Tuesday, May 30, 2023 12:40 pm
In this interview, Danladi Bako, Ph.D., a renowned broadcast journalist and former Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), and member Media Directorate of the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, speaks on how Bola Tinubu who was sworn in as President on Monday 29 May was able to achieve national spread.
What is your impression of the 2023 elections?
Well, for me, the elections have come the way we wanted and expected. May be, there were one or two surprises in terms of the actual results of certain states and certain positions, particularly senatorial seats and gubernatorial elections results.
But, outside that, we worked hard to achieve this result. Our strategies were, I think, to the point; very precise and concise. And, eventually, I think we were really impressed that everything we put in place – strategy wise, media wise, electioneering wise, campaign wise – yielded the results we have.
We are talking about a gap of close to two million votes in the final events of a presidential election and two million votes ahead of his closest rival, one point something million votes, that is a lot for a three-horse race.
When you have a two-horse race, the margins might not be like that, but when you have a three-horse race, you are looking for three people sharing a hundred, so if you get 30 per cent, you have done well. So, for Asiwaju to have gathered the kind of votes he did, eight million votes, is for us very impressive and we have worked around it.
Remember that, as I said the other day, our candidate went through places like Gbaramatu Kingdom to see Tompolo, he went to Bauchi to see Sheikh Dairu Bauchi, he went to Jos to see the leader of Izala, he went to (Pastor Enoch) Adeboye, he went everywhere, he did what he needed to do, he attended almost all rallies in the 36 states.
The President (Muhammadu Buhari) was gracious enough to show his support by attending rallies – close to nine to 10 states- and then, it was obvious that Asiwaju was going to win.
We had candidates whose rallies looked more like inter-house sports in some states, one of the three parties had their rally in Kogi State and it was like an inter-house sports. So, we are grateful to Allah (SWT) that we got to this point, and that, we should celebrate it.
The general perception among Nigerians is that right from when he picked the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju exuded some confidence that he was going to win the election. What really informed that confidence?
The team he gathered. He located in every state people who could deliver the state. In Jigawa, you had all the big shots, but Alhaji Abubakar Badaru, the governor delivered. In Sokoto, (Senator Maigatakarda) Wamakko delivered. In Niger, 313 (Senator Sani) Musa, delivered and in Kogi, Governor Yahaya Bello delivered. In Benue, George Akume turned the apple-cart, because he was a mentor to (Senator Gabriel) Suswam, to (Governor Samuel) Ortom, so the godfather influence came to the fore in Benue.
Then you now have the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that allowed Wike to deliver for Asiwaju. Of course, his own area was South West and he had sorted out all the internal crises to the point where the Oyo State governor, being a PDP governor did his own part for Asiwaju. That is national acceptance.
You cannot win South East alone and one other state. The prerequisite and the preconditions for winning elections in Nigeria is a national agenda, the national prerequisite, it doesn’t happen by winning sectional votes. You must be able to have a spread across the country.
There are states you go in the far North that the Labour Party will not get more than three per cent in the entire area. So, it was obvious that the presidential candidate for APC was coming from South West; he tidied up his home. The vice presidential candidate was coming from the North East, he tidied up his home, he knew that Borno was done, then pick up a lot of votes from other places, the battle ground remained the North West.
And, Asiwaju was kind enough to draft strong North West people, me inclusive, and I know the work we did in the media, within the youth group; we know the work we did in the women group. Remembered that, as far back as 1973, I was a kid celebrity on radio as young boy. So, everybody grew up to know me as their own.
So, I was a marketing tool for Asiwaju in the North West, whether it was Kaduna or it was Sokoto, along with my title. And, there were other people we dragged along to ensure total victory. The governor of Zamfara, Dr. Bello Matawalle; Governor of Kebbi, Senator Atiku Bagudu, all of us worked intensely along with Badaru, and to a large extent, along with (Mallam Nasir) El-Rufai, to make sure that the seven states in the North West were delivered to Asiwaju and APC.
And, the moment you pick up, out of those 22million votes of the North West, a sizeable amount, you are home and dry. That was the strategy and of course, we did not leave any stone unturned.
The mere indication of the quality of the Presidential Campaign Council, the admixture of reliable, comfortable political heavyweights, Simon Lalong and Abdullahi Adamu in the Middle Belt, 313 (Senator Musa) and a host of other people, guaranteed that the Middle Belt was going to deliver at least five out of six states and that was what happened.
It was the same for the Presidential Campaign Council Media Directorate. When a man will look out to bring a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Festus Keyamo; former Minister, Fani Kayode; former Editor and Publisher of TheNews and Tempo, Bayo Onanuga, a former MD of News Agency of Nigeria (NAN); then former Director General (DG) of NBC, 20 years ago, Danladi Bako, in the midst, and now tops it with Dele Alake, who was Commissioner for Information in Lagos State for eight years, no other party, apart from APC, has that arsenal, that armada of people.
Then look at the second level, Ali M. Ali, Hanatu Musa and so many other people. So, in terms of grading, there was a lot that the Media and Publicity could do and did to deliver and it showed the difference. You had people who were in other parties who were just beating around the bush.
If you remember the mood before the party primaries and before the campaign started, they were trying to demonise Asiwaju: oh, they said he wasn’t well, he was ill, that he had died, whatever. And of cours, one day you saw Asiwaju riding a gym bike and today, you are seeing Asiwaju run through campaigns from January right up to the end of February, city by city, he didn’t miss one city.
In the case of Kano, they were standing from the Government House to the stadium, standing in the bus for two and half hours. So, everything worked for him and as I said, the Nigerian people chose the candidate that we had expected. And, we had marketed Asiwaju for the work he did in Lagos, for his ability to distill the ideas of people into concrete plans and for his ability to be able to locate the best brains. And the number of people he had picked up from nowhere and made superstars are uncountable.
Asiwaju is always described as a political strategist. As somebody who has lived in Lagos years back, if you are to define from both the Hope 93, up to the short-lived transition programme to this hour, what will you say is going for him politically in Nigeria?
He is humble, he understands how to make compromises. He understands how to wait for his time. He understands what to do when at crossroads. He understands that he cannot win all the time. For somebody who was a Senator in 1991 and waited till 1999 to become governor, even after his eight years, he followed up by allowing Nuhu Ribadu to be the presidential candidate of ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria), followed up by allowing Atiku Abubakar to be candidate, followed up by allowing Buhari to be candidate in 2014.
If he was a greedy, over ambitious person, he would have taken it for himself all this period, but he waited strategically, made quality northerners the candidate in 2007, 2011 and 2015. He made sure that he allowed them the space, so it was easy for him to come back and say, I have tried my best for you.
And if they didn’t win, that wasn’t his fault, but he had allowed and remembered that for a long time, the kind of strategy in politics in Nigeria was a synergy between the North and East or North and Rivers.
Remember Shagari-Ekwueme, remember those kind of combination, Asiwaju’s period was the first time that the South West was working with the north. If Awolowo wanted, he should have tried that, but they set him up against the north, so he didn’t understand why just the simple votes of South West plus North West was enough.
Just win 60 per cent of North West, 60 per cent of South West because in between these two, they account for 50 per cent of the votes or 60 per cent, the votes in the South West, registered voters, the votes in the North West are alone, just win both of them then you can pick up small, small pieces North Central and a few other places, that he won without votes from South East, tells you a lot.
It tells you that even when we know that, fine, 36 states were going to be very difficult, let us work towards a particular direction, ensure these ones are cleared properly and that is where we are.
Considering also that we even lost Lagos, we lost Osun to PDP, but even then, Oyo provided us with an alternative, because APC won in terms of presidential votes. So, it was all about strategy and understanding when to strike. You must know when the iron is hot and you must know when you smite it and get what you want to carve out of that iron.
But far away from this political arithmetic, victory has been won and there are political IOUs. What understanding do you think will resolve all the contending issues of these political IOUs by the parallel groups?
I want to believe that there are no hard and fast rules. Nobody was born with any position, so you work towards a particular thing. At the same time, you make room for compromises that if you don’t get it, you will have to bid your time for some time and wait till the situation is ripe for you.
Asiwaju understands how to pay back loyalty. Asiwaju kept most of the commissioners that served with him from 1999 to 2007. After he left office, he continued to maintain relationship with all of them. Whether it is Tunji Bello, Dele Alake, Fashola, whoever, all of the guys that were with him, he knew how to keep them alive and most of them did not occupy any other big positions except maybe, Fashola.
But, Dele Alake stayed out of government, Tunji Bello yes, worked with Ambode as SSG (Secretary to the State Government). But, there are quite a lot of them who are outside there. So, he understands how to keep brotherliness, how to knit the family together, how to try to tackle your challenges while not being in office.
And, he understands what to do that these IOUs I must pay back, I will try as much as possible, I am not god, but I will do everything to try to pay back. Asiwaju is known for paying back IOUs; he has a track record of doing that.
All those he has worked with are always around to benefit from whatever he succeeds at. It is that goodwill and trust that even made him foot soldiers all over the place. And so, you see Governor of Kaduna State telling northerners that we must vote for Asiwaju, Atiku Bagudu saying we must vote for Asiwaju, Badaru is saying this fight is over, Kashim Shettima saying that every other candidates are looking like ice cream sellers.
I mean these are northerners fiercely loyal. Lalong has given up even staying in Plateau to run round the country for Asiwaju, 313 (Senator Musa) have gathered money and a lot of people, villagers everywhere, all of us went to villages, we didn’t stay on the internet, we didn’t stay in the city centre.
Out of 176,000 polling units, about 100,000 are in the villages, the city centre does not have it, so a lot of the works were needed at the local level and we did that. There are so many areas that they didn’t even have networks.
So, that is the summary of what his attitude to paying back is. And he does pay back and I believe that he will have loyalty rewarded by those who he is appointing and those he has asked to do the work for him and those that helped him to win the campaign.
How and when did you meet Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
As at 1984, I was on Grade level 12 Principal Producer in NTA Victoria Island, Lagos and was head, Public Enlightenment unit, so, I came across lots of people… government, business and private sector personalities. Along with Dele Alake then of Concord Newspaper, we ran into Bola Ahmed Tinubu around Chief MKO Abiola who owned Concord Newspaper. So, when “Morning Ride,” my Television programme became a hit, I met lots of people and consolidated our relationship with others like Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Dele Alake helped with Tinubu’s Senatorial campaign in 1990/91 of which I gave my little assistance.
*Continue reading from the source: The Guardian