played a major role in getting the APC leader to soft pedal.
His backpedal notwithstanding, it was learnt that many Northern leaders are already worried that Tinubu’s interest may spell doom for the agenda of the North to keep the presidency for at least eight years.