Nigeria Matters

'One Nigeria': To Be Or Not To Be? (4)

h. Limited popularity of Tofa. Tofa, compared to Abiola was not widely known, he was like a novice. He didn’t have the kind of connection that Abiola had. He lacked the charisma that personality that Abiola had. In addition, his base was limited mainly to the north. He also didn’t have a strong appeal in the south in general. Even the fact that his running mate was from the south east was not enough to get the votes of the Ndigbos en masse. His running mate was not that popular in the south. Moreover, the Ndigbos saw the post of Vice President as more of decoration than real power. This gave Abiola a strong advantage.

i. Lack of resources and experience. Tofa’s party did not hav e enough resources and experience to compete with Abiola’s party, the SDP.

All the above factors together contributed immensely and equally to the emergence of Abiola as the winner of the June 12, 1992 presidential election. Having said this, nevertheless, it is worth noting that Abiola’s case was ‘unique’ and was more of an ‘exception’ than the norm. The probability of Nigeria having another Abiola at least in the next 50 years, with all the above mentioned factors in his favour, is practically equal to zero. The north, by denying Abiola the presidency, undoubtedly, shot themselves in the leg.


Today, the only Yoruba politician with the best chance of contesting against a northern candidate is former governor of Lagos state, Ahmed Tinubu. Tinubu, in a way, could be compared to Abiola. Like abiola, he is a muslim. like Abiola, he’s charismatic. Like Abiola, he has a very strong personality. Like Abiola, he is a politician of national repute. Like Abiola, he is a good orator. Like Abiola, he is defiant. Like Abiola, he is one of the key leaders of a national party. Like Abiola, he has an impressive following among his kinsmen, the Yorubas. Like Abiola, he is wealthy. Like Abiola, he is well known in the north. Unfortunately, all these will not be enough to give Tinubu a shot at the presidency against a northern opponent in the future.

Judging by Tinubu’s moves, it’s obvious that he has his eyes set at the highest post in the country. He sees himself in the shoes of Abiola come some day. Unfortunately, with all respect to Tinubu, he is not Abiola, and his dream of becoming Nigeria’s president in the nearest future is more of an illusion than reality. There are many factors that will make the realisation of Tinubu’s political ambition unattainable. They include:

a. Home base. Tinubu, in order to even have a chance to be considered as a serious presidential candidate must have a strong home base. and in order to achieve this, he must emerge as the ‘undisputable’ leader of the Yorubas. One of Obasanjo’s major achievement as president of Nigeria was undoubtedly his division of the Yorubas. Obasanjo realised that his political survival and relevance depended on dividing the Yorubas. He was aware of the fact that a united and enlightened Yoruba nation that speaks with one voice is a serious threat to his authority and reelection in 2003. Therefore, he spared no resources and efforts in dividing the Yorubas into different warring political blocks. Today, different Yoruba political and social groups are laying claim to the dealership of the Yorubas, a post that has been vacant since the demise of Pa awolowo, the undisputed leader of the Yorubas. Becoming the only and undisputable leader of the Yorubas is the first, major and most difficult hurdle that Tinubu must cross. It is a very serious obstacle because Tinubu has formidable opponents who are also interested in Papa awo’s throne. In addition, to the best of my knowledge, there is a very strong opposition to the emergence of Tinubu as successor to Papa Awo, in the inner Yoruba territories. What makes Tinubu’s task even more difficult is the fact that his popularity is limited mainly to Lagos. Moreover, Yoruba leaders are first chosen by their intellectuals, scholars and political elites before being sent to the people for approval.

b. The Atiku factor. Tinubu’s political flirting with Atiku, in my opinion, has become sort of a dilemma for him. Since it’s now obvious that Atiku’s presidential ambition is over and unattainable. But if Tinubu eventually decides to run for the presidency, he will definitely need the support of Atiku, a northerner, to deliver the votes of the north for him. On the other hand, Atiku has become a ‘political liability’ for Tinubu. Atiku had to go to court to get his name on the ballot box after being initially prevented by the National Electoral Committee, acting on corruption allegation both from the EFCC and his former boss, Segun Obasanjo. Atiku finally lost his political base after the gubernatorial candidate from his party lost by a wide margin to PDP’s candidate at the just concluded gubernatorial election in his state, Adamawa. This in essence means that politically Atiku is dead, and is a political liability to Tinubu. Atiku’s influence or authority is no more enough to generate the necessary amount of votes Tinubu will need to guarantee his victory. But if Tinubu abandons Atiku completely, he risks loosing even the little votes the north might cast for him. This where the dilemma is for Tinubu.

c. Tinubu’s party, does not have enough resources to compete at par with the ruling party, the PDP.

d. Limited appeal and religious factor. Tinubu’s appeal in the south east and south south is very low. In addition, the fact that he is a muslim is another big minus in these regions.

e. Choice of running mate. The choice of a running mate is going to be another dilemma and obstacle for Tinubu. If he chooses a running mate from the south east or south south, he automatically annihilates northern votes. His appeal or chances will be much lower there. If he chooses a northerner, he automatically annihilates large number of voters from the south east and south south respectively. Therefore, if Tinubu emerges as the presidential flag bearer of his party, it will be practically impossible for him to defeat a northern presidential candidate, especially from the PDP, irrespective whom he (the PDP candidate) chooses as his running mate.

The above analysis of Tinubu’s possible presidential ambition, in actual fact, is a classic illustration of why it will be very difficult or impossible for a southerner to even have a chance of being a serious contender in any presidential election in the nearest future. The chances of Utomi or any other presidential aspirant from the south east or south south are even much lesser compared to that of Tinubu. Thus, based on this analysis, the ‘highest’ political post attainable to Tinubu or any other southern politician, is the decorative and powerless post of Vice President under an incompetent northern president; like Jonathan Goodluck under Yaradua.


The rotation system which Nigeria officially or unofficially presently operates, automatically means that power will remain in the north at least for another 23 years (till 2031)! If nothing unexpected does not happen (force majeur), it’s obvious that Yaradua will be reelected in 2011 through hook or crook method. After Yaradua must have served his two full terms in 2015, when a new presidential election is also supposed to be held, the north will definitely come up with totally new arguments like Katsina state, where Yaradua hails from, is just ‘one’ out of the three regions in the north, therefore, the two other regions are yet to serve their own 16 years. Or they may even say that rotation is bad for the development of the country, and that the race to Aso rock should be opened to all.

Some people might find or consider this reasoning ridiculous or impossible. However, for a start, I want to remind these doubting Thomases, that Buhari contested against Obasanjo in the 2003 presidential election. But Obasanjo was able to defeat Buhari through different hook and crook methods. If we are to judge by how Yaradua emerged as the presidential flag bearer of his party and his eventual victory in the election that was regarded as the worst ever conducted in the history of Nigeria, then we can not be 100% sure that Obasanjo actually defeated Buhari in a free and fair election in 2003.

After Obasanjo’s Third Term Agenda (TTA) was crushed, and the north sensed that Obasanjo was about to choose an Ndigbo or a south southerner as his party’s presidential flag bearer and his eventual successor, the whole of the north, irrespective of political affiliation, united together and started talking about a secret agreement reached in the PDP in 1999 about rotation of the post of the president between the north and the south. Before you could even say ‘Baba,’ a strong rotation campaign was set in motion by the north throughout the country. The northern political elite realised that that was the only argument they could use in order to bring the presidential crown, that was ‘temporarily released’ to the south, back to the north, where it really belongs. The north was not fazed with the fact that the Ndigbos, the Ijaws, the Ibibios and other ethnic groups in the south south have never produced the president of Nigeria before. The Yorubas, Ndigbo, Ijaws, Ibibios and other ethnic groups in the south south were grouped together as the south and one region.

The point that I want to make here is that if the north was successful in its rotation campaign to return power to the north when a retired Yoruba general was in power, despite the fact that neither the Ndigbos nor the south south have never been at the helms of affairs for once in a democratic setting, what makes us think that the north will not be successful in manipulating us, or have their way again with another demogogic argument come 2015 in order to retain power, moreover, when their kinsman, Yaradua will be in power?

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