Tinubu: A skilled political strategist as Hero of Democracy

PRECEDENTS in the nation’s political history indicated that the All Peoples Congress, APC, a coalition of some opposition parties will not succeed in its bid to wrest power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Afterall, in the First Republic, the United Parties Grand Alliance, UPGA, failed to dislodge the ruling NPC (Northern Peoples Congress) in the 1964 parliamentary elections.
The NPC, was the ruling party and dominant party in the Nigerian National Alliance, NNA, and its partners were the Nigerian National Democratic Party, the Midwest Democratic Front, the Dynamic Party, the Niger Delta Congress, the Lagos State United Front and the Republican Party.

UPGA was a coalition of parties like the NCNC (National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons), Action Group (AG), the Northern Progressive Front, the Kano People’s Party, the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) and the Zamfara Commoners Party. NPC won 162 of the 312 seats in contention, while the larger NNA won a total of 198 seats. UPGA had failed.

Chance of success

Similarly, the Progressive Parties Alliance, PPA was formed in the Second Republic to tackle the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN. The strongest party in the alliance was the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, led by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Great Nigerian Peoples Party, GNPP, led by late Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, and the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, led by late Alhaji Aminu Kano.

The NPN itself was in partnership with another party, the Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, led by the country’s first president, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, in what is known as the NPN/NPP Accord. In the elections of 1983, the PPA could do little to dent the NPN’s armour; Alhaji Shehu Shagari was re-elected.

Given these, very few people gave the APC, a coalition of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, the Action Congress, AC, and the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, much chance of success. But by the time campaigns began, and crowds started thronging APC’s rallies, it became clear that the precedents may not matter in the 2015 elections. There is general agreement that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu is the driving force of the alliance, indeed, the cobbler that put the coalition together.

A tree maketh a forest not; Asiwaju Tinubu was, of course, not working alone. The desire to upstage the ruling party from power was widespread among the power elite in the opposition, but elements of the PDP itself who were disgruntled with the status quo became the grease that oiled the works.

Tasking enterprise

From disaffected members of the PDP that became the newPDP (nPDP), to the five governors that defected, politicians of disparate persuasions were persuaded to come under the same umbrella, united in their determination to hold sway at the centre.

It was a tasking enterprise, but the former Lagos State Governor was in his elements, recruiting even the most unlikely allies. One of such was former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, with whom Tinubu had a running battle over creation of more councils. Nobody ever thought the day would come when Asiwaju Tinubu would go to Ota Farm to see Obasanjo. Tinubu himself remarked that his being in Ota was indicative of the fact that “in politics, there are no permanent enemies, or friends, only interests.”

Pessimists garnered more fillip when General Muhammadu Buhari emerged APC presidential candidate. Nobody gave them any chance; the widely held position was that a Tinubu and a Buhari are oil and water that don’t mix. Even the intrigues and power plays that preceded the nomination proper was believed to have tested the strongest links in the alliance called APC.

It was not all smooth sailing though, the convention that produced Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as the party’s chairman again tested the foundations of the coalition, as one of the cobblers, Chief Tom Ikimi alleged exclusionist power plays and pulled out. But APC survived, and went ahead to win the elections.

The pattern of voting which had remained the same for a very long time was radically altered, no thanks to the political coalition put together by the man fondly called Jagaban.

Not only that, APC’s victory marked the very first time an opposition party would wrest power from the ruling party in Nigeria, just like it happened in neighbouring Ghana. By this, the maturity of the nation’s democratic experience, re-started in 1999, is assured. The Jagaban as lead actor, has the credit for this.


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