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APC’s new concerns versus Tinubu’s dodgy political fortunes in Southwest

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National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu (left); APC Lagos Chairman, Tunde Balogun and Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, during the stakeholders’ meeting at the party’s secretariat in Lagos… yesterday.

It is not easy to situate the political barometer of former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu in the Southwest geopolitical zone.

Tinubu’s political fortunes increased exponentially after he served out his two terms as governor and handed over to his preferred candidate, his former chief of staff.
  
While Tinubu flourished both economically and politically out of office, the build- up to the 2015 general election provided him with a golden opportunity to lead the Southwest to the mainstream of national politics.

  
What began as a merger of some erstwhile smaller political parties ended up as a mega party that defeated the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

That effectively marked what was seen as a new beginning for the former Lagos State governor.

In a bid to recognise his contributions to the making of history, occasioned by the defeat of a ruling party by the opposition in Nigeria, his admirers and sycophants started eulogizing him as ‘leader of APC’.

Lull, suspense

ALTHOUGH many people expected Tinubu to be on the driving seat in the ensuing federal government after the general election was won and lost, the former governor was left in the lurch to recognise the fact that not being an elected or appointed official, there were limitations to his influence and participation in decision-making.
  
In the new lull that set into the political life of the swashbuckling former governor, Tinubu got busy with interest in international politics, particularly in the West African sub-region.   

He was visible during the heated Gambian election, during which sources said the former Lagos State governor’s aircraft was used to ferry Adama Barrow back to the country after Yahyah Jammeh agreed to bow to the outcome of the presidential election.

But Tinubu’s absence from the Presidency did not last long as President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to seek a second term in office made it imperative for the president to seek the comradeship of his greatest ally in the Southwest.

That auspicious opening was accentuated by the defection of former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.

The coast became clear for Tinubu to assume a commanding position to reorganize APC and ensure that the president would have an unencumbered sail to a second term.

Expanding the coast

As part of his new assignment, Tinubu was instrumental to the selection of former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, as the national chairman of the party.

And with the coming of Oshiomhole came the controversial direct primary initiative that has become a weapon of electoral battle against state governors.

The question that most people began to ask immediately the kite of direct primary was flown in Osun State was whether it was not targeted at first-term governors, particularly Governor Adewunmi Ambode, who Tinubu’s loyalists accused of being far removed from their circle.

In a move considered to be part of his new deal to remake APC and strengthen it with a view to creating new playmakers, Tinubu had recently extended his political tentacles to Akwa Ibom, one of the oil-rich states in the South-South region.

The defection of former Akwa Ibom governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who represents Ikot Ekpene senatorial district in the red chamber, is considered as part of Tinubu’s schemes to expand his coast beyond Southwest against the perceived moves by his former protégés to align with the cabal in the Presidency.
 
While the move could be interpreted as part of strategies to ensure the reelection of President Buhari in 2019, some governors from the north see it more as plans to fortify his touted presidential ambition in 2023.
   
Since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, like no other political figure, Tinubu has always been politically relevant after he left office as governor of Lagos State in 2007.

However, Tinubu’s single-handed installation of two successors in a row, including Mr. Babatunde Fashola in 2007 and the incumbent, Mr. Ambode in 2015, seems to be attracting some backlash from his detractors.

There is no doubt that Tinubu’s detractors are both within and outside the Southwest geopolitical zone.

The former governor, it should be recalled, strategically reduced the leadership of the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, to pave the way for his control of the politics of the zone.  
 
He was also alleged to have bankrolled a parallel body, the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), to deal with the parent body.  

Today, ARG has become a shadow of itself, with its voice hardly heard ever since APC assumed power in 2015.
 
It is believed that Tinubu used ARG to withstand the onslaught of former president Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007, during PDP’s ‘Operation Capture Southwest’ in 2003.

He escaped as the only AD governor that retained his seat for a second term in the 2003 election.
 
Beyond Lagos, Tinubu also extended his political tentacles to Ondo, Osun and Ekiti States. And later Ogun and Oyo, where the PDP used to be in control.

 
He supported erstwhile governor of Ondo State, Dr. Segun Mimiko to reclaim his mandate from the PDP through the Court of Appeal rulings in 2009 before the duo later fell apart.

The incumbent governor of Osun State, Ogebni Rauf Aregbesola is also one of Tinubu’s makings through the Court of Appeal.
 
Aregbesola served as a commissioner of Works in Lagos before contesting Osun governorship poll. 
 
The Governor-elect of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, is also one of the political beneficiaries of the national leader.
   
Tinubu’s input in the Appeal Court case between Fayemi and Chief Segun Oni, who was declared winner of the Ekiti State gubernatorial election in 2007 contributed to Fayemi’s emergence as Ekiti Sate governor in 2010.
   
Through Tinubu’s support, Senators Abiola Ajimobi and Ibikunle Amosun emerged governors of Oyo and Ogun states respectively in 2011.

The duo may not admit the fact that the national leader played significant roles in their emergence on the platform of the defunct ACN but those that know the stories can tell better.
 
According to a source in the party, it would have been impossible for Amosun, who crossed from ANPP to outsmart the former governor of his state, Aremo Segun Osoba in the internal politics of ACN without Tinubu’s backing.

This is one of the factors that created bad blood between Osoba and Tinubu.

   
In April 2007, Tinubu was said to have been part of the factors that enabled Adams Oshiomhole, the current national chairman of APC to contest and win the Edo State governorship election under the ACN, with which his the Oshiomhole-led Labour Party struck alliance.
 
Oserheimen Osunbor of the PDP was declared winner of the election but the result was contested before the Edo State Election Tribunal on the basis of irregularities and Oshiomhole was declared winner.
   
Oshiomhole’s dream of heading the -APC national working committee could have remained a mirage at the party’s national convention if not for the support of Tinubu, who stood solidly with the former Edo governor after falling apart with the immediate national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun
   
In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that Tinubu has made three national chairmen of the APC even though he later had issues with Odigie-Oyegun, which led to the emergence of Oshiomhole.

God knows what fate awaits him (Tinubu) under the chairmanship of Oshiomhole in future.  

Making of two presidents

After the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua on May 5, 2010, mid-way into his first tenure, his vice, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as president to complete the term.

But when Jonathan indicated interest to contest for the 2011 election on the premise that he wanted to finish the second tenure of the joint mandate with his late boss, the northern region came up with the argument of zoning, not only to frustrate but also stop Jonathan.
 
There was a sharp division between the northern zone who insisted that Jonathan could not run based on the zoning agreement in the PDP and the South-South and Southeast on the ground that was the best opportunity available for the minority South-South zone to rule the country.

Both regions needed the support of Southwest as at then to actualise their ambition.

Despite the fact that ACN was the major opposition party in 2011 and in control of five out of the six states in the region, except Ondo, but with Tinubu’s support, erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan, who received sympathy votes across the South successfully got more votes in the presidential election while the ruling party then lost the governorship elections in the zone.
 
The former president had more votes in Oyo and Ogun states when the PDP incumbent governors where voted out of office.

Unfortunately, Tinubu was the first target of the former president immediately he was sworn into office.

 
Buhari, who had tried his luck in the presidential election but failed in 2003, 2007 and 2011 on different platforms had to fall back on Tinubu before he could even win the APC primary in 2015 and went ahead to defeat sitting president Jonathan in the presidential poll.
 
The incumbent Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo during a Christian programme organised in Lagos last year disclosed to some faith leaders how Tinubu nominated him for the position.
 
His travails under APC

One of the worst political battles Tinubu has ever encountered is within the ruling APC, which he co-founded and his chances of overcoming would probably depend on whether Buhari wins in the next general election.
 
No sooner the APC administration came into power in 2015 than the Buhari’s lackadaisical approach to the leadership of the legislative arms set Tinubu against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and many others.

The crisis generated as a result is still affecting the party till date.
 
He also had crisis with some of his political beneficiaries from the Southwest, who allegedly took advantage of the cold disposition of the Buhari-led government to him (Tinubu) in connivance with some northern elements to decimate him politically. These were those tagged ‘Abuja boys’.

 
For example, the perceived ‘Abuja boys’ worked against Tinubu’s preferred aspirants, Mr Segun Abraham in the Ondo State governorship primary, which Governor Rotimi Akeredolu won through the support of the presidency.

His interest in Kogi State, when the party’s governorship candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu who was about to be declared winner of the election died was quashed by the so-called ‘Abuja boys’
 
Instead of allowing Audu’s running mate, James Faleke, who would have been another Tinubu’s protégé emerged the cabal frustrated the move and instead gave the mandate to a new entrant, Yayah Bello. The matter was taken to court.
 
Fayemi’s victory in the last governorship election in Ekiti was at the instance of Tinubu.

His ordeals under the Buhari’s led government at a point became selling news across the nation until Buhari made a U-turn recently to embrace him.
 
Today, Lagos State where Tinubu ruled like the Lord of Manor is having two parallel executives. 

 
Cloudy future 

GIVEN the ongoing shadowy political skirmishes in Lagos, most observers are beginning to wonder what the future holds for the Jagaban, especially with the ruling party.
 
A member of the APC in Lagos expressed fear that Buhari’s reelection in 2019 would spell political doom for Tinubu, saying the president could likely repeat the cold shoulder he extended to the national leader in the past three years.
 
The source further argued that Tinubu has made too many enemies within and outside the party, pointing out therefore that whether Buhari wins or loses, the national leader would still have it rough.
 
The Lagos APC chieftain predicted that Tinubu’s current romance with Senator Akpabio might backfire, as acoording to him, people of the South-south region are beginning to think that Tinubu is after their natural resources as part of the arsenal to prosecute his 2023 presidential ambition.
 
The Osun misadventure could turn out as another albatross for the leader. Ahead of the September 22 gubernatorial poll in the state, Tinubu was initially accused of using the introduction of the direct primary to foist the party’s standard-bearer, Alhaji Isiaka Oyetola, his distant counsin.

He is now being despised for denigrating Osun people at a meeting with one of the monarchs in the state recently.

During the visit to the palace of Ataoja of Osogbo to present Oyetola, Tinubu was alleged to have told the king that Osun people are too poor for him to be interested in their wealth.
 
Although, Tinubu Spokesman, Mr. Tunde Rahman denied that his boss said such, but that it was orchaestrated by his principal’s detractors, the state holds that deprecating utterance against the former Lagos State governor, which culminated in in a statewide protest last Tuesday.
 
It is possible that the development would stoke protest votes against APC in the election, similar to what transpired during the Ondo gubernatorial poll in 2012, when Tinubu’s preferred candidate lost out in the APC primary election.
 
But, another APC stalwart confided in The Guardian that Tinubu is desperate to control Osun following his failure to entrench Senator Olamilekan Solomon Adeola, in Ogun State for the 2019 election. 

“Tinubu would be in a tight corner if APC loses Osun, that fear could be the motive behind what is currently happening in the state,” the chieftain said, adding that Tinubu’s game plan could be to secure the Southwest zone ahead of 2023, to afford him stronger bargaining power.

The factor of religion

Not long after the news broke that Tinubu might scuttle Ambode’s second term ambition on the platform of APC in 2019, some religious leaders expressed concerns, even as they chose to treat the development as a rumour.
 
But, with the situation where Hamzat, a former commissioner of works and a Muslim and Jide Sawanoolu also picked nomination forms to contest the party’s ticket with the incumbent governor, some stakeholders in the faith community insisted that the national leader must explain in detail why he wants to drop Ambode “otherwise it would be regarded as part of the ongoing alleged agenda of APC to suppress Christianity in the country.”
 
Although, some Christian leaders spoke to The Guardian in confidence yesterday, they are of the view that it is too early for public statements, since according to them, neither Tinubu nor Ambode has said anything to justify the speculations.
 
However, one of the leaders said it would be unfair for Tinubu to say he wanted to drop Ambode now “because he cannot say the governor is not performing neither can he claim that the Ambode-led administration is against his (Tinubu) interest.
 
“If he eventually decides not to support the governor for a second term, then we will show him that Christians have population in Lagos.”

The Christian community massively supported Tinubu, who is a Muslim, in 1999 and in 2003.

Also in 2007 and in 2011 the same community stood by Fashola until they cried out that it was the turn of a Christian to rule the state in 2015.

The argument now is if Tinubu and Fashola, who were both Muslims enjoyed enormous backing from Christians during their two terms of office why would Tinubu want to jeopardize the Ambode reelection bid.
  
The national leader was therefore urged to try and let the news not go beyond the level of a rumour.

Three-pronged fight for APC guber ticket

Except the leaders of the APC, both in Lagos and at the centre, address the issue on time, the ongoing internal intrigues for the 2019 governorship ticket in the ruling party is likely going to be fought on three fronts.

 
On one part, Tinubu and his core loyalists will fight their cause to stop Ambode from obtaining a return ticket while the governor on the other hand will do everything possible to retain his seat.

The third aspect is the Abuja caucus, which Hamzat appears to be representing in the battle.
 
The struggle for the ticket principally by stopping Ambode and Tinubu’s choice candidate with the ultimate agenda of winning the gubernatorial primaries, a development that may likely affect APC chances in the governorship race.
 
However, if Ambode loses the return ticket, it would amount to the party taking a big risk ahead of the governorship election.

In the first place, the governor may decide to work against the interest of his party while it is not certain if he will go ahead to reveal things that are not meant for public consumption about the party.
 
It was however gathered that the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu 1 has moved to resolve the misunderstanding by convening a meeting with both the governor and Tinubu.


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