Several of the ideas that flow from On War, the unfinished masterpiece of the 19th century Prussian general, Carl von Clausewitz, remain relevant today and could be applied in the analysis of any return on investment model (ROI). One of these notions is the ‘Rational Calculus of War’ in which Clausewitz argued that there should be a correlation between the value a state attaches to its goals and the means it uses to achieve them. Clausewitz argued that since war is not a senseless passion but a rational activity driven by clear objectives, the value a state attaches to these objectives must determine the sacrifices to be made during the war. In essence, there comes a time when we must pause to do means-end (or return on investment) analysis and decide whether the cost of pursuing a particular objective is really worth it.
There is no doubt that Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the Jagaban, invested tremendous resources – materially and otherwise- in helping not just for the actualization of the mega merger that resulted in the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) but also in the historic victory of Muhammadu Buhari in the March 2015 presidential election. It is however not a secret that Tinubu has not been happy with his party for a while. Matters came to a head in September 2016 when Tinubu openly called for the resignation of the national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, whom he accused of manipulating the outcome of the party’s gubernatorial primary in Ondo state in which Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) who is now the Gorvenor-elect, defeated his favoured candidate, Olusegun Abraham. From all indications, the party’s establishment and the presidency took sides with Oyegun. Tinubu felt thrown under the bus. The general feeling was that he would use the opportunity of the Ondo election to pull his weight and teach his traducers one or two lessons. For that reason, many saw the Ondo state Governorship election as a proxy contest between forces loyal to Tinubu and those loyal to the presidency and the APC. This perception was accentuated when Tinubu and his loyalists stayed away from a rally for Akeredolu attended by the president and some top members of the party. During that rally the president was quoted as expressing confidence in the processes that led to the emergence of Akeredolu as the party’s flag bearer in the state.
Well, the election has come and gone. Akeredolu has been declared the winner of the election by INEC. Though I have never been a fan of Tinubu’s brand of ‘brazen god-fatherism’, I feel that the outcome of the election in Ondo state, in which a candidate he was opposed to, won, was actually good for him. I actually feel things would have been made tough for him, if a candidate he was thought to have supported carried the day against a candidate supported by the President.
Until the Ondo Governorship election, Tinubu or his loyalists may have unwittingly given the impression that he was competing for political space with the presidency. For instance some of these loyalists even demonstrated against his perceived marginalization by the party and the presidency – an ill-advised move. They easily point out that for someone who sacrificed as much as Tinubu did for the APC, it is an act of betrayal for the party (and perhaps the presidency) to collude and work against his preferred candidates for the leadership of the National Assembly and also against his candidates in Kogi and Ondo states respectively. The Tinubu loyalists were especially incensed that what happened in Ondo State meant that the forces against Tinubu were determined to humiliate him in his South-west home turf.
Though Tinubu’s supporters call him ‘master political strategist’, I always feel that it was a bad political strategy on his part not to begin conceding political space immediately he failed in his ambition of being nominated as Buhari’s running mate during the 2015 election. In fact by wanting to be seen as a kingmaker – not just in Yorubaland but also in the National Assembly and even in Kogi state – he made himself very vulnerable to being shot-down by counteracting forces. His brand of godfatherism led to a whole series of conspiracy theories about his motive: is he nursing presidential ambition in 2019? Is he being actuated by the love of lucre? What does he really want?
Tinubu may have meant well but by not conceding space or not trying to exercise influence discreetly using his proximity and access to constituted authorities made him extremely vulnerable. So while I am morally against the ‘use and dump’ tendencies of many politicians, sometimes those who are ‘dumped’ after making many sacrifices are also guilty of not reading situations correctly and not properly appreciating human psychology. I believe this is at the root of the endemic conflict and feelings of betrayal between political godfathers and political godsons in the country. A wise kingmaker, as soon as he puts the crown on another’s head, must deliberately ‘decrease’ to allow the new king to ‘increase’. In fact, in our type of society, it is foolhardy to compete for space with the President of the country. It is not that a President cannot be challenged. He can. But historically political actors who have done so successfully have avoided frontal confrontations but fight sideways or only when they are backed up by a formidable organisation. The only person I know who has successfully confronted regimes frontally and triumphed (except under Abacha) is former President Olusegun Obasanjo. And that is because Obasanjo is Obasanjo.
There are a number of opportunities for Tinubu and useful lessons from the outcome of the recent Ondo Governorship election:
One, I think it offers Tinubu a good opportunity to have a deserved long rest. Since the formation of the APC, especially since failing to become the running mate to Buhari, the impression is that he has been spending too much energy and resources trying to maintain his relevance. Forget that he is called ‘Leader of the APC’. It is a mere honorific. Everyone knows that the President calls the shot – just as Governors do at the state level. If I were him, I would just disappear from the political scene for months to take deserved rest and re-charge.
Two, the outcome of the election offers him a good opportunity to change his brand of god-fatherism. Tinubu himself gave some indications that this may happen by quickly congratulating Akeredolu who was declared the winner by INEC. In congratulating Akeredolu, Tinubu was quoted as saying: “I appeal to all party members including those who have been disaffected from the primary until today to come together for the good of our party and its progressive ideals.” If that was meant to be an extension of the olive branch to the forces he believed was fighting him, the presidency responded in kind. Speaking through his Senior Special Assistant on the media Garba Shehu, Buhari was reported as denying that there was ever a rift between the leadership of the APC, himself and Tinubu. In fact, Shehu Garba dismissed such insinuations as “unfounded and mischievous.” He also reportedly said that President Buhari regarded Tinubu as a priceless political asset to the APC and whose “immeasurable contributions” to the development and progress of the party were known to all. Garba further claimed that the President was in constant touch with Tinubu. I believe that the conciliatory tone of Tinubu’s congratulatory message to Rotimi Akeredolu and the President’s ‘soft landing’ response, provide good grounds for the re-setting of the relationship between the two political gladiators.
Three, because in our type of society no political leader has universal legitimacy across the country’s traditional fault lines, national political players tend to be legitimated only by the offices they occupy. Tinubu does not have such a legitimizing office in this dispensation, explaining why an array of forces seemed interested in cutting him to size – when he tried to frontally exercise influence beyond his South-west home turf. My fear is that having cut him to size by the outcome of the Ondo governorship election, the same forces may want to completely neutralize him politically – if he fails to properly understand the logic of power. This means that as the music has changed the Jagaban must also change his dance-step. He can use Clausewitz’s ‘Rational Calculus of war’ thesis to do a means-ends analysis of his political forays. But an essential starting point must be for him to honestly answer a few questions: What does he really want from his political engagements? What is the worth of the goals he wants to achieve? And what costs of pursuing of pursuing those goals is he willing to bear?