(By Theophilus Ilevbare)
“Many Nigerians are favourably disposed to a paradigm shift from the old guard of ex-military administrators to the younger breed of politicians which is in tandem with the trending global practice: world super power leaders like Barack Obama, David Cameron, Francois Hollande and others are young, well educated, eloquent, dynamic and charismatic. But that alone is not enough. Beyond the bridges Tambuwal is building as he trots the country, he needs the endorsement and votes of Nigerians, not that of the northern elders to win elections. He should focus more on his image as a nationalist, rather than a regional northern aspirant who might end up dancing to the tune of the northern elders if he makes it to Aso Rock.“
It is no longer news that Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of the House of Representatives is been courted to hoist the northern flag in the 2015 presidential contest as he is said to possess the qualities the nation requires at the moment. Though he has not officially declared his intention to contest for the plum job, only a naïve political observer will claim ignorance of his lofty ambition.
Tacit endorsement and nudges have never been in short supply in the past months, notable and most assuring to him is the phrase to ‘try something higher’ – the way former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida puts it to him. Since then Tambuwal has been under pressure from prominent northern leaders to contest the 2015 presidential election. Even as he continues to make consultations and weigh his options, the opposition coalition – APC, are waiting in the wings to lure him to their camp.
Tambuwal is already reaching out to every nook and cranny of the country by personally honouring all invitations for naming ceremonies, weddings, funerals, thanksgiving, birthdays, constituency project launching or commissioning and other socio-political engagements organised by members of the House, state governors, prominent politicians and traditional rulers. His romance with members of the opposition has drawn the ire of the party’s hierarchy at the Wadata Plaza Headquarters of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They describe such open association as an “unholy alliance”. He has also tended towards opposition views in his comments on several national issues.
The Speaker enjoys tremendous support from opposition members of the House of Representatives, in addition to his cordial relationship with his party members. Political strategistssee Tambuwal as one who could win over PDP members to the APC if he agrees to defect. But there is the fear of a backlash, (like a real threat of impeachment should he cross-carpet to the APC to contest) instigated by the PDP as they have majority lawmakers in the House. To nullify and checkmate any threat of impeachment, pundits believe the APC plan to engineer a massive defection of the members of the House of Representatives from the PDP to its fold in the event that the speaker eventually rises to the bait to contest the 2015 presidency on the APC platform.
His proponents harp his aspiration for the presidency on the way he has successfully steered the affairs of the House by rising above partisanship and giving equal leverage to the opposition members in the House. Hence, Tambuwal is been projected by many as a progressive. His colleagues have come out boldly to declare their support for the Speaker’s 2015 ambition amid calls from some South/South lawmakers for caution. Hon. Lawal Yahaya Gumau representing Toro Federal Constituency, Bauchi state, bared his mind on Tambuwal’s aspiration: “I want to assure you that anybody that can preside over the National Assembly, be it Speaker or Senate president, 360 people in the House and stay with them in peace like Tambuwal is doing; such a person can rule Nigeria”. Therein lies the selling point of the pro-Tambuwal group. They fail to realise that leading a House of just 360 adults elected as worthy representatives of various constituencies of the nation cannot be a yardstick that makes Tambuwal the most qualified aspirant to become president of a country of 160 million people of diverse culture, ethnic and religious differences.
Many Nigerians are favourably disposed to a paradigm shift from the old guard of ex-military administrators to the younger breed of politicians which is in tandem with the trending global practice: world super power leaders like Barack Obama, David Cameron, Francois Hollande and others are young, well educated, eloquent, dynamic and charismatic. But that alone is not enough. Beyond the bridges Tambuwal is building as he trots the country, he needs the endorsement and votes of Nigerians, not that of the northern elders to win elections. He should focus more on his image as a nationalist, rather than a regional northern aspirant who might end up dancing to the tune of the northern elders if he makes it to Aso Rock. However, in most quarters, he is still regarded in the shadows of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, whom many believe, still has a cult following in the north. How he intends to leapfrog the retired General for the consensus candidate of the north in 2015 remains to be seen.
The number four citizen is in a crowded race for the presidency, no doubt. He seems to be playing safe, choosing to remain in the PDP for now. 2015 will be a year of reckoning for the ruling party as Nigerians are already disillusioned with the leadership they’ve provided in the past fourteen years. It is a party torn to the seams by crisis and the pursuit of self-interest. We are not under any illusion that the PDP is invincible, regardless of the clout and war chest they’ve garnered over the years. PDP can as well wave goodbye to the presidency in 2015 with the incumbent toeing the path that they have trod since 1999. As divided as the party is today, if the elections were to be conducted, Jonathan and the behemoth of a party he represents will be defeated. It will be difficult for the incumbent President to win an election in Nigeria without the support of the North. The only way the PDP can stand a chance at the 2015 polls is to field a northern presidential candidate.
In spite of the goodwill that Tambuwal is currently enjoying, the Speaker must exercise restraint so as not to get carried away as there are fears that he is been led to the fray to be left in the lurch. When push comes to shove, those nudging him to contest might abandon his ship. The political wilderness former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has found himself since he fell out of favour with ex-president, Olusegun Obasanjo, should be instructive for the Sokoto-born lawmaker. With people like IBB behind Tambuwal; men who have ruled this nation and left us where we are now, then he is going to fail even if he wins the election. He must be careful of being used and dumped by senior political parasites masquerading as messiahs.
Tambuwal must learn from his predecessors who once occupied his position; how they fell eventually to the booby trap the PDP laid. Hon. Ghali Umar Na’aba readily comes to mind. He pitched most lawmakers in the green chambers against the President between 1999 and 2003. He was booted out by the PDP when it was time for the 2003 elections and he is yet to be integrated into the mainstream of the party till this day.
Take Hon. Aminu Bello Masari, Speaker between 2003 and 2007, whom many still believed led a House that had the most cordial relationship with the executive during Obasanjo’s eight year tenure, for instance. He didn’t oppose the government frontally, but was accused of working against the party behind the scenes. He was stopped in his tracks when he attempted to secure the ticket of the PDP for the governorship seat of Katsina state in 2007. Ibrahim Shema, who is now the governor, was given the nod ahead of him as those issues came to the fore.
It is quite precarious for Tambuwal to openly hobnob with the opposition as the leaders of his party – on the platform he became a federal lawmaker – continue to kick. How he intends to get away unscathed is perhaps, privy to him alone. Should his 2015 presidential ambition become unfulfilled, will he still have a political future in the PDP or the yet to be registered APC?
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