Prince Kasim Afegbu`s intervention on this page last week threw up some interesting aspects of the unfolding drama around the 2019 presidency, especially as it concerns the Governor of Sokoto State, Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. The governor`s yet to be declared ambition is said to be a major headache to the ruling party, from which he switched to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a few weeks ago. But that is not the only headache the ruling party should worry about, is it? The party lacks internal cohesion. It also has a man yet to be schooled in political party management and administration as its Chairman. In addition, the Federal Government it has put in place has performed abysmally on all fronts and is trying to build “a dictatorial democratic culture” by its contempt for national character and its desire to trample on both the legislature and the judiciary.
We say nothing about the Presidency`s reputation for incestuous nepotism and its determination to keep using lies as the main raw materials for keeping itself in office and moving the nation forward. But these are matters for another day. For now let us note, as Kasim said, that it is difficult to take seriously the recent pronouncements of Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu who, on the heels of Tambuwal`s switch of political platform, made some fantastic claims about the latter`s motives for leaving the ruling APC. A Tinubu who said of Tambuwal a few years ago: “Your sacrifice for a greater … Nigeria will go down in history as one of the greatest pragmatic and progressive political sacrifices ever made in the politics of our country” cannot be taken seriously in his more recent (contradictory) pronouncements on the same person. Besides, it is not the norm anywhere for the unilateral statements of an interested party who is losing both grounds and face on an issue to be taken as a valid and incontestable point of view on the matter in question.
Kasim`s clear support for a 2019 Tambuwal presidency was further accentuated by Jasper Uche in his “Tambuwals 2019 Project, APC`s”, which appeared in Thisday Newspapers of last Saturday. According to Uche: “The meteoric rise of governor Aminau Waziri Tambuwal in the nation`s political firmament defies logical precision.” Really? I have another perspective. This perspective is even also borne out by Uche`s further comments in the body of his article. Since his narrative links Tambuwal`s “meteoric rise” to the latter`s character, leadership qualities, commitment to higher national goals and fearless focus on sustainable democratic values, it is only natural that such a person should rise. Hear Uche`s comment on Tambuwal as Speaker: “…throughout his tenure the independence of the legislature as a critical livewire for democratic consolidation was not compromised.” So I submit that the rise, rather than defying logic, is actually the logical result of the qualities and circumstances described by the writer.
Perhaps more important than all of the foregoing is the fact that Nigeria can only survive as a nation today by embracing 21st Century leadership paradigms and facing the direction the rest of the world is facing in terms of development. It should be noted, in this regard, that persons with great capacity for consensus building are to be preferred to those with imperial disposition and reflexes. When an imperial temperament is combined with ignorance and ineptitude, as it is combined in the current Presidency, there is no alternative to moving such a stumbling block to progress out of the way.
The areas to focus for a Nigerian president in 2019 are human capital development, the economy and national cohesion. On the last point, the nation is so divided today that only people who are disposed to justice and “live and let live”, and who also have wide networks across religious, ethnic, political and generational lines, can make any meaningful impact. The current President and his clan of relations and other incompetent associates do not fit the billing in any. If anything, they are a reference on what Nigerians must do everything possible to eliminate, going forward.
Concerning Tambuwal`s history, profile and political trajectory, perhaps the first question to ask here is: How could a man who left the ANPP become the Deputy Minority Leader in his new party, just like that? The stakeholders must have found something in him to warrant such elevation. He became Speaker by what some power brokers who were crushed by his “cross-national” coalition called a “frightening, resolute and unprecedented consensus” of elected representatives from all over the country. Interestingly, the decision to make him Speaker was even taken at the end of the precious House thus: In the event that we return here after the elections, we shall not have the executive choose a leader for this independent arm of government; and it is Hon. Tambuwal who shall be elected our Speaker.
What did his colleagues see in him? Certainly not money because, metaphorically speaking, those who were against him at the time had the national treasury in their breast pocket. The bulwark of opposition against him collapsed before a simple consensus of Nigeria`s elected representatives, based on their conviction that Tambuwal was the right man for the office of Speaker; and that he was their choice. Party lines were cheerfully ignored by the lawmakers. Threats of political reprisals were dismissed. And a Speaker, chosen by the House, emerged in the presence of some of the most powerful godfathers Nigeria had ever produced. Yes: They came and sat in on the proceedings of the House of Representatives in order to intimidate the lawmakers into going back on their choice and resolve. It did not work.
Having emerged Speaker and, so to say, chewed his antagonists like crackers, Tambuwal had no airs of a conqueror. His shoulders did not acquire a new “lift”, to show that he was now the new kid on the block who took the existing power brokers to the undertaker, no! He simply went ahead to further democratize House Committer leadership and membership, ensuring that his colleagues worked together as lawmakers for the Nigerian people and the Nigerian state, rather than as members of different political parties who would spend their energies fighting one another. Look at his record as Speaker, especially with regard to inclusiveness, solidarity of Members as one strong arm put in place to defend democracy and public good. His tenure as Speaker portrayed him as broad minded, cosmopolitan in outlook and also as someone who is far more interested in achieving results that would benefit everyone.
Tambuwal`s recent reaction to the burgeoning insecurity in the land, wherein he called on President Buhari to review Nigeria’s security architecture, also says more than is apparent to the casual observer. His comments were based on a deep feeling of dismay at the waste of human life and the destruction of local economies through massacres and sundry acts of banditry all over the country. Curiously, he became governor at a time that Sokoto State was a haven for robbers and disoriented youths. The first thing he did was to do both capacity and human resource mapping of the state, to determine areas with very high incidents of crime and criminality. Then he disaggregated the findings and was able to confirm the types of crime that where dominant in specific parts of the state. Then he abolished the slush funds put in place by his predecessor, from state coffers, from which thugs were serviced and also bailed from time to time, whenever they were arrested by the police.
This was followed by capacity-building and economic empowerment schemes that took care of the livelihood of the youths and the resultant security situation in the state. Finally, miscreants arrested for any reason were taken to their village heads for surety and documentation, with the latter required to vouch for the subsequent good behaviour of the affected youth. As many Village Heads refused to stand surety, and began to ask both the youths and their parents to take responsibility, crime began to decline in the state. This is what ended the dreadful banditry of restive youths Tambuwal inherited when he was sworn is as Governor of Sokoto State.
Tambuwal had argued in his comments on national security that no nation can live with frequent killings, insecurity and death and succeed in bringing forth new generations of sensitive, morally upright and psychically balanced youths and leaders of tomorrow. His submission that no nation should tolerate “avoidable loss of life”, as such a nation would be “actually divesting itself of the human resources needed for national development” is instructive in more ways than one. It is from a man`s reaction to events that you can draw far reaching conclusion about what really drives him and what values he holds sacred. He called for an end to the massacre because he wanted to see Nigeria develop and use its massive human capital to take its rightful place in the comity of 21st nations, and with the right leadership paradigms. By refusing to keep quiet at a time of great national crisis, he stood up to be counted. He objected to the fact that state governors have no direct or indirect control over the police and other security personnel in in the states where they are presumed to be Chief Security Officers; calling for a re-examination of even the very concept of national security itself and way it is currently managed in the country.
As for his switch of political platform, every human being has the right and also the duty to upgrade his insights in the course of his life and experiences. This is usually the result of new knowledge, new realizations about old assumptions, changes in the circumstances that led to the earlier decisions and new realities occasioned by unforeseen eventualities. Look at the political and personal history of many outstanding leaders who had to traverse various terrains and platforms, as they struggled for clarity in their desire for the ideal platform to deliver public good.
(Dr. Okey Ikechukwu, mni, a Leadership and Governance Consultant, is Executive Director of Development Specs Academy.)