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Much ado over alleged power-shift pact between Buhari, Tinubu

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AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS

Not many Nigerians initially paid attention to the remarks by the incumbent Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who had on August 29 said he was not aware of any pact between President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu that Mr. President promised he would handover power to the former governor of Lagos State, after concluding his term in office in 2023.

Stakeholders within and outside the ruling party waved the remark while the presidency and Tinubu pretended as if there was nothing significant about the utterance.

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But lately, some concerned political observers have expressed the belief that Amaechi’s remarks, particularly on the issue of an alleged pact between President Buhari and Tinubu, whose political attainment today are as a result of the mandate given or once given to them by the electorate, should not be overlooked, given that occurrences within the ruling party would always have effect on Nigeria and Nigerians.

Many questions have since been raised with regards to Amaechi’s comment, as some commentators expressed the view that the said pact or agreement between President Buhari and Tinubu that brought in the incumbent President, may not have been known to the minister, having joined the APC after merger arrangements.

Recall that as at when APC entered into the merger arrangements, which was championed by the defunct CPC-led Buhari, ACN-led Tinubu, ANPP arm led by Ogbonnaya Onu, and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by former Governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha, the new-Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), which Amaechi belonged to, was not initially part of the merger formation.

The nPDP was the faction that left the mainstream PDP under the administration of erstwhile President Gooduck Jonathan, on grounds that the former president failed to honour the 2011 agreement to run for a term and return power to the north and that Jonathan, as at then, was no longer capable of managing the affairs of the country.

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However, should Amaechi’s comment be true, observers also raised highbrow as to whether the Nation’s democratic system ought to be run or determined by pacts between individuals and not necessarily through the votes of the people? The development, some opined, puts a question mark on the integrity of President Buhari and APC leadership.

Recall that President Buhari had contested the presidency more than three times but lost. He had even given up hope until he entered into the merger pact in 2015. This explains why some stakeholders are also of the view that the circumstances that played out between 2013 and 2015 must be properly interrogated.

As a respondent puts it, “Amaechi’s comment suggests that the present administration of APC is more of a business interest among partners, whose interests are now at a crossroads, a development affecting the collective will of Nigerians.”

The party source said it is difficult, if not impossible, for the incumbent government to add any meaningful value to the country as long as it is based on individual pact.

Why Amaechi May Not Know About The Pact 
ACCORDING to a school of thought, Minister Amaechi may truly be unaware of any pact between the duo, and his ignorance could be pardoned as he and other nPDP members were not part of the founding members of the APC structure.

The factionalised members of the then ruling PDP, led by Baraje Kawu, with the likes of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal and others, who have since returned to their PDP base, joined to strengthen the APC in wrestling power from Jonathan in the 2015 elections.

Recall that Amaechi joined APC as a very strong and strategic member being the chairman of the Nigeria’s Governors Forum (NGF) then and also as a seating governor of Rivers State.

The stakeholders in APC as at then had no choice than to concede such strategic position of Director General of Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation to Amaechi, considering the financial power that he wielded at the time.

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As a source in the party put it, “If it is on the strength of being the DG of Buhari’s Campaign Organisation that Ameachi is now claiming not to be aware there could have been a pact, he should ask for more details from the foundation members of the party, otherwise Buhari and Tinubu should speak out on Amaechi’s remark.”

Amaechi is quoted to have said that he was not privy to details of the alleged agreement. He was quoted to have said that he was not sure if Buhari and Tinubu held such a private meeting. He added that as the Director-General of APC Campaign Organisation, he never witnessed such a decision.

“But if there was a private meeting between President Buhari and our leader, Tinubu, I wouldn’t know. If it was a public APC meeting and I was not there, then something must be wrong. I was not told that there was an agreement that power should be handed over to Tinubu,” Amaechi added.

The minister’s position was supported by Osita Okechukwu, another chieftain of APC and Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), who insisted that President Buhari did not reach an agreement with Tinubu over the 2023 presidency.

Amaechi and Okechukwu’s position were, however, different from that of the pioneer national chairman of the defunct CPC, Senator Rufai Hanga, whose remarks implied there was an agreement that Tinubu would succeed Buhari in 2023.

Contrary to the minister and the DG VON, Hanga noted that Tinubu remained a member of the ruling party after the end of President Buhari’s first tenure because of the agreement.

He said Tinubu, who is also a Muslim like Buhari, could have been the vice president but the leadership of the party was against presenting two Muslim candidates in the 2015 presidential election.

“All I know is that Asiwaju automatically could have been the Vice President if not for what lawyers will call force majeure. Our leadership warned against Muslim/Muslim ticket. They argued that the Abiola/Kingibe Muslim/Muslim ticket, which worked in 1993 may not work in 2015 if Buhari/Tinubu, both Muslims, were to run. That was how Asiwaju nominated Professor Yemi Osinbajo as a replacement.”

He, however, said that Tinubu would be among the top aspirants to be considered by the ruling party as presidential candidate in 2023, “due to his immense contribution to the success of our great party in 2015.”
Agreement Between North And South, Not Pact Between Individuals
While the arguments unfold, political allies of the former governor of Lagos State said what transpired was a gentleman’s agreement between the North and South that power would shift to the South after Buhari’s two terms and not even the president’s northwest and Tinubu’s Southwest.

“As a matter of fact, that was one of the factors that made Tinubu remain in APC after Buhari allegedly treated him unfairly during his (Buhari) first term,” one party source said.

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Late last year, one of the political protégés of the national leader, Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing urged the party leaders to respect the gentleman agreement that power would shift to the South after Buhari’s two terms in office. This, Amaechi also alluded to.

In similar vein, another Tinubu protégé and Caretaker Chairman of Lagos APC, Mr. Tunde Balogun also said that the founding fathers of the party had an agreement in 2014 that the Southwest geopolitical zone will produce the party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 election and not necessarily a pact between Buhari and Tinubu.

Balogun claimed that it would be “dishonourable” for APC to jettison the agreement now, adding that President Buhari, Tinubu, and many other persons made the “gentleman’s agreement.”

The Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, also corroborated the arguments on power shift to the South in 2023 and not individual pact.

Zulum, who understands the intrigues of the North and South politics, said with the situation of things in the country currently, it doesn’t matter what part of the South the next president comes from.

He harped on the need for APC to keep to previous agreements to shift power to the southern part of the country.

In similar vein, Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari also towed same line with Zulum for a Southern presidency in 2023.

According to him, it would be unfair for the Southern part of the country not to produce Nigeria’s next president.

Interestingly, Amaechi, who claimed not to be aware of any pact between Buhari and Tinubu, spoke on the need for power rotation to the South just like Fashola, and former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, who is also the chairman of APC Constitution drafting committee and others have done.

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They warned the leadership of APC that doing otherwise would hurt the party’s long-term interest and the nation as well.

Buhari And Alleged Pact With Tinubu 
If Tinubu supporters must face the reality, President Buhari’s body language to the national leader and his core loyalists since APC came to power does not suggest he has any pact to relinquish power to the national leader. And if such pact exits, the disposition of the presidency does not also suggest Buhari is ready to honour such. Even the disposition of core political benefactors of Tinubu in the ruling party and the way some them have been distancing themselves from his proposed presidential ambition for 2023 does not also bode well.

If these facts are not strong enough to convince Tinubu’s loyalists that President Buhari and the cabal are not in support of the national leader’s presidential ambition, they may also recall the outburst of Senator Oluremi, wife of the national leader in 2018 that his husband has been sidelined in the party.

Several other instances could be cited, including the way Tinubu’s man Friday, the former National Chairman of the National Working Committee (NWC), Adams Oshiomhole was shoved out of office and how the Governor Mai Mala-Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) has allegedly been scheming to undermine the national leader even in his Lagos base.

However, whether there is a pact of not, there is need for Nigerians to be conscious of the fact that there is something yet secretive about the ruling party, which may not augur well for the destiny of the country in the near future.

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