And the Lord spoke to Tambuwal

Olumide Iyanda

Buzz by Olumide Iyanda

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Olumide-IyandaBefore Nigerian politicians came up with the laughable idea that they are running for elective offices because friends and kinsmen bought nomination forms for them, the story used to be that God actually spoke to them and asked that they lead His people. People whose god is the protrusion in the front of their anatomy suddenly received divine inspiration to become leaders of men. Characters who could not say a line of prayer began swearing to have had the Samuel experience, with the poor people in their constituencies fed tales of delirious encounters with whatever god catches their fancy.

With serial fornicators and award-winning divorcees now calling themselves men of God, Nigerian politicians are gradually leaving the Supreme Being out of their agenda. There is, at least, some honour among them, and seeing the use to which religious leaders have put the name of God, politicians would rather be found in a different company. Few are therefore those who still claim their decision to contest an election is inspired of God.

From federal to states and local governments, the fad now is to have friends and kinsmen (often sponsored by the politicians themselves) buy nomination forms for their principals. Such forms are then presented to benefactors who either want to continue in office or are aspiring to a new one. That is the scenario playing out from Akwa Ibom to Sokoto and Oyo to Imo.

God is, however, not done with the biggest black nation in the world yet, irredeemable as our case often appears. And if proof is needed that the Omniscient still intervenes in the affairs of Nigerian politicians, then look no further than the decision of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, to pull out of the race for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The first voice that came to the embattled Tambuwal was that of his friends and associates whom he said bought the party’s nomination form for him. Those friends – at least 80 from the House of Representatives – told him to run for the highest office in the land. If Evangelist Sonny Okosuns were still alive, he would probably have sung: “Tambuwal heard the voice of his friends, and he said ‘here I am send me’”. That was on November 14 when the purchase of the nomination form became public knowledge. Not wanting to appear desperate, a smart Tambuwal said he needed time to conclude a series of nationwide consultations

But a more knowing friend and counsellor knew that aspiring to become president is a war Tambuwal did not need. It was bad enough that he dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on whose platform he was elected Speaker for the APC on October 28, 2014. Making enemies in his new party would be the mother of all indiscretions. That friend was God himself.

God must have been the one who told Tambuwal to drop his presidential ambition. On his own, the lawyer-turned-politician would have soldiered on. Nigerian politicians are often driven by unrealistic optimism. And Tambuwal is cut from the same cloth as the others.

A Tambuwal in the APC presidential race would have further upset the delicate political arrangement within the party. The opposition’s inability to resolve the issue of its presidential candidate early is a plus for the ruling PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan. Though the opposition party’s ticket is former military Head of State General Muhammadu Buhari’s to lose, there are at least four others who may not be exactly happy at the end of the party’s presidential primaries. They are former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar; Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha; Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso; and Publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Sam Ndah-Isaiah. With Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo galloping to re-election come 2015, the APC is still unsure of who or what should get what.

Having concluded his consultations, Tambuwal announced on Tuesday, November 18, that “taking into consideration the concerns of some elders of the party, I have decided to suspend my participation in the presidential contest for now. I have done so as a sacrifice for the cohesion and unity of the APC. I am suspending my participation in the presidential race for now because I do not have any inordinate ambition to occupy any office.”

Nothing best demonstrates the importance of that move than the statement by APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu, that Tambuwal’s sacrifice will not be in vain. Stopping short of rolling on the floor, the former Lagos governor hailed the Speaker, saying he had made history by submitting himself to the common good. Tinubu, whose eyes and hands are in every move to decide who becomes his party’s presidential flag-bearer, said to Tambuwal: “You have indeed shown the way to all other party members on the kind of sacrifice expected of them.” That could well be a message to anybody whose name is not Buhari.

With his withdrawal from the presidential race, Tambuwal has done himself and his party a world of good. Respected and honourable as he is, many still question the peripatetic nature of his politics. From 2003, when he ran and was elected to represent the Kebbi/Tambuwal Federal Constituency in the Green Chambers till date, Tambuwal has been a member of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), PDP and now APC. He needed to do something to demonstrate loyalty, and stepping down from the presidential race, which he was most likely not going to win anyway, was a good early sign.

For his party, it was a relief from another needless round of twists and intrigues. There are already five elephants in one china shop. Why add another? The ticket can only go to one person. And the earlier they sort out the matter the better.

Has God spoken to Tambuwal about vacating his seat as Speaker of the House of Reps? That will be answered in the days ahead. One thing is for sure; if the 58-year-old had not heeded the voice the last time, he might have become a pariah within his new party and would have had nobody jumping over gates and scaling fences when the police came visiting the National Assembly on Thursday, November 20.

PS: I was about signing off this piece when news came that Tambuwal has been cleared to contest the APC Sokoto governorship primaries. If Tinubu and co have their way, his sacrifice will not be in vain after all.