By Onyema Omenuwa
The hypocrisy of supporters of Nigerian politicians can be nauseating. Lately, to even a casual follower of political developments, nothing arouses such revulsion more than the virulence being exhibited towards Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, by supporters of Bola Ahmed Tinubu because of the former’s ambition to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
Suddenly, we’re witnessing people, who all the while exhibited fanatical support for the APC government, turning 180 degrees. I mean folks, who were literally blind, deaf, and dumb to the gross incompetence and misgovernance deployed as statecraft by the present administration, are now fierce critics of the same administration. These are interesting times really. Just a few months ago, these people saw absolutely nothing wrong with the Buhari administration, even when everything wrong or evil coalesced in the administration as its identity. Some people say we joke a lot in this country.
But this joke is a tragic joke served by Nigerian politicians. Citizens of this country experience the worst of times; pure wickedness dished out by the political class. And the same politicians are won’t to explain it away as politics. Only practitioners of a fiendish version of politics can align with forces of stagnation to scuttle their own country’s progress, purely for selfish motives. Unfortunately, what has been observed is that by their actions and utterances, Tinubu’s supporters have projected themselves, and of course their principal, in the forefront of this inglorious tendency. An unintended consequence, no doubt, but then it would have taken the wisdom of Solomon to devise the kind of tact to handle the situation,given the benefactor-beneficiary political relationship between Tinubu and Osinbajo.
So, for Tinubu and his supporters, it’s an uncomfortable situation to be in.Now, what has played out is that immediately Osinbajo’s supporters started toying with the idea that the VP could actually become president, the same position that Tinubu himself has his eyes glued on, the Jagaban’s supporters took a counter-position, and simply activated the machinery to decimate everything Osinbajo stands for as a politician. And in terms of action and policies, the VP cannot stand isolated from the incumbent administration; the same administration that it took Tinubu’s political wizardry to birth. Herein lies the dilemma for Tinubu’s supporters; a kind of catch-22 situation. How does one convincingly condemn what they passionately supported?
A bit of flashback here will do. Tinubu, who bestrides our political space as probably the only stand-alone kingmaker, pulled off what was thought an impossibility, when his strategies became the game changer that ultimately yielded Buhari as president. For those who don’t know, Buhari was a political pariah in the country, except in some parts of the north where he commanded a cult-like following. Then the 2015 election happened,whereinTinubu’s intervention pushed the Buhari candidacy literally beyond frontiers. Like him or hate him, therefore, no one thought that was a mean feat on Tinubu’s part. Yet he didn’t relax; he threw his total support and was relentless in mobilizing same for the Buhari administrationand everything it stood for.
Of course, as much support as Tinubugave to Buhari was replicated by the Jagaban’s teeming supporters. But not anymore.And that is simply because Osinbajo’s ambition is now in the mix. Tinubu’s supporters are now singing a negative song of the present administration. Unfortunately, with this turn of events, they may be courting electoral failure for their principal. While recognising their freedom to cast Osinbajo in the worst light in the name of politics, what is certainly incensing to a lot of people is the about-turnontheir assessment of government actions and policies. It smacks of barefaced duplicity.
And it’s not just about Tinubu.In fact, failure may just be awaiting any presidential aspirant who saw no evil in how President Muhammadu Buhari,by design, made a mincemeat of every element that ensured national cohesion for Nigerians. It is too late in the day for any such politician to suddenly wake up to the evil they helped to propagate; simplybecause remainingsteadfast would rub off negatively on them in their political quest. That is being clever by half. And Tinubu’s supporters are not ones that would be comfortable with such identification. Engage them in political conversations today and observe a people battling withthe reality thatsuch a volte-face as they’ve made is yielding negative returns for Tinubu.
But they can’t claim ignorance of the evil that they supported. It cannot be a sudden realization for anyone that the Buhari administration has never wavered in its determination to be nepotistic, tribalistic and religiously influenced in its handling of national affairs. Those who noted the tendency early enough in the life of theadministration and spoke out against it were labeled “wailers” and “haters”. Today, that trend is the evil Tinubu’s supporters accuse Osinbajo of being part of its propagation. Their logic is that Osinbajo as Vice President cannot dissociate himself from the administration’s policies and actions. Sound analysis, no doubt; but the accusers cannot also, in all honesty, distance themselves from Osinbajo.When Buhari started out with not just nepotistic appointments but equally made sure that all sensitive ones were and are still being occupied by individuals from the north, and virtually all of them, of the Islamic faith, APC supporters were united in the justification that the appointees were those Buhari could work with. Moreover, they equally pushed the argument that no appointment was made without due regard for merit.
In those days, the “wailers’” observations that such justification and arguments unwittingly cast the south as lacking in both qualified persons and persons with the disposition required to assist the president run the country were derided as hatred. Government policies and actions replicated the same pattern of nepotism and bias. It can’t be forgotten so soon that RUGA was a policy the Buhari administration didn’t hide its determination to bully some sections of the country to accept, even when it’s only loaded with advantages for his Fulani stock. Also, in this countrywhen Fulani herdsmen kill as they are wont to do, the government blames the victims. And the herdsmen get more emboldened in their killing spree.
It is significant that while the government persisted in its pursuit of discriminatory or objectionable goals, no word of caution, criticism, much less condemnation was reportedly heard from any APC stalwart or their supporters. Now for political reasons, they’re waxing eloquent on the vices of the same administration. And what’s more, not a few of those “hailers” of yesterday have gone ahead and joined the rank of “wailers.”
But, so far not so good for them, with Tinubu receiving the hardest hit. The quest to sell his candidacy by demonising Osinbajo’s role in the Buhari administration is experiencing a turbulent sail. And it’s no surprise at all. In fact, it is demonstrative of the certainty that the Jagaban cannot distance himself from all the notorious actions and policies of the administration he helped to install and supported. No one would ordinarily make such an about-turn and still be taken seriously. But we’re in Nigeria, where the oddities can become the norm.
- Omenuwa is a lawyer and commentator on national issues
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