Opinion: Tinubu’s Agenda For Nigeria’s Greatness – By Ehi Braimah

A close confidant of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), told me last year that Tinubu will win the presidential election in 2023 once he is able to clinch the ticket at the party’s presidential primary. The confidant is a key member of the South West Agenda (SWAGA) 2023, a political group that has been campaigning vigorously for Tinubu’s presidential bid for about two years.

Having scaled that important hurdle in spite of deliberately orchestrated threats to his ambition, the Asiwaju can now heave a sigh of relief and relish in his victory laps. Up till the very end of the dramatic primary in Abuja, banana peels where thrown at Tinubu by members of his own party. It was unfortunate that Abdullahi Adamu, the party’s chairman and senate president Ahmed Lawan and their collaborators, opted to play a spoiler’s role.

Thankfully, President Muhammadu Buhari, after several ambush tactics failed, was saved the embarrassment of endorsing “consensus” candidate Ahmed Lawan after the 13 APC governors from the North thwarted the move and insisted that the presidency should be southbound. Previously, former president Goodluck Jonathan and Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele were also scripted as key actors in a failed gambit.

Lawan was on the ballot at the presidential primary and he used the opportunity to test his popularity but he was a distant fourth on the tally with 152 votes. That ambush, had it succeeded, would have been a low point of the Buhari administration.

All eyes are now fixed on the presidential election scheduled to hold in February next year where Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), will engage in a slugfest, an epic moment and news headliner that may become known as the “clash of the titans.” There are presidential candidates from other political parties but it is obvious that the attention from around the world would be more on Tinubu and Atiku.

These are the choices before us and we must make a decision on who to vote for. Some analysts say that choosing between Tinubu and Atiku is not different from making a Hobson’s choice because they are from the two dominant political parties. However, their view is that Peter Obi, the Labour Party presidential candidate, has become a third option.

Except we want to deceive ourselves, it is difficult to achieve a major electoral success from a fringe political party. In the major democracies of the world with multi-party system, what you will find are two dominant parties.

For example, in the United States were we borrowed the presidential system of government, they have the Democratic Party and Republican Party; in the UK, they have the Labour and Conservative Parties and in Ghana which is just next door to us, you will find the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party

Asiwaju Tinubu has never hidden his desire and ambition – which some people call a “sense of entitlement” – to become Nigeria’s president. He believes he has paid his dues and the time has come to reap the benefits of his “political investment” over the years. And what’s wrong with that?

Before the final outcome was determined at the APC presidential primary where Tinubu defeated 13 other presidential hopefuls with 1, 271 votes, the popular narrative was that it was only the Asiwaju that was capable of giving Atiku a run for his money and political capital.

No matter hard how sections of the electorate try to disparage these two candidates, they will be on the presidential ballot next year. We should worry less about their faces and where they come from; instead, our focus should be on who can lead Nigeria to greatness. What do they they have in store for us?

You can support any candidate of your choice but it should not turn friends into enemies. I agree with Reno Omokri, lawyer, pastor and popular social media activist when he tweeted that Nigerians should ask for a “reliable government, not religious government.”

This admonition has become necessary because the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) announced that Tinubu and Atiku’s running mates must be Christians. It is understandable that our diverse society throws up such religious and emotional sentiments to achieve the “right balance” in our political calculations and access to privileges.

Let us take the case of Tinubu who is a Muslim from southwestern Nigeria. Without prejudice to who will become his running mate, his focus is to win the presidential election next year by adopting the “right strategy”.

Tinubu’s traducers have used the media since last year to say that a Muslim-Muslim ticket will undermine Christians. Really? They argue that if it worked for the late Chief MKO Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe in 1993, it was not going to work in 2023.

Asiwaju’s wife, Remi, is a Christian and pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), where vice president Yemi Osinbajo is also a pastor. What does that tell us? If the pragmatic decision is for Tinubu to pick a Muslim as running mate to enhance his chances of winning the presidential election because politics is a game of numbers, does it remove the fact that he is from the Southwest? Does it make him any less patriotic or does it change his roots as a Yoruba man?

Would there not be other appointments for Christians to achieve the desired “balance, fairness and equity”? Settling for a Muslim-Muslim ticket is not the only thing that Tinubu needs to do to win the election in 2023 and the intention is not to undermine Christians. Indeed, there are many other boxes to be ticked to ensure victory at the polls. To the best of my knowledge, Asiwaju is not a religious bigot.

In a manner of speaking, Tinubu should assume he is playing a chess game and his winning moves, like a grandmaster does, must earn him a checkmate; that would be his best strategy to win the presidential election.

That strategy includes consultations with the northern APC governors and other stakeholders to produce a shortlist of running mates. In addition, the goodwill shuttles to vice president Osinbajo and Yahaya Bello, the Kogi state governor, are important first steps in the engagement process that would continue to achieve inclusion.

I have no doubt that all the presidential aspirants and other leaders of the party will team up with Asiwaju to form a formidable force to overcome the challenge from PDP and Atiku. Expect more political leaders and governors to throw their weight behind Tinubu as we approach the general elections next year.

The conversation at this time ought to shift to whether Tinubu can lead Nigeria to greatness. From all indications, Tinubu can because he is a strong and intelligent leader. Asiwaju displayed this rare courage in Abeokuta recently when he addressed delegates just before the presidential primary, stepping on toes in the process. But he didn’t mind because he knew he was speaking the truth about political events and betrayals.

Tinubu fought for our democracy since the days he was exiled from Nigeria alongside other pro-democracy activists over the June 12, 1993 presidential election crisis. That election which was annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) was won by Chief MKO Abiola who died fighting to actualise his mandate freely given to him by Nigerians.

Long before he declared his presidential ambition, Asiwaju Tinubu, the Jagaban Borgu, released a seven-point agenda that would guide him and his team in a leadership transformational journey for Nigeria. The document titled, “The Re-birth Manifesto”, is available on the internet.

The first item on the agenda is “Leadership” which Tinubu will provide himself. It is transformational leadership that would unite all Nigerians and lead to the attainment of shared goals and vision. The second thematic pillar is “Technology”. The idea is to leverage modern technology for digital transformation and economic growth.

The third is “Security” followed by “Infrastructural Development”. The fifth pillar is “Home Grown Businesses” that can scale and compete in global markets. “Education” is sixth on the agenda while the seventh pillar is ”True Federalism and Democratic Processes” to promote democracy, develop human potential and create conditions for prosperity and progress.

Let us be clear: we have never had a shortage of ideas; the problem has always been implementation and getting results. This is the area I’m confident Tinubu will make a difference and win laurels if he becomes Nigeria’s next president.

A dip stick survey revealed why admirers of Tinubu will vote for him. They include his record as a strong and fearless leader, creative problem solver, and his legacy as Lagos state governor; talent management, rich political capital built over the years, mastery of political economy, expansive political network and goodwill, a highly detrabalised leader, promoter of diversity and his vision for true federalism.

Going forward, Asiwaju Tinubu, a nuanced political strategist who understands the deft moves in “political aggregation”, should continue to build bridges across all the six geo-political regions, especially in the South South and South East.

A perception audit will reveal a lot about Tinubu (positive and negative attributes) but his communication strategists must portray him as a strong leader and intelligent statesman who is ready and able to lead Nigeria to greatness.

Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)

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