APC: Of Buhari’s bending back to Tinubu
The Subplots For 2019, Membership Revision
President Muhammadu Buhari has made several appointments ever since he mounted the saddle as Nigeria’s fourth democratic president in the fourth republic. But none of those appointments revealed the warp and woof of the power play in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as the recent engagement of the president’s economic team.
When the president announced the names of special advisers, including Maryam Uwais, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Alhaji Tijani Abdullahi and Rafiu Enikanolaye, the minds of perceptive Nigerians went to the cold relationship between former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the president.
Both men-the president and the Lagos State political strongman- lost their comradeship shortly after the former was inaugurated. It all started barely one week after the Eagle Square handing over of baton between the defeated Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president and the incoming incumbent.The National Assembly was to be inaugurated and the president had already proclaimed the start of the 8th plenary on June 9, 2015. But the political godfather of the Southwest flank in the alliance that produced the APC, wanted to ensure that only lawmakers-elect that could be teleguided or are known to show malleable loyalty to their cause, are to emerge as floor functionaries.
As things turned out that attempt to programme the president proved the melting point of the once-buoyant fellow-feeling between the two leaders. While the president, in the true military tradition of depending on decoy, feigned acquiescence to the plan of pre-qualifying NASS leaders, he caused to be issued through his media aides a statement stating his preparedness to work with whoever would emerge as the choices of the lawmakers. The president also underscored his intention not to meddle with the internal business (politics) of the federal legislature.
However, as a political gamesman, the former Lagos State governor believed that the task of teaming up political platforms to defeat the incumbent could be defrayed unless the new ruling party stamps its authority in the NASS by enthroning its trusted point’s men.But as he schemed around the president, Buhari’s new foot soldiers were devising strategies to undercut the influence of the former governor. Recriminations had started to build against what the new political henchmen described as the overarching political maneouvres by the Southwest chieftain to teleguide the activities of the federal government being formed.
Signs that the things were no longer as they used to be prior to the election, emerged when the president did not attend a meeting scheduled to endorse the tentative principal officers of the Senate and House of Representatives, but also failed to send a representative.While the much talked about pre-inauguration conference suffered a presidential no-show, the senate began sitting with a majority of PDP senators-elect and few members from APC. And, just as the clerk of the senate was announcing the return of Senator Bukola Saraki as the unopposed Senate President-elect the gathering at the International Conference centre dispersed, with both conveners and congregants wearing long faces in apparent disbelief.
Although Tinubu did not publicly confess his pain and disappointment at the ignoble way he was made to look ordinary, that singular show of presidential independence, negatively affected his relationship with Buhari. Tinubu was to learn that presidential power once given cannot be easily withdrawn and to live with the new reality.Next point of separation was during the selection of nominees for appointment as cabinet ministers. Believing that he possesses the magic political wand to make the government deliver the goods, the former Lagos State governor was said to have made a list of possible candidates to recommend to Mr. President.
On the list were to be mostly former commissioners in Lagos and other loyal chieftains from other Southwest states, excluding former governors of Ekiti and Lagos States. But with unbecoming politeness, but obvious inflexibility, the president rejected the attempt to exclude Kayode Fayemi, Babatunde Fashola and Lai Mohammed.
Although the president was said to have agreed that the former Lagos governor had keen eyes for personnel selection, he (Buhari) was alleged to have told the political godfather that he wants the three personalities in his cabinet for their contributions to the electioneering campaigns. It had remained a subject of small talks whether former Lagos State commissioner for Information and Strategy, Oladele Alake would have handled the federal government’s information machinery better than Mohammed.
Not that alone, Tinubu began to reassess the apparent political implications of the new signals from the presidency. The games man began weaving new political mats in the Southwest. Part of those designs was the reconciliation meeting, during which the former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, was reconnected to the APC.
Perhaps reading the handwriting on the wall, some of Buhari’s loyalists were said to have informed the president that leaving Tinubu out of the government loop may prove unsettling in the near future.
While some concerned northern politicians made similar observations, fourth republic vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s position on the issue of restructuring and containing the resurgent militancy in the Niger Delta further whittled down the rating on the presidency in the estimation of most Nigerians.Atiku’s stand on the vexed issue of true federalism did much to throw up fresh perspectives in the Southwest about the presidency and the APC government. That tendency towards distance from the ruling party was noted through the press interview granted by the Major General Alani Akinrinade, in which he pointedly told the APC and the presidency that unless they address the issue of restructuring, Buhari should prepare to go into history as the last president of a corporate Nigeria.
Perhaps Akinrinade’s postulations, alongside the meeting between President Buhari and the Awujale of Ijebu, Oba Sikiru Adetona, a Southwest prominent traditional ruler; led to the thawing of the ice in the Tinubu-Buhari relations. As a sign that the rift may have been healed, Tinubu’s men membered in the majority of the recent appoints made by the president. They included Tinubu’s former Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Wale Edun, as chairman of the Board of Trustes of the Trust Fund for the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP); former media aide, Mr. Sunday Dare,(Executive Commissioner, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as well as Mr. Pius Akinyelure, (member, NNPC board).
The decision by Buhari to bend over backwards to reconnect with his major backer from the Southwest, was also said to be propelled by the discovery that attempts by some of the president’s men to navigate towards the Southeast was not bearing propitious fruits.Although some big names like that of the former President of Senate, Ken Nnamani and billionaire oil magnate, Emeka Offor among other heavy weights in politics and industry are billed to join APC very soon, APC leaders were said to have been jolted by a compilation of appointments made by the presidency, which failed to accommodate persons of Igbo extraction.
As the documents circulated freely in the Southeast, some academics and professionals pointed out that the decision of the presidency not to involve any Igbo economic experts in the interaction with the economic team showed that there was a premeditated plan to sideline Igbo in the scheme of things under the present dispensation.Some of the experts that attended the special session, during which the Economic Management Team ventilated their ideas; included Mr. Bismarck Rewane, Mr. Bode Augusto, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, Dr. Ayo Teriba and Prof. Badayi Sani.
Some of the representatives of the Coalition of Christian groups that signed the document that xrayed the appointments include: National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF); Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship (NCGF); Think Tank For the Body of Christ; Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON); Association of Christian Schools in Nigeria (ACSIN); Christian Professionals Forum (CPF); International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) among others.
In the statement, the coalition said: “We are compelled by disturbing developments in the nation, to issue another national alert to all Nigerians that the unity of the federation is severely threatened by the government in power. The level of discrimination, impunity, nepotism, tribalism and violation of the constitution demonstrated by the Buhari administration is unparalleled in the history of Nigeria.”
The coalition lamented that “for a government that came to power on the wings of change, we are completely baffled that it has only entrenched the rot, corruption and decadence in Nigeria in alarming proportions.”It is not easy to discern whether it was out of vexation or plain political rapprochement that the president reconnected with Tinubu. However, there are indicators that the president ardent desire to snatch a second term in office must have necessitated the about-face.
Sources close to the presidency disclosed that President Buhari has realised that four years would not be enough for him to achieve results on his three-point governance action plan and was therefore prepared to “do some political appeasement here and there” to ensure that his second term does not fail.
It was also gathered that the rethink to accommodate Tinubu was ostensibly to cover the Southwest axis for the president in 2019, even as plans are being explored to compromise the electoral system to ensure the success of the second term.While some stalwarts disclosed that Buhari wanted competent hands to assist him achieve results, others claimed the accommodation of Tinubu was done to ensure that during the planned membership revalidation in APC, only those who would subscribe to another term for the president would remain in the party.
A source with the APC from Kaduna State confided in The Guardian that “in the APC to come, it would impossible for anybody to beat Baba in a presidential primary”, adding that the president has acknowledged that his work for Nigeria could not be completed in four years.The source said it was not correct to say that the president and Tinubu quarreled, saying that what happened was that two persons namely, Mamman Daura and the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, started screening allies away from the president, thereby giving the presidency a bad image.
“Baba Buhari has seen where the troubles are coming from and wants to open up the system for effective governance, he stated, adding that the president does not believe in alienating those that helped him during the election, more so when he has another election coming.