The major attackers of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, since he unveiled his innocuous or harmless ambition to become the President of Nigeria in 2023, have been his kinsmen.
His fellow Yoruba men. Some of them, also from Lagos State, where he comes from. Chief Bode George, for instance, is a Lagosian. Omo Eko. He is one of the key attackers of Tinubu.
He was even quoted to have threatened or vowed to go on exile if Tinubu becomes President in 2023.
They had accused the man of telling lies about his age. That, the March 29, 1952 (69 years) he claims to be his date of birth is false.
They said, he is not a Lagosian. They have questioned his certificates. They have talked about his health. And so on.
The question remains; do we believe them? Do we take them serious? Or, do we ignore them, but tell or remind Asiwaju of more important things?
Tinubu’s political flight took off in 1992, when he joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP), from the flank or faction of the PEOPLE’S FRONT (PF), led by the late Shehu Musa Yardua.
Also with him there were Umaru Yardua, Atiku Abubakar, Baba Gana Kingibe, Rabiau Kwankwaso, Dapo Sarumi, Yomi Edu and so on.
Tinubu was elected Senator for Lagos West Senatorial District. Chief Bode George was there. They didn’t stop him on the ground of any of the things they had accused him of.
He was also part of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and on the platform of the party, he was elected governor of Lagos State in 1999. He was re-elected in 2003. In other words, he was governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007. They didn’t stop him.
Aside these attacks from his people the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also specified the qualifications of anybody who intends or who wants to occupy the office of President.
Section 131 talked about being a citizen of Nigeria by birth, attaining the age of 40 years; being a member of a political party and being sponsored by that political party. And has been educated up to, at least, school certificate level or its equivalent.
That is to say, if Bola Tinubu has not been entrapped or has not run foul of any of these constitutional provisions, then, we should be talking about another thing. Not age. Not whether he is a Lagosian or not. Etal. And nobody has the franchise of good health.
However, Asiwaju should be made to appreciate certain overtures. Certain idiosyncrasies. Certain political developments.
He should be told to live above board. Not only as a leader but as someone who should believe in the African philosophy of live and let your brother live. One being his brother’s keeper. You take. You allow or help your brother to take. That’s righteousness, which exults a nation. “One by one for line”.
Asiwaju should rather be urged to be conscious of the verdicts of posterity and history. He should be asked to find out why he is the only Yoruba man vying for the office of President for 2023.
Chief Doyin Okupe had said severally in recent time that he would drop his presidential ambition the moment the political parties zone the presidency to the South-East. Why he said that should be known to all and sundry, including Asiwaju.
Great Nigerians who had arrived at the structure of six geo-political zones for the nation, at the Constitutional Conference, knew why they did that. They didn’t do that for the fun of it. They had had equity and fairness at the back of their minds.
In the Southern part of the country they came up with South-West, where Tinubu comes from. Then, the South-South and the South-East.
If the Nort, as a people, have allowed “common sense” to prevail, and resolved that the Presidency should go to the South, after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure, in the spirit of equity, the trend should therefore be allowed to continue.
What is that trend? The trend is that, both the South-West and South-South do not, at the moment, have any valid claim to make with regard to the office of President in 2023. The reason being that, they had had their slots and with the solid support of the South-East.
The 2023 election is only meant to be a pay-back or thank-you time, for the South-West and South-South, to the South East.
Time for them to back the South-East to produce the President of the country.
At least, because of the overwhelming support the people of the zone had given to South-West in 1993, 1999 and 2003. Then to the South-South in 2011. And even before 2011.
In the 1993 presidential election, the people of the South-East supported Chief M.K.O Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in spite of the fact that their son, Dr. Sylvester Ugo, was the vice-presidential candidate to the flagbearer of the National Republican Convention, NRC, the late Alhaji Bashir Tofa.
In Anambra State for instance, Abiola had 212,024 votes as against that of Bashir Tofa of the NRC, who had 159,258 votes.
Key Igbo politicians like Sam Mbakwe, Dr. Raph Obioha, Ezekiel Izuogu, Bobo Nwosisi and a good number of others, supported Abiola, a Yoruba.
Even during the struggle for the recovery of Abiola’s Presidency or mandate, the Igbo leaders remained stiff. Infact, Mbakwe, in an interview with The Source magazine, on April 6, 1998 stated , “Abiola’s kinsmen were not there when we fought this battle of June 12″.
He continued, “On the day Abiola declared himself President, Ralph Obioha sat on his right and Bobo Nwosisi sat on Abiola’s left, then Abiola declared himself President of Nigeria. A Yoruba man was not on his right; a Yoruba man was not on his left. His people were not there when he declared. It was these poor, wretched, honest Igbo men, one on the right, one on the left. That has been the suffering of the Igbo man”.
In that interview, Mbakwe further stated that when he called Bola Ige on the issue, he (Bola Ige) told him that, “it was siddon de look. And they sat down and looked, while we were traversing the whole country to make Abiola the President of this country. Okay, look at Ralph Obioha. He is now actually lost in Abiola’s case”.
In the 1999 presidential election, on February 27, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (Yoruba), of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won in the five states of South-East. And not minding that Dr. Alex Ekwueme, an Igbo, was the driving force behind the advent of the PDP.
In Anambra State PDP (Obasanjo) had 667,239 votes and APP – 117,686; Abia State –PDP 360,823, APP – 175,095; Ebonyi, PDP – 250,987, APP – 94,934; Enugu, PDP – 640,418, APP – 195,168; Imo, PDP – 421,767, APP – 314, 339.
All these only show that Igbos have always remained patriotic and arch believers in equity. They have remained “good political neighbours.” ldeal partners in progress.
If in the South, the South East had supported the South-West to produce the President of the country in 1993, although annulled, and in 1999 and 2003 respectively, and same with the South-South in 2011, the most trending or viral logic would be that the South-West and South-South should reciprocate the good political gestures of the South-East in 2023. They have no business with 2023 presidency, except to support the South East.
Indeed, we are talking about understanding. We are talking about equity and justice. It is not about showing political muscle, but what is equitable in the circumstance.
If political muscle was to be the case, Obasanjo would not have become President in 1999. Or, Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. Patriotism or equity is superior to political muscle.
Tinubu can become a pan-Africanist. He can become a nationalist, a patriotic Nigerian of note by being in the forefront of the South-West’s support for the South-East in 2023. If he does that, history and posterity would celebrate him more than any political office.
Chinua Achebe in his book, The Trouble with Nigeria, a 68-page book, first published by Fourth Dimension Publishers in 1983, wrote, “The Igbo Problem is one of the troubles with Nigeria.
Achebe added, “The Civil War gave Nigeria a perfect and legitimate excuse to cast the Igbo in the role of treasonable felon, a wrecker of the nation …. When Nigeria learns to deal fairly with all its citizens, including the troublesome Igbo, the defenders of its policies will have an easier time in court. And its prospects for progress and stability will be infinitely brighter”.
Bola Tinubu should go for goal. He should not allow this ugly impression that, even in the South, the South-West would not like someone from the South-East to preside over the affairs of this nation to continue standing. This impression must not be allowed to linger. The true honour lies in one acting well his part.
He should not also give the support of some Igbos to him as an excuse. There were also people of the South-West who supported Bashir Tofa against Abiola. And also voted against Obasanjo.
The South-West and South-South owe the South-East, political gratitude and in quantum. They have the moral burden to support the South-East to produce the President of Nigeria in 2023.
•Sam Onwuemeodo writes from Owerri.