JAGABAN: JOINING THE STRINGS AND CLAIMING “RIGHTS” OF KINGSHIP TO THE IRON THRONE

Jagaban

It was in 2006 that the Late former Emir of Borgu in Niger State, HRH Alh. (Senator) Haliru Dantoro Kitoro III (Mai Borgu), turbaned the Asiwaju of Lagos, and the former Governor of Lagos State, Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) with the prestigious title of the “Jagaban of Borgu”. Jagaban itself means “the Leader of Warriors”. According to the Late Emir, he bestowed the title on BAT in recognition of his bravery in defence of the truth.

BAT is one of the presidential aspirants under the All Progressives Congress (APC) hoping to become the party’s flagbearer in the forthcoming 2023 presidential elections. One of his closest rivals to the ticket is the current Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (a former Attorney General of Lagos).

APC has been unable to agree on a consensus candidate. To add to the tension within the party, the President recently engaged the APC Governors urging them to support him as he plans to name his anointed candidate.

There is yet no certainty as to who the preferred candidate of the President might be, who will confront the flagbearer of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar. But there are strong indications that BAT is not the chosen one in the heart of President Buhari.

While doubts and speculations are rife, BAT, like other aspirants, has been on the train, wooing delegates who are likely to vote in the indirect primaries scheduled to hold in the coming days – 6th – 7th of June 2022.

It was on 2 June 2022 that BAT decided to make some categorical statements by which he sought to join the strings of history and lay claims to his “right” to become president. He spoke at the Presidential Lodge in Abeokuta, Ogun State, while addressing the APC delegates ahead of the party’s primary election.

Joining the Strings

APC was formed on 6 February 2013 through a merger of Nigeria’s biggest opposition parties at the time – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the new PDP – a faction of then ruling PDP.

Nigerians have always known that this merger was made possible by the instrumentality of some politic heavyweights like BAT of the defunct ACN. Through a powerful formation and one of the world’s most controversial political conspiracies, former President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, PDP, were dismantled from Aso Rock. President Buhari emerged along with his running mate (now Vice President), Prof. Osinbajo.

What Nigerians may not know was precisely how the decision to help Buhari become president was reached and how Prof. Osinbajo became his deputy. Like every other stories, different versions are there. But in joining the strings, BAT reportedly gave his own account at Abeokuta thus:

If not for me that led the war front, Buhari won’t have emerged. He contested first, second and third times, but lost. He even said on television that he won’t contest again. But I went to his home in Katsina, I told him you would contest and win, but you won’t joke with the matters of the Yoruba, and he agreed. 

Eventually, Buhari indeed contested again and won. The Jagaban appeared to have lived up to his name as the Leader of Warriors.

Taking a swipe at the Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo, regarding Osinbajo’s current presidential ambition, BAT explained that he chose Osinbajo and nominated him to be VP after declining Buhari’s proposal to him to become his vice at the time. BAT explained that after careful calculations, he realised that it was not in the best interest of the APC for him (BAT) to go in as vice, so as to avoid a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Invariably, BAT claimed to have ceded his right to become VP to Osinbajo.

Claim of Rights

Flowing from the above background and in further explaining what he perceives to be his right to the presidential stool, BAT further remarked:

Since he (Buhari) has emerged I have not been appointed minister. I didn’t get nor request a contract. This time, it’s Yoruba turn and in Yoruba Land, it’s my turn.

What we may reasonably deduce from the above is that BAT seems to argue that the best reward for leading the war front in 2015 is to be allowed to be president. Any attempt to deny him the opportunity to sit on the Iron Throne of Aso Rock tantamount to “joking with the matters of Yoruba” which he had earlier warned against. After all, according to BAT, it is Yoruba turn and in Yoruba Land, it’s his turn.

In addition, BAT contends that he does not want his name to be mentioned in the history books for nothing. This seems to mean that he desires to be remembered as a kingmaker who became king.

Open confrontation?

All of the above appears to be some form of open confrontation in opposition to Buhari’s decision to anoint his successor, which is reasonably suspected not to be BAT. There is also the likelihood that BAT’s expressions may be some bargaining chips to enable him receive the anointing of the President.

Nonetheless, it is worthy of mention that Buhari’s decision to pick his successor seems to be undemocratic and runs contrary to the spirit of the Electoral Act. As the President, he enjoys his right to support any candidate of choice. But that’s where it ends. Section 84 of the Act allows for direct primaries, indirect primaries or consensus candidate as a mode of electing a party’s flagbearer. If a consensus candidate must emerge, the other aspirants must indicate in writing their withdrawal from the race and an undertaking to support the chosen candidate. Otherwise, direct or indirect primary must take place.

Note

While BAT appears to be claiming that he deserves to be president as a matter of right, we need to be clear in certain crucial areas. What the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) guarantees is the right of every citizen to vote and be voted for, with respect to any political position subject to meeting the stipulated conditions and qualifications. However, there is nothing in the Constitution or any other law that gives any citizen the right to be president. The right to become president only falls on an aspirant who emerges victorious at the elections and is so returned by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the election. Before then, no such right legally exists.



Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.
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