Can Tinubu win the Presidency on his own terms?

The combat strategy is not working for Tinubu because unlike his previous political expeditions, he is not in opposition. He is supposed to be riding on the waves of the Buhari Presidency.

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Bola Ahmed Tinubu – APC Presidential Flagbearer

By Nnanke Harry Willie

Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a politician of no mean repute even if he says so himself. He alluded to his daunting pedigree when he reeled out how many times President Buhari failed in his earlier attempts at becoming president and how he (Tinubu) more or less came to his (Buhari’s) rescue to lift him up, packaged and promoted him into the presidency.

We all recall that that was the same occasion, indeed with the same breath that he made his now famous “Emi l’okan” (It’s my turn) war cry.

Tinubu was to later go on to give all contenders in the APC primaries ‘bloody noses’ as he won the APC’s presidential ticket by a landslide against the expectations of many analysts. However, to his supporters, he only confirmed his prowess as a dogged fighter who knows how to get what he wants on his own terms at all times. He was likened to an accomplished war general who knows how to harness, deploy and manage resources to achieve set personal goals.

Indeed, Tinubu did not hide the fact that becoming the president of Nigeria is his life-long ambition. He made that declaration in January after seeing President Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. When reminded of his king-making pedigree, Tinubu wondered why the king-maker could not also make himself king.

Apparently, Tinubu has mobilised his full arsenal to embark on the political battle of his life. Critics believe that he has a phenomenal war chest in finances, human capital and goodwill. Critics however also say that he has formidable opponents and even enemies who would do everything to stop a Tinubu presidency.

It is on this note that Tinubu may have to take a second look at his presidential campaign strategy. At this point, every presidential candidate will do well to make a concerted effort to make more friends than enemies. Indeed, converting enemies into friends should be the way forward for the ultimate winner.

Tinubu prides himself as a rugged fighter for democracy and everything in between. He has thus since the Abacha days practised a special brand of ‘combat politics’. He cut his teeth in this strategy with the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO).

After he took over from Brigadier-General Buba Marwa (Rtd), Tinubu had to be reminded that he should cease the vituperative attacks on his predecessor and focus on governing Lagos State. Not long after, it was reported that He was having issues with leaders of Afenifere. This later snowballed into a full-fledged combat which led to the estranged relationship with the Yoruba Think-Tank till date.

Not long after, he began his running battle with the Olusegun Obasanjo-led federal government over several issues, the major of which was the issue of the 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) that he created to add to the existing 20 local governments recognized by the Nigerian constitution.

His adept survival strategy has since seen him literally handpick successive governors of Lagos State since he completed his 8-year term in office in 2007. Little wonder, the Tinubu campaign credits him with being the ‘builder of modern Lagos’, a claim which critics have continued to scoff at.

With multiple streams of income from tax consultancy, real estate, construction and many other sources of financial inflows, the Tinubu campaign is perhaps the most robustly funded among the top 4 contenders: Atiku Abubakar of PDP, Peter Obi of LP and Rabiu Kwankwaso of  NNPP.

Being a media owner and a renowned friend of the media generally, one would imagine that Tinubu will also have the media stoutly in his corner in his presidential race. Unfortunately, this is not turning out to be the case.

Apparently, nature seems to be playing a bad joke on Tinubu and critics have alleged that Tinubu’s great oratorical skills have been dampened by a cognitive decline. Despite several denials to the contrary, it is clear to the discerning observer that this is not Tinubu as we used to know him.

Apparently, in order to manage the current challenges, the media team of the APC flagbearer has opted for short, and curated media sessions for their principal. A perfect strategy if indeed what critics fear is correct. Tinubu has thus not attended any public debate or any live television interview since the campaign.

Unfortunately, the old political wounds of Tinubu have since been opened by opponents, activists and the media. These are issues surrounding his parentage, age, schools, drug-related forfeiture and so on.

Arise TV and sister publication Thisday seemed to have led the calls for Tinubu to make himself available for what it called proper scrutiny by the media but things got to a head recently when the duo of Dele Alake and Bayo Onanuga of APC Presidential Campaign Committee (PCC) have now taken off their gloves to engage in ‘slugfest’ of sorts with the Thisday/Arise News group and their owner Nduka Obaigbena in a bitter war of words replete with name-calling, accusations and counter-accusations.

That Tinubu has not called for a rapprochement seems to suggest that he supports the frontal combat attack that has been going on. It is however a self-deprecating strategy. No matter how Nduka Obaigbena or his media organisations are castigated and demarketed, it will not add any value to the value of the Tinubu brand. What the APC PCC ought to be doing right now is to stay focused on selling Tinubu for president even if it means embracing critical media by engaging them in a professional and dignifying way.

Even before the verbal brawl currently going on, a section of editors has wondered if the haughtiness and the perceived arrogance of the Tinubu media team is a foretaste of what is to come in the event that Tinubu became president.

The APC PCC should learn from Donald Trump’s failed re-election bid. When you wittingly or unwittingly expand your enemy base, you create a formidable opposition that will quickly erode your otherwise huge fanatical base. Indeed, you unwittingly stimulate fence-sitters into rising up in support of those you are trying to vilify.

The combat strategy is not working for Tinubu because unlike his previous political expeditions, he is not in opposition. He is supposed to be riding on the waves of the Buhari Presidency. Unfortunately, the team has not been coherent in pushing the Buhari administration’s positives, they have rather focused on the ‘Lagos miracles’ as well as on a self-exhausting anti-Peter Obi and anti-Atiku campaign.

Tinubu is very unlikely to win with this combat strategy template. Nigeria is not Lagos! Nigeria is not APC.  Tinubu has to come to terms that he cannot win on the same old terms he has been known for. He and his team must start working on winning more love. Time is running out!