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President Bola Tinubu

2023: Open Letter to H.E. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu By Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia 

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu

Dear Jagaban

I wish to congratulate Your Excellency, Sen. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the giant strides you have made in Nigeria’s social and political life. Some of us who have followed your political trajectory with keen interest and admiration will readily attest to the enormous value Your Excellency has added to Nigeria’s democratic process. For example, it is on record that in Nigeria’s darkest days of military dictatorship, especially under General Sani Abacha, you, along with other soldiers of democracy, made enormous sacrifices under the platform of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) to ensure the reversal of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was clearly won by the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. At the heat of the struggle; and when your personal safety was no longer guaranteed; a period where the Abacha regime adopted a carrot and stick method to whip “dissidents” into line, you took the noble way out. Your Excellency went into self-exile instead of succumbing to the filthy lucre by the Abacha regime.

Your Excellency is a firm believer in the principle of devolution of power. As the Governor of Lagos State at the behest of the current cycle of political dispensation, you demonstrated your belief in the devolution of power when you insisted on the constitutional right of Lagos State Government to create local governments within its jurisdiction. Even when the monthly revenue allocations to Lagos State were seized by the federal government, Bola Tinubu, the Jagaban, was undaunted.

Your Excellency’s strong political convictions are not in doubt. One would recall that at a point the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in a Machiavellian tactics, wooed the entire South-West to his political party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), it was only Bola Ahmed Tinubu that was found standing firm in the Alliance for Democracy (AD). Tributes will always go to Tinubu that the AD, which was left destitute with only one State, became the pivot to re-launch the progressive provenance of the South-West of Nigeria under the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). This is the case of a proverbial rejected stone that became the corner stone. It was Bola Tinubu who on Thursday, June 7, 2012 went to the residence of the Leader of the Congress for Progressive Change, General Muhammadu Buhari and forged a relationship that would eventually give birth to the APC. Undoubtedly, even the Tinubu detractors will agree that Tinubu will go down in history as a man with the characteristics of the Phoenix, a wonder bird in Greek mythology, with the innate ability to resurrect from the ashes of its self-immolation.

Given the foregoing, it is not surprising that Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) has a towering influence and power in Nigerian politics. He has produced several politicians of weight and worth at the very high echelon of Nigeria. Tinubu, in the course of his political odyssey has made invaluable friends and contacts across the country. In his impressive political exploits, it is not in doubt that Tinubu has also made enemies of those who feel he has stepped on their toes. In all, most Nigerians can attest that Tinubu is a strategic thinker with a formidable frontier spirit whose irrepressible doggedness, in collaboration with some others, brought the APC-led government to power in 2015. But the most astounding of the Tinubu mystique is his incredible capacity to win and sustain friends of all colours.

Before the 2015 general election, Tinubu could rightly be described as the conscience of Nigeria. For instance, on June 12, 2013 Bola Ahmed Tinubu delivered a speech titled “Leadership, National Development and the People” in the House of Commons, London. In that inspiring speech, Tinubu quoted the late British economist Dudley Seers on the variables of a country’s economic status to wit:

What has become of poverty? What has happened to unemployment? What is the state of socio-economic inequality? If all three have declined from high levels, then development has occurred. But if one or two of these central problems have grown worse, especially if all three have, it would be wrong to call the result “development” even if GDP has improved.

Your Excellency informed the audience and indeed the whole world that the above “problems have grown worse in our land”. The speech added that “the three key drivers of development are retrogressing because of the missing link – visionary, disciplined and courageous leadership”. The audience was informed that Nigeria needed a change of leadership – a leadership that would provide “gainful employment, quality education and essential social services; and that…Nigeria, under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan is a dysfunctional democracy.”

The world was assured that the “central focus of our efforts in the coming years must be the implementation of the most extensive and aggressive plan to lift as many Nigerians out of poverty as possible. Our desire is to be able to move at least 20% of our people out of poverty (defined as earning less than a dollar a day) in the first 4 years of our administration.”

Such elegant manifesto, coming from Tinubu amongst others compelled Nigerians into the Change mantra that saw Nigerians overwhelmingly voting out the sitting government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. It will therefore be trite to state that through a concerted political activism, Tinubu has contributed immensely to the restoration of democracy, federalism discourse, constitutionalism, democratic acrobatism and the national development of Nigeria. Above all, he has shown courage, self-confidence, resilience, political sagacity and an uncommon capacity to influence the elite and the masses alike.

Curiously, one is worried that this huge social capital and the profiling of Tinubu as the conscience of Nigeria may suffer an irreversible damage if the indications coming from various sources are anything to go by. This strong indication is centered on Tinubu’s intention to contest the presidency of Nigeria in 2023. I am persuaded that such ambition will be ill-advised and would amount to the demystification of the cult-followership, which the Jagaban has built around himself. The reason for the foregoing assertion is both philosophical and empirical.

Your Excellency had, in the years before now, played the avant-garde role of championing the rule of law, justice, equity and fairness in the governance structure of Nigeria. But in the present circumstance, it appears that because of your ambition to contest the presidency, the Bola Ahmed Tinubu we know has succumbed to the allure of power. Your strong ambition for presidency is no longer in doubt and on a daily basis is further accentuated by the activities of your close associates.

On Thursday, October 7, 2021, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos state governor, joined other Lagos APC members in launching the South-West Agenda 2023 (SWAGA ‘23), a campaign group championing the candidature of Tinubu for the 2023 presidency. On October 1, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase, led some members of the National Assembly from the Northern region to pay a solidarity visit to Your Excellency, shortly after you were discharged from a London hospital. The visit also offered the opportunity to drum up your aspiration for presidency in 2023. Your visit to Alhaji Tanko Yakassai on Wednesday, November 24, 2021 also highlighted the 2023 presidency as part of the reasons for your visit. It is also on record that the Arewa Support Group (ASG) in November 2021 handed a scroll from the Emir of Kano, Alh Ado Bayero to Your Excellency urging you to fire on for 2023.

Your Excellency, the journey for a post-military Nigeria began with the Constitutional Conference of 1994/95. It was the Conference that sired six-geopolitical zones for the country; namely, South East, South South, South West, North East, North Central and North West . It was also from the conference that most of the immortal members of the G-34 were drawn. The G-34, led by Dr. Alex Ekwueme, was very patriotic and audacious. They took three remarkable steps, which endeared them to Nigerians. First, they pressed for the release of Chief MKO Abiola and the restoration of his mandate. Second, they stood firmly against the transmutation of General Sani Abacha to a civilian President even when most Nigerians were falling upon themselves with “one million march” in support of Abacha. Three, when in June 1998, Abacha died and General Abdulsalam Abubakar took over, the Ekwueme group pressured Abubakar to specifically extract a handover date by the military to the civilians.

Others that worked with Ekwueme included Jerry Gana, Isa Kaita, Sule Lamido, Abubakar Rimi, Bola Ige, Solomon Lar, Iyorchia Ayu, Sunday Awoniyi, Adamu Ciroma, among others. The above men were courageous advocates of social justice, equity and fairness. They were variously described as men that dared a ravenous lion in its den. Throughout those turbulent times, Your Excellency was in exile, outside the country.

The above noble patriots conceded to zoning and rotation of political offices such that it will be fair to all the geo-political zones in the country. It was then agreed that presidency should rotate to the South after the incumbency of General Abdulsalam Abubakar. The meeting was held at the NUC Event Centre at Abuja. It was based on the foregoing that the mainstream political parties, namely the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP)/ Alliance for Democracy (AD) produced their presidential candidates from the South-West of Nigeria given the fact that grave injustice had been done to the South-West by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was won by a son of the South-West. The next rotation was to the North in the person of President Musa Yar’Adua; then to the South-South, in the person of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; and thereafter, another Northerner in the person of the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari. It is therefore hoped that after the Buhari incumbency, the presidency should again rotate to the South, and this time to the South-East region of Nigeria.

Your Excellency, the major cause of the agitation in the South-East of Nigeria is the obvious alienation of the people from the various centres of power which has attained its crescendo under the present APC led government. The extreme form of the agitation is the yearnings for secession by groups such as Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. Evidently, the ongoing activities of IPOB in the South-East should be of great concern to every patriotic Nigerian. For the avoidance of doubt, the followers of IPOB insist on leaving Nigeria for a country of their own, if the injustice against them persists unabated. On the other hand, the more deprived the South-East, the more the crises in the region. Unfortunately, some Nigerians outside the South-East are playing the ostrich. When confronted with danger, the ostrich instinctively buries its head in the sand dunes in the hope that it is shielded from the enemy. The ostrich often forgets that the entire body is exposed to the danger. In other words, it is foolhardiness to believe that the ripple effect of the South-East agitation and restiveness will not affect the entire Nigeria. My fear is that to deny the South-East the very opportunity and in fact, the right to produce the next president of Nigeria will increase the agitation and ultimately spell disaster for the country.

I am convinced that Your Excellency, in your typical manner of fighting for equity and justice should be in the vanguard for a Nigerian president from the South East of Nigeria, come 2023. This is the mark of a true statesman. One would also appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari and all the former Nigerian leaders, namely General Yakubu Gowon, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and some others such as our only Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, Chief Edwin Clark, etc to speak up in defence of peace and unity of Nigeria by insisting on fairness to the South East of Nigeria. And they would have written their names in gold. I must quickly add that the difference between the progressive and retrogressive or backward societies is the presence or absence of men of courage, selflessness, justice and truth. Nigeria will forever remember Dr. Alex Ekwueme and his group because of speaking truth to power and rising to the occasion when it matters most. This is a noble path that beckons.

In the past, Ahmed Bola Tinubu would have concerned himself with the cause of the agitation in the South-East and the solution thereof, but because of the obsession to become a president, it does appear that the more turbulent the South-East the better for the Jagaban. This is morally reprehensible. However, I have my fears that Tinubu is embarking on a political adventure that lacks both conscience and principle. The immortal words of Othman Dan-Fodio that “conscience is an open wound and only the truth can heal it” should serve as a moral compass to Nigerian leaders. Noah Webster had admonished that all the miseries, afflictions and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the inner still voice of reason and conscience.

It is also necessary to add that the solid foundation for a new Igbo-Yoruba relation that was laid with the blood of the likes of Col. Adekunle Fajuyi will be improved upon by your large heart. I must admit that my request to Your Excellency is a very difficult pill to swallow but a more difficult pill awaits the likely post 2023 agitations, national crises, insecurity, instability and the collapse of Nigeria’s economy if injustice against the South East of Nigeria prevails. On the other hand, a pyrrhic victory and calamity await those who intend to rejoice and dance for unjustly depriving the Igbo rights.

The author notes that BAT is a man whose immense political maneuvers cannot be ignored. While interacting with the leaders of the North on Saturday, December 11, 2023, BAT is quoted as saying:   I don’t need the South East and South South to become Nigerian President. He added among others, that “the vote of the North West, North East, some largely Muslim states in the North Central as well as South West, were enough to make him president”. Many shortsighted Tinubu apologists will jump at the above calculation aimed at nailing the political coffin of the South East and South South. The question remains: Does the above political calculation promote national peace and unity? On the other hand, an ambition that will set Nigeria on a collision course, mutual mistrust, civil disobedience, political upheavals and violence is not only unscrupulous but morally reprehensible.

Based on the foregoing, I most sincerely advise His Excellency, Senator Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to toe the path of reason, conscience and equity. It is important to add that posterity will be kind to Your Excellency if you reconsider your ambition in the interest of the corporate existence of Nigeria. Not only that, I wish to see the Jagaban adding his voice to a Nigerian President of South-East extraction.

Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia

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