Home Letters OPINION: Eni-B and Tinubu’s Supposed Conundrum, By Rotimi Adebayo

OPINION: Eni-B and Tinubu’s Supposed Conundrum, By Rotimi Adebayo

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu

Mr Eniola Bello, also known by the popular sobriquet, Eni-B, is one of the finest prose stylists and perhaps compelling political analysts in contemporary Nigerian journalism.

His skills in this regard were on display in his recent column in the THISDAY newspaper titled ‘The Tinubu Conundrum’.

The columnist jumped on the bandwagon of those who mischievously sought to put the blame for the loss of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last Edo State Governorship Election on the video broadcast by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu urging the people of that state to reject the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and incumbent governor, Mr Godwwin Obaseki, in the intensely-contested governorship election.

The narrative, according to those who peddle this perspective, is that Tinubu’s broadcast kindled a perceived Edo sub-nationalism, which detested what was seen as a Lagos-based godfather interfering in the politics of Edo State and trying to impose a governor on the state.

Eni-B argues that Tinubu, through the video, made himself the issue in the politics of Edo State. The columnist is able to sustain this position because he, deliberately or inadvertently, studiedly ignored the message of the video appeal to voters in Edo State. He submits that the video in question “was dumb in concept, poor in messaging and weak in presentation”.

But he only asserts this rather than make an attempt to demonstrate his position logically and empirically. And one wonders when Eni-B turned a Nollywood film producer! According to his generalization, “it was ill-advised of Tinubu, the last of the godfathers, whose persona is synonymous with Lagos, to have made a video broadcast appealing to the Edo people, a few days before the election, not to re-elect incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki”.

Now, did Tinubu appeal to the people of Edo State to reject Obaseki at the polls on the ground that he was a godfather in the politics of Lagos State seeking to extend his sphere of influence to Edo State? For the eight years Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was governor of the state, was there any evidence Tinubu tried to influence him in the appointment or sought any contract favours?

Eni-B is silent on the concrete content of Tinubu’s message in the video broadcast. Tinubu’s argument was simply that by preventing a majority of duly elected members of the Edo State legislature from sitting for most of his first term tenure, Obaseki had violated the tenets of democracy, deprived the majority of Edo people representation in the legislature and was thus not eligible to be described as a democrat.

It was within this context that Tinubu rightly described himself as a democrat and, as one of those who fought for the present democratic dispensation, duly qualified to appeal to the people of Edo State to reject Obaseki at the polls as a result of his proven anti-democratic inclination.

While ignoring the content of the video broadcast’s message, Eni-B chose to focus on largely irrelevant stylistics. He opines that Tinubu should not have sat down bent over in his chair but rather should have sat straight or better still stood up to deliver his message. But why should this necessarily be so? Tinubu was not engaged in Nollywood play-acting or showmanship. His message came across as sincere and straight from the heart.

Again, Eni-B remarked on what he perceived as the seeming hesitancy of Tinubu in delivering his message. Yes, the columnist is understandably not aware of the relationship between Obaseki and Tinubu. Both are no strangers to each other. Asiwaju knew Obaseki before his election in 2016 and encouraged Comrade Oshiomhole when recruiting him for a leadership position.

During the colloquium to commemorate Tinubu’s 65th birthday, which held in Lagos with President Muhammadu Buhari in attendance, it was Governor Obaseki that delivered the toast. And in doing so, he revealed that Tinubu was one of the major influences that persuaded him to go into politics.

Surely, Eni-B could not have expected Tinubu to be enthusiastic or happy to deliver his appeal to the Edo State electorate to reject the same Obaseki at the polls. It was just a duty that had to be done giving the fact that Obaseki turned out to be a calamity to democracy in his first term.

Again, Eni-B makes heavy weather of Tinubu’s appeal to the Edo electorate based on his own democratic precedence and credentials. Notably, the THISDAY columnist quotes Tinubu as describing himself as “a leader of all democrats regardless of political parties”.

Instructively, Tinubu did not describe himself as “The leader” of all democrats across party lines. He is only one of a number of Nigerian politicians who can be justifiably so described. The columnist argues, dubiously, that Tinubu sought to extend the honorific title of ‘National Leader’ by which he is addressed within the APC to perceive and describe himself as the leader of democrats in all parties. Eni-B even suggests that President Buhari conferred the title of National Leader on Tinubu in the early years of the APC’s formation just to humour the Jagaban. But was Buhari the only one addressing Tinubu by that title within the party?

Why did Buhari and other leaders within the party not confer that title on anyone else just to humour them? Did Tinubu seek to be addressed as National Leader? Is the honorific title not an indication and recognition of his phenomenal role in the formation and consolidation of the emergent party?

Perhaps Eni-B is right in arguing that Tinubu should have left others to describe him in such terms but Tinubu can rightly be described as “a leader” of democrats in the country across party lines. His role along with others in the struggle that led to the exit of the military and the birth of our current democratic dispensation is well documented.

After the 2003 elections in which his party, the Alliance for Democracy (AD), was routed in Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti states, Tinubu’s Lagos remained the only state controlled by the opposition in the South-west. Many PDP leaders boasted that Tinubu would have no choice but to cross over to the ruling party.

It was unusual for Nigerian politicians to operate outside the party in control of the mainstream. Tinubu never wavered. He remained the last man standing firm in opposition.

Had Tinubu flinched and crossed over to the PDP at the time, it is likely that the evolution of Nigeria’s democracy would have taken a completely different turn in the direction of a one-party dominant state.

Again, Tinubu along with others across party lines staunchly opposed and helped frustrate and abort then President Olusegun Obasanjo’s third term agenda in 2007. Furthermore, Tinubu’s role in doggedly leading Lagos State to fight for the rights of states and fiscal federalism from 1999 to 2007 is well known. Lagos State won no less than 13 cases at the Supreme Court during that period, which enhanced the rights and powers of states irrespective of the party in power. Eni-B himself captured why Tinubu cannot be described as being fraudulent or untruthful when he referred to his democratic credentials.

In a feat of the mischievous admonition of Tinubu’s strong democratic credentials, he said: “Long before the formation of APC, Tinubu had in 2003, as governor in Lagos, played smart politics to survive then President Olusegun Obasanjo’s decimation of the AD, the party in control of the six states in the Southwest since 1999. As Obasanjo’s PDP ruthlessly took over the sub-region, Tinubu survived and became the face of the opposition, challenging the Obasanjo administration at the Supreme Court, in the media, at National Executive Council meetings and in every available public space. He received considerable support from the generality of Lagosians, including the elite who had become suspicious of Obasanjo’s desperation to make the country a one-party state”. Eni-B then goes on to describe Tinubu’s role in the formation of various parties including the Action Congress (AC), Action Congress of Democrats (ACD) and ultimately the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) that ultimately teamed up with other parties to form an alliance that produced APC, which dislodged the PDP from power in the epochal 2015 elections.

Although he rightly identifies the factors responsible for the APC’s loss in the Edo State governorship election including intra-party conflicts and contradictions within the APC, seeming transparency of the electoral process due to improved efficiency of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the relatively poor performance of the APC at the centre resulting in increased economic hardship suffered by the citizenry, Eni-B allocates more weight to Tinubu’s broadcast as being responsible for the loss without telling us why. He does not reason that it could be argued that without Tinubu’s broadcast, the margin of loss could have been higher for the APC given the lukewarm attitude of key party leaders to the APC campaign, which made the candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, look like a political orphan in the run-up to the elections.

He fails to see the damaging effects of ousting Comrade Oshiomhole as the party’s national chairman by the presidency a few weeks into an election in which he has a major stake. He forgets to highlight the effects of APC governors who openly worked against their own party and candidate, framing the party’s victory as a personal defeat because of their 2023 ambition. Again, Eni-B, like some other analysts, does not see the active campaigns of key PDP leaders and governors for Obaseki, with a number of them physically present in the state, as outside interference in the politics of Edo State!

Eni-B strangely argues that a loss by the APC in the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State will be blamed on Tinubu. Again, he gives no logical reason why this should be so. In any case, his take on the Ondo polls is grossly mistaken. His analysis betrays a poor understanding of the dynamics of the Ondo governorship poll. For one, all contending tendencies within the party are on one page behind Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in the state’s gubernatorial election. Asiwaju Tinubu was instrumental to this as he failed to give impetus to the aspirants massed up against Akeredolu to use him to galvanise their plan. In the end, they all dropped out of the race and filed behind Aketi. Again, those forces within the APC that worked against Ize-Iyamu’s victory in Edo State to spite Comrade Oshiomhole have no motive to sabotage the party in Ondo.

Furthermore, the APC will contest the Ondo election as a more united party in the state than a PDP that is still trying to wedge various tendencies and fractions in the state into a cohesive whole. Eni-B assumes that a loss for the APC in Ondo will galvanize opposition to Tinubu’s supposed 2023 presidential election, especially in the South-west. He underestimates Tinubu’s cross-party appeal in the region and the likely tendency of the people of the region to give mass support across party lines to an aspirant from the region with bright electoral prospects at the appropriate time.

While he suggests that Tinubu may be perceived as an “overbearing and grabbing godfather” in some quarters, Eni-B notes, instructively, that Tinubu “Unlike other godfathers, identified talents and empowered them, planting his associates in different elective offices, yet occupying none”. The contradiction does not appear to occur to him.  If over two decades after leaving office, Tinubu still continues to wield so much influence that even current political office-holders continue to deploy considerable time, energy and resources to thwart his perceived political ambition; a purported ambition he has not told anyone he has, that should suggest to the columnist that Tinubu’s already established legacy will not be the function of any office God Almighty may permit him to hold in future.

*Rotimi Adebayo is former Deputy Chief Press Secretary to Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu                






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