It is instructive, however, that Fani-Kayode’s return to the APC has no links to the leadership of the party in the South-west. For instance, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State, which is Fani-Kayode’s home state was not involved in the negotiation; neither was Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the highest ranking member of the Buhari administration from the South-west. Fani-Kayode made a sport of frequently mocking and heaping insult on the Vice President. He often described Osinbajo in unprintable names. The National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu was another target of regular scornful abuse from Fani-Kayode
After months of tip-toeing, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, a former critic of the the All Progressives Congress, switched from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party to the ruling APC. But what implications does it have on the 2023 presidential contest? Emameh Gabriel asks
Last Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari as the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) formally received ex-Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode into the ruling party. This symbolic gesture is coming few months after news of his alleged defection hit Nigerians with a rude shock. The former minister was spotted in meetings with Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello and the chairman, APC Caretaker and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Mai Mala Buni.
It has since been revealed that the public acceptance of Fani-Kayode into the APC was delayed for this long because he insisted that he would only join if President Buhari, and no else, formally received him in public.
Spoiler Role Against Yoruba Interest
Surprisingly, his recent return to the APC was opposed staunchly by insiders. Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Special Adviser to Buhari, described Fani-Kayode’s crossover to the APC as ‘the saddest day of his political career.’ Ojudu did not explain if he was unhappy because the process for Fani-Kayode’s readmission into the APC was concluded without his input.
A prominent member of the APC legal team that successfully defended Buhari’s mandate, which the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar sought to snatch from him, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, has asked Buhari to grant amnesty to Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) leader, Nnamdi Kanu and Yoruba nation separatist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, better known as Sunday Igboho. Ajulo wrote, “What’s good for the goose is ok for the gander.
If Fani-Kayode can be given amnesty by @MBuhari, then same amnesty should be extended to Boko Haram, Nnamdi Kanu, Sunday Igboho and the Bandits.”
While Ajulo’s comparison of Fani-Kayode to Boko Haram insurgents and Bandits who have taken up arms against the state may sound extreme, the implied meaning should not be lost. Clearly, he has situated Fani-Kayode’s damaging criticism of the Buhari administration in the same league with injury on the government caused by armed non-state actors like Boko Haram, IPOB and Bandits.
It is instructive, however, that Fani-Kayode’s return to the APC has no links to the leadership of the party in the South-west. For instance, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State, which is Fani-Kayode’s home state was not involved in the negotiation; neither was Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the highest ranking member of the Buhari administration from the South-west.
Fani-Kayode made a sport of frequently mocking and heaping insult on the Vice President. He often described Osinbajo in unprintable names. The National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu was another target of regular scornful abuse from Fani-Kayode.
The overriding thought in the South-west is that Fani-Kayode has always been fighting against the real Yoruba interest.
His entry into the APC at this time is perceived by many Yorubas as a grand design to play a spoiler role against the political ambition of Osinbajo and Tinubu.
Second Coming to APC
This is Mr. Fani-Kayode’s second coming to the APC. He had a romance with the party in its formative period in 2013. He left before the 2015 presidential election to become spokesperson for former Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign.
His initial attempt was later shelved after forces in the party expressed their discomfort. Femi Fani Kayode is one of the most controversial politicians in contemporary Nigerian politics, with thousands of followers on social media, he has taken controversial positions on virtually all emerging political issues and discussions, whether locally or internationally, and was a fierce and unsparing critic of President Buhari and the ruling party since the ascendancy of the post – 2015 dispensation, that replaced the government of Goodluck Jonathan, in which he was a minister and later Presidential Campaign director.
In the hey days of his opposition and criticism of the ruling party, FFK, as he is popularly called, saw it as a religious crusade against the invading northern hordes, once describing the ruling party as a party of cows and darkness, and that he was the light and obviously could never associate with the former. So scathing were his criticism of the party, that his planned defection was greeted with outrage.
While some in the APC have lauded it as a strategic victory for the Buni-led leadership of the party, others have expressed outright resentment for a man who in the past consistently painted President Buhari and the party in bad light.
Many of them have warned the party, that with his antecedent in the former ruling party, he poses a threat of being a mole. Reacting to the defection, Joe Igbokwe, a chieftain of the APC in Lagos, said the ruling party rewards and pampers enemies.
In a series of posts on his Facebook page, Igbokwe said many APC members have not been rewarded despite their loyalty to the party. He said despite his work for the APC, “Abuja has not given me a phone call talk-less of inviting me for a coffee” with the president.
Igbokwe described Fani-Kayode as a “political charlatan” who was “given a red carpet in the seat of power.”
“APC reward(s) enemies. They pamper enemies. This life no balance at all,” he said.
The former Lagos APC spokesperson said there are “countless number of APC die-hards who are 100% better than FFK. Nobody has remembered them. Not even a recharge card, not even a bottle of coke, not even thank you.”
He called on the ruling party to learn “consequences management,” noting that it takes “indiscipline and impunity to crush and destroy a nation. Actions carry consequences,” he added.
But all the grumblings didn’t stop his defection as he said God who has always directed his political choices has once again told him to go into the camp of his once bitter rival.
He said: “A lot has changed over the past six years and it is important we make the right choices and decisions at the right time, precisely if it feels as if we are being led by God to make those choices. I make my choices and I owe nobody no explanation rather than my family members and my God.
Fani-Kayode continued: “I know that I am doing the right thing. Most important thing for me now and some would agree. There is no point in having principles without power. You must have power to make sure whatever principles you enunciate are, you know you can effect them. Without that you will simply be talking and nothing will change. I have discovered over the past few months that I can work with people in the APC and elements within the government to effect the change and we have done quite a lot of that over the last few months without me even joining the party.
“I was speaking of President Buhari from the outside but now that I have gotten to know him from the inside, I have been working closely in the last few months with people that are very close to him and he would not have done that if he had not allowed them to do so, and it is absolutely clear to me that the perception we had in the past, many people had and are still having, is wrong.
“The APC of that time did not have the leadership that they have today. Today you have a man who is the national caretaker chairman of the APC, Mai Mala Buni, who has done exceptionally well in attracting people and present a broad base liberal pluralistic view on national issues and national affairs and he has had opened the doors of the party to many of people with plurality of views.
New Fxer in Town?
FFK has shown by his rapprochement an affinity for the Bun-led CECPC and he has been generous in their defense even on controversies within the APC. He, along side Governor Yahaya Bello were instrumental in the defection of the Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade and Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State to the ruling party.
The former Aviation Minister has political allies across the country and has criss crossed the terrain in the full glare of the media during his political journeys culminating in the infamous reaction to the, ‘who is bankrolling you?’ incident when a journalist wanted to know who sponsored his trips.
Though it is hard to pinpoint his immediate constituency, FFK has the political network which he has nurtured from his days as a minister under Obasanjo’s. Given the pattern of this is political road trip, he has come to see himself as a bridge builder, as he put it in his defection manifesto.
“The most important thing for me is this. This country in my view is on the brink of war, on the brink of disintegration, and we have to join forces, we have to come together, set our differences aside and ensure we build bridges of unity and peace, and ensure we pull ourselves back from the brink, and fight those even from outside the country that want to destroy our country or regional, ethnic, religious or political party lines. We must build bridges, we must work together and effect positive change in our country, and move this country in the right direction and that is part of the reason that I have joined the APC”.
He said further, “I have worked with Matawalle, with the governor of Kogi State. I have worked with Zulum and a number of others. Even with the governor of Plateau State, we have been collaborating over a period of time with so many others, and I am telling you, that there is a plurality of views here but we all agree on one thing that people should be treated fairly and decently regardless of where they come from in this country, regardless of your religious faith, let’s not continue the narrative that we have in the past that we must divide one another and fight one another on religious and ethnic ground. And that is the new me, and I am very proud of that. The party has changed, not me. The party has changed and the president has been gracious in accommodating that change.
FFK acknowledged his close relationship with governors of his former party, even in the South-south and South-east, which the APC has been making strenuous efforts to penetrate, despite gaining Imo, Ebonyi and Cross River States.
Despite his self professed stabilizing credential, FFK is viewed as a privileged contractor in politics who does not have a teeming number of voters that he can call on to make the difference in an election. His critics point to the fact that his perceived popularity has never been reflected in the number of votes garnered by his party; from his immediate neighbourhood, which is why his defection is still viewed with deep suspicion in certain quarters.
A Pawn in the 2023 Game
The controversial entry of the former aviation minister into the APC has led to speculations that he may be the trump card in the 2023 schemings of some forces in the APC against the presidential ambition of national leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. As the 2023 election edges closer with President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure coming to an end, forces within the party have been jostling for control. This unending jostling has been the hallmark of the APC since its emergence on the national scene as the ruling party. It is what reportedly led to the Buni caretaker committee instituting a re – registration/revalidation exercise allegedly to whittle down certain tendencies.
The exercise enabled the Buni camp to open its doors to new influences and possibly dilute other influences. FFK has been instrumental in this strategy, coming from the South-west as the National Leader, Bola Tinubu.’ So bringing him into the fold and empowering him to serve as a bulwark and rallying point for anti – Tinubu forces in the region, analysts opine is an effective tactical move.
FFK has shown loyalty and vigorous advocacy in his past allegiances, unafraid to step on toes or go to unimaginable length to support his cause, as he puts it:
FFK has always been a man of strong passion and commitment to whatever cause he supports. This may have endeared him to the new leadership of the APC desirous of establishing a foothold in the South-west considered hitherto as exclusively Tinubu’s sphere of influence.
In coming weeks, the new political permutations; alignments or realignments that the coming of Fani-Kayode into the APC will instigate; both on the national level and particularly in the South-west geo- political zone will be clearer.
First Published on Thisday