Tambuwal: Annus Mirabilis and Nigeria’s democratic plunge


“The good news, to relieve all this gloom, is that a democracy is inherently self-correcting. Here, the people are sovereign. Inept political leaders can be replaced. Foolish policies can be changed. Disastrous mistakes can be reversed” – Theodore C. Sorensen.

It was the British poet, John Dryden, who anglicised the latinate usage of the word – annus mirabilis (a wonderful year) to re-enact the British naval conquest of the Dutch and other medieval victories over Normandy. Today, the year 2022 could also fall within the same threshold for Nigeria. Or the country could plunge herself from annus mirabilis to annus horribilis – a monstrous year, specifically, as 2023 beckons. Nigeria’s path to a great nation-state has come under severe threat since President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration came on board in 2015. Seven years down the road has been ruinous and excruciating for citizens. From the economy, security, politics, growth, development, and innovation, retardation has taken sway. Yet, with all these quagmires, Buhari’s remedy for what ails Nigeria is for us to go back to the farm – “to return to the land”.

Therefore, to chart a new course, 2022 offers a beckon of hope, that Nigeria can rise above the All Progressives Congress (APC) ghoulish orchestra and set the country on a new path towards a better negotiated Nigeria. Then, 2022 comes with the fortunes of life, hope, promises, a renewed desire to reset Nigeria to its fertile field. To unify a polarised nation. To mend its battered micro and macro economy; to return not to Buhari’s archaic and medieval farmlands, but to 21st century winning ways, driven by big tech, innovation, and mobile youthfulness.

Thus, in 2022, the signposts of annus mirabilis are alive and kicking, waiting to be tapped into, and unearth the great potentials of nationhood. It calls for the urgency to retool Nigeria from the seven years of the locust, and blend her with lucrative years ahead. Hence, it is incumbent for us all to halt the nepotic and Buhari’s hegemonic savvy of dominance to a broader and unifying nation. It is in aggregating all these needs that today’s birthday of the governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, comes to mind.

Substantively, wordsmiths, soothsayers, naysayers, propagandists, essayists, and pundits might not have properly situated and located Tambuwal’s place in Nigeria’s tortuous history, particularly in recent years. There’s no denying the fact that should Nigeria be pulled back from the eclipse in 2023, the country will squarely owe that gratitude to no one but Tambuwal. Tambuwal’s unrelenting efforts in resetting the opposition, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to bring to life our democracy, offering a glimmer of hope and confidence that Nigeria is capable of preventing authoritarianism and totalitarianism from taking firm stead, the type in vogue in Abuja is commendable.

Some have argued that the Sokoto state governor even sacrificed the politics of the caliphate in order to ensure that PDP remains vibrant and key towards rescuing Nigeria from APC’s ravaging machine. In so doing, the smooth ride of the PDP and the emergence of Iyorchia Ayu as the national chairman cannot be farther from the handiwork of Tambuwal in stabilising the party.

Yet, as the search for the next Nigerian president takes centre stage, Tambuwal’s name has continued to feature prominently as a presidential hopeful with the requisite capacity to mend fences shattered by APC. His tasks: bring warring tribes together, usher in a new and pure conversation about Nigeria, and put forward the best economic policies to reposition Nigeria. Conversely, the clamour for zoning, equity, justice, and fairness could stand in the way of Tambuwal’s genuine ambition to serve Nigeria. Still, he is not given to desperation and threats like others would want to.

In his understanding of the Nigerian power equation, Tambuwal is aware of the forces of nature, God’s providence, time, places, and how they all shape events and help to bequeath political power to whom God has destined. This craving has enabled him to steadily approach ambition, power quest, and position of authority with some calmness and humility, that many within his bracket cannot afford. In 2018 at the PDP’s Port Harcourt convention, when Nigeria’s greatest messenger landed at the convention to deliver the message from the country’s last surviving generals – the invisible hands, Tambuwal heeded that call.

The question now is, would the initiators and benefactors of that event replicate that goodwill to Tambuwal this time around? History has a way of stirring a nation from its debris to greatness. It has the potentials, like mystic powers to catapult individuals who have magic wands to pull nations out of crisis and political jigsaw. Nigeria is in a dire crisis, needing redemption with all earnest. In America, history thrust upon Franklin D. Roosevelt; Britain, Winston Churchill; France, Charles de Gaul; South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Who will history thrust upon Nigeria in 2023?

Providing an answer to the above question is very critical for Nigeria, as the country faces an election year in 2023. This is obvious given that the quality of leadership the country has had over the last 20 has failed to unravel Nigeria’s potentials and greatness. God and nature have bestowed all you can think of on Nigeria. The country’s greatest Achilles heel remains leadership. This year, going forward, Nigeria must unpack and resolve its leadership challenges, or perish with an uncertain future. Who will resolve the crisis?

As Nigeria’s democracy plunges further, where the views and aspirations of the citizens no longer matter. Recall Buhari said state police is no issue: inter alia, restructuring, transparent and technologically backed electoral system, and the constitutional rights of voters to rate and rank the performance of those they thump printed for at the polls. Where does Nigeria go from here? Who will bell the cat and the Nigerian state? Will Nigerians be able to rely on democracy itself to self-correct the monumental fall APC and Buhari has caused Nigeria to dive into?

The American ‘intellectual blood bank’ and former adviser to President J.F. Kennedy, Theodore C. Sorensen, said in the opening quote of this piece, that nations and citizens alike are capable of deploying democracy itself to correct democratic wrongs. The APC, under the pretense of democracy, has inflicted the most insidious and infectious cut on Nigeria – its economy, unity, global standing; its currency, jobs, innovation, and its vibrant youth. We are therefore under compulsion to use not authoritarian tactics, but democracy to correct APC’s pain, suffering, disunity, nepotism, and the fall of Africa’s giant.

Would Tambuwal answer the call to come forward and correct the wrongs? Or will he join hands to effect the positive change? Tambuwal is attuned to Nigeria’s geopolitical settings and culture. From Agbokim Waterfalls – John Owan Enoh’s homestead; Mbutu – Emeka Ihedioha’s village, Ojà ba – Seyi Makinde’s birthplace to Nyesom Wike’s country home in Rumuikpirikom, he has traversed Nigeria so much that understanding how to govern it will be easy, except Reuben Abati’s mystical and metaphysical powers in the Aso Villa prevent him. Will Tambuwal put Nigeria first and rescue Nigeria from the democratic plunge? His records as the chairman of the PDP’s governors forum and how they saved Nigeria from becoming a one-party state are indicative that with Tambuwal, it’s Nigeria first. Even if it has to be a moderated and refined version of Donald Trump’s America’s first.

Time is of the essence. Today is Tambuwal’s birthday. Some 56 years ago in Tambuwal, Sokoto state, he was born. With years, Allah’s grace, mercy, and victory, he has triumphed over challenges of life, emerging victorious in many. From the house of representatives speaker, governor, PDP governors forum chairman, more still lies ahead. To this writer, Tambuwal’s role as the leader of PDP governors, and his intervention in saving Nigeria and rescuing PDP from collapse is the most legendary, historical, and audacious legacy of his time. That rescue was a big and joyous blow to Nigeria’s descent to authoritarianism, a one-party state, the rule of despots, and more democratic recession.

As Tambuwal celebrates today, Nigeria is plunging further to an undemocratic turf. The electoral bill is not sure; the sanctity of the ballot in 2023 is not certain, tribes are up in arms against each other over who takes the premium seat at the Presidential Villa, the naira is running amok and gyration, his own Sokoto state, and other states in the north-west and north-east face an onslaught from ISWAP, ISIS and Boko Haram. Where do we all then go from here?

His birthday is therefore coincidental: a year where PDP and APC will settle or crush presidential primaries squabbles and zoning, a year to the big poll that will make or mar Nigeria. Can Tambuwal truly make 2022 a real year – of annus mirabilis? It should start with Waziri stopping the big fight that is to start over which zone produces PDP’s presidential ticket. Annus mirabilis can be politically feasible if Tambuwal and his co-governors put Nigeria first. We can only witness that if the Sokoto state governor can help shut down the greedy lips of power mongers, loss of fairness, justice, and equity. It is Tambuwal’s birthday. Will it be annus mirabilis politically for Nigeria? Till PDP presidential primaries and Saturday, February 18, 2023, let’s toast to Aminu Waziri Tambuwal’s 56th birthday, a toast of refined wine to the Matawallen Sokoto, the caliphate first prince.

Feliź Cumpleaños!

Obi, is a journalist and political communication expert, based in Abuja

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