If the message this week about the illegitimacy of the tenure elongation for the All Progressives Congress chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, isn’t quite the end of Oyegun’s politics in APC, it is undoubtedly the beginning of the end.
President Muhammadu Buhari, asserting his authority over the party this week, technically ended Oyegun’s tenure with a subtle notice to him to prepare the party’s national secretariat for a new landlord.
“I think if we deviate from the constitutional provisions, we might be endangering the fortunes of our party,” Buhari said. “If the tenure of our party executives can be legally faulted, then it means that any nominations and primary elections that they may conduct can also be faulted.”
It was a bigger blow to Oyegun’s aspiration to lead the party during this election cycle. He didn’t see it coming.
To own the victory, Tinubu has said that “President Buhari showed principle and courage by steering the party back to its original and correct path. His action has saved the party from serious legal turmoil… such a predicament would constitute an unnecessary and mortal blow to the party and its role in promoting progressive governance to Nigeria.”
But one inescapable fact is that Buhari truly needs to sacrifice Oyegun to win the hearts and minds of party faithful in next cycle of elections since he’s determined to run again against counsel.
To succeed in his re-election campaign, Buhari must win Lagos, where a national leader of APC and the custodian of its history, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu holds the firepower. With the bullying tactics of politics, Tinubu has made it clear to those who understand his political style that APC cannot go into the next election with Oyegun as chairman of the party. The sins of Oyegun are many, clearly.
In September 2016, Tinubu said: “From the party’s inception, the principles of democratic fairness and justice were to guide APC internal deliberations… Chairman John Oyegun has breached these good pledges in a most overt and brazen display. In doing so, Oyegun has dealt a heavy blow to the very party he professes to lead. It is an awful parent who suffocates his own child for the sake of a few naira. The party was supposed to buttress APC members elected to government at all levels. Because of Oyegun’s conduct of our affairs, the party is rapidly becoming an albatross to those it was meant to help.”
That statement came from Tinubu after humiliation he suffered in Ondo State, following the election of Rotimi Akeredolu, as party flag bearer in a controversial party primary for governorship election in the state.
In a “you’re undermining my presidential assignment,” letter to Oyegun in February, Tinubu said: “Instead of being a bulwark of support as promised, you positioned yourself in active opposition to the goal of resuscitating the progressive and democratic nature of the APC. As a party, we have strived to be the best, present hope for the nation. Yet, your goal appears to be something of a lesser pedigree.”
These heavy words from a party leader–who holds no particular executive position–to the chairman of his own party could have been used to chase Tibubu out of APC, but the stake that Tinubu has in APC is much more than the position of any executive. He’s a de facto party leader and navigator.
Ostensibly, when Buhari sided with Tinubu this week to speak against tenure elongation for Oyegun, he was not just interested in political fairness or constitution of APC, he has his eyes on the ball: Lagos voters.
This is the arithmetic. The Independent National Electoral Commission’s statistics show that the north-west geopolitical zone has the highest number of registered voters in the country with a total of 18,505,984 voters as of January 2018. The next region is the south-west zone, with a total number of 14,626,800 registered voters.
In these south-west votes is Tinubu’s firepower. This is what former President Goodluck Jonathan knew in 2011 that made him built an alliance with Tinubu to get Lagos votes and some states of the south-west, except Osun State, though they were in different political parties.
The figure for Lagos voters today is in the region of 6,048,156, making the state the biggest in terms of voters’ power in the country. Kano comes second with 5,149,070 voters. INEC is expecting about 80 million voters across the country by December, the deadline set for registration of voters.
As it is, Buhari could pull off a win as long as there are no surprises in seven solidly APC states in the North-west, including Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara and he clears Lagos votes.
The north-west has the largest registered voters with Kano—one of the north-west states— having second biggest voting power in the country.
Of course, it is important that Buhari gains at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states before he can be declared winner in the 2019 elections. That mathematics still favours him as long as he has Tinubu on his side. With overwhelming Lagos votes and the whole of north-west (his own region where his popularity is surging) for him, Buhari only needs to maintain leads in the rest of the country to win a re-election.
Sadly with the way we run our politics, key election issues such as security, education, economy, infrastructure building and corruption will not be major driver of the 2019 elections.
We are just 11 months to the elections with no sustained debates or street protests against certain poor policies of Buhari government, the Malabu malady, official sleaze that have been reported against people serving in this government and the herdsmen debacle.
Naturally, the world’s famous richest man and co-founder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, doesn’t intervene in government affairs, though he’s a big funder of many of Nigeria’s social programs, his hometruth to Buhari this week on his economic blueprint should energize Nigerians to demand for true progressive government on pressing social issues the same way young people trooped out in America last Saturday to demand action against gun violence.
I believe Gates’ statement on President Buhari’s Blueprint is the opposite of the mendacious tales that the president is aware of about his administration, though Gates is not saying anything new.
The present economic templates being used by the Muhammadu Buhari government according to Gates, is not cutting to the heart of the unique needs of Nigerians at present.
In essence, the philanthropist and founder of Microsoft Corporation seems to be reminding us of a wasted nearly three-year period of this government to achieve better life for Nigerians.
This is what Gates is saying in one breath: “Poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.”
That quote is not Gates’. It is the preamble of the Goal 1 of the Sustainable Development Goals—end poverty in all its forms everywhere—which Nigeria pledged to achieve.
It is now highly unlikely that Buhari will be defeated, if he contests the next election, simply because of our dysfunctional political process that limits electorate power to seek revenge at the poll.
But Gates has chosen to bring his influence into political debates in Nigeria by telling Buhari to make Nigerians thrive. “If you invest in their health, education, and opportunities- the human capital we are talking about today, then they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity. If you don’t, however, then it is very important to recognise that there will be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow,” he said.
He has re-echoed what many Nigerians have said that “People without roads ports and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.” Will Buhari listen?