by Femi Aribisala
Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. The APC plan for a Muslim/Muslim ticket in this day and age in Nigeria is nothing short of madness.
Bola Tinubu is standing on the horns of a dilemma. He became the godfather of the APC out of burning personal ambition to seek greener political pastures for himself in Abuja. The APC calculus is to present a Northern presidential and Southern vice-presidential ticket against the PDP’s Jonathan/Sambo ticket in the 2015 presidential election. If that APC vice-presidential candidate is not Tinubu himself, then all bets are off as far as Tinubu is concerned. However, the prospect of a ticket with Tinubu as vice-president is already ensuring that the APC is badly in need of aspirin.
An APC vice-president that is not Tinubu poses grave political danger to Tinubu. It means Tinubu has been sowing for somebody else to reap. If that person happens to be Yoruba, he or she could quickly become a contender for Tinubu’s much-vaunted position as the Asiwaju of South-West politics in Nigeria. That is the reason why Tinubu schemed against Mulikat Akande becoming the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Therefore, all systems are “go.” Tinubu must be APC’s vice-presidential candidate by hook or crook. If not, it is most likely Tinubu will end up by scheming against the APC in the coming presidential election.
The first imperative is to ensure that the chairman of the APC must be someone Tinubu can manipulate. Therefore, he insisted that Bisi Akande, the former ACN chairman well-schooled in Tinubu’s gamesmanship, must be retained as APC chairman. Those were the days when Tinubu’s word was law in ACN. But now in APC, he got into a shouting match with Tom Ikimi, who insisted the APC chairman must come from the South-South. Tinubu lost out to the new power-brokers of the APC governors. Bisi Akande resigned and the post was zoned to the South-South.
Then phase two of the battle began. Tinubu needed to ensure that the APC chairman is not his new arch-enemy, Tom Ikimi, a known Atiku Abubakar man. So he shopped for a more malleable alternative. He finally settled on John Odigie-Oyegun, former governor of Edo State. But when the permutations were done, Odigie-Oyegun could not be assured of victory in a democratic poll. The answer, therefore, in typical Asiwaju fashion, was to truncate democracy in APC.
Tinubu engaged in backroom deals whereby, instead of electing a new APC chairman, Odigie-Oyegun was rigged into the office. APC governors went along with this charade out of fear Tinubu might otherwise lose interest in the APC and deny it of valuable South-West support. The lie was sold to the convention that all other candidates had agreed to step down for Odigie-Oyegun. As a result, he was declared the new consensus chairman of the party.
However, Tom Ikimi refused to play ball. He not only boycotted the convention, he announced that the whole thing was 419, ACN style. Ikimi declared that the election was rigged principally by Tinubu, who he claimed “unilaterally” appointed Odigie-Oyegun as party-chairman. Said Ikimi: “I did not step down for anybody. When it became clear to me and many others, including my supporters, that the outcome of the contest would not be determined by a free and fair vote at the convention, most of the delegates, tired and weary after waiting for more than 24 hours for accreditation all day at Eagle Square, departed.”
Ikimi went further to reveal that the entire scam is designed to pave the way for a Muslim/Muslim APC presidential ticket with the Asiwaju himself as Muslim vice-presidential candidate. Hear Ikimi: “I felt strongly that if we were bound to proceed on the basis of zoning that both party offices as well as key offices in government such as President, Vice President etc., should be put on the table and zoned at the same time. My suggestion was motivated by strong information I had received of plots being hatched to steamroll a Muslim/Muslim Presidential and Vice Presidential ticket for the APC in the 2015 election and with specific individuals in mind as the beneficiaries.”
This plot is not just thickening: it is also unraveling. Tom Ikimi is not just an ordinary member of the APC. He is one of the founding-members. As a matter of fact, he presided over the negotiations leading to the merger of the different parties that make up the congress. So what we have here is more than speculative. It is coming from one of the APC insiders.
Femi Fani-Kayode also left the APC for the same reason. Stating publicly the reason for his departure, Fani-Kayode declared: “I am a devout and committed Christian and I cannot remain in a party where a handful of people that have sympathies for Boko Haram and that have a clear Islamic agenda are playing a leading role. This is made all the more untenable when some of those people are working hard silently and behind the scenes to impose a Muslim/Muslim ticket on the party for the Presidential elections next year.”
Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. The APC plan for a Muslim/Muslim ticket in this day and age in Nigeria is nothing short of madness. It will not fly. It will not only be rejected outright by Nigerians, it will tear the APC apart. Indeed, it is already beginning to do so. Bola Tinubu cannot be elected vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He cannot even win a free and fair election in Lagos today. That is how unpopular he has become in his South-West heartland. It did not help matters that he was quoted as insulting virtually all Yoruba traditional rulers. The defeat of sitting APC governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, by opposition PDP candidate, Ayo Fayose, is surely handwriting on the wall. Tinubu cannot deliver the South-West to the born-to-rule Northern cabals of the APC.
It is amazing how the political ambitions of some individuals can completely blind them to the political reality of present-day Nigeria. A situation where some terrorists are holding the country and 219 Christian girls hostage by insisting that Nigeria must become an Islamic Republic does not permit the scheming of a political party that insists power must return to the North to present a presidential ticket where both the president and vice-president are Muslims. This would surely be interpreted by Christians and Muslims alike as capitulation to Boko Haram. It would also confirm the suspicions of some that the APC is sympathetic to the Boko Haram cause.
The argument that the Muslim/Muslim ticket of Abiola/Kingibe was accepted by Nigerians in 1993 is disingenuous. That ticket was accepted because the presidential candidate, Abiola, was from the South; and he was running against Bashir Tofa, another Muslim but from the North. 2014 is not 1993. A Muslim/Muslim APC ticket today would combine the insistence that power must return to the predominantly Muslim North, with yet another political incendiary; the Islamisation of Nigeria according to a Boko Haram agenda.
This would not only fail, it would be politically disastrous. It would ensure that the 2015 election will be fought on religious grounds. It would then become apparent to everyone, Christian and Muslim alike, that Nigeria needs to be protected from the APC. The very fact that major power-brokers in the APC are even seriously entertaining this idea is eloquent testimony that the APC is up to no good. The religious situation in Nigeria today is particularly delicate, especially given the malicious bombing of churches and killing of Christians by Muslim insurgents in the North. How then can a political party that aspires to rule the entire country be so insensitive to the prevailing situation?
Elections are not about choosing between the best alternatives. Most times, they are about choosing between bad alternatives. The PDP and the APC are both lousy options. If we had the druthers, we would say “a plague on both their houses.” Unfortunately, they are the only viable choices available to Nigerians in the coming elections. Forced to choose between the two, there can be no question that the PDP is by far the lesser evil.
APC is a party of convenience. It is the party of autocratic political masqueraders pretending to be democrats. It is the party of power-hungry politicians with regional agendas. It is a party of those inclined to plunge Nigeria into sectarianism because personal ambition is given greater saliency over the national interest. It is the party of those who have remained largely silent and complicit in the face of Boko Haram insurgency. It is the party of those who are inclined to use the national tragedy of the kidnapping of innocent Chibok schoolgirls for party-political gain.
The very fact that Fani-Kayode felt the need to protest to the powers-that-be in the APC that “the APC is not an affiliate of Al Qaeda and neither is it a Boko Haram party, a Janjaweed party or a Muslim Brotherhood Party” shows it is beginning to be perceived as one or all of the above. In life, perceptions are often more important than reality. It is a testament to the disdain with which the APC holds Nigerians that it is doggedly refusing to address these growing perceptions. On the contrary, it seems inclined to confirm them.
The APC is in a catch-22 situation. If it does not field Buhari as presidential candidate, it will lose invaluable Northern support that only Buhari seems able to guarantee. If it does not field Tinubu as its vice-presidential candidate, it will lose Tinubu’s ostensible South-West coattails. The answer is the political suicide of a Buhari/Tinubu ticket, since both politicians are Muslims. Whatever the permutations, an APC presidential ticket that includes Tinubu will end up as a Muslim/Muslim ticket, because the APC does not have a viable Northern Christian presidential candidate.
In the meantime, the APC is going to provide the political Nollywood of the coming months. The upshot of these shenanigans is not only that the APC will come to grief in the coming presidential elections, but that Bola Tinubu will lose his meal-ticket in the South-West.
Femi Aribisala is a political commentator and he wrote this piece for Premium Times.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.