On Tuesday, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, wife of the erstwhile strongman of opposition politics, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, expressed her frustration at how her husband was “thrashed” by the President Muhammadu Buhari government he helped put in office. Even a minimally savvy observer of Nigerian politics would have figured out that a palace coup has consumed the so-called Jagaban of the game.
Asiwaju Tinubu’s position in the All Progressives Congress is no longer what it used to be, and his profile as a master politician gifted with a deft understanding of Nigeria’s political roulette tanked long ago. He has denuded from a quick-thinking opposition figure to one of the many gadflies milling around Ask Rock. These days, his comments on political issues seem like a forced attempt to be relevant. One looks back at the time he was such a political force that could put his wife and children in offices without even a whimper from any of the voices that now complain about Buhari’s sin of nepotism and wonders how the mighty fell so hard. Was the man ever a brilliant political strategist or his success was as a result of the coincidence of historical events that neatly aligned in his favour?
Senator Tinubu wants us to believe that her husband helped Buhari to power out of sheer love for the country and nothing else. Despite her husband being sidelined, he still loves Nigeria and is giving his best from the place where he has been consigned. If Tinubu’s motive was all patriotic, why complain about his not being at the centre of things? Why not simply chalk up all the humiliation to the larger sacrifice we are asked to make for the sake of Nigeria?
Here is what Remi has perhaps not considered: Buhari sees her husband as duplicitous and has outplayed the old fox.
We can all remember all the politicking and insensitive shenanigans that took place during the 2011 elections between the old APC (then known as the Action Congress of Nigeria) and Buhari’s then party, the Congress for Political Change. Then, the calculation was that both parties would band together, field Buhari for President, and the ACN would supply the Vice President – Tinubu as the VP, nonetheless.
The idea did not fly for both parties because – it was insinuated – they were both Muslims and Nigerians were not going to be excited by a presidential team composed of two Muslims. Both parties went their separate ways with the ACN picking a former EFCC boss, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, as its own presidential candidate.
The elections came and went, and it was amazing to everyone how the ACN candidate was badly beaten in the South-West, the ACN stronghold. Apart from Osun State where he won, he lost everywhere else. It was strange that the party did not mobilise her teeming supporters to vote for its candidate. In my mind’s eyes, I still see poor Ribadu looking at the election results from the South-West the morning after the election and wondering what happened. He probably knew he did not stand a chance of winning the whole nation, but, at least, the South-West should have been a shoo-in.
Then, came the post-election analyses, speculation, and putting together of pieces of different puzzles to understand what happened. The story then was that Tinubu abandoned his own party candidate to support the incumbent, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, of the Peoples Democratic Party who thought if he lost the South-West to Ribadu, and was not guaranteed the North, it could result in an electoral run-off. To ward off that possibility, he allegedly “bought off” Tinubu to “deliver” his party and since the ACN wasn’t going to win anyway, Tinubu did the most practical thing: he deliberately lost his stronghold. When Ribadu, betrayed and humiliated, finally packed whatever was left of his dignity to join the PDP, he alleged that he was leaving because his party traded him during the 2011 elections.
Ribadu’s allegation sounded like the bitter rant of a scorned lover, and a man who was going to join the band of men he had previously written off as irredeemably corrupt is not the most credible person. The account of Tinubu being “bought off” by Jonathan remained mostly speculative; just strands of historical possibilities reconstructed from both whispered rumours and the insight and clarity we sometimes achieve in the wake of events. It would have remained that way if, Tinubu himself, in a moment of human slip – and perhaps a hubristic perception of his omnipotent power – had not admitted that, indeed, he betrayed his party candidate.
In March 2015, while campaigning for Buhari at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos, Tinubu unwittingly confessed that he sold his party’s candidate on a silver platter because Jonathan made him believe then that he was a breath of fresh air. Tinubu did not admit whether he was compensated or not, but we can guess that his motives could not have been purely altruistic. Politicians do not give out such huge favours like that if their other hand is not stretched for a recompense. One suspects that Tinubu did not support Jonathan a second time for two reasons: One, it would have been awkward to betray his party a second time. Two, he saw a clear path to the Presidency and although he jockeyed to be the ACN vice-presidential candidate, he failed. Had he succeeded, he would have been just one heartbeat away from the Presidency itself, his ambition all along.
Looking back now, Buhari, from the time he joined the APC, must have planned to mitigate Tinubu’s prostitution of his political capital. Tinubu’s 2011 and 2015 conduct must have taught Buhari that a man who betrayed his own party’s candidate will do something equally mischievous if he were not rendered redundant. In order not to have to beg Tinubu for his re-election, he fired Tinubu as kingmaker and compensated him with the cynical task of reconciling the party.
The Buhari unravelling would not have been as painful if the man had not thrashed everyone else along with his sponsors. The Nigerians that voted his opponent, along with those that even had no voter card, are all currently being invoiced and forced to pay for Nigeria’s poor choices of candidates in the 2015 election. Issues such as corruption, security, and building up the economy were some of the biggest concerns of 2015. Buhari does not have much to show in those areas other than sterile figures whipped out from their propaganda playbook. The economy has regressed; from Benue to Taraba to Kaduna, human lives and property have been wasted; the country is directionless; the administration’s so-called fight against corruption has lowered the bar of integrity for itself so many times that the whole affair looks like a poor joke. In short, we have all been thrashed by Buhari.
Tinubu backed a dying horse because of his ambitions. Nigerians of all shades too bought the myth of a messiah who would do wonders for their country. All of us are paying for it right now. While Tinubu’s punishment is that he has been rendered irrelevant, millions of other Nigerians have watched their lives and the things that make them meaningful dwindle to almost nothing.
Despite everything, Senator Tinubu still thinks that Buhari is a candidate to beat because some poor indoctrinated masses love him and want him returned to power. If I were her, I would work against such a possibility. If her husband still has any joker left, he had better bring it and ensure Buhari is not re-elected. If Buhari is returned to power in 2019, she and her husband’s problem would no longer be mere thrashing. With power in his hands and no other presidential contests in his future, Buhari will probably have Tinubu jailed!