By Ray Ekpu
The Guardian Newspaper
Any person who is a lover of books must endeavour to read a book titled: “David and Goliath” authored by Malcolm Gladwell, the famous author of Tipping Point. David and Goliath is a practical yet philosophical exploration of the Advantage of Disadvantage as well as the Disadvantage of Advantage.
I want to contextualise the recent presidential election bearing this philosophy in mind. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu had said before the election that it was his turn to be President. It seemed like a statement of entitlement and that word emilokan has earned a place in our political vocabulary.
But he did not fully know what hurdles had been piled on his path from several angles. It was when he wore his battle gear and went into the field of battle that it dawned on him that he may have underestimated the roadblocks he needed to scale over on his way to Aso Rock Villa.
He may have been aware of the plot to shoehorn the Senate President Dr Ahmed Lawan into the office if all things were equal. But all things were not equal so the plot flopped because the god of fairness was on duty. If anyone deserved to be supported by President Muhammadu Buhari to succeed him it had to be Tinubu.
Tinubu it was who gathered together along with a few other persons, a number of rickety parties, stitched them together to form the all-conquering APC that had the vigour to defeat a sitting President in the presidential election of 2015. And Buhari became President.
And then came the currency issue, which was said to be targeting Tinubu, a kind of Frankenstein’s monster. If the currency matter imposed unbearable hardship of the people it was bound to reflect badly at the poll on whoever was the flagbearer of the ruling party. And in this case Tinubu would receive the anger of the voters at the polling booth.
Besides, the low rating of Buhari’s performance in office was likely to have, even remotely, a negative effect on Tinubu in the eyes of the voters. Well-informed voters would acknowledge that Tinubu held no office and could therefore not be held responsible for the faults of the Buhari government but other voters were likely to lump both the candidate and the government in power together and judge them harshly. That would affect Tinubu negatively.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had shown itself to be a fair organisation when it asked Christians to vote according to their conscience without necessarily bearing a religious bias. This seemed to give Tinubu, a Muslim who had chosen another Muslim, Shettima as his running mate, the all-clear.
Besides, his wife Oluremi is a pastor in one of the Pentecostal Churches, which is an indication that he is an open-minded person in matters of religion. Despite this, the religious hawks still thought that he did not give appropriate recognition to Christianity otherwise he would have chosen a Christian as his running mate.
They piled pressure both discreetly and blatantly for Christians not to vote for Tinubu. That may have had an impact on Tinubu’s defeat in Lagos by the Labour Party candidate Mr Peter Obi.
As the youths were massing up in various rallies for different parties in Lagos it may have crossed Tinubu’s mind that the EndSARS activists had made him a target of their attacks two years ago. They set ablaze some of his assets at his newspaper, The Nation and Television station, TVC. How would they respond to him this time that he is actually a candidate? Would they support or scorn him? That was a question to which there was no immediate answer but the fact that there was a youth revolution with Obi as the exponent posed an immediate danger to his electoral survival in Lagos and elsewhere.
Even the fact that the Igbos had been asking, fairly, for a President of Igbo extraction was a source of likely irritation to non-Igbo candidates. Some persons from Yorubaland including former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Afenifere had been campaigning for an Igbo presidency with Peter Obi as the candidate. This viewpoint was likely to catch the attention of fair-minded persons in a cosmopolitan city like Lagos with the virtues of exceptionalism. Is that why Obi did very well in Lagos? Possibly.
As the campaign progressed Tinubu was being dragged to court by various persons for various reasons. In addition, some media, especially social media, were also openly hostile to Tinubu. His inability to appear at the town hall meetings organised by Arise Television was also a problem that expanded into an open confrontation between the news organisation and his campaign organisation. It took the intervention of elders in the media profession for the matter to be resolved but the residue of that conflict remained.
When the presidential election results for Lagos were released Obi of Labour Party stunned everyone by beating Tinubu and the candidate of the PDP Mr Atiku Abubakar. The results: APC 572, 606, LP 582, 454, NNPP 8, 442 and PDP 75, 750. Amazingly the results for the Senate and House of Representatives in Lagos largely favoured the APC. All the three APC senatorial candidates namely Ms Idiat Adebule, Wasiu Eshinlokun Sanni and Tokunbo Abiru won the elections.
Also the APC won 20 of the 24 seats for the House of Representatives. So if the APC was so dominant in the two elections why was that dominance not extended to the presidential so that Tinubu who has been a fixture in Lagos for more than 20 years would win? My explanation is that the god of fairness never wanted him to win in Lagos so that it would not be said that he rigged it. You can only rig elections where you have reasonable control.
Without winning in Lagos the votes earned by Tinubu in other places look valid. Any talk about rigging in other places will look misplaced because if he did not rig in Lagos he would not be expected to rig in other places where he had no control. That is the advantage of disadvantage.
All of these problems were piled up on Tinubu’s path yet he won. That is the lesson from the battle between the giant Goliath and the shepherd boy David. The giant Goliath was six foot nine inches tall, wearing a bronze helmet and full body armour. He carried a javelin, a spear and a sword. An attendant preceded him, carrying a large shield. The giant asked the Israelites to choose one person to come and fight him. The shepherd boy David offered to confront the giant. And he won.
Mr Gladwell has explored several of such conflicts in his book and he believes that the act of facing imponderable odds in lopsided conflicts often produces greatness and beauty. Secondly, he thinks that we often misread such conflicts because the same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.
The options are always these: shall I persevere or give up? Should I play by the rules or follow my own instincts? Or should I strike back or forgive? Tinubu did not give up; he followed his own instincts; he struck back with tenacity and doggedness. He did not give up in the midst of the crisis that he faced all through the campaign and election.
The crisis did not unfaze him. John F. Kennedy, the former President of the United States of America said something about the word “crisis” many years ago. He said that when written in Chinese the word “crisis” is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity. Tinubu saw the danger and ignored it. He also saw the opportunity and embraced it. That was the advantage of disadvantage.
Those who believe that it is God that chooses leaders must inevitably accept that Tinubu would not have been President-elect today if God had not sanctioned it. See the array of roadblocks put on his path yet he triumphed. There must have been three gods in his corner:
(a) The god of compensation that ensured that the man who fought for the actualisation of June 12 elections and who fought Sani Abacha from here and abroad for democracy must be compensated.
(b) The god of fairness – Nigerians from all parts of the country want to have a country that is united and inclusive. That is why they subscribed to the rotation of the presidency as an article of faith. After eight years of Buhari’s presidency it ought to move to the south. Southern Governors said so. Northern Governors said so but some politicians out of greed, said No to the idea. That is why the god of fairness did not favour them in the election.
(c) The god of reciprocity: For the fact that some persons tried to block Tinubu from accessing the presidency when it is actually President Buhari who in obedience to the god of reciprocity should have been the champion of Tinubu’s project, he was bound to be rewarded. These three gods were in Tinubu’s corner. That is why he won, warts and all. They gave him the advantage of disadvantage, a winning formula.