Will Tinubu make a vindictive president?
To all intents and purposes, elections have come and gone and the next thing now is governance. In between both, however, is composing the government. If square pegs are put in square holes, the government has a chance of succeeding but in the event that the contrary is the case, then, consider the government to have failed ab initio. The star prize of the last election was the presidency, which was carted away by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; so it is not a surprise that all eyes would be on him as to what colour or shape his government would take. Some have called for a government of national unity, meaning that members of his government should not be restricted to his political party alone or to those who voted for him in the election. Indeed, a unity government properly so-called should include professionals and technocrats who may not be politicians and who, indeed, may not have voted or shown any keen interest in partisan politics. Bringing on board opponents who stood against the president-elect in the election and or their supporters is also to be expected in a government of national unity. All manner of balancing will have to be done – regional, ethnic, religious, gender, age demography, name it. Power brokers and influencers, gods and cabals that must be pacified or unhinged are many of the permutations that must come into play in the formation of a unity government.
Tinubu has said he will rise above the call for a unity government by forming a government of (national) competence. What this means is that competence will be his major consideration and overriding factor as he composes his government. If expected pressure allows him to keep his word, he may have to head-hunt and not limit himself to only those who lobby or offer themselves up for appointment. As they say, talk is cheap and in Nigeria, a leader may propose but forces beyond his capabilities are usually what dispose. In 2015 everyone had high hopes that Muhammadu Buhari would come up with the best assemblage of hands that this country had ever witnessed but after six whopping months and much pussy-footing, the Cabinet he came up with was the worst ever! And the result has shown throughout his eight years of incompetence, cluelessness, ruderlessness, blood-letting and carnage unrivalled in the history of this country. It will be stupid to expect that Tinubu, too, will not come under immense pressure as he composes his own cabinet. Pressure will come – in fact, must have started raining in already! – from every conceivable sector – regional and religious, ethnic, from the receding government and its many cabals, party leaders, APC governors, so-called kingmakers, political associates, family and friends, the coterie of opposition platforms he has to contend with, and even from foreign governments and personalities. Composing a government must be trickier than running the government itself!
These days we do not know what to believe but have you heard that Tinubu and the vice-president elect have started disagreeing already over the composition of their government? There may be no truth in that rumour but even if there is, it will not be a new thing; neither will it be a surprise. Kashim Shettima is likely going to make a very strong and influential vice-president, unlike Goodluck Jonathan to Umaru Yar’Adua, Namadi Sambo to Jonathan and, the worst of them all, Yemi Osinbajo to Muhammau Buhari. Shettima may not be what Tunde Idiagbon was to Buhari during the military era and may he also not be what Atiku Abubakar was to President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007! But no one should expect a two-term governor who enthroned a successor and who also won his election into the senate to be a nincompoop.
Of all the running mates of the four leading presidential candidates (Shettima/APC, Ifeanyi Okowa/PDP, Datti Ahmed/Labour Party and Isaac Idahosa/NNPP), only Shettima delivered his state to his principal. Therefore, I expect a robust engagement between Tinubu and Shettima, but in composing their government, they must be wary of the biblical story of two of the greatest biblical evangelists, Paul and Barnabas. Acts 15:36-40 records the sad episode thus: “And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God” Let Tinubu and Shettima guard against any such split!
Many factors will come into play as Tinubu composes his team and APC chooses its National Assembly leaders. Tinubu has named competence as his major criterion. Another one must be compensation. If politics is what Prof. Harold Lasswell says it is: The art or science of who gets what, when (and) how, then, no one works for nothing. He who works expects to eat. Scripture, indeed, says he who does not work must not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The Yoruba say: If hunger wallops the lazy; let him die! How can a man like Iyorchia Ayu, the PDP chairman, who failed to deliver his polling unit, ward, local government and state and the APC chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, who similarly failed so spectacularly, sit at table when food is ready with the likes of the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, or his Oyo state counterpart, Seyi Makinde, who, though of the opposition party, PDP, delivered their state to Tinubu? Politics is work and eat, like the street football we played in the days of yore. Failure to compensate those who made it happen for you endangers your political future. So, competence or no competence, I expect Tinubu to bend over backward to compensate those who made his “Emi l’okan” presidency possible.
Next is confidence-building, especially with the controversy generated by Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket. Christians need to be assured that they will not be marginalised or that, in fact, they have not been marginalised, with the two top most positions having already gone to Muslims. Can another Muslim become the Senate president or Speaker of the House of Representatives? Note that Olukayode Ariwoola, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (who heads the Judiciary, which is the third arm of government), though not an elective post, is also a Muslim. If a Muslim gets any of the two positions of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tinubu and APC may be carrying their luck too far. With Muslims already in control of the Executive and Judiciary arms of government, give the Legislature fully to Christians. Any contrary decision may rightly be interpreted as a deliberate and provocative action targeted at Christians or clear-cut evidence that an Islamization agenda is afoot. The Number Three position should go to a Christian even if the Number Four does not – but both should in the interest of justice, fairness and equity.
Which part of the country will the Christian(s) come from? The geo-political permutations of the country point in the direction of the South-east/South-south but the South-east appears to have shot itself in the foot for many reasons. It gave virtually all of its votes to Peter Obi, meaning that it put all its eggs in the same basket. Once the basket falls, it loses all the eggs. It is like in those days when I still played pools: You either nap or perm. You can nap three, four or five. If you are lucky and the numbers click, you earn more money than if you perm three from four or five. The danger in napping, however, is that if you get two out of the three napped or even four out of the five, you lose everything once one of the numbers fails to click. But with perming, if you get, say, three or four out of five, you still win some money. In the last presidential election, the South-east napped Peter Obi, believing him to be banker sure, as we used to say, but lost.
The South-south appears politically wiser as they permed, instead of napping. So, they shared their votes among Tinubu, Atiku and Obi and can now stake a claim to the plum job of Senate president better than their neighbours. Some have argued that the Igbo should be compensated with the job in view of the traditional tripod politics of the country but the question is, compensate them for what? If you compensate those who did not vote for you, what do you do for those who made it happen for you? The Northwest voted most for APC and are, therefore, staking a claim to the Senate presidency. They may have to be prevailed upon to make a sacrifice and settle for something else.
Some say, appease the Igbo because they are aggrieved; my response is that Adolf Hitler has opened the eyes of the world to see that appeasement as a policy is doomed to failure; it only postpones the evil day and makes the price to pay eventually costlier. The ranking senator from the South-east, Uzor Orji Kalu (the Emi l’okan of the South-east), who has said it is his turn to be the Senate President, appeared to many to have shot himself in the foot the way he thumb-printed and displayed his ballot paper during the presidential election. It appeared his vote, which he seemingly cast for Tinubu, was void. Was this deliberate or a mistake? A Christian from the South-south appears a better choice for the Senate presidency. This will assuage the feelings of Christians as well as satisfy geo-political balancing. The bad loser syndrome afflicting the South-east has also not helped their cause at all.
Competence apart, geo-political balancing must play a vital role in the way the new government is formed. The crass nepotism of Buhari, tolerated by the South, I am sure will not be tolerated by the North from Tinubu. All the same, it will not be asking for too much if the South expects to be compensated for all they suffered and were denied under Buhari. They should expect to be favoured by Tinubu and that the North should also have a taste of the bitter pill of marginalization that Buhari served the South. Imagine if Tinubu were to fill all the top security posts with Yoruba or southerners just like Buhari did with Fulani/Northerners? I doubt if Tinubu will do that, though! In the name of geo-political balancing, the South-east will still get something, though. It is a constitutional requirement that must be observed, although Buhari despised it on many occasions and where he pretended to observe it, he did so half-heartedly.
Ingrate Buhari as a person also deserves a serve of the bitter pill he forced down the throat of Tinubu. Remember how he publicly embarrassed Tinubu, pooh-poohing the Jagaban Borgu’s APC “National Leader” post! One bad turn surely deserves another! Or a section of the “Yoruba Nation” agitators who said there would be no election in Ekiti and Osun states and there were elections; who proceeded to say there would be no presidential and other elections and there were; who said the Fulani/North would never support Tinubu and they did; who mocked Tinubu as another “Afonja of Ilorin” who can never win the presidency but he did! It remains to be seen if their last “prophecy” that Tinubu will be another “Soroye” like MKO Abiola will come to pass! God forbid! Imagine if such Yoruba leaders were to now gravitate towards, even grovel before the same Tinubu! Or those “prophets” and “seers” who prophesied nay to a Tinubu presidency but missed their target by a wide margin!
Next is the youth sector which Tinubu has promised to take on board. The mistrust that the Youth have for the president-elect ran deep as a result of #ENDSARSNOW, allowing the youth in their innocence and political naivety to be taken for a jolly tide by the Obidients. The scales, however, fell rapidly off the eyes of many after the provocative after-presidential election display of the Obedients. The Tinubu government must do everything possible to further wean our youths from the Obedients’ poisonous feeding bottle.
I have not seen a government that is not influenced by family members, friends, comrades, associates and colleagues; Tinubu’s will not be an exception. It will be interesting, however, to see how he deals with his many traducers as well as fair weather and unfriendly friends. Need I mention names? We all know them! MKO Abiola said with such friends, no one needs an enemy. Will Tinubu be vindictive or will he borrow a leaf from Nelson Mandela and let bygones be bygones?
*Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspapers. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.