By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
On 25 February 2023, I will pick this voter’s card, walk to the polling centre and cast my vote for His Excellency, Chief Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the Jagaban Borgu. This is a firm commitment given after a history of association, honour, demographic reality, constitutional requirement, weighing pros and cons as well as the personalities of the candidate and his running mate.
In 2011, I supported the presidential candidature of Nuhu Ribadu. Together we travelled and met with the Jagaba many times in Lagos. Why I pitched my tent with Ribadu then, apart from sharing many things like age, world view, personality, background, geography, etc, was the firm belief that no matter how popular is a northern candidate, he needs to crossover to the South for additional votes and geographic spread that the constitution stipulates. For Buhari to run again that year, 2011, after two previous unsuccessful attempts, would be an exercise in futility as it indeed proved to be after failure of the last minute CPC/ACN merger attempt then. The results did not tie to warrant the second round as calculated in Buhari’s quarters. In 2015 the merger was done and victory was achieved. Elections are about law and numbers. No magic.
There will hardly be any southerner better fit for the position of a partner to the North than the Jagaba today. He is our Abiola, if not better. As some of my readers rightly said, he has patronized us many times: Atiku in 2007 under AC, Ribadu in ACN (2011) and Buhari in APC (2015). This is a consistent friend in need. Honour begets reciprocity.
Furthermore, I am aware that the Muslim identity of the Jagaba has been used to disenfranchise him politically three times. In 2011, Buhari was not keen on the merger that required Pastor Bakare to withdraw for Tinubu because he Buhari was opposed to a Muslim-Muslim ticket after receiving over a decade of bashing from the southern press over shariah.
In 2015, Tinubu was bluntly and brutally told at a caucus meeting that he cannot deputize for Buhari because he was Muslim. He swallowed that and presented Osinbajo.
For the third time, for 2023, the some people want to crucify him for picking a Muslim as deputy against all odds. He believes that the Muslim identity of his running mate will earn him the winning vote and choosing a Northern Christian that will upset the Muslims will deny him our vote.
How honorable would I look if I would I turn my back against a friend in need who earlier provided platforms for my brothers and now believe in my capacity to rescue him? What if my son will contest the Presidency tomorrow and he goes to the Southwest to ask for support? And that day will come, when a northerner will again be in need of that alliance. Let us behave wisely. 2023 is not the end of Nigeria. We must guard the honour that we are known for.
Southern partners of the north have been changing over the years but they remain constantly relevant. The North must not return to those days of serial losses by promoting a candidate acceptable only to it. This is the situation that the Atiku ticket presents today, regrettably.
Our brother, the Wazirin Adamawa, His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has failed, against all advice, to patiently nurture the support of the South-south in 2011 after losing the ticket to the incumbent. Instead, he supported Buhari of the opposing CPC. Worse still, in 2015 he abandoned the the PDP, led 5 governors in rebellion against the southern President, claiming that it was the north’s turn, and decamped to APC to humiliate Jonathan out of power. Still after Bubari’s 8 years, in 2022, he blocked the emergence of Southeast and south-south candidates, claiming that rotation is a party matter.
Now he has gone to the south-south cup in hand and they paid him back in his own coins. This produced Peter Obi ticket and the G5; two blocks that will deny him the traditional PDP votes in the Southeast and South-south. Southwest is already effectively blocked against him by Tinubu.
The Waziri is effectively left with the North. Here, Benue, Plateau and Southern Kaduna are not likely to vote for “another Fulani”, as we heard them declare repeatedly. The votes of the Muslim North are themselves divided for and against him, not united as they were for Buhari. Borno and Yobe, will massively vote for APC. The ruling party even for kinship will also take Kwara and Kogi. Then incumbency will retain for APC the states of Kaduna, Niger, Zamfara, Gombe and possibly Katsina. Yes, Waziri will get Adamawa and Taraba and possibly Sokoto and Kebbi. Bauchi and Nasarawa are still uncertain for him. Kano belongs to Kwnkwaso, things being equal.
Then as Babachir and some anti-muslim irredentists are threatening northern Muslims of humiliation, a block vote, including Kano, in favour of the Muslim-Muslim ticket is possible. That will seal the fate of Atiku decisively.
Now, this calculus does not add up to an electoral win in any way. It is a recipe for the disasters of 2003, 2007 and 2011 to repeat themselves.
Babachir’s insolence is an evil that must be disproved and defeated by both Muslims and Christians. Those who failed to earn the APC VP ticket should return and introspect on why they were not considered electorally viable enough to win it, not resort to blackmailing and threatening Muslims. That will only prove the evil that they are, which made it right for the Jagaba to reject them in the first place. Nobody can publicly say he will teach 120 million citizens a lesson and be allowed to succeed unless if those citizens are worse than donkeys. No lion can stand an army of 120 million donkeys. None.
Now Babachir’s insult has pushed even the reluctant Muslims to prove their electoral worth as they are increasingly rallying behind the Muslim-Muslim ticket. The majority well-meaning Christians should also do the same. Babachir is posing an existential threat to all northerners. If there is a Christian who will be fair to Muslims tomorrow, I and many Muslims will vote for him, as many of us did for Obasanjo and Jonathan between 1999 and 2011. But a genocidal psychopath of whatever religion does not deserve to be even a deputy local government chairman anywhere in this country. Let us leave him to grumble and crumble alone.
Same faith tickets are not new in Nigeria and they are presently practiced in all predominantly Christian States like Plateau, Benue, Edo and even in a number of Southwestern states where Muslims are predominant. Their Muslims have not threatened our national security for their selfish reasons as Babachir and his gang of rejects are doing up here. Tam.
Pros and Cons
Beyond the acquaintance, honour of reciprocity, averting past electoral disasters suffered by the North and the existential challenge of the Babachirs, the Tinubu/ Shettima ticket presents a lot of pros which my readers expressed when I asked their opinion on the my Facebook page last week. I share the views of those who are convinced of the Jagaba’s record performance in Lagos, arguably the best that the country has known of a governor since 1999, which, according to the readers, came from his courage, team work, modernity, foresight, talent hunting, etc.
For a person who also believes in efficiency, I cannot but be attracted to the Jagaba. Nigeria needs system upgrading and in some areas even disk reformatting. The Jagaba is the perfect person with the record to handle that squarely. No one better than him can pursue digital reform in commerce, taxation, education, governance, communications, etc. His pragmatism and penchant for modernity is needed to solve our security and other challenges. Who can project the success story of Lagos at the national level better than its original author—the Jagaba? None of my readers has denied him these qualities.
From among my readers who are opposed to the Tinubu Presidency are a number of cons which arise from five sources: the perceived limitations of age and the much touted fake stories of his sickness; the accusation of supporting OPC to kill Hausas in Lagos and their molestation while he was governor; the perception of tribalism, as the Igbo and Hausa too are accused of by others; his affiliation to APC and the President, seeing what the readers consider as the failure of the government in many areas in the past 8 years; and the predominantly Christian nature of his house.
Well on the first and last issues, the runner-up candidate, the Waziri, cannot completely acquit himself either. He too is old. Being over 70 he must have evidently slowed down and cannot disclaim having age associated illnesses. Above 60, one must have one or two. They both have slip tongues as President Buhari did in Germany and suffered issues of memory many times. Jos where both misnamed their parties—PDAPC and APDP—was no coincidence. Kwankwaso had it once in Kano too: NPCP. Mischief makers do not deserve our attention.
Even at 61, I have had many times that I could not recall names instantly. The brain just fails to retrieve the information from the disk as fast as when I was much younger. I had the privilege of meeting the Jagaba recently and was surprised that he negated those stories by holding me to a night conversation of one hour after a long day he had in Ebonyi. I watched him appear from his room, walked towards me straight, shook my hands and sat right beside me. There was no sign, then and not in his appearance at Chattam House and the BBC a week later, of a debilitating sickness as purported and he appears to get increasingly stronger. He is alert and he still argues his points as it better than the other candidates.
In any case, the strength of any leader is not in the class of his weight; otherwise, America would have made Tyson a President. It is in the people a leader rallies around him. To be fair to the Jagaba whose talent-hunting obsession is renowned, his Presidency as an institution will run be unhindered by his age. He cannot have our best, the Kashims, the Elrufai’s, the Ribadus, the Hadizas, the Modibbos, the Arabis, etc. and fail to perform. But if he will resort to family and friends instead of competence, then I concede that his age will become aggravating. He is not as old as Mahathir Mohammed or Joe Biden after all, not minding similar attacks from Trump during the 2020 campaigns which the latter has proven wrong.
All said about age, as Muslims, we must believe that “no soul shall die except by the will of God, a decree determined”, as He said in the Qur’an. Period. Furthermore, the constitution has foreseen that and made the necessary provisions, whether an elected President is living or dead.
The Christian component of the Waziri’s family cannot be denied and neither is he a better practicing Muslim than the Jagaba. None of them is a Sheikh or Imam, anyway. We are in the same boat.
The OPC related killings cannot be ascribed to the Jagaba just because he was the Governor of Lagos. We northerners in particular must understand that by now better than anyone. Unfortunately for the Jagaba, he was the Guinea Pig of insurrection in this dispensation. When the OPC came, we had no experience of Plateau, Boko Haram and Bandits. Is it justified for anyone now to equally accuse Governors Sheriff, Shettima, Zulum, Yari, Bello, El-rufa’i or even the President, who has all our war arsenal at his command, of being supporters or financiers or Boko Haram or Bandits? What will be our reaction—believe him or refute him? So if the late Sheikh Jafar were alive, he would have withdrawn his fatwa on the Jagaba for he would have known the hard way that Governors do not have the power of controlling high level violence. They can only cooperate with the Federal Government, which the Jagaba did and OPC was quelled though not before it left many innocents dead, as Boko Haram and bandits are doing for over a decade today.
All the major tribes accuse each other of tribalism. President Buhari is accused of preferring Hausa Muslims in appointments. The Hausa see the Yoruba as more tribal than them though. But the Jagaba has set a record to reckon here. More than any governor, he has elevated non-natives of Lagos including Hausas to levels of commissioners, helped many grow their businesses in Lagos including Dangote. Of course, as with Buhari in 1984 or Elrufai in FCT and now in Kaduna, anyone wanting to modernize cities has to encroach on the business spaces of the common man who is fond of erecting illegal structures. The Jagaba cannot modernize Lagos by magic. He has to touch such structures belonging to commoners too. But all said, I think his inclination for merit in administration will blunt his natural instinct of kinship, which we all share anyway. He may not give 3 ministries to a single Hausaman—as Buhari did to Fashola—but he will not suppress northern talent at all. His record denies that flatly.
Finally, there is nothing he can do regarding the failure of APC. He is undoubtedly its chieftain but not more. Do you want him to decamp to PDP on that count? The President and members of his cabinet should carry their cross—and so should governors, each in his own domain. The Jagaba has acknowledged the successes of the President and has promised to build on his good works. Where necessary, he will change course, surely. I am Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he told the BBC. Come again. Is the alternative—the PDP—in a better position than the APC when it comes to failure of administration?
So put generally, the pros of the Tinubu Presidency will by far outweigh its cons. Yet, there is another pillar of the ticket we must mention before we conclude this piece—the backup.
In his choice of a running mate, the Jagaba has picked a very strategic one. Choosing Kashim earns him not only a reliable and loyal VP, but also a credible one. His Excellency, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, the former Governor of Borno State and a present senator, is not only highly competent but also carries a political aura that can shelter the entire North, coming from the prestigious Kanuri tribe and with the personal humility to listen, respect, engage and accommodate all. He is among our best. You can see him admirably reaching out to so many people and groups everyday, not taking anyone for granted. Yet, even as a future VP, former Governor and a Senator, he will go to the kettle and personally prepare coffea for his guest. That is humility personified.
The Jagaba did not look for a lackluster yes man of no firm roots. He went for a talent that is both loyal and strong enough to support the President, humble enough to follow him and honest enough to caution him. That is my friend and Kanuri master, Kashim. With the Jagaba as the President and him as the VP, I can find no safer shelter among the 2023 presidential camps.
Come with Me
These are my reasons for answering the call to support the Tinubu/Shettima ticket. And I call on every dispassionate mind to do so for the sake of unity and progress of our country. I am not only promising this cause my vote and that of my family, but I will also work hard to earn it many more, as much as my talent, body and resources can afford me in the next two months. Come with me.
May God be with us and guide us to what is best for our dear country as we vote for the next President on 25 February 2023.
20 December 2022