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(FRANK TALK) 2023: I too want to run…

By Steve Nwosu

And why not? Tinubu is running. Atiku is running. Anyim is running. Saraki is running. Kalu is running. Umahi is running. Okorocha is running. Moghalu has been running. Dele Momodu is Running. Tunde Bakare is running. Fashola is running. Fayemi is running. Tambuwal is running. Wike is running. Amaechi is running. Bala Mohammed is running. Yahaya Bella is running. Kwankwaso is running. Sule Lamido is running. El-Rufai is running. Even Femi Okunnu’s daughter is running. I think I should also run. In fact, I’m running. I will consult my people later, so that they can ask me to run.

The only problem is I don’t know where to run to: Canada? US? UK? Or maybe, I should follow the IMG ponzi couple and run to the Caribbean? Or I should just run to my village?

Nigeria is indeed a 24/7 theatre. One huge comic that, somehow, gets bye as a country. And we all seem to love it that way. For that seems to be the only plausible explanation of what has been playing out in the polity since that visit to the Aso Rock Villa, last week, of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

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Now, irrespective of what eventually becomes of his 2023 presidential ambition, the APC national leader and former governor of Lagos State, Tinubu, will remain a political pacesetter and game changer in this country.

Barely 36 hours after he publicly declared he would be seeking his party’s ticket to contest next year’s presidential election, no fewer than six other persons, many of whom had been hush-hush about their ambitions, have suddenly been emboldened to come out of the closet.

The Jagaban Borgu has sudden injected a fresh elixir into the body polity. It’s as though he has unofficially lifted the seeming ban on 2023 politicking. Now, the race to succeed Buhari can begin!


That is the phenomenon called Tinubu. Like him or hate him, you must discuss him.

Yes, the posers will come: his stupendous wealth, his health, his origin, his education, his politics, a few killings, his stranglehold on the treasury of Lagos, the bullion vans, the corruption charges etc. There’s none of them that we haven’t already heard before now. We could even add Lekki Tollgate and EndSARS protest to the list. I’m not in doubt that, at the appropriate time, the Tinubu machine will roar to life, and begin to answer them one by one. It is then that they would remind us that what we’re looking for, in a President, is a good administrator – not an iron bender, or weightlifter. They would remind us that not only is Tinubu NOT the most unhealthy person to seek and win the Nigerian presidency, but that one of the greatest presidents the United States ever had was a certain Franklin D. Roosevelt who ran the country from a wheelchair – even through World War 2. And for effect, that FDR remains the only US President allowed a third term in office.

Of course, one of those posers that would need answering is the fate of erstwhile Tinubu men believed to be eyeing the same 2023 presidency – or better still, being lined up by believed Tinubu traducers to checkmate the Asiwaju’s charge for the presidency.

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One of such allies is the incumbent Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who many (even in the opposition PDP) believe is the most credible candidate – North or South, that the APC currently has.

However, if we all agree that, in politics, loyalty is often more important than qualifications, then the speculated ambition of VP Osinbajo should automatically become stillbirth, with his benefactor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, stepping into the ring.

The same should also hold for the duo of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Raji Fashola, and even Dele Momodu – irrespective of whatever platform he’s running on. I’m deliberately leaving out Minister of the Interior Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.

Even though I’m aware that loyalty in Nigerian politics has long become monetized and changes ever so often, it has not ceased to be the most powerful legal tender in politics.

When, sometime last year, some of us who believe Peter Obi remains the South East’s best bet for a credible presidential candidate informally confronted him with the 2023 question, the former Anambra State governor insisted he’d have to first discuss with his ‘boss’ Atiku, to know what his thoughts and plans are.

Now, Obi refers to the former Vice President as ‘boss’, for no other reason than that he was Atiku’s running mate in the 2019 presidential election, where they flew the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). That says something, not only about the Peter Obi persona, but also about the place of loyalty in politics.

If Obi could defer so much to Atiku, who neither made him in business nor politics, one would think it is only fair to expect a little more from Osinbajo and all the other Tinubu allies who are genuinely or allegedly eyeing the presidency in 2023, now that the big masquerade has stepped into the arena.

Of course, there will be a lot of talk about how Tinubu had wanted the VP slot for himself in 2015, but reluctantly let Osinbajo have it, when it became clear Asiwaju had been boxed into a corner and ran the risk of totally losing out. There will also be the talk of how Fashola was made a minister in spite of Tinubu and how Asiwaju did not want Fayemi getting any federal appointment in Buhari’s cabinet. But then, no honest chronicler of history can obliterate the Tinubu factor in the political ascendancy of the three men. In fact, their histories would be incomplete without Tinubu.

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Of course, when we look at academic credentials and formal certifications of all of them, each of them has a profile that literally dwarfs Tinubu’s. And there are also no controversies over if they attended school, or what schools they attended.

But then, if towering academic profiles were all that was required to make a great president, Goodluck Jonathan would have been our best president ever. Chinwoke Mbadinuju would have been the best Governor of Anambra State. Ex-governor Sule Lamido would not be the giant he has remained in Jigawa.

Today, Henry Seriake Dickson remains a reference point in the bullish transformation of Bayelsa State, but he was not necessarily the most certificated person to ever govern that state.

Of course, this is not taking away anything from the place of stellar education in politics and nation-building. It is just that we should not make the mistake of equating leadership with paper qualifications of academicians and technocrats, who deliberately build their CVs intending to land juicy jobs with blue-chip companies, international organisations and key government agencies. Many of them might not have the needed political grit to be in the driving seat of a state or country.

Secondly, isn’t there something to be said for the man who can discover talents (including those alleged to be lining up against him today), putting them in positions they can best function, and giving them the freehand to do the job?

If you asked me, I think that is what leadership is all about. And that is what Tinubu is bringing on board.

But whether he is the only person that has that quality is a matter for another debate. So also is the issue of whether Nigeria should be talking of another South West President so soon after President Obasanjo’s eight years and Osinbajo’s eight years as Vice President, without the South East tasting neither President nor Vice President.

Painfully, those setting new meritocracy rules for South East/Igbo presidency are the same people who have gotten everything else in Nigeria via our warped variant of the affirmative action, called the quota system. The same people who, in 2015, made the rest of us feel so bad that the North had only enjoyed two years as President in a whopping 16 years of unbroken democratic rule. The same people who are, today, advising us to pick the best man as President, irrespective of where he comes from, are the same people who effortlessly acquiesced to the agreement that the South West should produce the President in 1999, as compensation for the injustice of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Chief MKO Abiola, a Southwesterner.

Obasanjo thus became the PDP president of Nigeria, despite the South West not voting PDP. The rest of the country simply voted him in.

So, why can’t an Orji Kalu, a Dave Umahi, Rochas Okorocha, Chris Ngige, Ogbonnaya Onu or even Ken Nnamani be elected the APC president of Nigeria, even if the South East insists on voting PDP? The rest of the country can make such a South Eastern president, the same way they made Buhari president without the South East. Such candidates do not also have to declare to contest before they are considered – for neither Obasanjo, Yar’Adua nor Shagari did before we narrowed down on them. So, all this excuse about Igbos not joining the race (although clearly untrue – for there are more than a dozen Igbo aspirants in each of the two leading parties) is outrightly a disingenuous blackmail.

My take, therefore, is: Nobody who sincerely desires the unity of this country can honestly be looking for a President from outside of the South East in 2023. But that is not to say Nigeria would cease to exist if an Igbo does not emerge. We would trudge on. At worst, we would kill a few thousand more, jail another thousand, extend a little tokenism, and begin the cycle again ahead of 2027.

But then, it amounts to insulting the collective intelligence of Nigerians for the power brokers to continue to act as though there is a genuine justification – other than selfish ambition, primitive acquisition and prebendal politics, to deny the South East the presidency in 2023.

But while they are busy deceiving themselves over what we already know, let’s all join the ‘running’ team. It’s the new fad.

If they don’t let you into the Aso Rock, to inform President Buhari, you can go to your village and inform the president of your town union. President na president! After all, even the Buhari you want to go and brief is also running. Yes! He’s running to his farm – unlike Malami who is running for VP – or even President, if the others take their eyes off the ball.