Perspectives For 2023 (1) By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN
That time has finally come when the biggest question in our political life will be asked and answered. Who succeeds Buhari? It is the million dollar question that everyone is trying so hard to answer. It should not have been this difficult but for the nature of the President, who is for ‘everybody and for nobody’. He seemed to have outsmarted us all, as if we were all caught unawares about the issue of his successor. The body language did not give him out so clearly, this time around, thus making the task of unravelling the man/woman to succeed the President to be an arduous task, even for the politicians. The two dominant parties, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the All Progressives Congress, APC are both in deep quandary in determining their presidential candidates. Governors from the Southern part of the country are insisting on zoning, in line with clear provisions of the constitution of the parties and that of Nigeria. Their counterparts from the North have indicated their preference for a level playing field for all candidates to be given the fair opportunity of aspiring to the highest office in the land. The race is more intense in the APC, not for any special reason other than the fact that it is the ruling party that produced the current President.
There is absolutely no reason for the PDP to seek to jettison its own constitution to favour any particular candidate. Article 7 of the Constitution of the PDP provides as follows:
“7. (1) The Party shall have a manifesto which, subject to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, shall be implemented by all organs of the party and governments elected under its platform.
(2) The Party shall strive to –
(b) promote federalism and an equitable revenue sharing formula.
(3) The Party shall pursue these aims and objectives –
(c) adhering to the policy of the rotation and zoning of Party and Public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.”
The above provisions are very clear and unambiguous. It is not open to the leaders of the PDP to seek to maneuver their ways out of the constitution of the party. As light follows day, the presidential candidate of the PDP must come from the South. So far, I have not seen any serious contender for that post, save His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi. Extending the theory of zoning to its logical conclusion, the PDP should narrow down its choice for the 2023 presidential ticket to the South-East zone for many reasons. Since the party was founded, that zone has demonstrated uncommon faithfulness in loyalty, support and voting. There is no other way to reward the Igbos other than for PDP to concede its ticket to that zone. To do otherwise would be totally uncharitable and immoral. Why Peter Obi? By available records, he has served as head of Fidelity Bank, where he distinguished himself without blemish. He served meritoriously as governor of Anambra State for eight years and he has no pending issues with his administration, as at the time of writing this piece. Many accounts have surfaced of his frugality, his commitment to the common good and his love for transparency and accountability. To my mind, he can easily be trusted with the affairs of Nigeria and I fear no challenge on this point at all.
Comrade Omoyele Sowore is another viable contender for the office of the President, under the platform of African Action Congress, which he co-founded and has nurtured. Many have asked about the experience of Sowore to lead a complex nation like Nigeria. Believe it or not, University of Lagos or indeed any other university in that class, represents the totality of Nigeria. The Students’ Union of the old generation universities, is akin to the government of Nigeria, consisting mainly of the Executive Council, the Students’ Representative Council and the Judicial Council, all functioning together but performing independent roles as leaders of the students. I have been there and I can say very boldly that anyone who has led a complex institution such as the University of Lagos can lead Nigeria. What is more, Sowore has run Sahara Reporters successfully for so many years, creating a new regime in news reporting, daring the status quo and going where no one else dared to tread. He has by his sheer acts of courage redefined the concept of investigative journalism and has truly brought to bear the provisions of section 22 of the Constitution by holding the government accountable to the people. His RevolutionNow struggles have incurred upon him the wrath of the powers that be, for which he has paid heavily in constant arrests, trumped-up charges and severe persecutions, all of which he has weathered with so much courage and a sense of purpose. I consider Sowore as a serious contender for the presidency in 2023. What is needed is for all revolutionaries, all our comrades, the labour and civil society coalition, students, activists, market women/men and all lovers of freedom to team up together to support Sowore to defeat the enemies of Nigeria, for once.
Some people look up to the APC to produce the next president after Buhari purely because of the incumbency factor, nothing more. If we go by the records of its (non) performance, the party does not deserve the vote of any reasonable person. It has taken the nation backwards in many respects, it has no quantum of integrity, it could not defend its manifesto to the people of Nigeria when it mattered most and it has led us on a roller coaster trip of empty promises, monstrous propaganda and media manipulations. It succeeded wonderfully as the opposition party but failed woefully as the ruling party when it was entrusted with power. Unlike the PDP however, the APC has already zoned its presidential ticket to the South, which ordinarily should be a commendable idea but for the latent mines planted along that tricky route. Undoubtedly, the leading contenders for the APC ticket as of today are His Excellency Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, His Excellency Professor Yemi Osinbajo and His Excellency Mr. Rotimi Amaechi. Take it or leave it, Tinubu has written his name in gold in the annals of the political history of Nigeria. I say this based purely on my own knowledge and experiences, of and concerning him. Lagos State as of today, has become the model for other States of the Federation, in terms of planning, infrastructure and development. It could not have been the product of guesswork or lazy administration. When he took over the reins of power in 1998, Tinubu committed himself to a master plan, for which he set up a strong team which travelled all over the world to understudy major cities in order to recreate a new Lagos. Yes, that master plan has been hijacked and bastardized by self interest in some ways, but the idea remains the best that has emerged from any politician after the Action Group regime of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Tinubu then invested in men and women, all of whom he partnered with for the implementation of the Lagos Master Plan. Those men would later spread their tentacles to Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Edo, Kwara and even far away Ghana and the Gambia. So if we should talk about experience, surely Tinubu should be rated as one of the best materials for the presidency in 2023. I can say a lot more about the positive influence of Tinubu on our national polity but this is not the forum or time. I have had cause to disagree with a good number of his policies based purely on my conviction and principles, but this will not detract from the laudable vision that he outlined for Lagos when he came on board. Be that as it may, we cannot overrate an individual above the Constitution.
It may be that Tinubu has contributed immensely towards the political fortunes of His Excellency the Vice-President, the latter who has been his personal counsel, his official Attorney-General as Governor and one of the brains behind the several legal exploits that Tinubu has accomplished in his checkered political career. Now I have read so much on social media on why Tinubu should and why Tinubu should not declare for the presidency in 2023. I personally believe he should not and I will tell you why. The Vice-President is so far the greatest product of Tinubu’s political school, which is yet to produce the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, being the only position that has not been attained by that group. If it is correct to say that Osinbajo is a product of that school, then there is no reason why he should be denied the opportunity of representing that school for the highest office. No matter the role that Tinubu may have played in the political life of Nigeria, it will be unfair to his reputation to say that he did all that he has done for the selfish and personal ambition to become President or that he has raised men and women all the while purely for his own good. Nobody should play godfatherism to such an extent that he sits down to encourage people to aspire to the best of their potentials only to create a ceiling or barrier for them. You cannot raise a person to the office of Vice-President and then suddenly turn around to ask him not to run for the highest office on account solely that it has been your life ambition. Surely the nation is greater than any individual and no one should rate himself so high as to hold the nation to ransom by declaring himself as the only one fit for any particular office. In fact if we should turn the argument around, the better way to put it is that those who have sacrificed their lives, their thoughts and destinies alongside Tinubu have been the ones who have sustained him so far and he should be the one to show gratitude and loyalty to them while he retires peacefully and successfully to watch them grow.