By Emmanuel Aziken
The captivating picture of President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu alongside two governors on Tuesday in the luxurious bowels of the presidential jet on the way to Abidjan sent a message to discerning Nigerians.
The president’s message was clearly outlined in a meeting with the Nigerian community in Abidjan that night. Noting the presence of the two governors, the president said:
“I came along with them so that…when you are going to meet the rest of Nigerians if you tell them that their governors were in the company of the president, I think that will be another vote for me in the future.”
It was as such not surprising that the following day that newspapers were saturated with the report that President Buhari had made up his mind to again seek our votes in 2019.
As with a politician desperate for votes, the president’s words and actions in Abidjan were couched in political undertones especially as he genuflected towards Tinubu.
Flaunting a new rapport with Tinubu, President Buhari said:
“I also thank our leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He has brought me a very beautiful piece of information, which I was not aware of until I sat down and read it this evening (Tuesday night).
The president did not tell us what message Tinubu conveyed to him. But his coy comport characteristic of a young man who has suddenly received a positive response from a lady he is stalking has sent tongues wagging.
Whatever the message, Buhari’s description of Tinubu as “Our Leader” is ingenious.
Many would remember the first major interaction between All Progressives Congress, APC leaders in government with the president in June 2016 during which President Buhari was quoted as having asserted that Tinubu should not be referred to as the National Leader of the APC.
The Senate President had on that occasion reportedly addressed Tinubu as the National Leader of the APC, a phrase that nearly all had used in addressing Tinubu. Buhari had in response to the shock of many present reportedly retorted:
“Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, even though the Senate President addressed you as the National Leader of APC, you are not the national leader of the party. You are one of the national leaders of the APC.”
Following that occasion, even newspapers associated with Tinubu took the cue by not referring to Tinubu as National Leader of the APC.
So what could have caused Buhari’s new attitude to Tinubu, a man that was besides God, the primary factor in the realisation of his presidential dream?
Days before the Abidjan trip, a move to redesign Buhari’s political matrix by shoring up the APC base in the Southeast was rebuffed after the APC lost the governorship election in Anambra State.
The APC’s loss of Anambra despite the acclaimed popularity of its candidate, Dr. Tony Nwoye, would have driven home to Buhari that his 2019 permutations best remained through an alignment with Tinubu.
Even more frustrating for the Buhari camp was that days before the Anambra election, that the president was compelled to for the first time since the 2015 elections wear an Ibo attire. Even that it seemed was not enough to stir Ndigbo towards his party in Anambra.
However, the question for many is whether Buhari and Tinubu can still honestly work together. Indeed, days before the Abidjan trip, Tinubu had on his part made a public reconciliation with Afenifere, the apex Yoruba socio-cultural group that he distanced himself from about 15 years ago.
In reconciling with Afenifere, what Tinubu has done is to solidify his base and strengthen his hands in whatever engagement he subsequently may have with Buhari.
Using his support for the election of Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina as president of African Development Bank, ADB, Buhari while meeting the Nigerian community in Abidjan said it was demonstrative of his May 29, 2015, popular declaration that he is for everybody and does not belong to anybody.
But for the many Nigerians who have seen the actions and inactions of President Muhammadu Buhari that time is long, long gone! The taste of the pudding is in the eating!