By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
After months of dithering procrastination, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday moved to stem the multidimensional crises in different strata of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC with the appointment of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as lead troubleshooter. The premise is that Buhari now desires the platform of his party to further his political aspiration. Tinubu undoubtedly has his job well cut out for him.
The news that President Buhari appointed Asiwaju Tinubu to heal the many wounds in the party is itself premised on the fact that Buhari and Tinubu are themselves at peace with one another. Until about three months ago, the relationship between both men had been the butt of gossip among politicians in high and low quarters.
Many were especially mindful of the fact that Tinubu played a pivotal role in remodeling Buhari from a three-time election loser into an Election Tsunami. However, following the inauguration, there were allegations of misgivings in the way the administration carved out its policies and appointments. There were claims that those who had fallen out with Tinubu in the Southwest were given prime positions in the Buhari cabinet apparently with the intention of whittling down the influence of the Jagaban Borgu as Tinubu is idolized among his many followers, especially in the Southwest.
Tinubu was also said to have been seriously displeased with the bumps and controversies that shadowed the affairs of the new administration.
One of the many lows in the relationship between Tinubu and the administration was in May 2016 when Buhari cancelled a much-advertised visit to Lagos after months of preparation on the claim that he was unwell. To rub it in for Tinubu, was the fact that the same day that he cancelled the visit, that the State House in Abuja gave out pictures of the president in a paddy-paddy encounter with Governor Ibikunle Amosun in the Presidential Villa. Given insinuations of the rivalry between Governor Amosun and Tinubu, it was not difficult for that photograph to irritate Tinubu’s men in Lagos.
Later in 2016 the rift between Tinubu and the party sunk to the lowest low when the former Lagos State governor published an open letter of rebuke to the party chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who incidentally came to office reportedly on Tinubu’s patronage.
Tinubu was miffed over the conduct of the Ondo State primaries which produced Chief Rotimi Akeredolu. Akeredolu though a one time political protégée of Tinubu had before the election fallen out with the later leading to open media attacks following the open claim that Tinubu was backing a rival aspirant.
Tinubu accused the national chairman of twisting the facts of the primaries and reportedly vowed not to sit with Odigie-Oyegun on any issue again.
Following that, Tinubu was hardly seen around Abuja and party activities. Aides and associates said he had become preoccupied with his business concerns in the West African sub-region.
The turning point was on November 16, 2017, at the launch of a book written on Buhari in Abuja. It was an occasion that brought together several of the warring party leaders and many internally displaced politicians in the party.
It was also the first time that Tinubu and Odigie-Oyegun were seen together since the Ondo primary debacle that occurred more than a year earlier.
Following that, Buhari seemed to have turned his charm on Tinubu when he invited him to fly with him to a summit of African leaders in Ivory Coast the same month.
Since then news of a gulf between the Southwest leader and the president seems to have quenched as they seem to have rediscovered their political chemistry.
So, the news yesterday of the appointment of Asiwaju Tinubu to lead the reconciliation process did not come with a bang.
The statement issued by presidential media aide, Garba Shehu on the appointment read thus: “As part of on-going efforts to improve cohesion within the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari has designated Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to lead the consultation, reconciliation and confidence building efforts.
“The assignment will involve resolving disagreements among party members, party leadership and political office holders in some states of the Federation.”
Senator Bukola Saraki
It was remarkable that just before the announcement of Tinubu’s appointment was made, that the country’s number three citizen and leading APC chieftain, Senator Bukola Saraki had just jumped out of the court in a trial that has been dubbed a political prosecution. Saraki is being tried on the allegation of false declaration of assets. The Senate President as well as his supporters within and outside the Senate claim he is being tried for his effrontery in contesting the Senate President’s office.
In reconciling the party, Tinubu may have to start from that point. It is a particularly unpleasing task for the Jagaban given the popular claim that he, Tinubu, was particularly opposed to Saraki’s emergence.
Tinubu would have to act fast on the Saraki issue given claims by the Senate President that he would give an indication of his next political move in February.
In Kaduna State the party is divided between APC Akida who claim to be reform minded and the party establishment which is firmly in the grip of Governor Nasir El-Rufai. The division in the state chapter of the party has seen Governor El-Rufai and his traducers notably, Senator Shehu Sani in open media warfare.
Like in Kaduna, the APC in Katsina State is divided between the establishment which is in the grip of Governor Aminu Masari and the rebels who have styled themselves as APC Akida. The APC –Akida has some respected party members including Dr. Usman Bugaje and others who have related with Tinubu in the past and he is expected to know how to engage them. However, such engagement would be challenged by the fact that APC Akida in Katsina has established parallel structures with that framed by the official structure.
The division in the APC in Kano is reflected by the fact that it took the persuasion of the police hierarchy to stop a possible flow of blood that would have arisen from the visit of Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso to his senatorial district last week. Kwankwanso has only been to Kano once since he left office as governor in 2015 mainly because of the crisis that developed between him and his chosen successor. With Kwankwanso’s sight set on a presidential run, Tinubu task would be how to draw him back and give him the confidence to seat in peace with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.
In Oyo, the main crisis is that between the minister representing the state, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu and Governor Abiola Ajimobi. Shittu eyes are set on replacing Ajimobi who is not eligible to seek a third term, but the outgoing governor seems to be putting his eyes elsewhere for a successor. Shittu is entering the contest on the prism that he has been one of Buhari’s oldest political allies in the Southwest having been with him in the now defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC.
In Plateau just as in Oyo State, Governor Simon Lalong and the minister from the state, Barrister Solomon Dalung who is also from the old CPC block have been said to be on the war path for long. Though they claim not to be at odds in public, among their supporters, there is no love lost. Supporters of Governor Lalong have been heard to ask for the removal of Dalung on the claim that the governor and the minister are from the same senatorial district and as such twisting the application of state character in positions.
Undoubtedly, Asiwaju Tinubu is going to find one of the strongest resistance to his mission in Benue State where the citizenry appear to have come out in unison against alleged killings by herdsmen. The faceoff between the herdsmen and the alleged indifference by the president to the situation seem to have put the party at a disadvantage in the mind of the Benue people, and the Tinubu committee has to work to reverse that.