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Regardless of how one chooses to look at it, these are certainly not the best of times for the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The relationship between himself and the man he claims to have made President eight years ago is clearly not the blossoming one that the minions of both individuals have continuously painted for Nigerians.
The cordiality of Tinubu’s relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari and some key figures in his party has been nothing close to being excellent. A fortnight ago, Hajia Naja’atu Muhammad who is the director, Civil Society Liaison, in the APC Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), shocked everyone when she resigned from the PCC and the APC. She didn’t leave with her mouth shut as many would have expected. Since then, she has been going from one media house to another spilling the beans regarding her association with Tinubu. She said, among others, that everything about the APC presidential candidate revolved around money.
Several unpleasant stories have continued to fly past the self-styled Jagaban so much that about two weeks ago, ‘Landlord of Lagos’ could not bear the internal heat anymore. Speaking to the APC campaign rally in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, he shockingly lashed out at the powers that be who wanted to scuttle his chances at the upcoming election which is barely three weeks away. He snarled in his native Yoruba accent; ‘They are full of mischief. They want to create a fuel crisis; they have started creating fuel crisis. But forget about it, put your mind at rest. I am assuring you, I, Asiwaju, will end fuel scarcity. Let the price of fuel continue to increase, they are the ones that know where they are hoarding it. They are hoarding Naira notes, they are hoarding fuel. We will vote and we will win. If they like, they can change the ink in the naira note, we will shock them. We will win the election’.
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This campaign message came as a rude shock to many political watchers who were wondering why the Presidential candidate of a ruling party will be talking in that manner barely days before an election. One key observation that can be made here is that a look at Tinubu’s trajectory will show that whenever he seems to be drowning and is fighting for his political life, he always cries in Yoruba. Perhaps, the English Language lacks the capacity to carry the full weight of his fury.
The pattern of Tinubu’s Ogun outburst looked quite similar. Many will recall that sometime in May last year, during the run-up to the presidential primary election of the APC, Tinubu, in the same Abeokuta, also cried out over what he felt was an attempt to edge him out of the presidential race by some hidden forces. In his speech that day, he reeled out how he helped Buhari to become President, blurting out his now famous quote, ‘Emilokan’ loosely translated as ‘It’s my turn’, in Yoruba. As he had put it back then, ‘It is my time. I’m educated. I’m experienced. I have been serving people for a long time. Bring me the presidency, it is my turn’. The truth is that, that famous speech—and, of course, the curious support of Northern governors of the APC, coupled with his deep pockets— helped him to go on to win the Primary elections with a landslide victory, but from the look of things, being nominated as his party’s flagbearer was only the battle, the war for him is now to win the main elections.
Although Tinubu and his handlers have on many occasions denied any rift with President Buhari, the signs of lack of cordiality have remained evident. When negative reactions trailed his, ‘Emilokan’ statement in 2022, it will be recalled that Tinubu’s reaction was to recant. According to him back then, he had enormous respect for Buhari and will never say anything to denigrate him. He explained that he only made a case for a level-playing ground to be accorded to all aspirants. Again, Nigerians will recall that when he and his handlers realised the implications of his recent statement in Abeokuta, they opted for damage control. In a statement, the director, media, and publicity APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, said Tinubu did not mention, blame or accuse President Buhari for the current challenges in the country but was only calling out ‘saboteurs’. One will wonder if these saboteurs were the Yoruba-speaking people he addressed at his campaign rally in Ogun State.
While Tinubu may conclude that he and his goons have been successful with his damage control gimmicks, he will be deluding himself to forget that Buhari never forgives. A careful study of Buhari’s history will show that he is a diffident man that hates direct confrontation when things are about to go sour, Also, Buhari is a man who evidently evades taking responsibility and all these can be seen through his body language.
Despite the shows that Buhari has been putting up lately for Tinubu by aimlessly campaigning for him, with recent developments, it is becoming increasingly clear that Buhari’s heart, or maybe that of his kitchen cabinet is not with Tinubu. Many Nigerians will recall that on the eve of the primary election of the APC in June last year, the national chairman of the party, Abdullahi Adamu had surprisingly announced that the rubber-stamp President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan was the consensus presidential candidate of the party. Adamu reportedly said then that he arrived at the choice after consultation with Buhari. The plot failed because other National Working Committee (NWC) members refused to ratify the decision. Ever since then, move after the move, the body language of the President has continued to show a man that is not willing to go out of his way to make Tinubu his successor as the latter did for him in 2015.
One of the events that happened that solidifies this assertion is the fact that sometime in December last year, one Alhaji Sani Zangon Daura who is a former minister in Obasanjo’s administration who is very close to Buhari, Mamman Daura, and members of the ‘cabal’, gave a sermon in his mosque in Kaduna where he importuned Northerners to support their own. Whether or not his opinion is his and not that of the Buhari’s cabal can only be determined by the events of the next few days.
To further buttress this, in October last year, Buhari openly said that ‘Nigerians should vote for whoever they like from whichever party. Nobody will be allowed to mobilise resources and thugs to intimidate people in any constituency. That is what I want to go down into Nigerian history for’. At this point in time, it is not certain who President Buhari may be supporting, however, one thing that can make sense here is that it is not Tinubu.
After Buhari’s inability to publicly persuade his supporters to vote for Tinubu came under renewed scrutiny and criticism within the party, Buhari’s aides staged a hoax in Bauchi, a fortnight ago. Buhari was invited to promote Tinubu during the APC presidential campaign in Bauchi and he was yet to speak when all of a sudden the microphone began to malfunction, next there was some power outage, and Buhari left the campaign location abruptly in an apparent faux huff. Whether or not the whole situation was meticulously choreographed can only be clarified in the coming days.
In conclusion, intrigue is the name of politics in Nigeria. Nigerians have seen and heard it all. While Tinubu and his loyalists continue to position themselves to outwit the cabal for power, Nigerians who are on the receiving end of these skirmishes must demand an end to the madness to restore sanity in the country.