“… what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away (Luke 14:31-32).
In hindsight, Yemi Osinbajo’s bid to secure the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was based on a mere hope that president Buhari will endorse him, impose him on the party, or get the governors and delegates to rally around him. Absent the endorsement or intervention of the president on his behalf, his bid crumbled like a pack of cards. For someone of his calibre – a law professor, church pastor, an eloquent speaker, ‘thinker’, I hope, and one I have previously described as ‘chameleonic and vauntingly ambitious’ – it is a shockingly naïve strategy.
First, Osinbajo is no politician and has no known political base or structure to take on his godfather in a competitive and open party primaries like we run in Nigeria where political structures and money decide the winners. His only selling point was that he has been a loyal vice president for seven years and could easily fit into his boss’ shoes.
He also has picked up signals that president Buhari or those around him may not be positively disposed to a Tinubu presidency. Perhaps, that was why he delayed his entry into the race, consulting with and seeking Buhari’s blessings and endorsement, we were told.
Second, his more politically savvy godfather with an amazing war chest had already been doing his homework for the better part of three years, erecting structures, strategizing, consulting with, and buying over the major power brokers within his party to ensure he picks his party’s ticket.
Even though he was the most prepared and had the most odds of winning any primary election in his party, he left nothing to chance, buying and co opting his likely challengers for the ticket while encouraging them to pose as likely challengers. And these were all known to our star boy.
Given such a scenario, what should a rational person in Osinbajo’s place do? Do a SWOT analysis, see if it is possible and under what conditions you can snatch the ticket of the party from your desperate and well-prepared mentor. Then begin to plan and work towards that goal. And, of course, after doing your best and you discover you’re falling short, you step down for your godfather as a sign of respect and gratitude for all he’s done for you politically.
But what did our star boy do? He picked up the hint that his boss or those around him may not be positively disposed to Tinubu’s presidency alright, but besides that, he did very little and waited for Buhari’s endorsement believing perhaps, that fate and God will throw his party’s ticket and the presidency on his laps without him working hard for it. Even as the endorsement was not forthcoming, he did nothing. He just kept believing.
Buhari eventually showed his hands, at least indirectly through the party chairman. And his preference wasn’t Osinbajo, but Ahmed Lawan, the dull and uninspiring senate president. Now, without Buhari’s direct endorsement or his godfather’s kind of war chest to directly buy delegates and power brokers, he has absolutely no chance in the contest. Perhaps, that was the time for him to beat a retreat, but he kept believing, resisting all calls even by prominent figures from the southwest for him to step down. The result was a foregone conclusion.
Osinbajo’s naivety is emblematic of the faith-based approach to public life in Nigeria. Struggling to overcome the “politics is a dirty business” approach of their predecessors, current faith groups have adopted the predestination approach – the belief that the believer’s destinies have already been preordained by the divine and all they require to reach that preordained destiny is obedience and faithfulness to the divine. Working towards one’s political ambitions may even be seen as interfering with the plan or lack of trust in the divine to lead one to his/her destiny. Not a few of them always cite the case of Goodluck Jonathan as a perfect illustration of that belief.
So, by their actions, even if not by words, they have effectively replaced the old saying “Ora et Labora” (pray and work) with “Orare et sperare” (pray and hope).
But as they are getting to realise by the day, fortune favours the brave, the smartest, the most prepared, and the most tenacious. It may sometimes favour the timid and the unprepared, as it did to Jonathan, in 2010. But that is often the exception rather than the rule. Even Jesus recognizes the predilection of his followers to rely on divine providence rather than to put in the real work in furtherance of their ambitions when he said that “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16: 8).