By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Team Tinubu, the camp of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, was compelled by some former Nigerian leaders and Northern Islamic leaders to drop its support for the 2015 presidential aspiration of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Reflective of the pressure which also came from some close associates of Asiwaju Tinubu, the political group has switched support towards the presidential aspiration of Speaker Aminu Tambuwal who with his entry this week, immediately turned into a major contender for the ticket.
He has Buhari and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as the main challengers for the party’s presidential ticket with Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso of Kano State and newspaper publisher, Sam Nda-Isaiah also contending.
Several other factors were taken into consideration by the Tinubu camp in switching support, close associates of the political leader disclosed to Saturday Vanguard. Among the other factors was the alleged overbearing influence of some close associates of Gen. Buhari, who they claimed were likely to fence out other political stakeholders in a possible Buhari presidency.
Three former heads of state, two from the north and one from the south and a very influential retired army chief from the northeast who has also held political appointments in the present dispensation were among those cited by sources as having prevailed on the Tinubu camp to drop support for Buhari.
The decision of the Tinubu camp to drop support for Buhari, it was learnt, also followed reservations from some sections of the north notably, some Islamic leaders.
“It is not that we dumped Buhari, the Islamic clerics, the imams and the political leaders in the north particularly three former heads of state said that they don’t want the man,” the source said.
President Olusegun Obasanjo and a former military president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida met penultimate Tuesday following the latter’s return from a medical trip abroad. The two men met for 30 minutes behind closed doors.
However, Gen Baban-gida had in the past been publicly quoted as urging Speaker Tambuwal to aspire for a higher office. Speaking at the presentation of the Vanguard Personality of the Year award to Governor Chibuke Amaechi of Rivers State in Lagos on April 6, 2013, the former military president said:
“When leaders like Tambuwal delivered on their electoral promise, we advise them to try something higher. For Tambuwal, your guess is as good as mine. Well done.” Babangida’s remark was applauded. .
The influence of some present and past minders of Gen. Buhari was also another reason taken into consideration, a source disclosed.
“There is this perception about Buhari that he is surrounding himself with some people like Nasir El-Rufai, Buba Galadima, Sule Hamman” the source said, reawakening complaints about the overbearing attitude of Buhari’s now dissolved political machine, The Buhari Organisation, TBO which had in the past been accused of selectively fencing out people.
The Tinubu associates also feared that the perceptions of religious extremism which the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP had sought to tag on Buhari could deny the party votes in the South were he to emerge as candidate.
Though many of the Tinubu associates do not regard him as an extremist, but the perception already created, it was learned, could be injurious to their political outing. There were also concerns that Buhari could be detached from responsibility and reference was made to his past roles as head of state and chairman of the Petroleum (Special) Task Force, PTF where his subordinates usurped authority in his name.
“When he was head of state most of the power was delegated to Idiagbon and when he was at PTF, it was another person, that took charge and that if APC says they are looking for change that Tambuwal represents that change,” an associate of Tinubu revealed.
Another factor that was taken into consideration which was projected by some associates of the APC national leader, Saturday Vanguard learned was the prospect of Buhari turning on Tinubu and others once he is invested with power.
“There are also fears in Asuwaju’s camp that the man may destroy Asiwaju and may come back to hurt him and some of Asiwaju’s loyalists warned him,” the source revealed.
The matter of General Buhari’s age also came into consideration in the final consideration to drop support for the former head of state as it was reasoned that 70 to 80% of voters fall between the age of 18 to 40+ and most of them don’t know Buhari.
Political associates were also disturbed that inputs made by party leaders into the general’s speech at his declaration at the Eagle Square last month were discarded raising apprehension that the general in office could reject advice. Some were also understood to have raised the fact that the former head of state also did not have enough money for the race ahead.
The factors inevitably helped to shift attention towards Tambuwal who was earlier aligning himself towards the Sokoto State governorship contest.
Support for Tambuwal’s aspiration is also being boosted by permutations that his sterling leadership of the House of Representatives where he has the committed support of more than half of the members had put him in pole position in more than half of the federal constituencies in the country.
The decision of the Tinubu camp to change attention from Buhari and Tambuwal’s entry into the contest was welcomed by associates of Atiku Abubakar who see it as an opportunity for them to move in to harvest support from the influential Southwest caucus that is firmly controlled by Tinubu.
The Buhari camp was yesterday adjusting itself not to be in panic mood as it welcomed Tambuwal into the race. Osita Okechukwu, a strong loyalist of Buhari in a statement made available to Saturday Vanguard said the development would not cut off the celestial bond between Buhari and the more than 12 million followers behind him around the country.
He said: “The entry of Rt.Hon. Aminu Tambuwal is a welcome development, the more the presidential aspirants or any aspirant to governor, Senate, national or state assemblies the merrier.”
“Our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) will be the greatest beneficiary, as the mobilization of the electorate will be wider, penetrating and robust.”
“Therefore, Hon Tambuwal is highly welcome into the presidential race. This is why the constitution of our party was amended penultimate week, to accommodate in less than one hour, any person who joins APC.”
“On his chances, one cannot hazard a guess, as Tambuwal unlike Buhari or Atiku had never contested nationwide election. He only contested in a federal constituency and had never tested his popularity in Kano, Akure or Enugu.”
All one knows is that his entry will neither diminish nor cut-off the celestial bond between GMB and the masses and the middle class of our dear country. The masses and middle class had renewed at every election GMB’s 12million Vote Bank, therefore the contest at the end of the day is between President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and GMB.”