By Yinka Olujimi
Have you heard? They are back in the news, hugging the limelight!
While they were “away,” a lot happened in the country. But for very strategic reasons – mostly personal – so what, a friend would ask! – they looked the other way, leaving the people in the lurch.
Not any more, it seems. The race to Aso Rock trumps all strategic reasons for muteness; and the time to seize control of the limelight is now, both men have apparently decided.
Former Lagos State Governor and “national” leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and former fiery cleric, “Pastor-politician” Tunde Bakare have found their voices on the national stage.
While herdsmen wiped out whole villages, killed, maimed and raped; Boko Haram continued its reign of terror; and the Islamic State beheaded 11 Christians on Christmas Day, these friends of the President kept their mouths shut, tightly shut.
Oh yeah, the Directorate of State Services (DSS) has continued its reign of impunity, arresting and detaining citizens at will, most embarrassingly recently wrestling down journalist-turned-politician Omoyele Sowore in court.
Bakare’s erstwhile comrades in the civil society returned to the trenches in defence of Sowore, while the United States government had to weigh in on his behalf. What was the response of the former fiery preacher, who was the Convener of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) which ground the country to a halt when the Goodluck Jonathan administration hiked fuel prices? Silence, dead silence!
In the last five years of the Buhari administration, Nigerians have been subjected to untold economic hardships, the Naira has taken unprecedented bashing, falling at a point to N520 to one American dollar, before settling down at around N360. Citizens have been reported to steal pots of food right from the flaming stoves of neighbours, a clear sign of hunger-induced desperation.
The people had expected some form of censure of the incumbent administration from the former fiery pastor, but what did they get? Silence, dead silence.
As an aspirant to the office of president in the build up to the 2015 election, Buhari pledged – on his famed honour – to cut down Nigeria’s fleet of presidential aircraft. Five years on in office, he has continued to maintain the huge drain on public resources.
If Nigerians had hoped for leadership in the usual corners of Bakare and Tinubu, they must have received a huge shock as both men firmly, and tightly, shut their lips.
Now the coast seems clear for succession. So, the pastor who sees his assumption of office after Buhari in 2023 as divine mandate, to be accomplished by some form of miracle with little or no role played by the electorate, stepped out on Monday last week. He visited his old friend, Buhari.
The following Sunday, the lawyer-cleric who was the General’s running mate in the 2011 election stepped out of the closet, fully. He urged the President to pick the next president.
It does not matter that as a lawyer, Bakare knows or ought to know that democracy is the will of the electorate. The pastor-politician is comfortable with Buhari becoming a Leviathan who cannot be challenged, and would choose the next president for the people!
To him, Buhari’s duty to prevent the country from slipping back into the hands of those he described as treasury looters and perverts, supersedes such time-tested niceties as the rule of law, one-man-one-vote, majority having their way while the minority have their say. The General should simply become a benevolent dictator – force his choice of president down the throats of Nigerians!
Since the star boy of the administration has been substantially damaged, and has quietly taken the back seat in governance in Buhari’s second term, Bakare who has spoken of divine revelation – to him only, of course – that he would be Nigeria’s 16th president – Buhari being the 15th – is well on course to succeed the General, right?
Not so fast, the wily political tactician, Tinubu seems to say. On Tuesday, he breezed into Aso Rock for a private meeting with the President. It was a great opportunity for him to find his voice too.
Tinubu could keep mute on issues of insecurity across the land, pervasive hunger in the land, unfulfilled promises of his party and its then presidential candidate about medical tourism, sale of presidential aircraft, and so on.
Not when a Tunde Bakare attempts to steal the limelight from him after his heroic role in wresting power from the PDP and handing it over to the then tired Buhari who had declared no further interest in the office after failing the third consecutive time in 2011.
On stepping out into the warm embrace of State House reporters after the “private” meeting with the President, Tinubu glibly advised against further talks about succession for now. Since Buhari just recently signed the 2020 budget, all efforts for now must be geared towards ensuring success for the administration, he counseled.
“Yes, politics is intoxicating, it’s flamboyant, it’s interesting, but we cannot continue in perpetuity. We have to relax, show concern for the people of the country and see to the efforts of the President that will manifest in the new, united and prosperous country. We are still not there.”
The fox did not forget to massage the large ego of the incumbent. In his New Year Day broadcast, Buhari reiterated his resolve not to encourage any third term manouvre.
Tinubu said that the president “doesn’t need to say it to me.” He spoke further: “I’ll argue it in the corner and everywhere they bring such a thing up. However, it’s very good to hear it from him. I say congratulations to a man of character and integrity.”
The man who is often called Lagos itself, added: “The challenge of turning the ship of this nation around is a continuum and a continuous effort and that is what we should get ourselves concerned with.
Any reasonable politician, who has worked with President Buhari will know that he will not tamper with the Constitution.”
Shorn of its diplomatic niceties, Tinubu has pointedly told Bakare not to hide behind a finger. If the pastor-preneur is truly interested in politics, he should get organized and work for it, not use the pulpit to ask Buhari to subvert the constitution and get into office by presidential endorsement.
There are interesting times ahead, indeed.