By Dayo Johnson, Dirisu Yakubu, Shina Abubakar & Ademola Adegbite
Seven days to the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), there is palpable anxiety over the speculation that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu may dump the ruling party at the federal level if the exercise, scheduled for May 29 and 30, is manipulated against him.
Tinubu is one of the front runners in the contest for the APC presidential ticket ahead of the 2023 general elections.
And not only is he a front runner, the former governor of Lagos State has support of many governors that cuts across his South-West geopolitical zone and stretches to other parts of the country for the party’s ticket.
No fewer than 12 of the 23 APC governors are said to be working for his emergence as the next President of the country.
But there are reports of powerful forces working against him especially from the North which has now produced some aspirants contrary to the expectation that, based on the power rotation understanding, the southern part of Nigeria should produce the President in 2023.
The speculation that Tinubu may quit APC gained traction and, in fact, ruffled feathers in many political quarters, last week, after an unnamed associate hinted Vanguard that the former Lagos governor was considering moving to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to actualize his “lifelong ambition” of being Nigeria’s President if he was manipulated out of the 2023 race in the APC.
According to the associate, the development was the reason a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir Lawal, stated recently that Tinubu had Plan B if the APC primary is manipulated against him.
Although, he noted that APC remains the primary platform Tinubu intends to actualize his dream of presiding over the affairs of the nation, options, including moving to the SDP, would be explored if the primary comes short of transparency and credibility.
“It is too early to ask if Asiwaju would leave the APC for another party. He is a big factor in APC, a party he helped to form, financed and nurtured into what it is today”, the associate told Vanguard. “We are not unaware of recent developments and attempts to insult a man who has paid his dues in the political evolution of this country.
“But that is not important for now. What I can tell you is that our leader, like other contestants, is looking forward to a credible process that would lead to the emergence of our flag bearer.
“But if that process is compromised, I can tell you for free that we will encourage him to explore other options. “Yes, a lot has been said about SDP and Asiwaju. When we get to that bridge, we will cross it.
“SDP offered him a platform to become a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria years ago but, for now, he is in APC and will remain there until circumstance dictates otherwise”.
Meanwhile, the rumoured Plan B is generating anxiety among Tinubu’s associates.
The Director General of Ondo State Network for Bola Tinubu, Tolu Babaleye, called the speculation a lie from the pit of hell, wondering how a landlord would abandon his house for tenants.
“Asiwaju is APC and APC is Asiwaju. There is no truth in the rumour, it is the handiwork of fifth columnists” Babaleye told Sunday Vanguard at the weekend.
On his part, the Director General of BATOC 23, Dr Ayo Owoade, said: “First, if we are sure that we will have a free and fair primary election devoid of manipulation, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is the candidate to beat. No one can beat him in a fair contest.
“However, if there is no fairness in the primary or some people eventually succeed to impose consensus on the party, as we know some people are seriously struggling to do, then Asiwaju has his options.
“For us at BATOC 23, whatever Asiwaju decides is what we will support. We are not just with him, we believe in his ability and capacity to engineer a new Nigeria.
“The party, we believe, will not want to embark on self-destruction by not allowing party members to exercise their right to decide a candidate.
“We hope the party will listen to the voice of wisdom and allow the people’s will to prevail”.
Also sharing his group’s perspective, the Director of Publicity and Strategy for the South West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 (SWAGA), Olawale Sadare, said Tinubu remains in the party, expressing optimism that the former governor would get the presidential ticket of APC “due to his political experience and development strides across the country”.
His words: “Tinubu has the brightest chances as a bridge builder and he is a detribalised person.
“Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has the brightest chance to be the next President of Nigeria on account of who he is and what he represents.
“He has demonstrated competence, courage and character over the years in the political space as far as Nigeria is concerned and it is not in doubt that he is the most talked about political player in the country today.
“He is a man of ideas and he knows what to do as a leader to keep Nigeria one, stronger and prosperous, inspire us to end the current challenges which the country is facing.
“He is a bridge builder and he is detribalised. President Tinubu would be for all regardless of religious, social and ethnic backgrounds.
“There is no political party in the country today, including the PDP, that does not want to field Tinubu as its presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections and this is a statement of fact.”
“If Tinubu is given the chance to rule from May 2023, he would gather the best hands from across the country to man the key sectors of government business just like he did in Lagos between 1999 and 2007.
“He would make the best use of Nigeria’s enormous human and material resources to put country on the path of greatness.
“He would act to douse all the tensions emanating from ethnic agitation, poor economy, insecurity etc.
“President Tinubu would make Nigeria a toast of developed nations of the world and they would all develop the zeal to partner his government to the advantage of our dear country.”
In his own contribution, a chieftain of SWAGA, Senator Tony Adeniyi, said, “I don’t want to talk about any plan at all because Asiwaju Bola Tinubu will win the APC presidential primary next week. “There is nothing to worry about, we are so confident about it because this man has worked for it, he deserves it and I believe the delegates across the nation will support him at the convention ground.
“So, no need to panic or think about anything considering the work we have done and, going by the feedback we are getting from across the nation, Tinubu will win the primary.”