by Timi Olagunju
This week, I had the privilege of being part of the delegation designated to meet privately with a former Nigerian President at his private residence in Abeokuta. In the course of the meeting, a colleague initiated discussions about the recently held primaries in Lagos state, and this led to conclusions about the future of politics in Nigeria. Moreover, whilst I was thinking about the legacy of the ex-President we visited, what came to mind was ‘Can Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (‘Jagaban’) build a sustaining legacy?’ ‘And could his recent actions lead to a plausible doom for his legacy and perhaps a large part of the All Progressive Party (APC)?’
In trying to probe further into the two questions, let us examine the context of these concerns in the light of two important incidents. The first, is the 2016 gubernatorial election in Ondo state, and the second is the recent All Progressive Congress (APC) Chairmanship primaries in Lagos.
As regards the gubernatorial election in Ondo, it was alleged that Jagaban had his preferred candidate, but the leadership of APC deemed it necessary to engage an open democratic process that ensured a different candidate emerged as the party’s flag-bearer, contrary to Jagaban’s wish. Fast forward to few days ago, he was also alleged to have given clear directives to the party rank-and-file to jettison party primaries for the forthcoming local government elections in Lagos state. At a meeting, sources revealed that he summoned the local government leaders of the APC at Acme Road office of the Lagos State chapter of the APC. It was further stated that he declared that eighteen immediate past Local Government Chairmen be automatically returned as the party’s candidates in their respective Local Government Areas (LGA) or Local Council Development Areas (LCDA), while leaders of the party in other LGAs/LCDAs should select chairman and councilors, without a democratic election. If that is the case what happens to aspirants such as Oluwaseun Odutayo or Asiwaju Dayo Israel, who have showed consistent commitment to serving the people, without political title, and now wish to run for these offices.
This led into what party loyalist observed as arbitrary use of power, thereby leading to violent outburst during the election. Therefore, the primaries were canceled due to the outburst.
Having discussed these two incidents, now, let’s go into a quick history of Jagaban, and why he needs to avert this doom to sustain his hard earned legacy. Jagaban entered into political lime-light as a Senator in 1992 on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), and gradually built his political clout over the years to be a leading light in support of democracy, even whilst away in the United States. In addition, he grew as an open advocate for democracy and democratic institution. Also, in the last general election, he regularly criticized People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for their undemocratic party primaries.
In his words, he says, ‘elections for the PDP are not seen as exercises in democratic expression whereby the people are allowed the leaders of their choice. Elections to them are a perverse ritual where they explore the terrible lengths to which they will go to suppress the people’s will. This many considered as against the ethics and values of the APC constitution, thereby sparking violence and disruption of the APC chairmanship primaries’.
My questions then to Jagaban are, “if you built your current career and your foundation on justice and open democracy, and you openly criticized PDP for undemocratic activities, why run APC in such undemocratic style? If what gave you a stake in the Nigerian polity was your pro-democracy activism, why ruin it with consistent undemocratic declarations and dispositions? Please note that History can be a harsh judge! We can still remember the ‘Pa Awolowo and Chief S.L. Akintola’ saga, and how it almost ruined what these two men built as pro-nationalists.
If integrity is the correspondence of words with action, and Jagaban’s words and actions do not converge, then what legacy would be left for him to relish? What followership for himself or for APC would he build with a lack of integrity or a presence of dictatorship? The same dictatorship, he once fought tooth and nail.
As for APC, one of the strongest strength of any political party is a united house. One of the reasons APC won the Nigerian election was the fact that the candidate that emerge, in the person of President Mohammed Buhari, got the ticket democratically. If it were a ‘kangaroo’ or thwarted primary election, the general election results could have been different. Therefore, as political psychologists, it is safe to conclude that non-interference and democratization of party politics, increases the chances of a party’s candidate winning the general elections, as against parties who impose candidates or manipulate the process of internal democracy. Perhaps, we can cite the US elections, with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, where Wikileaks alleged that party leaders tilted and manipulated in favor of Hillary. The saying goes that a house divided against itself cannot stand for too long.
I admire Jagaban, and agree that he has proven his commitment to developmental projects and programs by ensuring that people who can provide good leadership and managerial skill emerged as governors in the South-West. However, he should always remember that in building his legacy, he can only impose on the people some of the time, he cannot do so all of the time.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Timi Olagunju is a leadership author, lawyer, and co-founder, ‘Youths in Motion’ (YIM). He tweets @timithelaw