By Ajibola Olarinoye.
As the race to get to the highest seat of power, Aso Rock is getting interesting on daily basis; a lot of top political juggernauts are making different moves to have their ways in the presidential election scheduled for February 18 2023.
Many political actors have been acting their roles in the scene, but the two primary actors that have caught the attention of Nigerians most are the National Leader of the All Progressive Congress APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar.
I remember when the team of politico.ng went out late last year for vox-pop (street interview), with the question: “2023 Presidency: If Tinubu and Atiku emerge as the major candidates, who will win?” An elderly man who didn’t want to appear on camera told the politico.ng reporter handling the vox-pop that the question was a ‘JAMB question’. JAMB is a compulsory entrance examination that must be taken before one gains admission into any Nigerian higher institution for a full time programme; and the examination is known to be extremely difficult. Acccording to the man, he finds the question a delicate and puzzling one in view of the personalities and influence of the duo (Atiku and Tinubu) and considering the peculiar nature of Nigeria’s political terrain. To some extent, the man is right because unlike the US where intellects, mission statements and past achievements/records play considerable role in the electoral victory of a presidential and other candidates; Nigerian political field is a different ball game due to the politics of ethnic attachments, financial muscles and godfatherism (even if the candidate has questionable characters). Although, even in US, there are some states that are traditional attached to the Republican Party (red states) and some traditionally attached to the Democrat (blue states), however, credibility of the candidates involved always be on the front burner during presidential polls and other elections.
So, there is no shadow of doubt that analyzing the electoral chances of the two figures aa regards 2023 presidential election is indeed a poser. However, if peradventure; the two political juggernauts emerge as the major candidates in the 2023 poll; yes it may be keenly contested, but no matter how tough it is, one winner must surely take the crown at the end of the day. So, the purpose of this analysis is to see who is likely to have brighter chance between the two of them. We will look at their achievements, political experiences, political backgrounds and electoral chances they both have in their soujourns in the land of Nigerian politics so far.
POLITICAL BACKGROUND AND EXPERIENCE OF ASIWAJU BOLA TINUBU.
Tinubu who was born in 1952 is believed to be an indigene of Iragbiji, Osun State acccording to some political elements. There is even this unverified report that the incubent Governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola who comes from Iragbiji is a blood cousin to Tinubu. His sojourn into the mainstream of Nigerian politics can be traced to the ill fated second republic (1986-1993). In 1986, President Ibrahim Babangida had set up Political Bureau headed by Dr. Samuel Cookey to come up with a national debate on the political future of Nigeria. The bureau was saddled with the onus of reviewing Nigeria’s political history and identify the basic problems which have led to failure in the past and suggest ways of resolving and coping with these problems if they arise. In 1988, a Constituent Assembly was set up under the Chairmanship of Justice Anthony Aniagolu to come out with a new constitution, which was later known as 1989 constitution. It was the same year that the Federal Military Government of Babangida through a decree established two political parties for Nigeria, The National Republican Convention, NRC and Social Democratic Party, SDP. It was through the platform of SDP that Tinubu became a Senator in 1992. He was one of the close confidants and ardent suppoters of late Chief MKO Abiola, the winner of 1993 presidential election. The duo were so close that Tinubu accompanied Abiola to have meeting with Abacha in November 1993 when Abacha took over. At that time, Nigeria was engulfed in a turmoil following the unfortunate annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election by General Babangida. Tinubu’s doggedness and unswerving fighting spirit came to the fore during this annulment. Being an ardent supporter of Abiola, he stood firmly by Abiola during this period, he openly condemned the annulment and called on the military government to reverse its action and hand over to Abiola. Due to his firmness, he became a victim of political persecution of Abacha’s government. When the situation became very tensed and the political atmosphere became unsafe for him, he, Papa Anthony Enhahoro, Wole Soyinka and others went into exile.
Another chapter was opened in Nigeria following the sudden death of Gen Sani Abacha in 1998. His successor, Gen AbdulSalam Abubakar started his transition programme that same year . This brought Tinubu back to Nigeria after about four years in exile. He joined the Alliance for Democracy, AD that same year and started nursing the ambition to become Lagos State Governor through the platform. After a keenly contested primary election with Funsho Williams in 1998, Tinubu emerged the governorship candidate of AD and won the governorship election in 1999.
One of the incidents that still earns Tinubu enormus respects was when Political Tsunami swept out other Governors of AD states in the South West in 2003. The affected governors were: Ade Adefarati (Ondo), Segun Osoba (Ogun), Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti) and Bisi Akande of Osun. All of them were defeated by the candidates of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP except Tinubu. He was able to wither the reging storm of PDP. He defeated Funsho Williams of PDP (who dumped AD) in a tough election with 911,613 votes while Williams of PDP got 740,506 votes.
In 2006, he masterminded and funded the formation of the Action Congress, AC (which later changed to Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN) out of AD. He single-handedly brought out and sponsored Babatunde Fashola to emerge as the Governor of Lagos State. Fashola who was relatively unknown in the political field then defeated Sen Musiliu Obanikoro of PDP. Obanikoro was a Senator Senator under AD, but later defected to PDP following a political rift with Tinubu. So, the relatively unknown Fashola became a Governor through the political influence of Tinubu. Tinubu weilds such a great infuence that he achieved the same thing for Akinwumi Ambode and the incubent Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Both Ambode and Sanwo-Olu, just like Fashola were not that known in the political field before they became Governors on “platter of gold” via Tinubu’s great influence. His influence is so mighty that he ensured that Ambode, a sitting Governor, did not get second term ticket under APC during 2019 governorship election.
Another factor that made Tinhbu to be respected across Nigeria was due to his unique administrative style while he was the Lagos State Governor (1999-2007). He was able to think outside the box and grew the state annual Internally Generated Revenue from N14.64 billion in 1999 to N60.31 billion in 2006. Under his tenure, annual state budget ratchet-up up from N14.200 billion in1999 to N240.866 billion in 2007. At present, Lagos State is the only state that can survive without federal allocation due to the solid structure Tinubu has laid down.
It was his ability to think outside the box that did not make Lagos to slide into bankrupcy when Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration witheld the state’s Local Governments monthly allocations for about three years.
Tinubu’s political wizardly also played a significant role in the electoral success of President Buhari in 2015 elections. He initiated the talks of merger with other political platforms as part of relentless commitment to ensure that power was wrestled from PDP that had held sway for 16 years. He ensured that the merger talks of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, with All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and a faction of All Progressive Grand Alliance, (APGA) became fruitful to form the present All Progressive Congress, APC. Tinubu played a leading role in empowering the structures of APC to wrestle Political grip from PDP.
POLITICAL BACKGROUND AND EXPERIENCE OF ATIKU ABUBAKAR
Atiku Abubakar’s journey into politics started earlier before that of Tinubu. Atiku started his political life underground in the early 80’s while he was still a custom officer. At that period he also worked under Bamamgar Tukur. Late Shehu Musa Yaradua later invited Atiku to the political meetings that used to hold regularly at his residence at that time. Atiku’s rank later grew in the Yaradua’s group as he later became the national vice-chairman of the People Front of Nigeria led by late Yaradua.
It was earlier stated that Babangida set up a Constituent Assembly in 1988 as part of official activities towards drafting a new constitution. In 1989, Atiku was selected to represent his constituency at the constituent assembly.
Due to the plan of the Babangida’s junta to foist two political parties on Nigeria, the government denied the registrations of The People’s Front, this made the association collapse its structure into the Social Democratic Party. Atiku decided to throw his hat into the ring when he announced to contest the gubernatorial election in the old Gongola State on 1st September 1990. Old Gongola was later split into two (Adamawa and Taraba States) following the creation of additional six states by Babangida’s junta in 1991. Atiku contested governorship primary election under the platform of SDP and won, but was later disqualified from contesting the governorship election. The unfortunate incident of the third republic did not weigh down the spirit of Turaki of Adamawa. He put his best foot forward again during the transition programme of Gen Abdusalam Abubakar. He contested for the same governorship election of Adamawa State again under PDP in 1999 and won. However, before his swearing in, his political landscape became widened as he was picked as the running mate of Olusegun Obasanjo during the 1999 presidential election. Obasanjo/Atiku convincingly defeated Olu Falae/Umar Shinkafi of All Peoples Party, APP (both AD and APP merged during the presidential poll).
As the Vice President under Obasanjo’s administration, Atiku reportedly wielded massive influence. He was appointed as the Chairman of National Council of Privatisation, albeit with some controversial deals. He also commanded immense political charismatic and respects in the political circles, most especially among the Governors. There was this unsubstantiated report that Obasanjo had to kneel down for Atiku for the latter to drop his presidential ambition ahead of 2003 presidential election due to the great influence he had.
However, after the 2003 election in which Obasanjo/Atiku defeated Buhari/Okadigbo of APP, things began to fall apart between Atiku and his boss. The political brawl was so dramatic that both of them were exchanging verbal attacks publicly. They were washing their dirty linens in the public. Obasanjo pulled the trigger openly in 2005 when he openly accused Atiku of disoyalty.
When Atiku learnt that the political climate of staying in PDP was not conducive to him, he pitched his tent with the Tinubu-led AC and became their presidential aspirant. He came third in the 2007 presidential election after Yaradua of PDP and Buhari of ANPP. He made attempts again in 2011, 2015 and 2019 to rule Nigeria, but did not succeed.
BOTH TINUBU AND ATIKU HAVE SPIRITS OF DETERMINATION
One attributes both of them have in common is that they don’t give up easily when targeting something or when faced with the political environments that got cloudy at a partculay period.
For instance, after the 2007, general elections, AC was controlling just one state, which was Lagos then. This did not dampen the spirit of Tinubu to quit politics or move to another party, rather the political tactician girded his loins and started making steps on how to spread the tentacles of AC across South West, across Nigeria and even to the Presidency (which was achieved in 2015). He played the greatest role in ensuring the court victories for Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) and Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo). Although Mmimiko was with Labour Party, but he openely aligned and fratanized with Tinubu’s camp. Appeal Court sacked PDP Governors in those states and installed the three individuals thorough the efforts of Tinubu. He also ensured the victories of ACN candidates in persons of Ibikunle Amusu of Ogun and Isaka Ajimobi of Oyo during the 2011 general elections. He ensured that he structure of the progressive became strong in the South West before he started thinking of extending it to the center, that’s why he probably did not put much weight behind the presidential candidate of ACN , Nuhu Ribadu in the 2011 presidential race, probably thinking that time was not yet ripe to extend the progressive to the center.
Atiku, just like Tinibu also have the same attribute of not giving up as regards political game. The only dimension that makes it difference is that Tinubu has remained in the progresive fold since 1999 to achieve his aims while Atiku has moved in between the PDP and the progressive fold about five times! in his bid to acheive his major aim of leading Nigeria.
Atiku has been eyeing the number one seat of the country since 1993 and has not given up till now. After failing in his bid to govern the then new Adamawa State; he joined the presidential race under the SDP in 1993. He contested in the presidential primary election and came third. MKO Abiola came first, Baba-Gana Kingibe came second and, he (Atiku) took the third position.
Just like Tinubu, Atiku also faced and overcame the political storm of Obasanjo to some extent (not totally because he was frustrated out of PDP then and lost at presidential poll in 2007). When Atiku dumped PDP for AC ahead of the 2007 general elections, he won AC’s presidential primary election. Obasanjo had set up a panel which indicted Atiku of corrupt practices. Following the indictment, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which was under Professor Maurice omitted Atiku’s name in the final list of 24 aspirants for 21st April Presidential election. Iwu-led INEC said , his name was omitted because a panel set up by the Federal Government had indicted him for corruption. Atiku headed to the Supreme Court to contest the matter. The apex court ruled in his favour and the coast became clear for him to contest.
BOTH HAVE THE FINANCIAL RESOURCES
Another feature the two political personalities have in common is fat financial purse. Although, to contest elective positions in all parts of the world, one needs financial resources to embark on electioneering campaign. However, in a cliime like Nigeria where money is greatly worshipped, the amount of money you can dole out or “settle,” some godfathers and aides across your political circles goes a long way to determine your electoral victory. So both Tinubu and Atiku are known to be stupendously rich to finance any electioneering campaign, no doubt. Tinubu’s chain of business includes Oriental Hotel, TVC Television, The Nation Newspapers, Radio Continental and others. Atiku Abubakar also have chain of businesses such as Nigerian Container Services (NICOTES), which later changed to INTELS, Adama Beverages Limited, Faro Foods. He also owns the American University of Nigeria and so on.
ELECTORAL CHANCES OF BOTH OF THEM
Affliation to ethnicity may work in favour of Atiku due to the ‘born to rule’ syndrome of the northern people. It should be noted that the northern region has the highest population and always records the highest number of voters in every election. About 1.9 million voters in Kano alone voted for Buhari in the 2015 presidential election. In the South West region where Tinubu comes from; the only two states where people believe Asiwaju weilds much political influence for now are Lagos and Osun States. However, some observers believe that the North can still follow and vote for Tinubu if President Buhari and some northern cabal endorse him, but as the situation is now, it seems that the President is not ready to give backing to Tinubu or anybody as long as 2023 presidency is concerned. It will be recalled that recently; some elders in APC who are Tinubu’s staunchest henchmen like Chief Bisi Akande, Segun Osoba, Abayomi Finnih and Tajudeen Olusi visited President Mohammadu Buhari. The purpose of this meeting was not made known to the public, but it is widely believed that they came to plead with the President to put his weight behind the purpoted presidential ambition of Tinubu.
So, just as the elderly man told us during the vox-pop, it is a bit difficult to determine who will win between the two political juggernauts if they both emerge the major presidential candidates.