The alert on my phone roused me up from my sweet sleep in cold Wisconsin weather on Monday with the news. The screaming headline in a Nigerian newspaper bayoneted the story: “I am a kingmaker; I want to be king.” The audaciously resonant statement was made by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, National Leader of ruling party, All Progressives Congress. Tinubu went on to say to reporters, “I have never seen where it is written in the rule book anywhere in any country in the world that a kingmaker cannot become king.” And the accompanying noise lurking in that statement seeped into the aching ears of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who heard it loud and clear that Tinubu said he made him. Did Asiwaju really make Buhari king? We will see how the taciturn man from Daura reacts to that in weeks and months to come.
Tinubu flagged off his campaign Monday in Aso Rock. His one-man audience was the President he hopes to succeed. “Becoming President is my lifelong ambition;” he was definitive. The field for the jostle for presidential power in 2023 will soon be crowded. But among them will be a few that stand out. Tinubu is one. Without a doubt, Jagaban is a phat phenomenon. He is the bawling voice in the wilderness of Nigerian politics. A historical headhunter. A discoverer of talents and treasures. Strong. Solid. Savvy. Tinubu is a political horsepower, who has paid his dues duking it out in the minefield of Nigeria’s dirty and dingy game. A man beloved by many and despised by not a few. I have run into a few people in politics and business, who believe their lives wouldn’t have had meaning if their paths never crossed Tinubu’s. I have also met disgruntled men, who claim he destroyed their lives and pipe-bombed their dreams. And now, this kingmaker wants to become king. And he said so few feet away from the man who is now king.
The route to the Villa probably will have to swivel through the sitting Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. As of the time of writing this column, Osinbajo is mum. But the atmosphere is inundated with the deafening din and maddening moil. Billboards are blinking and fliers are flying everywhere. We hear chants and slogans on TV and a barrage of staccato on social media. A deluge of advertisements casting the VP as the man to beat in a contest, we are unsure he wants to be part of, is all over the place. A friend of mine from Kano told me that she will be representing her state of Zamfara in a big get-together to be held on behalf of Osinbajo Saturday in Kano.
There are parleys and parties held on behalf of this pastor professor. An Osinbajo-friendly group, late last year, approached Former Military Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida. The ‘evil genius’ endorsed Osinbajo without holding back. There is also a musing in town that wherever you find IBB you find OBJ, Abdulsalam and Danjuma singing the same lullaby. Are all of these powerful men on board with an Osinbajo presidency? Many in high places are urging the Professor of Law, a man one heartbeat away from the presidency, to run. They see him as a perfect fit in a game largely run by misfits. Tinubu and Osinbajo may inevitably become heated arch-rivals. But what must Osinbajo do now?
Osinbajo brings a bundle of virtues to the presidential table. He has amassed experience from various fora. He is the Chairman of the National Economic Council. Member of the National Security Council, the National Defense Council, the Federal Executive Council, and a participant in all cabinet meetings. Osinbajo is a virtuous teacher of law groomed to convince men by word of mouth. He is not a man of crazy ambition or thirst for power. But once as Acting President, he exercised the authority of the office and Nigerians will never forget quickly the bliss of that short season. So, what must Osinbajo do now?
I was in heartfelt discussions with a few friends after Tinubu made his announcement. A few of them approached the issue from a moral standpoint. They claim an Osinbajo-run may amount to a betrayal of friendship and brotherhood with Asiwaju. And Osinbajo, as a pastor, must not betray his benefactor because of power. I felt the same way too until I thought about another perspective. Is the Nigerian presidency a royal throne with a sweet smell of exclusivity to one man or family? Even if Osinbajo backs down from contesting, will Tinubu run without opposition? Will everybody in Nigeria now lay prostrate and ask Tinubu to run unchallenged in 2023? Many of Tinubu’s surrogates in the South-West seem to be painting a picture of their man’s exclusive right to the presidency. The Nigerian presidency is not anybody’s exclusive right of ownership. There will be candidates from all regions of the nation. People will soon be coming out of the woodwork, wanting to become president. So, what must Osinbajo do now?
What is at stake is not personal. If Mr Vice President is unsure about the move, please somebody should tell him that he will not be betraying anyone he has not signed a covenant of eternal allegiance to. Let me refer pastor professor to the story of King David. The king was ageing quickly and a replacement was being prepared in one of his sons. One of them called Adonijah went about town declaring himself the next king. He made a splash, chariots, riders, and fifty men to run ahead of him. Adonijah convinced heavy hitters in David’s government and they threw their weight behind him. He held a coronation feast and invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and everyone in Judah. But David, by the inspiration of God, had decided that Solomon was the next king. There were intrigues and blackmail. Money changed hands and promises of cabinet positions were probably issued out liberally. Eventually, Solomon was crowned king! And the ambitious Adonijah later came to bow down before the one God had picked as King.
In the course of navigating the treacherous torrents of life, I stumbled on this truth: The race of life is not for the swift alone. Men deemed not as quick do win life’s race. The battle of our sojourn is not to the strong. Men considered not as physically fiery do win battles. Ultimate success is not necessarily to the forerunner but to him whom God has divinely designated a frontrunner. Our today and tomorrow, my friends, are set in stone by God and God alone. No man should boast. No man should brag. No man should bloviate in pride. No man is God who made man. It is the breath of God released upon the works of man that makes man special in a season. Ambition does not make any man king. God is the Kingmaker. Men are mere noisemakers. So, what must Osinbajo do now? He must run! It is healthy for our democracy.