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Opinion: Buhari’s Running Mate; Has APC Shot Itself In The Foot?

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When I read in several papers that the issue of running mate for Buhari was tearing APC apart because of Tinubu’s insistence on presenting himself for the spot, I had sympathies for the former Lagos state Governor, despite not being his admirer – or for that matter a supporter of Muslim-Muslim ticket.

When the news eventually came that the retired General has chosen Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a pastor of the Redeemed Church of God and former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State during the Bola Tinubu administration, I wasn’t quite sure if the party had done the ‘needful’ or the right thing – politically speaking. According to reports which quoted an un-named APC source, Osinbajo was chosen partly because the party would like to target votes from the Pentecostal community – a very unconvincing argument in my opinion. How much value did Tunde Bakare, also a Pastor of a Pentecostal church, add to the Buhari ticket in 2011? As a matter of fact, the bottom half of presidential and governorship tickets rarely add much to a ticket but could seriously hurt a party’s chances if the party got it wrong as the case of Sarah Palin demonstrated. Mrs Palin, a shallow brain, was John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election in the USA.

Let me mention that I have never been an admirer of Bola Tinubu. During the scandal surrounding his alleged forgery of the academic certificates he presented to INEC in 1999, I was appalled that some respected human rights lawyers from the South-west came to his stout defence when they had joined in the condemnation of Salisu Buhari, who was forced to resign as Speaker of the House of Representatives over similar allegations of certificate forgery and perjury. Similarly, given Tinubu’s reported wealth, and mindful of the French novelist, Honoré de Balzac’s dictum, that “behind every great fortune there is a great crime,” I do not take Tinubu and several APC stalwarts serious when they grandstand and appropriate to themselves the honorific of ‘progressive’ or talk of PDP’s corruption without looking at their own reflections in a mirror. I have always maintained that the difference between the PDP and the APC is like the difference between 12 and one dozen.

I am uncomfortable with some writers and analysts who have arrogated to themselves the sole right of dispensing the ‘progressive’ honorific, often over whether one was in NADECO, fought Abacha or is a consistent critic of the establishment. I suspect this was one of the bases on which some rallied to defend Tinubu, a former NADECO chieftain, against the alleged certificate forgery while coming hard on Salisu Buhari. Despite my misgivings about Tinubu arising from that ‘discriminatory justice’, I respect his courage, organisational skills and his immense contributions in the formation of the APC. Whatever may be his other shortcomings, the history of the formation of the first truly viable opposition party at the national level in the current Fourth Republic cannot be complete without Tinubu’s role.
If I appear to come hard occasionally on APC as some people have accused me of doing, it is only because, like many analysts who have been excited about the emergence of a viable national opposition party, there is a need to properly interrogate the motive of those who flock to the party. My suspicion is that while a few seem genuinely interested in finding a platform that will create an alternative vision of society and of innovative ways of doing things, many seem to embrace the new platform either out of deep-seated hatred for President Jonathan or the PDP or merely see the party as a vehicle for ‘returning’ power to the North.

But I can assure my readers that my criticisms of APC does not, and cannot, make me a PDP man because I have no intention of embracing any party. There are individuals across the two main parties that I respect. Remarkably when I criticise the PDP or President Jonathan – as I did in the series on the re-invention of President Jonathan – I was conveniently labelled either an ‘Atiku mole’ or a ‘sellout’. Of course I know that allegations of partisanship or even of the insult of whether one ‘collected’ money to write come with the territory of being a columnist.

Back to Tinubu: My sympathy for him was that from media reports, he helped Buhari to overcome the late rally from former Vice President Atiku to clinch the party’s presidential ticket. In essence if Buhari could be helped to win the party’s ticket despite strident media campaigns against his putative candidacy over his supposed religious fundamentalism, age and possible obsession with fighting corruption if he becomes president to the detriment of wealth creation – couldn’t APC have done more to also accommodate Tinubu and fend off criticisms of Muslim-Muslim ticket? Since it cannot be denied that Tinubu and Buhari were the main brains that gave birth to APC, if Buhari could not be asked to make sacrifice by nominating another person as some demanded of him, why should Tinubu be asked to do so? I do not buy the argument that Tinubu does not have the level of followership as Buhari does and therefore should be the one to sacrifice his ambition. The 2015 presidential election is likely to be won and lost in the south-west and Tinubu remains the APC’s greatest asset in that region.

My personal opinion is that it will be expecting too much from a Nigerian politician to work as hard as Tinubu and Buhari did in the formation of APC only to happily invite others to profit from their labour at their own expense. So let us hope that despite being snubbed Tinubu will still enthusiastically work for APC’s victory in the south-west as he would have done if he had got the ticket or that that Professor Osinbajo will have enough clout on his own to deliver enough votes in the south-west to guarantee victory for the APC.

Why am I apparently rooting for Bola Tinubu when I am among those strongly opposed to a Muslim-Muslim ticket? I still believe it will be insensitive of the APC to present a Muslim-Muslim ticket, especially given the increasing politicisation of religion since the radicalization of Boko Haram in 2010. I also still believe that those who use the Abiola-Babagana Muslim-Muslim ticket in 1993 as evidence that Nigerians will not mind such a permutation miss the point. True, the Abiola-Kingibe ticket won the election in 1993 but there were several reasons for this: One, Abiola, a Yoruba was the top of the ticket, meaning that at a time of a clamour for power shift to the south, he was seen more in the South as a Southerner, while his religious faith was also mollifying to some in the North. Two, that the Abiola-Kingibe ticket won does not necessarily mean that they would have ruled successfully if the election was not annulled. No one should underrate the power of ethnic and religious entrepreneurs.

So in a sense APC was right to avoid presenting a Muslim-Muslim ticket. However the party should have also weighed the consequences of offending Tinubu especially as Buhari, the man with whom he laboured the most to form the party, was chosen to fly the party’s flag despite orchestrated media campaign against his candidacy. What will be the opportunity cost of presenting a Buhari-Tinubu ticket that will almost certainly deliver the south-west? After all, Muslim-Muslim ticket is not likely to significantly hurt APC in the core north and in the south-west. The challenge, as I see it, is how to allay fears of non-Muslims, given such a combination.

With the VP slot rightly zoned to the battle ground south-west, my personal opinion is that the chances of the APC in the presidential elections in the south-east and South-south have dimmed considerably despite the presence of Amaechi in Rivers and Okorocha in Imo State. This makes the south-west with its harvest of 13.5 million votes, even more crucial for the APC. Based on this, for Buhari to overcome Jonathan in the election, the party needs to ensure not only that Jonathan does not get more than 30 percent of the votes in the North-west and North-east, but also that Buhari’s tally of votes in the southwest is sufficiently high to make up for his expected poor performance in the South-south and south-east This is why I feel that despite misgivings about Muslim-Muslim ticket, from the perspective of realpolitik, APC should have accommodated Tinubu on the ticket. The party should have attenuated the expected fallout from a Muslim-Muslim ticket by announcing at the same time as the running mate is announced a mini shadow cabinet – mentioning the geopolitical zone and religion of the person that will occupy such posts as Senate President, Speaker House of Representatives, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Minister of Finance – if it wins the election. True, ideally politics should not just be about sharing the national cake. But peeled of all rhetoric in Nigerian politics, the key issue at stake in 2015 – as in virtually all other elections in the country – is the sharing of lucre and who should be seated where at the table where the largess is shared.

Despite my misgivings about the motive of several members of APC, I think it will be a tragedy if the party atrophies at this point and denies the country the opportunity of a truly keenly contested election.

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Article Written by Jideofor Adibe pcjadibe@yahoo.com (0705 807 8841 texts only)

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