Reflection on Tinubu’s difficult victory, By Bolaji Adebiyi

For many practical politicians, politics is a serious business, from which only the diligent can make bountiful profits. It involves painstaking strategic calculations backed by cold tactical manoeuvres to achieve a successful outcome. 

Many years ago, the great sage, Obafemi Awolowo, scorned his political opponents who had accused him of intellectual arrogance. The difference between them and him, he lectured his critics, was that while he burnt the candle at his work table day and night, his opponents were constantly in the company of women of easy virtues. No wonder the miles apart distance between his policy output and the daftness of his opponents.

Awolowo’s savvy political hard work may not have taken him to the prime ministership or the presidency of Nigeria but none, including his traducers, failed to acknowledge his indelible footprints on the nation’s political firmament. At least, his dexterity won him a place in the leadership of the Western Region, where he recorded monumental achievements as the premier. The testimony to his timelessness is the generation of citizens that claim today to be worthy inheritors of his political and economic thoughts.  

Today, many of the players on the political turf are essentially louts who have little or no regard for the rigours required to achieve a successful electoral outcome and talk less of delivering on the basic assignment of meeting the most rudimentary needs of the people. Rather than apprehend their laziness and sheer lack of capacity for their electoral failure they accuse every other person under the sun of their assured flop.

But a few of them are up and doing though. One of them is Bola Tinubu, the president-elect, who repelled all mischiefs on his path to coast home to victory in the 25 February 2023 presidential poll on the platform of the All Progressives Congress. The other is Atiku Abubakar, the perennial contestant that flew the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party. Both come from the same political family birthed by Shehu Yar’Adua, a former military general and strategist, who later became a political organiser of men and women across the zonal divide of the country.

From their output, it is clear that both learnt useful lessons on party formation and intra-organisational deftness in conspiratorial manoeuvre from their political master who departed for the great beyond many years ago. At least, both outfoxed legions of conspirators within their separate enclaves to emerge with their presidential tickets. But as it is in the natural occurrence of human endeavours, one of the two students is bound to be more hardworking, and perhaps, smarter. Obviously, that one happens to be Tinubu. 

Marked for destruction since he exhibited the capacity to midwife the effective political strategy to wrest power from even the most formidable political machine in 2015, Tinubu knew early that he was only needed but not wanted. So, for seven years plus he maintained a critical balance between the hostility of the men in power and the patience required not to rock the boat so that he could achieve his personal ambition of taking the mantle of leadership in the not-too-distant future. 
With power safely secured, he was moved to the fringe. First, he was deprived of a share of power, having no nominee in the emergent cabinet; next, the party machinery was retrieved from him as his ally, Adams Oshiomhole, the combative former governor of Edo State, was relieved of the national chairmanship of the party. Following that move the entire party machinery collapsed for two years.

Naturally, Tinubu would be unhappy but he knew he should not be angry, at least publicly. So, he bid his time, lying very low while building the necessary network across regions that would come to his aid at critical moments. So intense was the conspiracy against him that his party establishment did not intend to hold a ballot during the primaries mid-last year. 
As everyone would remember, the APC presidential primaries that were held in early June last year had no printed ballot papers even when ballot boxes were placed on the tables at the nomination convention ground. When the scheme to edge him out through a consensus voice vote failed, delegates were simply asked to write the aspirant of their choice on a piece of power and drop it in the ballot boxes. Tinubu prevailed with more than 60 per cent of the votes cast.

Yet his traducers would not relent. Setting up a campaign team was a herculean task, so much so that Abdullahi Adamu, the national chairman, in a leaked letter, protested the list of campaign managers put together by Tinubu. Funding by the party and its leading lights became a serious challenge with the candidate relying heavily on his savings and long-standing friends to bankroll the campaign.

What was more? The government formed by his party began the implementation of some public policies that were bound to attract the ire of the electorate. First, petrol disappeared from filing stations that soon developed several kilometres of queues; then there was the naira redesign that took even the most basic of cash away from the rich and the poor. It took a subtle critique of the policies by Tinubu in Abeokuta to repair the rising massive damage that they were doing to his electioneering.

In the end, it was Tinubu’s dogged strategic but practical management of the very powerful internal opposition forces arrayed against him that saw him through the shadow of death, and helped him to pick the top price both at the party and general levels.

Atiku was apparently less strategic and tactical despite his many years of hard work and the wide-ranging intellectual trust at his disposal. Though he was able to subdue the internal opposition at the party’s primaries in May last year, he was, however, unable to formulate the strategy necessary to form the united front required to win a general election of last February magnitude. Not only did two major aspirants, Peter Obi and Rabiu Kwankwaso, abandon the party, two governors of high voting states of Rivers and Oyo, as well as three others, Benue, Ebonyi and Enugu, remained but worked actively against the party from within.

A cursory analysis of the results of the presidential poll would show clearly that Atiku’s loss arose from his inability to manage the internal quarrels as the votes from the dissident states gave victory to Tinubu. Between Kano and Oyo States alone, the APC candidate got close to a million votes. Obi’s massive haul in the South-east was also phenomenal. Those were votes that should have gone to the PDP candidate. 

But could Atiku have done a better job of managing the intra-party dissent? This would remain a debatable question for a long time to come. 

Adebiyi, the managing editor of THISDAY Newspapers, writes from 

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