The Chatham House, London hiatus by the presidential flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu on December 5, has foreclosed his chance of becoming president of Nigeria and cemented the possibility of Waziri Atiku Abubakar presidency and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP return as the ruling party at the center from next year.
The assertion above is underscored by the fact that Asiwaja Tinubu’s performance at Chatham House has turned out to be nothing but political higgledy-piggledy.
Although indirectly, all the suspicions of mental incapacities and physical debilities allegedly earlier exhibited by Asiwaju Tinubu as reflected by the numerous goofs and gaffes that he reportedly committed during his public outings considered to be hindrances to the ruling party’s candidate’s chance to succeed President Mohammadu Buhari as the next occupant of Aso Rock Villa in 2023, were affirmed and validated by his abdication from the responsibility to respond to questions posed to him after his presentation to an audience of eminent personalities at the forum organized by the UK based foreign policy think tank, Chatham House.
Instead of rising up to the occasion to put a lie to or cancel out the suspicions which had appeared to me initially as malicious, the presidential standard bearer of APC outsourced the duty to answer the questions to his allies-Kaduna state governor, Nasir El Rufai, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and Mr. Dele Alake, former commissioner for information when Tinubu ruled Lagos State 1999-2007, as well as Mrs. Beta Edun who is APC women leader and Ben Ayade, Cross Rivers State Governor.
In fact that spectacle is not only embarrassing, it is scandalous and an insult not only to Nigeria and Nigerians that he has persistently ignored by not honoring the invitation to attend town hall meetings by the media (Thisday/AriseTv), Organized Private Sector, (OPS/Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry-LCCI) body of lawyers (NBA)and the academia (LBS), but also to his host, Chatham House that was allegedly ambushed and therefore has reportedly expressed indignation at Mr. Tinubu’s resort to delegating the task of answering questions about the points that he canvassed in his presentation through surrogates.
A spokesman of the frontline United Kingdom, UK foreign policy think-tank Chatham House reportedly made the following statement of disavowal:
“Yesterday’s event was not the norm and our Chair was not notified in advance that Mr. Tinubu would be delegating questions,” Dele Alake, Director of Strategic Communications for the APC Presidential Campaign Council, PCC has pushed back in a channels television interview:
“This is one of the innovations of Asiwaju Tinubu. Don’t forget that one of his main solid strengths has been identifying talents,”
“Anybody who has his head properly screwed on his head would know that Asiwaju is the primus inter pares in team building; that is what he sought to display”
Despite, Mr Alake’s strenuous efforts at justifying the outlandish approach adopted by his principal as innovative, it is highly likely that most Nigerians would disagree with his logic.
But l guess he had to do what he had to do to keep his candidate in the reckoning for the presidential context that would be determined on February 25, 2023, which comes up a little more than sixty(60) days ahead.
Nevertheless, the stark reality is that after his Chatham House fiasco, Tinubu’s chances of succeeding Mohammadu Buhari next year have dipped. And no one needs a soothsayer to affirm that the ‘Renewed Hope 2023’ campaign which is how APC presidential candidate’s campaign has branded itself, is now at its nadir.
The proof or evidence that Tinubu’s Chatham House outing did not go down well amongst Nigerian people, particularly the youth demography is the avalanche of bizarre and ridiculous memes and skits parodying him after the fiasco in both traditional and social media platforms.
And being a maestro, Mr. Dele Alake recognized the dark clouds and the ensuing storm. Then he decided to spin the political higgledy-piggledy committed by his principal as a consequence of his outsourcing responsibility to answer questions arising from the ideas that he espoused in his presentation by ingeniously trying to cast it as an innovative leadership ingenuity being injected into the political ecosystem by his boss, and which would soon be emulated by other leaders.
But has the attempt to spin the Chatham House debacle been successful?
I think not.
At this juncture, for the sake of equity, it is appropriate that we put Asiwaju Tinubu’s performance at Chatham House in a crucible to determine whether it has further positively or negatively impacted his current race to Aso Rock Villa.
And l would like to do so by engaging in a comparison of then-candidate Mohammadu Buhari’s presentation in the same Uk foreign affairs forum, Chatham House on February 25, 2015, for the same purpose of winning the endorsement of the international community with candidate Tinubu’s December 5, 2022 appearance seven (7) and half (1/2)years after.
As it may be recalled, when then-candidate Buhari in February 2015 attended the Chatham House forum after the initial date for the general elections in Nigeria was postponed for six (6)weeks, his candidacy received a bounce as it was an opportunity for him to disabuse the minds of the international community whose endorsement he needed, but who were skeptical at that time about his sordid past as a military dictator in the twenty (20) months that he had ruled Nigeria from December 1983 to August 1985.
After his apparently convincing presentation where he portrayed himself as a former dictator who has become a born-again democrat, his audience was bowled over by his seeming sincerity in seeking forgiveness for his human rights abuses during his past dictatorial rule which he vowed would not happen again in his reincarnation.
It is on record that candidate Buhari’s image soared in popularity with international endorsements from both the United Kingdom, Uk and the United States of America, USA who even dispatched their respective foreign affairs minister and Secretary of State, as the case may be, on missions to Nigeria, enabling then opposition party candidate Buhari to win the presidency a couple of weeks after.
To be specific, Buhari was at Chatham House on the 25th of February after the election scheduled to hold on February 14th had been postponed to March 28th/29th 2015.
By way of putting things in context, I would like to urge readers to take note of the circumstances that surrounded Buhari’s Chatham House appearance which is that (1) it happened after the election was postponed to another date and (2) it was also an opportunity for Buhari to redeem his image of a dictator in the optics of Nigeria’s foreign partners.
In benchmarking the value of Buhari and Tinubu Chatham House engagements, there are also more nuanced factors that could be recognized as being contributory to Buhari’s better and more positive rating compared to Tinubu’s Chatham House debacle.
For instance, it was believed in some quarters that APC working with Chatham House ensured that only Buhari’s supporters and a few members of a foreign captive audience were allowed into the auditorium to give it a dash of foreign color and it enabled Buhari to make the speech without facing the challenge of answering genuine questions via robust audience participation, hence he escaped the excoriation that has defined Tinubu’s dismal Chatham House performance.
So, in sharp contrast to Buhari’s engagement, Tinubu’s presentation at Chatham House seven(7) and half (1/2) years after differs not only in circumstances with respect to the political dynamics in Nigeria but also in the composition of the audience in Chatham House and the context in terms of the question and answer format.
Also to be taken into consideration is the fact that the current APC presidential candidate made his appearance on December 5 this year which is nearly three months to the day of the presidential polls coming up on February 25 next year.
That is quite unlike the case of Buhari who was at Chatham House on February 25, 2015. That is barely one month from the date of the election and after the initial date for the elections was shifted by six (6) weeks from February 14 to March 28/29, 2015.
The prevailing circumstances at that time had given Buhari momentum because it was assumed that the opposition party’s candidate was being targeted by the ruling PDP that was presumably worried that if the election should hold on the earlier scheduled date, it would lose the election to Buhari.
Arising from the above, the sudden change of election date created an atmosphere of apprehension as most Nigerians were wondering whether or not the election would hold and such sentiments helped to generate and hold aloft the momentum for Buhari’s candidacy thus galvanizing and propelling the opposition, APC into prominence.
Given that the circumstances surrounding Tinubu’s Chatham House presentation compared to Buhari’s are different in the sense that the 2023 election date has not been shifted: instead, president Buhari has been emphatic that it is sacrosanct, just as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu has also been exuding similar confidence by harping on the fact that elections must hold despite the attacks on INEC personnel and facilities; the outcomes of both Buhari and Tinubu Chatham House attendance had to also be distinct from each other.
From the forgoing analysis, unlike Buhari whose visit to Chatham House lifted in 2015, Tinubu’s Chatham House parley accelerated his sinking in the eyes of the electorate as the so-called innovative leadership style that his handlers claim he was showcasing by dodging the questions posed to him in order to mask his suspected degenerating mental health situation, turned out to be more of a political death knell than a masterstroke that it was meant to be.
In other words, not allowing Tinubu to respond to questions posed to him after the presentation only validated the fears by most Nigerians that he was suffering from some mental and physical debilities as reflected by the goofs and gaffes that he had been making during his public outings in the course of his campaigns in the past twelve (12) months or thereabout.
As such he is being adjudged particularly by our youths as being too physically and mentally unfit to rule our country which is a pity for a man who has openly declared that it is his turn (emi lo kan) to be the president of Nigeria.
And in all fairness, Mr. Tinubu has truly been in the political hustings for over three decades during which he has served both as a senator and a state governor.
But unfortunately, he is about to fail not on account of not being politically sagacious,(of which he is a legend) sadly, it is owing to his alleged failing health -mentally and physically as well as lack of transparency in his origin,(place and time of birth) educational records in his childhood (primary and secondary school) which are mired in controversy.
The above mysteries constitute the formidable burden that is hanging over him like a menacing albatross.
From reports so far gleaned from the media, Mr. Peter Obi, Labour Party, LP candidate seems to be the next invitee to Chatham House. Waziri Atiku Abubakar of PDP and Dr. Musa Rabiu Kwakwanso of NNPP, including lNEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu are also scheduled to follow in that order.
How a UK foreign policy think tank has assumed the stature of a vetting agency for aspiring Nigerian presidents, boggles my mind.
Hence, Nigerians should be curious to know if the presidential candidates in Nigeria’s peer countries in Africa such as South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, or even Ghana challenge each other to dare to visit the US or attend Chatham House sessions in the UK for authentication as they do in our clime.
On pages 331 and 332 of my book, “Becoming president of Nigeria. A Citizen’s Guide”, in an article that l wrote and published in the mass media in September 2021, and which was reproduced in the book,l had predicted that the contest for the presidency of Nigeria would be between Waziri Atiku Abubakar of PDP and APC’s Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. That was long before the party primaries were held.
And my position has not changed about the 2023 presidential contest being a two (2) horse race between the APC and PDP which is a projection that l made more or less two (2) years before it happened.
However, arising from Tinubu’s Chatham House chaos, l am now inclined to wager a bet that the 2023 presidential election would most likely be won by PDP’s Waziri Atiku Abubakar.
While l am not unmindful of the impressive and significant forays that the Labor Party, LP has made in the political space, nevertheless, as the 2023 political assizes have crossed over into the critical last three months stage, Mr. Obi is daily looking like a phantom and a mere internet sensation as he has no actionable manifesto or structure to win the presidency.
It is not surprising that the long-awaited LP manifesto has been Pooh-poohed by both the PDP and APC presidential campaign councils for lacking in substance. As such, it has exposed the party and its presidential candidate’s programs and policies as a sort of gobbledygook.
The assessment validates the belief by Mr. Obi’s critics that his postulations about the lack of progress and development in Nigeria are beginning to sound like that of the former head of the anti-corruption agency in Kenya and Dean of Law faculty in Kabarak law school in Kenya, Professor Patrick Lumumba’s sanctimonious indignation about corruption being the clog of progress in Africa, yet he has never been able to really proffer viable solutions.
Although Professor Lumumba has the gift of the garb and says all the correct things that resonate with the masses, he never has actionable solutions to remedy the leadership maladies that he ascribes to African countries and their leaders.
With his talks increasingly being listened to for their comical or entertainment values rather than lessons that could be useful in fighting graft, simply because it is always full of high hifalutin, fantastic and sanctimonious expressions, he is no longer getting invited to give talks at anti-corruption conferences around Africa where he used to earn honorarium.
Although, the LP and its Presidential candidate have shown some spunk by practically taking control of the youth generation and the youth at heart with their media savviness driven by youth prowess and passion in the deployment of social media which Barack Obama leveraged in the US in 2008 to become the first black man to be president of the greatest country in the world, and with which William Ruto, as deputy president to Uhuru Kenyatta in the East African nation of Kenya also rode on earlier this year to clinch the presidency of his country against all odds; it remains to be seen how a similar scenario can manifest in Nigeria without the fundamentals that made it happen in the US and Kenya.
Perhaps owing to some omission or commission, the analysts who reference the two (2) youths facilitated victories in the US and Kenya to justify their speculation that Peter Obi would emerge as president of Nigeria next year, ignore or fail to recognize the salient facts that Obama contested on the platform of the Democratic Party which is already established with solid tentacles and taproots all over the US and Ruto was an incumbent deputy president to Kenyatta. So he was already a political force nationally and it is even he that was instrumental to Kenyatta becoming president in 2013-2022.
Ruto only fell out with the president in the dying days of their tenure and formed UDA with which he and his allies contested against Raila Odinga of ODM who the ruling Jubilee Party led by then president Kenyatta had decided to support instead of his deputy, William Ruto.
In fact, deputy president Ruto and president Kenyatta fell out in Kenya to remind me of Nigeria’s president Olusegun Obasanjo and vice president Atiku Abubakar faceoff during their second term in office (2003-7) when both the president and vice president engaged in a scandalous and nasty fight that attracted massive opprobrium to then ruling PDP.
The only difference is that in Nigeria, instead of Atiku Abubakar forming a new political party or converting PDM -a political movement inherited from his mentor, the late Shehu Yar’dua into a registered political party, he hunkered down in PDP and got locked down in court by Obasanjo for a long period.
He only prevailed in court at the tail end when it was too late to be able to mobilize support for his presidential ambition in the 2007 election.
But in Kenya, Ruto was not hindered by such encumbrances, as he quickly floated a political platform ODA with which he contested and was able to against all odds, win the president Kenyatta backed Raila Odinga by a razor-thin margin.
Since the political fundamentals that were present in both Obama and Ruto’s ascension to the presidency of the US and Kenya respectively are absent in the case of Peter Obi and LP in Nigeria which is a party without deep roots, just as Obi had no national name recognition until 2019 presidential election when he was picked as a vice presidential candidate to Atiku Abubakar in PDP and about six (6)months ago when he became the presidential flag bearer of LP, the permutations that Obi would win the 2023 presidency on account of youth power, diaspora support and online political campaign rhetorics without a ward councilor, chairman of local government area, commissioner, house of assembly, house of representatives, senator, minister and governor as members of the Labor Patty are in my considered opinion, drawn from my understanding of basic dynamics of politics as outlined above,” attempting to extract water from a rock, which is a mission impossible.
Incidentally, Peter Obi can relate to the impossible task of water being squeezed out of a rock because his nickname or moniker is Okute in Igbo dialect translated as a rock.
In light of the circumstances outlined above, the political stage appears to be set for the candidate of the PDP, Waziri Atiku Abubakar to seize.
More so because president Buhari whom he had squared up within 2019 with a remarkable number of votes garnered (PMB’s estimated 15m versus AA’s nearly 11m) is not on the ballot in the 2023 elections. Having fought gallantly in the last presidential contest, in 2019, Waziri Atiku Abubakar is the only one amongst the three front-liners that has tested and tried as a presidential candidate.
Therefore, the imminent return of the main opposition PDP and its candidate Atiku Abubakar to Aso Rock Villa in 2023 which is eight (8) years after its ouster is predicated on the belief that amongst the three leading presidential candidates-Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, who have been traversing the stormy waters of Nigerian politics seeking for the mandate of the electorate to be the next number one (1) Aso Rock Villa occupant, Atiku Abubakar appears to be on terra firma.
That is despite the present and real danger posed by Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike led G-5 or Furious Famous Five Governors, (FFFG) whose rebellion within the PDP is threatening to upend the ascendancy of the main opposition PDP into the apogee of power at the center, Aso Rock Villa if their grievances festering like an open sore are not addressed.
In the absence of further threats from the ruling APC candidate whose fate appears to have been sealed, not only by the handicap of his questionable ancestry and duplicitous primary and secondary schools educational pedigree, but also his seeming physical and mental impairment which critics aver as being confirmed by his farming out of the responsibility of answering questions on a presentation that he had made to a global audience of eminent personalities at Chatham House on December 5, and compounded by his avoidance of debates or town hall meetings in Nigeria.
Given the above scenario, the PDP that only exited Aso Rock Villa barely seven (7) and half (1/2) years ago, and still has the blueprint of how to get back to power encrypted in its DNA,(as reflected by its solid and robust party structures nationwide) is therefore poised to retake the Villa-presidential seat of power with Waziri Atiku Abubakar at the helm of affairs, without much ado.
The political tide may not change for Tinubu unless, in less than 90 days period left before the presidential election, he tenders a certificate of clean health from a credible medical doctor or institution, subjects himself to public scrutiny of his mental capacity via personal participation (not by proxy or docking)in public debates, and gives a convincing account with verifiable records of his life from the cradle in Nigeria to the time he commenced attending high school in Chicago, down to his enrollment for his undergraduate studies in the state university of Chicago, Illinois for his degree in accountancy and return home to Nigeria as an accountant with Mobil oil company.
Those are fundamental records that are presently foggy and need clarity.
As all the aforementioned requisites have not been tendered in the past year since he threw his hat into the political ring, it looks like an impossibility that it would materialize in the less than three months left for politicking before election D-Day.
But in politics nothing is sacrosanct.
So, it would be foolhardy to write off Asiwaju Tinubu by assuming that he can not get his mojo back. But for now, Atiku Abubakar holds the ace.
By the same token, PDP and its presidential standard bearer Waziri Atiku Abubakar can not afford to take their eyes off the ball by being complacent and assuming that February 25,2023 would merely be a day of coronation because as the saying goes, it is not yet Uhuru and it is not over until it is really over.
This presupposes that it must put its house in order so that the party can be on a more sound footing in order to truly be the first to breast the tape in the race for the presidency of Nigeria, in 2023.