Following the simmering crisis in the All Progressives Congress, the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has started reaching out to his former political foes in the South-West in order to consolidate his influence in the region.
The multi-layered crisis in the ruling party is threatening the erstwhile chummy relationship between Tinubu and President Muhammadu Buhari.
The crisis in the ruling party started before the 2015 general elections but became full-blown after Buhari was sworn in as president. There has been discontent within the Tinubu camp. Sources said that members of the group and their principal were not happy with what they saw as attempts by the party leadership and the presidency to diminish Tinubu’s premium contributions to Buhari’s emergence as president and undermine the former Lagos State governor’s leadership in his South-West power base.
But we learnt over the weekend that some of Buhari’s closest associates have been pushing back by telling those who are close to Tinubu that Nigeria cannot have a ‘co-presidency.’
Although the two leaders had tried futilely to keep the frosty relationship away from public knowledge, things came to a head a few days ago when Tinubu wrote an open letter lambasting the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who is believed to enjoy the support of the president.
Tinubu, who faulted the way the party’s governorship primary was held in Ondo State, accused Odigie-Oyegun of conducting a fraudulent primary and he asked the former Edo State governor to resign as the national chairman of the party.
After the letter was published, Oyegun refrained from responding to Tinubu. But he later visited President Buhari in Aso Rock and photographs of the duo laughing and sharing banters was made public. Shortly thereafter, Oyegun replied Tinubu and described the latter’s open letter as ‘reckless.’
Tinubu’s harsh denunciation of the party chairman has been widely interpreted as a direct protest against Buhari. In private, Tinubu’s loyalists are complaining that his political capital is being eroded by the hostile actions of the president’s men and the inactions of the president.
Tinubu’s loyalists in the South-West have listed Buhari’s hostile actions against the APC national leader to include the exclusion of his candidates from Buhari’s final ministerial list, the gang-up against his candidate in the Kogi governorship election, James Faleke, who was the late Audu Abubakar’s running mate; and the alleged fraud against his candidate in the Ondo governorship primary, Olusegun Abraham.
Until the recent crisis, the party had successfully managed the growing discontent within its leadership as insinuations were rife that some of Buhari’s closest political associates had perfected a plan to destroy Tinubu politically.
But pro-Tinubu elements within the party and other sympathisers have vowed to resist any attempt to humiliate Tinubu.
Some of Tinubu’s close associates spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH but pleaded anonymity because of possible reprisal.
A chieftain of the party in Osun State, said, “This is the beginning of the end of the APC. The party will shatter into smithereens. We are ready for them. They are going nowhere.
“We know the political leader of the South-West and that person is unmistakably Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. They are envious of Tinubu’s achievements, but they don’t have Tinubu’s clout. None of those scrambling to wear Tinubu’s shoes have the clout to do so. These ingrates are the people that have benefitted immensely from Tinubu’s large-heartedness. Now, they are stabbing him in the back. We are in the South-West together, we shall see.”
Speaking in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, said he would not hesitate to fight against any anti-Yoruba policy by the Buhari-led administration. He said he would team up with like-minded leaders in the South-West to resist attacks on any of the region’s political leaders. Fayose said, “I will resist any policy that is formulated by the Buhari administration against the interests of the Yoruba. Some people may say it is too early to criticise them now, so, we are watching.
“We will keep our fingers crossed and our gunpowder dry. We won’t be hasty in our condemnation; when you put water on fire, you wait for it to boil. We don’t want it to appear as if we are looking for an opportunity to nail them. Let them continue their governance, we are watching.”
A pro-Tinubu stalwart in the ruling party also told one of our correspondents that the plot to ridicule Tinubu and reduce his standing in the South-West had “already failed.”
Another top APC leader in the South-West told us that apart from trying to destroy his political structures, many in Tinubu’s camp believe that one of the ways the national leader’s opponents would attack him is to go after his business interests and associates.
“We won’t be surprised if the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission wakes up tomorrow to say they are probing Tinubu or his associates. They may even send the Department of State Services after him because that is the step the Buhari government has taken against all their perceived enemies. Asiwaju knows that they may come for him.”
Similarly, a chieftain of the party said in a telephone interview on Friday that a former Governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande, had warned Tinubu against the alliance with the North.
SOURCE: PUNCH NIGERIA