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Is Buhari Repeating IBB’s Error?

“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts.” – Nikki Giovanni

The poor outing by Bola Tinubu at Chatham House in the UK on December 7, 2022, was a showcase of the sore thumb of Nigeria’s ruling party as we inch towards a much-awaited democratic baton switch in 2023. How else would you describe the global advertisement of the presidential candidate’s apparent lack of fitness for the job he is seeking?

Even if Tinubu was a successful Lagos governor 15 years ago and godfathered all of today’s political actors in his area, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Tinubu’s current slips, actions, and inaction suggest an utter lack of physical and mental stamina for the presidency he is eyeing. What a pity for his handlers who daily spin to squeeze stones from water.

Whenever they try to be creative and come up with something new and convincing, they run into more trouble. The Chatham House show of shame was a clear case of trying to jump out of a hot frying pan and finding oneself in the fire. Trying to avert Tinubu’s gaffes, the handlers pushed him into a more embarrassing mess at the international forum. The harm, this time, is not only to him and his party but to the 200 million-plus Nigerians whose ruling party could only present a man who cannot answer questions as a potential heir to the throne. 

APC further rubbed salt on the injury by celebrating that abysmal outing at a fast food joint in London, dancing before delightful dishes watched by millions of the hungry in Nigeria. Observers wonder about the motive for relaying the clip to abject multi-dimensional poor Nigerians whom they even refused their interrogation back home. Tinubu handlers have become like the proverbial hole diggers who fail to understand that the more they dig the more they enter the pit.

Sometime last year, a silk wig and serving minister, while struggling to extricate his principal from an alleged narcotics link, ended up roping him in the most. Festus Kayemo said Tinubu was never involved in illicit drug deals in the US but was just a flatmate to some barons and had nothing to do with the illicit business. But social media soldiers added to him that he was indeed a treasure to his mates, showing how strategic he was in the room. Keyamo probably was being cheeky or feigning ignorance of the old saying that your kind of friends tell volumes about who you are. That’s by the way. 

Political Musings this week will be looking at the historical connection Tinubu’s presidential ticket (for 2023) has with Moshood Abiola’s presidential ticket of 1993 and how the incumbent president is following the same doomed (yes, doomed because it never saw the light of day) path trodden by the then President Ibrahim Babangida 30 years ago. That same edgy and irritable trajectory!

When Abiola picked the 1993 ticket of the defunct Social Democratic Party, he was not the choice of the military rulers who had written him off as a military contractor and tycoon who should be content with his wealth. The junta considered him too rich to add the presidency to his plumage. General Babangida allowed him to run, believing he would lose in the final polls and his opposite number in the National Republican Convention, Bashir Tofa, by the same calculation, was too unpopular to make it to the Aso Rock Villa.

That would allow the general and political tactician [a.k.a. Maradona] to wangle his way into his dream civilian presidency. It was for this devious motive that they even allowed him pick a Muslim, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe as his running mate against the popular and reasonable demand of Muslim/ Christian ticket for balancing, sense of belonging and stability 

Abiola, a friend whom IBB had helped through business links with the military, was seen as an ally who understood the game. When Abiola turned his wealth to the stomach-minded party delegates and sort of bought the presidential ticket, he did not reckon with playing ball with “those in power and office” (apologies to IBB in another context). Long story short, the bubble burst eventually, leading to a protracted political impasse otherwise called the June 12 imbroglio.

With the February 25 elections around the corner, there are similarities to 1993 in what is playing out. Except if voters help to resolve the situation with their PVC as things are right now, President Buhari, either suffering intimidation or compelled by friendship, is prepared for the Tinubu succession despite the questionable baggage stuffed in the contestant’s cupboard.

Before and after June 2022 when Tinubu “bought” the APC ticket, a lot has been unearthed about him that puts his capacity to do the job in doubt. But they keep soldiering on and preaching power grab with intensity.

Unless the voters decide to solve the problem by voting for Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, or any of the other majors in the race, Nigerians might be heading for a repeat of 1993…when somebody not wanted by the ruling oligarchy wins the election using his wealth and like Abiola did 30 years ago disregarding the sensibilities of Nigerian christians in picking same faith ticket.

After the June 12, 1993, annulment and its attendant consequences, no good head, no matter how provoked, would ever consider truncating the people’s mandate again in this land. This fact would not remove the obvious unpleasant repercussions of having such a person at such troubled times in our polity. To go on with the old ways amidst new challenges may be catastrophic. We are all products of our past but nothing supports that we must be prisoners of it.

The start of a race is less important than the finish. History has a way of always clinging to the ending well while telling your story. At the recently concluded World Cup 2022, Lionel Messi and his Argentinian national team opened their match, losing to a soccer underling, Saudi Arabia, but went through to win the trophy of the 32-nation tournament while the Saudis were long gone and forgotten in Qatar.

President Buhari rode into the Presidency on the crest of his anti-corruption mantra. Expectations were high and the people believed they would be met with Buhari as the helmsman. In less than six months from now, Buhari will vacate the presidency. How will his report card read?

While the assessment card will carry several subheads people will be more interested in the ending aspect. His successor and his transition plan. If Tinubu will succeed him, certainly, it will not attract many thumbs up; worse still if the electoral process that will produce the successor is flawed.

After a disastrous outing in governance, can Buhari afford to further deface his record by bequeathing Nigerians a Tinubu or conducting a flawed election? Nigeria has been so gracious to President Buhari as one of the only two citizens granted a second chance to rule as a youth (military) and as an elder (civilian). The second person, Olusegun Obasanjo, at 85 years old, is crisscrossing Nigeria, trying to right the wrongs of the unjust Nigeria of which he is not innocent.

Buhari, therefore, like Obasanjo, owes this land a lot of gratitude and would want to deliberately do or undo anything capable of undermining nationhood and national progress in any way. Among the regrets of IBB to this day is the deliberate mismanagement of his succession plans. All the laudable democratic structures of IBB on which subsequent  republics have rested since 1999 have been drowned by the terminal record of succession. 

Rather than pick Babangida’s error, Buhari should learn from it and ensure that he has a glorious ending as that is the only way to mitigate his obvious failure in good governance. Mistakes are part of human life and that explains why erasure was invented. In some circumstances what is done cannot be undone but it would be foolish to let it happen again which all free, fair, and credible elections will address. Mistakes we are told are opportunities for learning that are not expected. God, help us.

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