Dirisu Yakubu

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, is fighting a battle of his life. The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, says prominent individuals in high places are at work to make the APC pay a price. DIRISU YAKUBU examines the issues at play

For the first time in the nation’s recent political history, the presidential candidate of a ruling party is facing an intense battle allegedly engineered by men who have the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), in their ears in all matters under the sun. Though they are not members of the All Progressives Congress, on whose platform Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is seeking the support of Nigerians to become president, they are powerful enough to send jitters down the spine of anyone desirous of Mr. Buhari’s support in the forthcoming election.

Without doubt, Tinubu is a political figure of no mean pedigree. Elected Governor of Lagos State in 1999 alongside Segun Osoba (Ogun), Bisi Akande (Osun), Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti), Adebayo Adefarati (Ondo), and Lam Adeshina of Oyo State, Tinubu was the rallying force of the south-west geo-political zone and the poster boy of the defunct Alliance for Democracy, AD, on whose platforms those governors were elected.

In a show of force dubbed as a move to bring the zone into mainstream national politics, President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Peoples Democratic Party made a clean sweep of the zone in 2003 but found Lagos an impregnable fortress. Tinubu held his own, got re-elected and left simultaneously with Obasanjo in 2007 at the expiration of their second terms in office.

Although AD would later morph into the Action Congress of Nigeria with Tinubu as the symbol, it was in 2013 that he proved his mettle by midwifing the talks that eventually culminated in the formation of the All Progressives Congress, Nigeria’s ruling party for the past seven and a half years.

His political wizardry and mastery of the game led not a few pundits to suggest that it would be apt for the former Lagos State governor to remain a kingmaker rather than vying for an elective office again. After all, he was said to have handpicked every governor since he left office, including the incumbent, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. A testament of his grip on Lagos politics came to the fore in 2018, when the then state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, allegedly talked himself into trouble in a telephone conversation with the Jagaban. His punishment was the denial of a second-term ticket to return to Alausa. Politically, he will have to recover for years.

Fast forward to June 2022, Tinubu squared off against Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi, incumbent Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Governors Yahaya Bello, Dave Umahi, and Ben Ayade, among others for the party’s presidential ticket.
Before balloting, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had disclosed in a television interview the reason he would not publicly name his preferred candidate.

“I don’t have any favourites for 2023, and if I do, I won’t reveal his identity because if I do, he may be eliminated before the election. I better keep it secret,” Buhari had said, sending tongues wagging as to who among the aspirants would get his nod.

When delegates were done voting at the convention, Tinubu garnered an impressive 1271 votes to win the election, leaving Amaechi (316), Osinbajo (235), Lawan (152), and Governor Bello with 37 votes, respectively, trailing behind in that order.

Even before his victory at the Eagles Square, Abuja, venue of the APC Presidential convention, many had seen Amaechi as Buhari’s preferred choice of successor, particularly against the backdrop of the prestigious Dan Amanar Daura title conferred on the former Rivers State governor by the Daura Emirate Council.

It was therefore not surprising last week when the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, claimed that some “Aso Rock elements” were working against the quest of the APC to remain in power beyond 2023.

“I believe there are elements in the Villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way; they had their candidate. Their candidate did not win the primaries. They are trying to get us to lose the election, and they are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what he thinks is right,” the governor stated.
Daura, according to Jaafar, is openly campaigning for the PDP candidate and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

In an interview with an online tabloid, Naja’atu Mohammed, who recently dumped Tinubu for Atiku, revealed the power of Sabiu and his influence on the presidency this way: “He (Buhari) has a prime minister in the name of his nephew—grandnephew Tunde. Whether we want to believe it or not, Tunde is the de facto president. I know that even the service chiefs report to Tunde, who is Sabiu. He’s called Tunde because he was named after Tunde Idiagbon.”

Before El-Rufai dropped his bombshell, Tinubu himself alluded to the possibility of some forces working against him when he claimed in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, that the petroleum scarcity being experienced nationwide was aimed at postponing the election to delay his victory at the polls.

Given this slew of allegations, Nigerians are perplexed as to why men in power would choose to oppose a candidate whom the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), has described as Nigeria’s next president.

Human rights activist and constitutional lawyer Mike Ozekhome told The PUNCH exclusively that there was nothing wrong with powerful individuals in high places refusing to support the ruling party’s candidate.

“What about the G-5 governors who are working against their presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar? What about prominent Igbo personalities working against Peter Obi? “All politics, especially the Nigerian genre, is local, selfish, dirty, and unpredictable,” he said, even as he urged the former Lagos State governor to know that politics is often a reflection of many layers of intrigue.

Governor El-Rufai’s allegation is too weighty to be ignored, but in the words of Anthony Sani, the matter has now been resolved, leaving Asiwaju ample time to continue with his campaign without stress.

Sani, the former Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, said, “Governor El-Rufai had alleged that there is a cabal in the presidency trying to scuttle the aspirations of Bola Tinubu and the ruling party. That naturally created anxiety, and people thought Buhari might be supportive of the alleged cabal, which could cost the ruling party the chance to win the elections.

Taking a different stand on the issue is Joe Okey-Odumakin, rights activist and founder, Women Arise. According to her, there is a long way to verifying the claims made by the Kaduna State governor, even as she argued that the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, had, a few years ago, alerted Nigerians to the ignoble role of some persons in the government of her husband.

Although, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) was in Nasarawa State recently to raise Tinubu’s hand, assuring him of his support and solidarity; not a few Nigerians believe that the former Lagos State governor is a lone ranger; a man left in the lurch who would soon find out that national politics is different from what plays out in Lagos, a state regarded as his personal fiefdom.

In the North, where he faces a tough test, the likes of Attahiru Bafarawa, Babachir Lawal, and Yakubu Dogara have vowed to amplify the voice of the region in a manner that would make the poll difficult for the ruling party.

But many northern APC governors who are seeking re-election or contesting the National Assembly seats are still rooting for Tinubu because his victory will rub off on them.



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