Many politicians and analysts may have been shocked over last week’s comment by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Lagos State governor, that it was premature to be talking about 2023 at this point of Nigeria’s political development. Asked about his opinion on who should succeed President Buhari in 2023, the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress said “that time is not now; we have just finished one election and Mr. President is busy sorting out the budget, working for the people of this country…Of course, restlessness of politics is going to be there, but any lover of this country will not talk about the succession plan yet.” Whereas Tinubu’s reasoning that talking about politics now could be at the expense of governance is persuasive, the political ambition of the man himself in the elections of 2023 has been a subject of public discourse in the country in the last 5 years. How can the same person be seen to be condemning the trend? Is he merely playing politics?
Some people are likely to answer the question in the affirmative because Tinubu’s plan to contest the Presidency in 2023 is an open secret. Only, last month, Abdullahi Umar Farouk, a senior legislative aide to Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives was quoted to have said that Tinubu would succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 in recognition of his contribution to the development of the country’s democracy. Farouk, a three-time member of the House of Representatives from Kebbi State, stated this at the inauguration of the national executive committee of the Tinubu Media Team, TMT2023. So, do the restless politicians Tinubu says are distracting President Buhari include his own supporters? Evidence that not many believed in Tinubu’s admonition is immediately supplied by the stance of the General Overseer of Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare who had earlier revealed that it was his own turn to become President after Buhari. Bakare was not just making a prediction, he also backed up his point that it was important for Buhari to influence his successor in 2023 so that his legacies would remain intact. According to Bakare, “God is into succession; anyone in government that does not concern himself about succession is destroying his own legacy because the person coming after you can just mess up everything… Let us ask God for grace of accurate succession; that Buhari will not hand over the baton of government and governance to thieves and perverts, to corrupt and power-drunk individuals, but those who are true patriots, who will serve like our founding fathers served.” The pastor sounded quite genuine in imploring the President to institutionalize a system of succession in the country and join the league of strong world leaders like the late Deng Xiaoping of China; Nelson Mandela of South Africa; and Goh Chok Tong of Singapore, but the Presidency has since distanced President Buhari from getting involved in determining his successor. This was clarified by Femi Adesina, a presidential spokesman, that whereas Buhari might be interested in who succeeds him, he will not manipulate the process. It can therefore be argued that Tinubu’s admonition, Bakare’s recommendations and the presidency’s response have clearly established that discussing the 2023 elections and matters pertaining to them has since kick-started and no one can stop Nigerians from the political culture of politics, politics and politics without governance. Indeed, there is already a group known as the Pathfinder Consortium working for a presidential aspirant in the 2023 elections. One Shodipe-Dosunmu, the Director-General of the Consortium says the group was formed to seek support for and campaign for the candidacy of a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Bode George. A major newspaper in the country has also claimed to have been told by Chief George himself of his plan not only in the race but also against the All Progressives Congress chieftain, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, at the presidential poll in 2023. What this seems to suggest is that some people already lining up against Tinubu are doing so because they disbelieve the sincerity of his call for restraint and caution over 2023. One analyst imagines that many crises currently going in the country concern 2023 and that those involved are linked to the same APC leader. The crises rocking the APC chapters in Edo and Osun states are among areas that have been so mentioned. The argument is that the caution against distracting President Buhari does not appear to have been extended to Governors Obaseki and Oyetola who are currently being distracted by APC factions. In Osun, loyalists to Minister Rauf Aregbesola, a Tinubu man are at loggerheads with Governor Gboyega Oyetola while in Edo, loyalists to Adams Oshiomhole another Tinubu ally are not allowing Governor Obaseki to have a breathing space. The bone of contention in both cases as we hear, has to do with alignments for the 2023 elections. In the circumstance, telling anyone that it is premature to talk about 2023 will not fly. In truth, party loyalists in the country have never listened to the voice of reason concerning the need to let the nation develop. Rather they are forever scheming for personal gains at the expense of national development. This they have always done even in breach of electoral rules and guidelines. During the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, a group known as the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) against the admonition of the then President began as far back as 2012 to mobilize for him to contest the 2015 elections. They held political rallies all over the nation collecting signatories of those who were allegedly pleading with Jonathan to show interest in an election that was 3 years away. The Buhari support groups have not act differently in the last 5 years. Interestingly, both Presidents Buhari and Jonathan pleaded with the enthusiasts in vain to allow them govern. Even the strong argument that the law disallows electioneering less than 90 days before voting was patently ignored. If so, how can Tinubu succeed in stopping his numerous admirers from also jumping the gun? In fairness to the political stalwarts, an appeal to them to adhere to either the electoral law or political decency cannot persuade them as politics is the only thriving industry in Nigeria today. For some time now, a fact of life in this country is undoubtedly that one can only get favours of any type through political patronage. For admissions into schools, employment into government offices that are done secretly and even promotions in Ministries, Parastatals and Departments are all premised, these days, on partisanship. In addition, it is only politicians who get regular illegal pensions, bogus gratuities and humongous severance allowances. Why for goodness sake, would politicians and their private armies not start from now to talk about 2030 and beyond?