Opinion: A Pan-Nigerian Ticket – By Sam Omatseye
They wanted to shred the list but it ended a watershed for democracy. Some said it was down to seven, down to three. A frenzy in Abuja air. Other aspirants broke out in arms. Lawan as consensus turned out a con. Eventually, they let a thousand flowers bloom. In the pageant, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerged the fairest of them all. In his sunshine, quite a few flowers faded and drooped. Some others had a little bloom, and no more.
We all saw it as man and wife, at Eagle Square, walked hand in hand, like a re-enactment of a new couple on the aisle. Decked in blue, the duo’s walk resembled what the French call tableau vivant. Tinubu in solemn stride beside Senator Oluremi Tinubu. Cameras clicked, the sun in full throttle, the air benign. Of course, party members’ eyes gazed, bloodshot from hours of voting and waiting without sleep; some teary with joy. Victory enriched insomnia.
The walk was not just a parade, but a parable. He had been at the walk for a long time, and he had survived many ambushes, many manoeuvres, many a Judas kiss. But victory often is the calm after the storm of war.
What we saw at the last hour was the Nigerian story from the APC northern governors. Their scheme to give the president to the south is without precedent in Nigerian history. It is honour of patriots. They contrasted with the PDP who conflated fairness with hegemony, and browbeat the party’s south to yield to subservience in the name of democracy. Theirs is democratic servitude.
The northern governors’ decision also marked a Fulani-Yoruba synergy unknown to history. There was no war, no Solagberu example of the 19th century. No 1840. It was a handshake across the desert.
This came from the work of Asiwaju himself. He had been at it for long, working peace and harmony with the north. His heroes did not have the genius. Awo, with all his majesty, could not step across the chasm of suspicion. His wisdom, ascetic piety and ideology did not melt the northern heart. M.K.O. Abiola had humour and money, and had made many friends. He won the street on June 12, but could not enter their power sanctum. Asiwaju brought this watershed, and it was possible because President Muhammadu Buhari was able to rein in the rabble. He was because it was time, and because the person was right. Cometh the hero, cometh the hour. Tinubu was the ultimate in trust: he built the human connection. During the Cold War, President Richard Nixon asserted that human connection was more important than rhetoric and weapons race. He invited Brezhnev and Mao home, as friends rather than foes. They signed entente and opened the world to China. Tinubu understands we are human first before we are anything else.
It is not always a guarantee, but a work in progress. Where he had trouble was inside. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as candidate was an example of a naïve man, a victim of burlesque theatre. A Malvolio in Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night. We saw that even when he mounted the podium at Eagle Square. A fawning crowd cheered him. He, too, smiling, basked in the confetti of flattery. That moment summarised his whole candidacy. But it was not the flattery but treachery. Some commentators have wielded the Bible and political theory in vain in his defence. Some quoted Joseph, who became bigger than his brothers. But Joseph was loyal to his brothers. They betrayed him, and God vindicated him. He turned his eye away from his master’s wife and hence he rose to be the second in command. Joseph betrayed not; he was betrayed.
Others say he had a right to run. No one denied that. There is right. There is decency. Even the Bible says, some things are lawful but they may not be expedient. This generation must learn to understand the meaning of loyalty. Many don’t and want to distort scripture to touch the unclean thing. There is a reason Lucifer and Judas are no favorites in scripture. I also think that prophesy has a role in this saga. Some saw a future that didn’t exist. Pastors must be wary. They deceive many politicians and imbue them with the Malvolio complex, a delusion of grandeur. Hence Jeremiah wailed, “He that hath a dream let him tell a dream.. they are imaginations of their hearts.” He also said, “the prophets prophesy false and the priests bear rule by their means and my people love to have it so.” They flatter aspirants by turning fantasy into prophesy.
Some of them, not just Osinbajo, were baboons waiting for Buhari’s boon. Vampires around Buhari were merchants. They hoodwinked aspirants that Buhari wanted them. The fools released money. They are too ashamed to go public. If the story is told, it will make for a great farce on stage. There was a certain fellow who boasted that Osinbajo was the cabal’s darling. He capered in his wounded prose. He should have known that he was selling Osinbajo as a stooge of the cabal. His professorial mind was not subtle enough to know he had made a mess of his case, even to whom he was cringing.
In Yoruba land, there is a word called Omoluabi, and hardly any word has its exact meaning. For want of a better translation, it means a good soul without guile. Yoruba treasure it because it has become, through their history, their major weakness. As an Itsekiri man, I watch it in our history since we descend from the Yoruba, just separated by water. Our forbears crossed over, especially from the Ijebu and Ondo areas. My great grandmother was from Ife. So I remember the role that Dore Numa played in giving away the redoubtable Nana to the British. We have over the ages watched out for the Numas in our midst. The Yoruba have had it a number of times. When Afonja broke ranks. In Old Oyo palace intrigues, like Basorun Gaa’s. In the Yoruba Wars. In the Solagberu and Onikoyi episode. In the Akintola quagmire. Even in the June 12 story, when even a monarch became a conscript. In his recent book, The Road Never Forgets, Yemi Ogunbiyi writes of how a general wanted him to spend a million dollars to sell June 12 annulment to the world. He said no, but another Yoruba fell for the moral bait.
Many who watch or read Soyinka’s Death and The King’s Horseman should note that Elesin Oba is loyal to his king until it is time to fulfil his pact. He loves life more. That kernel of betrayal dramatized by our best playwright is also a cautionary tale to his people. I know of no literary critic of Yoruba extraction, or any kind, who has drawn this ethno-psychological point. Few have seen Akintola or even the 19th century quislings in the poetic drama. It’s an act of vainglory to say it is democracy at work. There is decency before the vote. The mass of the tribe often vote for Omoluabi. That is the redeeming light.
Hence, I say, anyone who saw Osinbajo as right has a Judas in his heart. When I asked him how he handled the stories of brothers undercutting him, Tinubu replied, “I am taking a geometric approach to it. The fastest route between two points is a straight line. I won’t be distracted.” His was, in a sense, a Pythagorean triumph. Pythagoras was not only a math genius but he also reconciled it with his philosophy of life.
At last, it is time to heal, as Abraham Lincoln said after he won the civil war, “With malice toward none and charity to all…time to bind the…wounds.” Another battle, he knows, beckons.
A Pan-Nigerian ticket
The search for APC vice presidential candidate has whipped up more tension than necessary. CAN says no Muslim-Muslim ticket. I wonder where CAN is getting its wisdom. Were they in Nigeria when Gowon was number one and Wayne was number two and Ejoor was number three? Did they not know that Buhari and Idiagbon were both Fulani. When in the past seven years they cried over herdsmen spree of blood, did they hold Osinbajo, the vice president, to account? It was Buhari they blamed.
The president, not the vice, is the custodian of the ticket. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is two for the price of one. He is Muslim, his wife, Senator Oluremi, is Christian, and a pastor for that matter. Was Tinubu not the first to turn Lagos schools to the missionaries? Did anyone cry that he was Muslim? The major annual church event in that state, where Pastor Adeboye and others preside, was his baby when he was governor. it’s been on up till today. It is rhetoric of deceit to call it Muslim-Muslim ticket. It is a human-human ticket, or a Nigerian-Nigerian or pan-Nigerian ticket. When the APC men cried against pairing him with Buhari in 2015, it was not because he is Muslim, it was a ruse to deny him the ticket. This is realpolitik for APC. They have to decide whether they want to do the “proper” thing and lose, or do the bold thing and win. It is a Machiavellian imperative. The option is in the winds.
For those calling for a Christian running mate, remember Tinubu’s life mate is Christian.