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Tinubu’s campaign thrust and challenges of APC campaign council

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
30 October 2022   |   4:20 am
There were many intricate issues that dogged the unveiling of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council, as well as the manifesto of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the presidential standard bearer.

Tinubu. Photo/facebook/officialasiwajubat

• APC NWC, Presidential Candidate, Govs In Pursuit Of Common Ground

There were many intricate issues that dogged the unveiling of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council, as well as the manifesto of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the presidential standard bearer.

Championing various aspects of the contending issues were the Progressive Governors’ Forum, the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu, the playmakers of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidency and Tinubu’s ‘long term acolytes.’

It was not surprising that the release of the initial 422-member campaign council attracted nationwide outrage. Not only on account of its composition, but also the fact that the document was signed off by Hon. James Faleke, a known protégé of the presidential candidate.

Many of those who cried out against the composition of the Presidential Campaign Council argued that instead of being an All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council, what Faleke released was purely a Tinubu Presidential Campaign Council.

Faleke, who serves as the Secretary of the PCC, is a known Tinubu footsoldier. The Kogi State-born politician represents Ikeja federal constituency in the House of Representatives.

Having released the list of 422 persons named on the PCC, it was therefore easily perceived that Faleke and his other Tinubutarians were out to requite past political vendetta meted out on them by past leaderships, particularly the political enforcers of the Presidency.

That perception was strengthened by the announcement of former Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as the Deputy Director General of the PCC. Oshiomhole was said to have been swept out of office midway into his four-year-term as National Chairman of APC, due to his perceived closeness to the former Lagos State governor, Tinubu.

At the release of the controversial list, which contained some strange names, prominent among which was Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, a card-carrying member of main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there was a mixture of consternation and umbrage.

Some members of the party’s Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), who played key roles in the dismantling of the Oshiomhole-led NWC and imposition of the Governor Mai Mala Buni’s disputed Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, alleged that a possible witchhunt was afoot in the emerging political scenario.

Alarmed by the possibility that they could be at the receiving end of Tinubu’s fight back, the playmakers in the PGF were said to have inspired a purported protest letter from the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led APC NWC.

The thrust of the letter, was the claims by Adamu that some glaring evidences suggesting that the APC presidential contender was trying to undertake a one-man show presidential campaign by side-lining the party’s structure and leadership.

Coming barely four months after Tinubu secured the presidential ticket, Adamu’s complaint letter did not disguise the fact that the shadows and smoke of the hard fought presidential primary were still affecting APC’s march to its third general elections.

The horse-trading and shadow boxing that trailed the preparations for the APC special convention and presidential primary did not predicate or predispose the party to a possible Tinubu triumph. Yet, against all odds, the former Lagos State political maestro handed a surprise defeat to the favoured co-contenders and picked the ticket.

Right from the convention ground, Tinubu did not hide his indignation over the covert acts of omission and commission by some influential leaders of the party, which were geared towards preventing him access to the presidential space on the ballot.

Some PGF members and NWC recalled how the presidential candidate hit hard on President of Senate, Ahmad Lawan, after he was announced as the winner as well as the protocol slight on the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who also contested the primary.

Tinubu had, in his acceptance speech, told Senator Lawan that he could now go and lick his wounds after trying to pull a stunt at the presidential primary by moving against the decision of the party to zone its presidential ticket to the Southern part of the country.

It was therefore the perception that Tinubu was preparing to prosecute a vengeful presidency that the PGF actors and Presidency insiders decided to prevail on the APC NWC to call the former Lagos State governor to order. Senator Adamu’s letter was therefore a covert artifice to use the APC structure as a powerful restraint to whatever devices that Tinubu was scheming to deploy against his perceived rivals and detractors.

While holes were picked in the list of PCC members that was released by Faleke on September 23, Senator Adamu’s letter provided another window into the crisis of confidence within the governing party. Sources within the party leadership disclosed that the idea of appointing President Buhari as the chairman of the PCC was a ploy to dismiss side talks that the President was peeved by Tinubu’s emergence as well as certain grave actions he (Tinubu) took after clinching the ticket, particularly the choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate.

The first attempt to contain the disagreements within the party and the composition of the PCC was to dismiss Adamu’s compilation of grievances against Tinubu, which the letter represented. Watchers of APC themes and schemes believed that by demanding respect for “established boundaries” and transparency from Tinubu, as well as urging him to desist from pursuing ‘solo projects,” Adamu’s letter let the cat out of the bag concerning the state of affairs within APC.

Espying the ominous signals in the letter, Tinubu’s men decided to push back on Adamu’s “mischievous missive.” The first strategy was to distance the NWC from the letter and create the impression that the national chairman was not only on his own, but also pursuing similar “solo project” as he embarked upon during the presidential primary, when he tried to dump Lawan on the party from the roof top.

The next approach adopted by the Tinubu camp to fighting off the negative connotations of the APC national chairman’s letter was to situate it as fake news that did not represent the official positions of the party and Adamu.

To achieve the first target, the national publicity secretary of the party, Mr. Felix Morka, described Adamu’s letter as a draft that was not vetted or ratified for official release, adding that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, APC was united as a party.

Just as the list of members of PCC was generating ripples within the APC circles, the release of Tinubu’s manifesto was also gaining its own traction. The party was therefore troubled on two sides, which prompted the attempts to avert a meltdown.

But, doubling down on the seeming damage control plan, a former national chairman of the party, Oshiomhole, who is in Tinubu’s corner, sought to exonerate the incumbent national chairman, Adamu, stressing that what was making the rounds on the social media was but an unapproved draft.

Oshiomhole, who did not explain the rationale behind the drafting of the letter, declared that in as much as the letter was not properly signed off and actually approved for transmission, it remains a fake specimen.

However, over and above the concerns about the composition of the PCC, the disputations over the manifesto, campaign instrument, which would serve as the rallying message of the APC campaign, was more strident. On this score, it was gathered that most of the APC governors and appointees did not hide their distaste for the obvious ploy to belittle President Buhari’s achievements in office, while going back in time to exult in Tinubu’s track record as governor of Lagos State.

Outgoing governors that complained against the use of Tinubu’s achievements in Lagos as campaign thrust argued that selling a manifesto that focuses only on initiatives that took place in Lagos will provide the opposition the cannon fodder to deprecate the party’s performance in the past seven years.

Checks by The Guardian revealed that the manifesto, which formed the bone of contention, started making the rounds even before the former Lagos State governor won the APC presidential primary.

Expectedly, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenged APC to run on President Buhari’s records and the party’s achievements in the last seven years, noting that Tinubu should not depend on the cumulative governance record of two other administrations in Lagos State.

For instance, in the seven-point agenda captured in the manifesto, Tinubu promised to provide ‘transformational leadership capable of uniting Nigeria, use of modern ‘technology for economic growth’, secure the country through enabling conditions, extensive infrastructural development, empower ‘home grown businesses’ to compete globally, deploy initiatives targeted at promoting knowledge as well as promote democracy under true federalism and democratic processes.

As it happened with the membership of PCC, the controversy over the manifesto raged to the extent that the spokesman of the campaign organization, Bayo Onanuga had to come up with clarifications. Onanuga declared that manifesto was also “a draft proposal” and suggestions on the programmes that Tinubu intends to prosecute when elected in February 2023.

He had stated: “While our presidential candidate appreciates the spirit and efforts of his associates that produced the document being passed around mostly on WhatsApp, we want to clearly state that the document is an unofficial document and Tinubu cannot be held accountable on any of the issues raised in the document.

“The presidential candidate and APC are currently working on an all-embracing manifesto that will inspire the confidence of Nigerians.”

However, with the quiet protestations and complaints from Northwest governors, who saw an attempt to diminish President Buhari’s years in office, the policy framework was rejigged to cover some additional points extending the agenda to 10 and later trimmed to eight.

Apart from the patchwork that produced the 80-page manifesto that was released penultimate week, the PCC was also tinkered in such a way that the APC chairman became deputy chairman, while the candidate became deputy chairman II.

While the party faithful, particularly the various contending caucuses saw a win-win scenario leading to the unveiling at the Presidency, the shadow of Lagos State governance scheme remained in the background.

Both the PGF and NWC of APC still look at the party’s presidential candidate with some suspicion, as they grumble that Tinubu would be hard to handle as President and Commander-in-Chief.

Although Tinubu had oftentimes declared his intention to continue from where President Buhari stops, there are unmistakeable signs that some influential members of the Presidency are programming his campaign to fail for the benefit of an opposition candidate.

Tinubu’s accolytes insist that if Lagos was used as a poster state of functioning democratic inclusion and good governance in 2015, nothing should stop the man at the centre of the development from claiming the success story.

That could explain why during the closing ceremony of the 22nd National Women’s Conference of the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials (COWLSO), Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, recalled how Tinubu as governor in 1999, revived Lagos State economy and steered it from bankruptcy.

Speaking through his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, Governor Sanwo-Olu had declared: “Look at how beautiful and impactful this conference has been. It is because everybody came together to work hard, led by a very competent First Lady. So, if we want a nation where our own children and grandchildren will be happier than us, it is time to vote for a man who has done it before.

“There are no two ways about it; we must look at what people have done and how they have done it. People forget that in 1999, Lagos State was bankrupt; this state did not have a single ambulance in 1999.

“Only seven percent of the roads in Lagos State were tarred in 1999. So, a lot has happened and the foundation was laid by the man, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”

As the presidential campaign gathers steam, the crucial point in the APC disputations about policy guidelines is how to form a nexus between Buhari’s years and the expected Tinubu emergent Presidency. The confrontation therefore, would be between those who wish to wean Tinubu out of his preoccupation with Lagos track record and those trying to make him inherit the score card of an administration that tried its best to alienate him from its policies and programmes.
How far the various interest groups and entrenched political forces are able to sustain the rapprochement that saw to the unveiling of the APC manifesto, would determine how far the party will go as it confronts its old rival, PDP and the new sensation of Labour Party (LP).