It seems to me the battle line is drawn between two political giants of the Yoruba nation. Like the decade of 1960s, like that of the 2020s. When Yoruba politicians fight, they fight dirty; no holds no barred; they took no prisoners and it is always fight to the finish. Once the first salvo is fired, they cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war.
That was what happened in the Southwest between Afonja and the Ooni in the ancient times and between Awo and Akintola in the ’60s.
The worst is when the fighting is/was as a result of a splinter from the same political camp, due to divergent political interests and the struggle to hold the power at the centre. Even when the central power mattered little to Nigerians in the ’60s, the Southwest crises almost capsized the nation until the Federal Government stepped in in favour of Akintola.
The only difference this time around is that the two giants cut across religious beliefs. While Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo is a Christian, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a Muslim, unlike in the ’60s when both Awo and Akintola were Christians.
In this saga Tinubu is like Awo who could withstand any adversary no matter how big. Osinbajo needs his own Sardauna before he can confront his former boss. Can President Muhammadu Buhari be to him what Sardauna was to Akintola, if at all he is not neutral on who is to succeed him?
Equally important is where Obasanjo and his friends cutting across the region stand. We are all aware that there is no love lost between Obasanjo and Tinubu. There is no doubt Obasanjo will do all he can to stop Tinubu from realising his ambition. He will readily find an ally in the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the likes of TY Danjuma and Mathew Hassan Kukah to scuttle his ambition, using the religion card.
Awo in the ’70s used the same strategy by choosing a Christian as his deputy. His wisdom was that if all Christians in Nigeria voted for him, together with a little number of votes from Muslims, he would win. But at the end of the day, he lost to the mixed-faith ticket of Shagari and Ekweme. Will same faith ticket work for Tinubu this time around? Will the Nigerian elite agree with the idea? Will Nigerian Christians agree with the idea? Or will he call the bluff of Northern Muslims and take a Northern Christian as his running mate? Only time will tell!
With the collapse of the Kaduna Mafia and the withering influence of Northern emirs, the single most powerful political block which may play a critical role in the 2023 election is the Ulama (Islamic scholars). Though they are not under the same shade, and there is also centrifugal tendencies among them due to sectarian interests, they still command the opinion of a large chunk of Northern Muslims. If Tinubu can woo them to his side, they can harness millions of Muslim voters in his favour.
Tinubu is busy interacting with the elite just when he needs to give more emphasis to the middle class in the North. I am afraid he may lose the moon while counting the stars
The hurdle before Osinbanjo is that he needs a strong army cutting across the divides, a support from former heads of state and a good presence in the North in order to realise his ambition.
As at now we may not know where Obasanjo stands. He may have it smooth, especially since they are in favour of power shift from the North to the South and from Muslim to Christian. They are vehemently against a same-faith ticket (a Muslim-Muslim ticket) which his main opponent is hinging on. At the same time, they are fully aware that the North will not accept anything other than a Muslim vice-president. This will definitely in the next general election work against a Tinubu candidacy and may even lead to its collapse, especially if the PDP picks its presidential candidate from the South with a Muslim VP candidate from the North.
As at now, the CAN and the league of Nigerian extraordinary generals frown at the idea of a same-faith ticket. Can Tinubu cross the hurdle and clinch the ticket, despite the objection of these two powerful political blocks?
Tinubu is busy interacting with the elite just when he needs to give more emphasis to the middle class in the North. I am afraid he may lose the moon while counting the stars.
Meanwhile, Osinbajo is yet to make any serious move, which I think may be his biggest mistake as far as his ambition is concerned.
The war to Aso rock between the two Yorubas may not be as bloody as the war between Awo and Akintola, but it will definitely be interesting in the near future. This time around, the outcome will belie General Gowon’s dictum, as there must be a winner and a vanquished.
* Fatuhu Mustapha is an Abuja-based political commentator
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