By Evaristus Bassey
I have a soft spot for Asiwaju. If not for the revelations that have come to put a wedge on my conscience, he is someone I have admired for a long time. Once enroute with my cousin to an event, I heard Tinubu for the first time speak on radio. He sounded quite engaging and dynamic, and I told my cousin that Tinubu would make a good president.
This was in 2011 or thereabouts. But age and illness have had a toll on Asiwaju and have chipped slowly at his dynamism and brought it to a slow dusk. When Ambode wasn’t given a second term I had this misplaced hope that my own governor could have some kind of overseer the way Tinubu oversees Lagos, because then there would be some restraint since the State Houses of Assembly are lame ducks and can’t engage a governor except make empty threats of impeachment when they are not getting enough money for themselves.
Now, it has become clear that all the godfatherism was in pursuit of his lifelong ambition to be president of Nigeria. Yet with all these revelations, I would choose Tinubu many times over Abubakar Atiku because Atiku is no better and because changing the power balance to the south would help keep Nigeria united.
As the clouds gathered towards the APC primaries, my friend with whom I form an excellent team for political analyses agreed with me that APC had a Tinubu problem. While it was obvious that the party didn’t want Tinubu to get the ticket, we agreed that the party could not but give the ticket to Tinubu.
We knew that PMB didn’t have much clout, that at the appointed time, Tinubu would pull strings and the ticket would be his. We saw Tinubu coasting to victory because the Northwest which had more APC governors would stand by him and even the Northeast would vote for him because they trusted him more than Atiku, especially if Buhari campaigned for him.
We reasoned that Tinubu might only need the votes of the Southeast and South- South for the 25% requirement. We already saw Tinubu as President despite the extremely poor performance of APC as a government because people would reason that most of the failures were squarely on Buhari’s head and not on Tinubu who had done quite well in Lagos and established an excellent succession plan. We knew Tinubu would pick a Muslim as running mate as unagreeable as this was to us, because while down south we could allow a Muslim to represent us, northern Muslims weren’t that liberated to allow a Christian to represent them.
Our fear was the leverage this would give to extremist Muslims who would now see Nigeria as exclusively theirs to do as they pleased.
And then Peter Obi happened.
Many politicians have flaws. Tinubu’s flaws are being accentuated because there is a credible alternative in Peter Obi. If it were a contest between Tinubu and Atiku, many people including me would overlook Tinubu’s issues and vote him in place of Atiku, principally because Nigeria’s cohesiveness cannot survive sixteen straight years of northern rule.
Now that there is someone like Peter Obi who is from the Southeast, and who has shown such stellar qualities, as if he weren’t a Nigerian politician, Tinubu’s deficiencies are magnifying by the day. Already his various gaffes are giving enough ammunition to those who feel his age and health can no longer support the strain of such a demanding office, and the recent interview by Naja’atu about Tinubu’s dementia puts the nail on the coffin. No man of clear conscience would leave Peter Obi at this moment and vote Asiwaju!
Earlier on David Hundeyin came out with further revelations that Tinubu’s Chicago State University certificate presented to INEC was forged. As I read through the story, a question I asked myself was, if Tinubu really went to Chicago State, why would he need to forge a certificate? I remember when I lost my bachelor’s degree certificate and had to go to the University of Ibadan for another copy.
Couldn’t Tinubu have written to Chicago State for a copy to be sent to him? Or was he in such hurry that one had to be forged? The truth is that someone named Bola Tinubu really attended Chicago State, as the university confirmed. A worrying item is what David pointed out, that in the university records, the asterisk to the gender of the person is F for female not M for male.
Could the university have made such a blunder or was there identity theft as David is alleging? Was there an original Bola Tinubu that was female? If we dig deeper, are we going to unearth any skeletons? If the university is subpoenaed to bring the yearbook, are we going to find Asiwaju in the graduating class photo? If it was a mistake of the university, then it was very unfortunate.
If BAT really attended the institution and lost his certificate and presented a fake one to INEC to make up for the urgency, would the consequences be same as someone who forged a certificate because they had none? I guess a court of law would have to determine that, looking at motive. But in all these, there is no criminal conviction hanging over Asiwaju’s head in our jurisdiction.
If I as an admirer am having these issues in my mind, how much more a pure hater? How much more the international community that has such high standards for leaders? How would Nigerian citizens be looked at everywhere they go when BAT or Atiku becomes president, Atiku who has an indictment by a United States’ parliament committee hanging over his head?
It does seem that Asiwaju’s state of health is the gift that goes on giving; many influential northerners are already using it to convince their people to vote for one of their own, most likely Atiku Abubakar. While the Southwest aligned with the north to make Buhari’s ascendancy possible, now the north has a ready excuse to perpetuate northern rule in a diversified country like Nigeria even with a credible and competent alternative as Peter Obi!
As it is obvious that Asiwaju would suffer the same fate Goodluck Jonathan suffered in the hands of his partymen who were northerners, won’t it be wise for South Westerners to intentionally vote for Peter Obi instead of Asiwaju so that power could revert to the south after eight years of rule by a northerner?
Even in countries like Switzerland where one would think that they have overcome sentiments of tribe and race, have we not seen them being as inclusive as possible in the structures of government? How much more a country like Nigeria that is so soaked in ethnicism? It would be quite unfair for Nigeria to have another president from the north after eight years of Buhari. And for Atiku to come out and contest the primaries means he does not care for the unity of the country.
The Southwest should overcome their ethnic sentiments and support Peter Obi who at least is healthier and more cognitively coordinated, if we are interested in building a new Nigeria. Northerners of goodwill who believe in the stability of Nigeria should also vote for this very credible man who has emerged from the Southeast and whom youths all over Nigeria and from all walks of life have chosen as their candidate. Indeed, a new Nigeria is Possible.
The writer is a Catholic priest.