A former presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, has urged Senator Bola Tinubu, Leader of the All Progressives Congress, to call his army of 2023 presidential support group, otherwise called the Tinubu Support Group, to order saying that the TSG is doing their master “great disservice.”
Abati, in his opinion titled, ‘2023: Tinubu versus Bello and others,’ raised concerns about what he called the disturbing bad rhetoric that was building up with high velocity of intolerance and the threat of violence hanging in the air ahead of the next general election.
The seasoned journalist and critic, who noticed palpable tension within the polity as the 2023 electioneering approached, faulted the wave of attack being mounted on whoever failed to support the purported aspiration of Tinubu, their political idol.
Making reference to the attacks against the person of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State who advised Tinubu to sit back and allow some of his political disciples to run for the number one position while he (Tinubu) gives them his support, Abati expressed shock that Bello had become “a target of heavy pummelling” for his effrontery and boldness to so advise.
He said, “Somehow, within the South-West and the APC, every man who considers himself a potential president manages to defer to just one man: Senator Bola Tinubu. Those who say anything that is off-key in that regard or fail to pay homage get knocked, no matter how sensible they may sound.
“Governor Bello has been a target of heavy pummelling for the effrontery to have told Senator Tinubu, in an interview with the Daily Trust newspaper, that the senior politician should allow his ‘children’ to take over the presidency of Nigeria in 2023. Yahaya Bello obviously considers himself a Tinubu ‘son.’
“Whereas the leader of the APC has not yet formally announced that he wants to be president, there is already an army of Tinubu Support Groups out there pushing the 2023 Tinubu for President agenda. As far back as May, Governor Bello had announced in a television interview that Nigerian youths, women and all Nigerians, including very objective elites were asking him to run for president in 2023.
“Yahaya Bello has been resilient in saying he wants to be president. His latest effort must have been prompted by the renewed debate about age and 2023 presidential politics. His reported interview in the Daily Trust newspaper of August 22 is titled ‘2023: Buhari, Tinubu pact not binding on APC members.
“Having confirmed that he would run for president in 2023, Governor Bello said of Tinubu: Senator Tinubu is one of our leaders and I respect him so much. He has played a very significant role in Nigeria’s democracy and has built a lot of people. He has paid his dues, and with all respect, as a son to him, my simple advice is that it is time for him to allow his children take over the mantle of leadership and do it to the glory of God and his admiration.
“He should see that those children he raised are now doing well. Let him see how we manage this country in his lifetime. However, he has a right to run, nobody is questioning that. I always urge everybody to respect him for the role he has played in this country’s democracy. He is a man of integrity, to be candid.”
Asked if the APC would survive if Tinubu was denied the party’s ticket and he pulled out with the South-West, he recalled that Bello said, “You don’t build a house and destroy it. I don’t think he will do that. He has grown past that. As an elder statesman, he will not say that the country should be destroyed in his lifetime, not even after his demise, so I don’t see him doing that.”
The former presidential aide, who swore that he never met Governor Bello personally and that he had been very critical of him, said, “I think he, like every Nigerian, of eligible age, can aspire to the presidency of Nigeria, and that the rest of us have the right to express an opinion and an interest without being mauled by any group that claims a monopoly of insight about the future of Nigeria.
“There is nothing that Yahaya Bello has said that was not implied in the Babangida criteria for the 2023 presidency. Where was the Tinubu Support Group? Why didn’t Umar Ibrahim go after the elder statesman? Given the level of interest that the 2023 presidency has generated, there would be more persons expressing views.
“How many views and expression of interest will the TSG shut down? It may be possible to intimidate persons in the South-West and the APC, but there are enough Nigerians who will also lay claim to the presidency of Nigeria. The Tinubu Support Group does Tinubu great disservice. This is a leader who made great sacrifice to promote democracy in Nigeria. He invested a lot in building a generation of leaders. He earned a reputation as a master political strategist.
“Today, he appears to be surrounded by a group of political vultures and hacks on the question of 2023. Whoever and whatever they may be, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu owes us a duty to call the TSG, as presently constituted, to order. They are damaging his brand. Their campaign should be more focussed on selling his ideas, not motor-park politics.”