As we draw closer and closer to the 2019 Nigerian general elections, while many people are focusing on the contest between the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, there is perhaps a more powerful contest going on and it is the one between Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. It is the rekindling of an old rivalry and at this stage, is a winner-takes-all, no-holds-barred contest. At stake are not just the keys to Nigeria via Aso Rock but also the South West of Nigeria with its prized jewel of Lagos, the economic capital of Africa’s most populous nation.
It wasn’t too long after Bola Tinubu became Governor of Lagos State in 1999 on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) that he found himself pitted against Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who had just become the President of Nigeria on the platform of the PDP. Back then with Tinubu as a state governor and Obasanjo as President, to put it in boxing terms, both men were not in the same weight category but today, twenty years later, with both men having successfully installed Presidents, Governors, legislators and other key figures across Nigeria, they are arguably equally matched now.
In 2011, both men had worked together to get Goodluck Jonathan elected as Nigeria’s president (although Tinubu’s role was a covert one). In the 2015 election cycle though, both men publicly worked together to ensure Muhammadu Buhari replaced Goodluck Jonathan as Nigeria’s president and their efforts were successful. This time however, Chief Obasanjo has publicly withdrawn his support for President Buhari and the Jagaban Borgu remains one of the last bastions of hope for the General from Daura who now looks likely to be defeated in the upcoming presidential election according to Legit.ng who conducted an online poll, seeking Nigerians’ opinion on who they will vote for between the two notable politician. If Buhari is ousted, Chief Obasanjo’s status as a kingmaker and a leader would be unassailable. If Buhari with Tinubu’s help is able to beat Chief Obasanjo’s candidate Atiku Abubakar, then it would retire Obasanjo from political relevance and firmly place the Jagaban at the helm of leadership of Nigeria as a nation.
As these two gladiators go head to head once again, the odds are against Bola Tinubu and not by his own making, President Buhari dug himself into a deep hole after he was elected in 2015 by bringing certain men around him who sought to decimate the influence that Bola Tinubu controls having been instrumental to President Muhammadu Buhari’s electoral victory. In doing so, they sought to weaken Tinubu’s power base across the South West of Nigeria, a move that has now come back to bite them in the ass as they seek to have President Buhari re-elected for a second term in office.
Nowhere was the impact of that profound foolishness on display more than in the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential rally held for President Buhari a few days ago in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Factions of the APC that had broken out as a result of a power tussle between Governor Ibikunle Amosun and the Jagaban began to hurl projectiles towards President Buhari and other prominent leaders of the party. As President Buhari was being whisked away from the peculiar mess being displayed live on national television, he urged members of the party to vote the APC on the 16th of February and for whosoever they may like in any other party in the subsequent elections. That statement in itself, similar to one he made in Owerri, Imo State, points to how fast the APC’s ship is letting in water and that its sinking is imminent. Perhaps if he had stepped in early enough to enforce party discipline across the ranks it may not have been so
Unconfirmed reports say the President has expressed serious doubts about Tinubu’s ability to deliver the South West for him, a feat that is vitally important to his hopes of returning as president. If anybody can save President Buhari and snatch victory from the gaping jaws of defeat, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is that man. His future and relevance in the scheme of things nationally and regionally is as stake, even more than his pride and his economic fortunes should he and the horse he is backing in the presidential race win on the 16th of February 2019, it will bring Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to his knees and ensure that among the pantheon of the greats, the Jagaban Borgu will be elevated to the top as Zeus was to Mount Olympus.