Wednesday, February 3, 2021 9:56 am
By Richard Elesho
Muhammadu Buhari still has a little more than two years to go as the President and Commander- in- Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
But permutations and speculations over who will take over from him as the next tenant in Aso Rock which began as soon as the President was elected for the second term in 2019 has continue to be a major point of discussions among Nigerians, especially groups aligned with politicians.
From barely audible hush tones and flying of kites, the issue of 2023 presidency has in recent times assumed center stage in national discourse and is causing disquiet in many quarters.
As to be expected, there have been more agitations about the 2023 succession plan among members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC than the other parties. Supporters of those believed to have interest in succeeding President Buhari have been going around the length and breadth of the country to drum support for their preferred hopefuls.
One politician whose rumoured presidential ambition has attracted the widest attention and commentary is unarguably Bola Ahmed Tinubu, national leader of the ruling party.
This is not surprising given the former Lagos State’s Governor’s legendary influence, wit and deep pockets which many believe are enviable factors that place him ways ahead of others.
But Tinubu who holds the traditional title of Jagaban Borgu has not yet declared an intention to run for the presidency in Nigeria’s next general election.
Instead, he has consistently said the next election is still far away, adding that his major concern now is how to make the APC government succeed at all levels.
Despite this repeated assertion, persons believed to be his foot soldiers have however been on the move, selling his his candidature across the country.
Last week, the Tinubu for President project recorded another boost when a group, the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Grassroots Volunteers, BAT – GV declared its support for the former Lagos Governor as successor of Buhari.
The group was created from the ashes of Buhari/Osinbajo Governance Continuity Agenda, BOGCA which was dissolved in 2019, after the APC won the presidential election of that year.
National Coordinator of the group, Dozie Nwankodu, said its support for Tinubu as successor to Buhari was in the national interest. He said the choice of Tinubu was also premised on his patriotism and the sterling records of his achievements, especially in the areas of human capital development, democracy and peace building.
Other groups like Prof. Ishaq Akintola led Muslim Rights Council MURIC and South West Agenda, SWAGA whose members are former ministers, ex- governors and lawmakers from the region under the leadership of Senator Dayo Adeyeye have been drumming support for a man many call the ‘godfather.’
The Tinubu presidential ambition is said to be anchored on a certain 2013 agreement between groups that formed the APC to rotate the presidency between the North and the South. Those who have hammered on the need to respect the agreement include Minister of Works Babatunde Raji Fashola and his Transportation counterpart, Rotimi Amechi.
A former Governor of Ogun State Olusegun Osoba also said he was aware of the agreement. During an appearance on Arise TV breakfast show on Tuesday the elder statesman also referred to the gentleman agreement: “Part of the understanding in the case of rotation is a conventional understanding that the presidency will move between the North and the South. That was the reason why we now allowed the chairman (of the party to come from the South.”
He said the word ‘zoning’ was deliberately not used in the agreement to avoid conflicting with the constitution. “But there was a clear gentlemanly understanding that the northern part of the country will produce the president when we did the merger in 2013 and the chairman of the party will then come from the South.”
But some other notable personalities within the party think otherwise. In fact, many members of the party are defining the so called rotation to suit their self interest. For instance, people from the North Central are also agitating for shift of ‘power’ to their part of the country in 2023 with the candidacy of Yahaya Bello already been touted by some groups, including the Speaker of Kogi House of Assembly as person fit and proper to take over from President Buhari.
In the same vein, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, in the last two years has taken seemingly contradictory positions on the matter. In November 2020, El-Rufai expressed a different view to his earlier call for a Southern presidential candidate in 2023, hinging his argument on the need to solve Nigeria’s economic woes and electing competent leaders.
“Zoning in political parties cannot solve the economic problems we are facing,” the Governor said while recommending that focus should be on getting the best person that can get the job done irrespective of his zone of origin.
But, by far the greatest threat to the zoning debate is coming from politicians in the Southeast part of the country. They are canvassing the view that what is fair and equitable is for the presidency to be reserved exclusively for the region since the remaining zones in the South have tasted the office.
Former Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate, Sir Roland Owie recently called on Tinubu to forget his 2023 Presidential ambition positing that in the event that the major political parties agree to zone the presidency to the southern part of Nigeria, it should be the turn of the Southeast to produce the president.
This is perhaps the major reason David Umahi, Governor of Ebonyi State recently cross carpeted to the APC. He has not disguised his intention to succeed Buhari as the next tenant of the presidential villa since joining the party.
Social crusader and Biafra apologist Nnamidi Kanu also joined in the discuss. The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, on Wednesday, urged Nigerians to reject Tinubu’s presidential ambition while calling for a referendum to determine the future of the country.
The Southeast demand is however marred by general lack of popularity of the party in the the zone where the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has continue to hold sway since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.
Moreover, supporters of Tinubu say the existing zoning arrangement is between North and South and not micro zoning.
Adeyeye sheds light on the matter: “What we have now is a kind of consensus for rotation between North and South. That is a very simple formula because when you go too far by micro-zoning to geopolitical zones, there could be a lot of tension…”
Opposition to the rising influence and political profile of the Asiwaju are not new. It was believed that such grand antagonism was what denied him of APC Vice Presidential ticket in 2015. In the days before the merger talks which led to the formation of APC, Buhari and Tinubu reportedly struck agreement to run on the same ticket.
According Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former Governor of Osun State, it took the intervention of notable leaders, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo to change what would have been a Muslim/ Muslim ticket
Born in 1952 in Osun State, Tinubu entered partisan politics in 1992 and has encountered both foul and fair weather.
The annulment of the June 12 1993 election projected his finer qualities as an activist. With more public engagements, he has since dramatically transmuted into an ideologue of no mean discipleship.
With the discomfiture the Tinubu 2023 project is causing in some quarters, will it be imperiled or berth on a happy isle? Time will tell.