Candidates Scan: Mystery of the Jagaban


Ross Alabo-George

Everything about Tinubu seems to be shrouded in some kind of mystery, even though we all know enough, but that little bit of information that should seal up our knowledge about BAT is never available. Even for his best attributes, no one seems to know it all. His age is still a matter of debate, his origin, identity, education, qualification, career and business history, and for some , even his religion. But it’s in that little bit of the unknown that he thrives.

He thrives at the limits and threshold of systems, at the point of handicap of structures, and he has mastered the art of navigating that delicate but very risky path never taken by many. He thrives in danger and has numbed his sentinel to fear and conscience. This is essentially close to how common spirits operate.

His disciples will never agree that his health challenges are a limitation. Will you blame them? He pushed the dark clouds over his ambition to the left, and staged the most improbable comeback at Eagle Square to the chagrin of many political observers. He just kept moving like a spirit.

You might not like him, but you will at least agree that he plans his battles and puts his soul into his fights. But what exactly drives his kind of passion or ambition? That’s a question only BAT can answer, just like the many others about him that we either don’t know or believe.

There are some of his supporters who genuinely believe that Nigeria needs his style of leadership with all the Machiavellian maneuvers, especially, in areas like restructuring and power generation. Others, who sympathize with his ambition believe that he would have been an exceptional and visionary president if he was in very good health.

His running mate put it clearly when he said: “Nice men don’t make good leaders.” What he actually meant was that Nigeria needs a “bad guy” president.

He proved to be the “bad guy” in his presidential primaries run. He wasn’t the preferred candidate of the president but he neutralized the wiles of the presidency.

Again, he picked a Muslim running mate. A nice man won’t do that. But it was his strongest card, and he had to play it. yet again, at the edge. He is still running at the “touch-line” like they call it in rugby and football. His whole story depicts a man who has mastered the margins and practically dwells there like an invisible, invincible and untouchable spirit.

Now, look at his campaign. He doesn’t have the poplar wave like Mr. Peter Obi, but he has the best ground organization and solid team setup in almost all states. He has the largest financial war chest, and perhaps the most comprehensive battle plan coupled with dedicated personal disciples to execute their strategies to the tactical end. He puts in a lot of work.

Early this year, a friend of mine who works for him arrived from Lagos with a team of consultants from England. “What are you guys doing in Port Harcourt?” I asked. I knew it was political. They had come to inspect all of the projects executed — successful and failed— by one of their opponents in the primaries —who they considered a strong contender— had claimed. They spent a few days in Port Harcourt, completed their work and left. I thought to myself that these guys are not joking.

Tinubu has been in the trenches for over three decades, looking into his political binoculars, and observing the tides. Since he left office in 2007, he has been plotting for this moment. It is that moment of his life where nothing else but winning matters, and he is ready to lose it all — or die— trying.

As a pro-PDP voter, who now supports Peter Obi, the only challenge I see is Mr. Bola Tinubu. The reason why I see BAT as a big challenge is simply because he spends most of his resources doing his homework. And because he is not a “nice man” like my preferred candidate, he has more pathways — good, bad, and ugly- to victory.

To defeat BAT will take more than a popular wave and popular votes. It will take resource-matching, an equally powerful ground formation, solid grid-by-grid information, and MONEY. Yes, Cash.

Money is the second most important resource in Nigerian politics. The cost of publicity, organization, communication, mobilization, logistics, and security, could be outrageous.

I have argued since 2010 that most Nigerians are not driven by political principles or ideologies, because the only ideology of the poor is “Survival”. Election Day in Nigeria for many poor citizens is “Survival Day”. That N5,000 (inducement) that will ‘survive’ them for a week, means more than who leads them for another four years. Poverty numbs reason and reasoning.

It does seem to me that BAT has finished his finished his homework, he already knows what he is up against. Unlike Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a perennial presidential aspirant, whose best tricks and playbook have been demystified, BAT is still some sort of a mystery. He deployed a groundbreaking game plan during the APC primaries, and shocked his adversaries with an overwhelming landslide.

Behind his petit frame is a formidable team of ruthless attackers, defenders and playmakers, who understand the magnitude of what they are up against, and are prepared for the deluge of very rough tackles that still await them, but their own spikes are equally laced with bane.

Does he stand a chance? I think he does. Though his party has run the worse government in our history, they still have the establishment advantage. But to win, he has to play very rough, but in the end, that kind of victory will be pyrrhic.