Tinubu’s unending controversies in APC, Southwest
It is no longer in doubt that the political machinery of the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is undergoing critical stress in the party, the presidency and in his Southwest base. A trademark he seems to have acquired for himself since the birth of the party in 2014 is that of a politician with a ‘barrage of controversies.’
In fact, he has always been involved in one political intrigue or the other with some founding members of APC right from the onset. They include one of the constitution drafting committee members, Chief Segun Osoba, a development that eventually forced the former governor of Ogun State to defect to Social Democratic Party (SDP) before the 2015 general elections. Also, Tinubu’s alleged insistence on being the running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 Presidential election created not just a minor schism and upset within the party until its leadership agreed to adopt the incumbent Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
But no sooner had APC won the 2015 presidential election than Tinubu’s controversial trait came up again in the election process of principal officers of the 8th National Assembly. The national leader then pitched his tent with the current Senate President, Ahmed Lawan against the interest of immediate past President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, a situation that led to unsettled rivalry between his (Tinubu) political camp and that of the former governor of Kwara State throughout the last four years. Saraki and most of his loyalists eventually defected to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to avoid Tinubu.
Among his many controversial political moves in the party includes his ambition to make the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker in 2015. This also met a brick wall and eventually degenerated into frosty relationship between him (Tinubu) and the former Speaker, Yakubu Dogara throughout the last first four years. Dogara, like Saraki eventually returned to PDP.
Tinubu’s vested interest in who takes what ministerial position was perhaps one of the factors that allegedly created a crisis between him President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. A strong factor among others that perhaps hindered the president from forming his cabinet six months after assuming office four years ago is said to be at play now. Many APC faithful are still wondering why Buhari purportedly distanced himself from Lagos, the home base of the national leader for almost three years after he assumed power in 2015. One of the factors adduced for this is Tinubu’s controversial politics. The president, however, had a rethink towards the election, when he considered the national leader crucial to his reelection and therefore attended the 10th Bola Tinubu Colloquium in 2018, almost three years after assuming office.
Tinubu was also enmeshed in APC’s internal controversies in the 2015 Kogi State’s gubernatorial election and 2016 in Ondo State’s gubernatorial election primary. His insistence on having one of his Lagos loyalists and lawmaker representing Ikeja Federal Constituency, Mr. James Faleke, who was then running mate to the party’s governorship candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu, declared governor when his boss slumped and died a few hours to the declaration of the election result of which APC was in a clear lead was rebuffed from the alleged ‘Abuja boys’ then led the erstwhile National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. The matter was eventually taken to court but resolved at party level. Meanwhile, a wedge had been created between Tinubu and Odigie-Oyegun, whom he (Tinubu) helped to emerge as national chairman in the first instance.
His controversial political style resurfaced in the 2019 Ondo State APC governorship primary. While Tinubu was interested in one of his loyalists, Mr. Segun Abraham, the ‘Abuja cabal’ then led by Odigie-Oyegun was interested in the incumbent governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, who later won the primary. It was alleged that Buhari gave his blessings then to Akeredolu against the Tinubu’s choice. Obviously, the former governor of Lagos was miffed but the incumbent went ahead to win the race in spite of him.
The 2015 Kogi and 2016 Ondo incidents exposed the crack in the ruling party in no small meansure such that Tinubu was unable to manage his anger. He accused Odigie-Oyegun of corruption and consequently demanded his resignation in a widely published and circulated statement. The former national chairman did not survive the national leader’s outrage; he was frustrated to vacate office in 2018 for Tinubu’s crony, Adams Oshiomhole.
It would be recalled that in the build up to the party’s 2018 congresses and national convention, Tinubu also engaged the ‘Abuja cabal’ in another crisis of interest. When the party eventually held her first National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in early 2018 ahead of preparation for 2019 elections and congresses, some forces preferred the Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) to continue in office and midwife the elections but Tinubu and his loyalists were of contrary opinion.
The anti-Tinubu forces believed that Odigie-Oyegun’s continuity would serve their interest as well as prevent the party from unnecessary and prolonged crises that might spring up from the congresses since the 2019 election was close. Tinubu, however, considered such position detrimental and dangerous to his political wellbeing in APC. Initially, President Buhari had bought into the pro-Odigie-Oyegun position, but had to change his mind due to pressure and superior argument presented on the legal implications of allowing the erstwhile national chairman remain in office beyond the constitutionally stipulated period.
As a matter of fact, the Lagos family of APC, controlled and fueled by Tinubu, was warming itself to challenge the matter in court if Buhari did not change his position and conceded to Tinubu’s desire based on the party’s constitution.
The Lagos APC palaver
One of the crucial battles Tinubu fought after the exit of Odigie-Oyegun and installation of his man, Oshiomhole, was the agenda to deny the former governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, a return ticket in 2019. Indeed, it was a controversy that nearly consumed him. It is not certain yet if its consequences will still not wreak havoc to his political machinery, not only in the party but also in politics general as events continue to unfold. Like a Yoruba saying, ‘Kangun kangun kangun a kangu sibikan (something must end a development).
Through the use of direct primaries, the national leader and his loyalists eliminated perceived political opponents in the Lagos State ward, local government and state congresses in May 2018, just as he went ahead to use the same process to deny Ambode, the lawmaker who represented Lagos East, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, return ticket in October last year. The process was very controversial, as the presidency and other stakeholders in and outside the party allegedly waded in to save the former governor but Tinubu eventually had his way with the support of Oshiomhole-led NWC. Lagos held parallel state congresses in which Chief Tunde Balogun emerged as state chairman while Mr. Foud Oki, who had warned as early as May 2018 that there was a clandestine arrangement to deny Ambode return ticket emerged as parallel state chairman. The case is still in court.
Tinubu’s controversial tendency was also visible in the July and September 2018 governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States respectively. It was said that the former Minister of Solid Mineral Resources, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, emerged with the backing of the Abuja cabal in spite of Tinubu. His statement at the palace of Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, that he is richer than the state and also that had no plan to install a puppet to suck its treasury dry was also controverted. The party nearly lost the election but for the disputed by-election, which the Supreme Court eventually decided in favour of APC in its recent judgment.
The controversial reconciliation task
When it dawned on Buhari that APC was heading for the rocks before the 2019 general election, the president saddled Tinubu with the responsibility of reconciling all aggrieved party members across the country. This was immediately misconstrued by most of the party leaders except a few loyalists of the former governor. Akeredolu was among the first to tell Tinubu there was nothing to reconcile in Ondo, as there was no crisis in spite the contrary.
As at the time, a gulf had already been created between the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai and the national leader, who appears not to be comfortable with Tinubu’s political style and profile in the party. The former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun would not have Tinubu intervene in the affairs of the party just as Fayemi and the former Governor of Oyo, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, would prefer their independence from Tinubu. The reconciliation assignment died naturally.
Post-2019 genera election challenges
It was a great victory for the party and Buhari to retain power despite the strong and coordinated opposition PDP, led by its presidential candidate and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. But soon after the victory, like the usual trait, Tinubu’s controversial politicking resurfaced. Just like in 2015, he again indicated interest in the leadership of the National Assembly. This time, he succeeded with Lawan and Gbajabiamila emerging as senate president and speaker respectively in a circumstances Oki said was ‘at a price.”
Following the election of principal officers of the National Assembly, the national leader now found himself in another controversy. Scheming as to who will contest the 2023 presidential election is brewing. This came after El-Rufai said in Lagos that he has the strategy to tame all political godfathers in what some saw as referring to Tinubu.
Tinubu’s alleged 2023 presidential ambition has more or less become an albatross, which he is desperately trying to deny.
In a statement his spokesman, Mr. Tunde Rahman, dismissed insinuations that his boss has commenced preparations for 2023 election, saying, “We have seen pictures of fez caps, T-shirts, shirts and even leaflets with ‘Bola Tinubu 2023’ embossed on them purportedly by a faceless group which christened itself ‘Asiwaju Reloaded Ambassadors Nigeria’. Neither the group nor its souvenirs are known to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. We hereby, through this medium, categorically deny any knowledge of the group and dissociate Asiwaju Tinubu from the group’s unsolicited and unwarranted materials.”
Some Southwest leaders in the mold of Afenifere have also cautioned him to thread softly and place the interest of the region and the country above his inordinate pursuit at least in the face of the various insecurities and killings ravaging the region and the country.
Indeed the questions to ask are, of what benefit is the Tinubu nature of politics to the progress and development of Nigeria? Of what benefit is it to the interest of the common man and what has his immediate geo-political Southwest zone benefited from his brand of politics?
At the moment it is safe to say that Nigeria is adrift, and surely it is not the intrigues of APC’s politics or its henchmen that will save it.
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