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Between the Lion of Bourdillon and Northern oligarchs

By Sunny Ogefere, Niyi Bello, Leo Sobechi, Samson Ezea and Seye Olumide
27 September 2016   |   2:52 am
It is becoming obvious that the forces that brought about the hurried birth of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2015 polls, with the sole aim of wresting power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are disintegrating ahead of 2019.
 Muhammadu Buhari

Muhammadu Buhari

It is becoming obvious that the forces that brought about the hurried birth of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2015 polls, with the sole aim of wresting power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are disintegrating ahead of 2019.The forces, which comprise opposition members from the Southwest region led by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the famed Lion of Bourdillon, some Northern oligarchs led by President Muhammadu Buhari and other fringe elements from the Southeast and South-South, have been undoubtedly at the crossroads since the party formed the government at the centre.

Nothing appears to have worked or been working politically or otherwise in the party and the government, thereby raising questions on the unity and direction of the Buhari’s administration and the APC.

Apparently worst hit by the ugly political intrigues is the arrowhead of the party’s success in the Southwest, Senator Tinubu.Reacting like a man that has been pushed to the wall, Tinubu who has been taciturn for long, roared, asking the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to quit office over the fallout of the Ondo State governorship primary election, where his favoured candidate lost. The entire scenario smacks of intense political manoeuverings and games in the battle for the soul of the APC. And this battle for supremacy, which initially had clear-cut boundaries to grab power from the PDP has since taken different shapes.

In the beginning
After several years of failed political merger in Nigeria, the APC was successfully formed in February 2013, defying all odds and encumbrances.It emerged as an alliance of the three biggest opposition parties namely the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Congress (ANPP), and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as well as a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

After its formation and ahead of the 2015 polls, some aggrieved members of the then ruling party with the name, new-PDP defected to the APC. They included five serving governors, party chieftains and members of the states and federal legislatures.Despite the successful formation of the party with the major aim of wresting power from the PDP, many political observers described its members as strange bedfellows. Not many believed this assertion, but early events in the party confirmed it.

One politician whose contribution and influence cannot be overlooked in the formation of the party is Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, who was the leader of the defunct ACN that was in control of the Southwest.Since the return of democratic governance in the country, Tinubu’s political success has remained unprecedented.

The sign of what would befall the party started with the choice of its national officers, specifically the national chairmanship.While the governors of the party preferred the choice of a former colleague, of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, the Tinubu camp wanted Odigie-Oyegun. The Senator Ali-Modu Sheriff and Atiku Abubakar camp supported the candidature of the former minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi.

After all the political intrigues and plots, Odigie-Oyegun who enjoyed the support of Tinubu emerged the party’s national chairman to the disappointment of Sheriff, Atiku, Ikimi among others. This development made Ikimi and Sheriff alongside their supporters to leave the party ahead of the 2015 polls. This was after a war of words and name calling between them and Tinubu.

It was said that the idea of a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the APC 2015 presidency, which was allegedly touted and pushed by Tinubu and his supporters was strongly opposed by a majority of the party leaders that included Senator Danjuma Goje, Senator Chris Ngige, Prince Tony Momoh and others.In order to pacify Tinubu and his supporters, he was asked to nominate a Christian running mate to Buhari. That was how Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who served as Commissioner of Justice under his government in Lagos, was nominated.

With the party’s victory in the 2015 presidential poll, it was alleged that Tinubu told all those who opposed his Muslim-Muslim ticket that they would not get any position from Buhari’s government and that the President would run the government, while he would run the politics.The alleged assertion, many party chieftains claimed, did not go down well with Buhari and his henchmen who have been working since then to undermine Tinubu’s strong influence in the party with the tactical support of the presidency.

APC without BoT
Almost two years after forming government, APC has no Board of Trustees (BoT). The Guardian investigation reveals that the delay in constituting the BoT is a continuation of the power-play in the party between Tinubu’s supporters and the Northern oligarchs mainly of the defunct CPC who enjoy the support of the presidency.

One of the party leaders from the Southeast said Tinubu had pushed for a former governor of Osun, Chief Bisi Akande, to emerge the BoT chairman, while another group wanted Alhaji Atiku, but the President allegedly rejected them.“The way the party is going, there is obvious danger ahead for it and its members. The leadership of the party appears to be helpless and too submissive to the presidency.

“Odigie-Oyegun should not be blamed because the government has not given the party leadership leverage to operate effectively. That is why the party leadership is neither here nor there on major issues affecting the party,” the chieftain said.

Snippets across the country
The Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, are at loggerheads and their once united political family is now divided and looking separate ways.

The result is that the Kwankwasiiyya movement, which held sway in Kano with Kwankwaso as the undisputed head now has Gandujiyya Akida, headed by the incumbent governor, to contend with. Ganduje is opposed to Kwankwaso’s bid for presidency in 2019 and rather backs Buhari.Although Ganduje was reported recently as saying that he would soon reconcile with Kwankwaso, most members of the Kwankwasiyya group have dumped the red cap symbol in solidarity and identification with Gandujiyya Akida.

In Kaduna State, Senator Shehu Sani representing the Central Senatorial district on the platform of the APC has been very critical of the administration of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.Sani, believed to be fed up with the alleged posturing of El-Rufai, was reported recently to have told the governor to stop his antics, as there was no vacancy in Aso Villa in 2019. The senator was quoted as saying that El-Rufai should forget his scheming for the presidency, as Buhari would still be available.

In Adamawa, former governor Murtala Nyako and his successor, Muhammadu Jubrilla, both of APC are slugging it out over the same 2019 presidential race. Nyako is with Buhari while the governor has pitched tents with former Vice President Atiku. Besides, Ribadu’s return to APC last month, heightened the intrigues and tussle for supremacy and control of the party in the state between Atiku and Tinubu.

The Guardian learnt that Ribadu’s return to APC has been in the offing since the beginning of this year when Tinubu visited the state about five months ago. The APC national leader was alleged to have declined to enter state-owned SUV vehicles made available by Governor Mohammed Umar Bindow to pick him at the Yola international Airport.

He was said to have been picked at the airport by a convoy dispatched to the airport by Ribadu, which allegedly took him to the latter’s private residence where he was entertained.The state party executive loyal to the governor was sacked by the national secretariat, a move supposedly undertaken to pave the way for the return of Ribadu.

The coming of Ribadu, sources claimed was to completely shut the doors of the party against Atiku and Bindow’s men ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The grumblings among APC members in the Southwest has been increasing. They are believed to be dissatisfied and frustrated by Buhari’s “style of administration” and have intensified consultations on the way forward.

Although loyalists of Tinubu were quick to deny any rift between him and the President, some admitted that the Asiwaju’s body language has encouraged the followers to continue in the quest for a way out of the political quagmire.The Guardian learnt that the tussle for supremacy and the frustrations have pushed the groupings in the APC back to the old format of ACN, CPC and the PDP.

Governor Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar is not finding governing Bauchi State easy with major political actors particularly from the APC, who are led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. They seem determined to give him sleepless nights.A chieftain of the APC, Alhaji Yusuf Tagga, who made unsuccessful bid for the governorship of Bauchi in the 2011 and 2015 polls on the platform of the defunct CPC and the APC, said the decision to confront the governor was borne out of the need to rescue the state from economic and social destruction.

In Bayelsa, there was no unity of purpose when APC went for the governorship election in December last year with the party stalwarts torn between the former governor, (Sylva) and the presumed peoples’ choice, Timi Alaibe.The party hierarchy spearheaded by Tinubu settled for Silva and at the end of the day there was division and the APC lost the election

In Kogi State, players within the northern power bloc who would not have a Tinubu wielding influence in their territory, ganged up to prevent the emergence of James Faleke by allegedly influencing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare the poll inconclusive and getting the party to present Yahaya Bello, who came a distant second in the primary election and who did not contribute to the election victory, as the substitute candidate of the APC after Prince Abubakar Audu’s death

Many pundits however saw the Bello option by the APC as cutting the nose to spite the face as it has not yielded any positive result for the party. Local members have continuously been accusing him of denying them of appointments and patronage, preferring instead to have members of opposition PDP in his government.

If preventing Tinubu from extending his influence across the Niger was the case in Kogi, the attempt to remove him from having a say in the process that produced the candidate of the APC in Ondo is like trying to completely cage the lion, literarily speaking.

Since 2003, Tinubu who became the only survivor of the PDP tsunami of that year that swept his brother Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors from power in the South West states has picked the gauntlet of zonal leadership against the overbearing influence of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He has been showing interest in who becomes the governor not only in Ondo but in the entire region.

His involvement in the 2007 Ondo gubernatorial politics where he first supported the candidate of the Action Congress (AC), a new version of the AD with Tinubu’s distinct flavour, Ademola Adegoroye, before shifting base to the camp of Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party (LP), was responsible for the emergence of the current political order in the state.

In 2012, Tinubu single-handedly picked the man now in the eye of the storm, Rotimi Akeredolu, as the candidate of the then ACN, overruling primary election, an action that analysts believed was responsible for the loss of the party in that year’s governorship election.

Not wanting to repeat the mistakes of 2012, Tinubu said he took his time this time not to impose any one but to “only endorse” Segun Abraham, another close associate, ahead of other leading aspirants like Senator Ajayi Boroffice and Olusola Oke.

That the APC national leader considered the “manipulation” of the 2016 primary election process of the party in Ondo which produced the same Akeredolu, who is said to have found new masters within the Abuja power firmament that is opposed to Tinubu, an affront on his person, was evident in his last Sunday’s call for the sack of Odigie-Oyegun.

Party not to blame
A former confidant of Buhari and chieftain of the party, Alhaji Buba Galadima, had told The Guardian in an exclusive interview recently that a lot of people have accused the APC of so many things, but the government formed by it has not given APC the leverage to exert its influence and work according to its rules.

Galadima said: “That is the way I see it personally. The problem is not about the leadership of the party. A lot of people think so, but I think the leadership of the party is helpless and cannot exert its influence.”On what he thinks the leadership of the party should do to put it on the right track, he said: “I expected the party to have more influence on government and the thinking of government because the government was formed on the platform of the party.

“It was the name and the logo of the party that was used for the election; so the leadership of the party would have summoned the courage to exert itself and give direction to the government, because without the party, nobody could have the platform to be where he is today.”

A South West leader in the party said what Tinubu was undergoing at present was a story foretold and he needs to tread carefully otherwise “worse things await him in future.”He remarked; “No man can play God. Why is the same Tinubu crying foul against Odigie-Oyegun? He should explain how the incumbent national chairman emerged against other credible personalities available then.”

According to him, the common denomination in democracy is the people “but when a single person thinks he can arrogate the power of the people, the end is not always good. We should wait and see how it ends but this is not what the party really bargained for. There is always the law of Kama, which is immutable. Asiwaju should recollect how he dealt treacherously with some leaders, particularly the Afenifere elders who persistently warned him on how to relate with the Fulani when it comes to the issue of power.”

On the way out, the party chieftain said it was important for him to return to the drawing board and bring back all those he has unfairly alienated politically to strategise.He added, “One grievous error that the man has made despite his political influence is that he failed to realize the fact that no race can make meaningful progress when it subverts its values. Tinubu at a point abused the brightest and best for selfish reasons and beguiled himself with wrong advisers.”

Another APC chieftain urged Nigerians not to perceive the development as the party’s internal wrangling but that “it must be seen from a larger perspective and how it might affect the development and growth of the country.”His words, “This is not the party that promised us change neither is this the change they promised. If among themselves they are accusing one another of corruption I wonder how this government can triumph in its anti-corruption war.

“First, Nigerians demand to know if Odigie-Oyegun actually collected money, as alleged by Tinubu in his letter, to subvert the Ondo governorship primary in favour of a candidate.” The source said Nigerians want to know what exactly transpired with the facts brought to light, as “it would be part of the transparency that the APC administration is preaching.”In another reaction, a founding member of the party disclosed there were more cankerworms “and by the time Nigerians get to know they would be surprised.”

He urged Nigerians to find out why some founding members of the party have decided to adopt a ‘siddon (sit down and) look approach’ and indifference to the administrative style of President Buhari?“Which of the APC leaders apart from some few do you see discussing the party again or offering advice? Should any serious party be entangled in this type of internal crisis when the country is in economic recession? Would this give the party a good frame of mind to run the government in a nation where many are dying of hunger and languishing in poverty? President Buhari has been running the government outside the party’s manifesto and nobody is taking him to task,” he stated.

Meanwhile another source cautioned that Tinubu cannot be said to have been caged “because the Lion of Bourdillion can always bounce back. If the APC really meant well for this nation this is not the time to start washing their dirty linen in public.”The source specifically accused Buhari of setting the party leadership against one another to achieve a Northern agenda ahead of 2019, saying: “We warned Tinubu, we advised him and Chief Bisi Akande but the duo assumed the position of know-it-all. This is the result. I think Akande will come out of his shell to speak out as Tinubu has just done.”

Implications of discord
The implication of the unending intrigues in the party is that the northern politicians knew that there was a limit to which Tinubu could pull the strings. And they started checkmating him, such that wherever he tried to show his hands whether in the selection of National Assembly officers, floor functionaries of National Assembly or in Kogi, they stopped him.

As things stand and as a man of immense of strategic political thinking, Tinubu would follow up his calls on Odigie-Oyegun to resign. Although this was not the first time of his moving against Odigie-Oyegun, in the present attempt he would not like to stop halfway. And it does not seem plausible that Buhari, who originally did not favour Odigie-Oyegun’s nomination for the chairmanship, would seek to stop Tinubu on his tracks. But the powers behind the throne would rally round Odigie-Oyegun, thereby leaving Tinubu with two options.

The first option is to force him out of the party or retreat and sulk quietly. If Tinubu takes the second option, that would mean the eventual destruction of the party ahead of 2019. He may also team up with the nPDP group that he had been plotting their exit from APC to throw up a rival presidential candidate.

In the worst-case scenario, attempts may be made to use the Department of State Services (DSS) or Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Tinubu to cut him to size. If things come to that bend, the centre may no longer hold for the party because, in such an attempt to probe Tinubu, the tales of how the 2015 election was fought could become public. That may be what Senator Sani was alluding to when he said that he was in a worse prison, a president that allowed his election to be driven by dubious political investors.

In the final analysis, the move by Jagaban to dictate the pace of politics in APC may mean the end of change, because the political fight would touch a lot of things, particularly governance. This indeed is a battle APC should not fight, because it can never win it.