By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
I admit that it’s always ill-advised to use the word “never” when you prognosticate the outcome of a future event. The vagaries of life can throw a wrench to the works of the most auspicious auguries. I know that. Nevertheless, I am prepared to go out on a limb and proclaim that in spite of his feverishly desperate, frenzied, backstabbing machinations, Bola Ahmed Tinubu can never be Nigeria’s president. Here’s why.
Tinubu isn’t electable in any region of Nigeria outside the Southwest, his natal region. Even in the Southwest, his political capital has suffered incalculable diminution over the years, particularly because of the growing perception in the region that he is now a mindless minion of a morally maggoty, Machiavellian, and no-good northern cabal.
His callous, injudicious, not to mention misguided and evidence-free, exculpation of the alleged murderers of the daughter of Afenifere leader Reuben Fasoranti rankled many people in the region and helped seal the notion that he is now no more than a fawning, unthinking automaton for hostile political forces outside his region.
It is entirely possible that Fasoranti’s daughter wasn’t murdered by Fulani herders, but saying so without firm, foolproof evidence—and when raw passions were still inflamed—betrayed his lack of scruples and independence of thought. That is why an increasing number of people in the Southwest now see Tinubu as an unreliable, out-of-touch, self-absorbed, power-hungry, and treacherous narcissist.
Among the electorate in the Southeast and the South-south, he is seen as one of the principal architects in the emergence of the unrelieved disaster that is Buhari whose regime has taken the humiliation and alienation of the two regions as an article of statecraft. Tinubu also infamously sanctioned the systematic, state-sponsored, and thugs-executed disenfranchisement of Igbo voters in Lagos in 2019. His wife, Remi Tinubu, was, in fact, caught on camera lamenting that the Igbo are untrustworthy (Her exact words were, “Igbo, we no dey trust una again!”) Most Igbos and Southern ethnic minorities would rather be dead than vote for Tinubu.
Christian ethnic minorities in the North, for whom religious identity is an important instrument of political mobilization, deeply distrust, even resent, Tinubu and his politics. Although Northern Nigerian Christians tend to be largely indifferent to Southern (that is, Yoruba and Edo) Muslims, they nonetheless nurse deep-seated animus toward Tinubu because of the roles he is perceived to have played in propping up the fiendish monster of depravity that the Buhari regime has become.
You would think the Muslim North, particularly the Hausaphone Muslim North, would requite Tinubu’s support for Buhari in 2015 and 2019 by supporting his presidential aspiration in 2023. That is precisely what Tinubu himself, in his blissful naivety, expects. Well, as I pointed out many times before the 2019 election, this is where Tinubu will get the biggest shock of his life.
If Tinubu were lucky to clinch the nomination of the APC (as unlikely as this is), he would need to nominate a Christian, preferably a Northern Christian, politician to “balance” his ticket since he is a Muslim—or self-identifies as a Muslim—from the South. And that’s where the problem would start for him. In the North, there is an enduring distrust of the authenticity of the Islam of Yoruba Muslims.
There is even a Hausa phrase that encapsulates this distrust: adinin Yarbawa. It literally translates as the religion, i.e., Islam of the Yoruba. But it means more than that. It is often uttered to suggest that the Islam of Yoruba people is fickle, inauthentic, meretricious, syncretic, and untrustworthy. So, as far as most Northern Muslims are concerned, a Yoruba Muslim/Northern Christian ticket is as good as a Christian/Christian ticket.
Well, some Yoruba Muslims have been able to overcome this visceral Northern Muslim perceptual bias against their Islam. A good example is the late MKO Abiola. And it was because he did more for the cause of Islam than any Nigerian of his time. You can’t say that of Tinubu who, apart from the rampant northern Muslim perception that he isn’t a practicing Muslim, always looks drugged and drunk in TV interviews. Even Abiola had to choose a Northern Muslim running mate to earn the trust of the Northern Muslim political elite.
Nonetheless, if Tinubu chooses a running mate from the Muslim North to compensate for his lack of sufficient Muslim bona fides, he would alienate Igbo, Southern ethnic minority, and Northern Christian voters, the very people who distrust and resent him in the first place. Contemporary Nigeria is way more sensitive to the politics of religious representation than 1990s Nigeria was when Abiola ran for president.
The rise of politically tinged Pentecostalism in the South has made even the religiously liberal Southwest a hotbed for religious particularism, even though ethnic solidarity is still a more potent instrument for mobilization in the region than religion.
But I wager that Northern Muslim voters would rather vote for a party that fields a Northern Muslim candidate—even if that party is the PDP—than vote for Tinubu even if he chooses a Northern Muslim running mate. So, heads or tails, Tinubu will lose.
Nevertheless, the most important reason Tinubu can never be present is that the people who currently wield political power, to whom he is a witlessly obsequious bootlicker, won’t hand over power to him—or to anybody—in 2023.
Members of the cold, calculating, and conniving Buhari cabal have chosen Babagana Kingibe as Buhari's successor. As I pointed out in previous columns and social media updates, in the privacy of their conclaves, members of the cabal snigger at Tinubu for naively imagining that Buhari will hand over power to him. In the service of this self-delusion, he is bending over backwards, including throwing his loyal lieutenants under the bus, for the cabal in the presidency. But all this will come to naught.
Before the 2019 election, a friend of mine who is close to Abba Kyari confided in me that after the election they would “deal with Tinubu and his people.” He bragged that by the time they are done with him and his underlings, he would be so damaged that he won’t even be an option for the 2023 presidency. It’s already starting.
Of course, the cabal isn't banking on any legitimate election to get Kingibe into power; INEC, which is now in their begrimed pockets, will just pluck imaginary figures from the air, ignore actual votes, and declare him "winner"—like it did Buhari this year. And the Presidential Election and Petitions Tribunal and the Supreme Court will uphold the travesty.
However, I predict that should Buhari survive until 2023, he won't hand over power to anyone, including Kingibe. Apart from his hopeless love of power for the hell of it, Buhari needs power to stay alive—literally. The obscene amount of money Nigeria habitually fritters away in medical bills to keep him alive can only be sustained if he is in power. He won't get that sort of money outside power.
Only sustained, nationwide, pan-Nigerian civic insurrection can save Nigeria from the current fatal grip on it by Buhari and his cabal of ruthless power mongers. Tinubu has contributed to killing the culture of civil disobedience because of his inordinate, unrealizable political ambition. When the cabal finally comes for his neck, there will be no pan-Nigerian coalition to save him.