By KAYODE MAFE
Serious trouble is brewing between President Muhammadu Buhari and the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. And, it has the potential to derail the latter’s campaign to sleep in Aso Rock Villa as Nigeria’s next president, an ambition he had nursed since 2004.
The Tinubu known to Nigerians, has since 2015, refrained from taking on President Buhari even with the worst of economic policies which have impoverished more Nigerians and made nonsense of the party’s dream of taking Nigerians out of the poverty index. With Nigeria sinking deeper into the world poverty map, Tinubu sealed his lips. He rather swaggered himself around in a delusional self-claim as national leader of APC, despite warning by President Buhari and his aides in 2016, that once a political party produces a president, no one else could appropriate the title of national leader.
Tinubu’s hold to the title further saw him brandishing his claims to being the sole kingmaker responsible for anointing Buhari as the president. To further affirm his hold on the presidency, Tinubu went ahead to lay claims to being the sole agent responsible for the making of Professor Yemi Osinbajo, his erstwhile Attorney General in Lagos State, as the vice president. Not satisfied with his acclaims, and praises showered on him as ‘master strategist’ by those who court him for favours, Tinubu began his plot to succeed Buhari. This was to satisfy an ambition he first nursed in 2004 while still in office as governor of Lagos state.
Tinubu had told a Consul General of the United States of America in early 2004 that his ambition was to pair either of Atiku Abubakar or Muhammadu Buhari as running mate for the presidential election in 2007. Though the plot did not materialise because of the unacceptability of the Muslim-Muslim pair by both Atiku and Buhari, Tinubu kept pushing his ambition. In 2016, he allegedly sought the support of a South-South governor, who was his contemporary, to make a move for the presidency as Vice President to Buhari by upstaging Prof. Osinbajo for the 2019 election. The plot was to position him to wait on chance.
It is believed that his frustrations at seeking to sneak into the presidency made him declare publicly at Abeokuta, Ogun State, that it was his turn to become president. The scorn and disparagement with which he made the declaration attracted public odium to him and his quest to live in the Presidential Villa. Many Nigerians believe that it was for his interest to succeed Buhari that he maintained studied silence as Nigeria retrogressed under the government he publicly claimed to have installed. It was argued that his tacit support for failed policies of the government was a ploy to get Buhari to anoint him as successor.
However, events that led to the primary election of the APC, last May, showed that Buhari and his inner cabinet had no place for Tinubu in their succession plan. This became evident with the last minute drafting of Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, into the presidential race, though the plot was scuttled by Northern APC governors, who argued that a Lawan ticket would eclipse their own chances of progressing to the Presidency. This paved the way for Tinubu to win the primary election of the APC, after reported heavy cash inducement to delegates, and with further agreement with the northern governors to draft one of them in as running mate.
With the development, Tinubu achieved his pre-2007 dream of a Muslim-Muslim ticket in the leadership of Nigeria, a gambit that is believed to be a major factor in stopping the late Chief MKO Abiola from progressing to the Presidency in 1992. However, the development has proved to be Tinubu’s greatest undoing in the presidential race as the decision now hurts the ruling party’s chances of retaining power. Many Nigerians see the decision as a strategy toward divining Nigeria further and achieving his dreams of a different republic out of Nigeria having publicly declared in an interview in ThisDay that he does not believe in one Nigeria. This is coming at a time when all nationalistic Nigerian leaders are involved in seeking a more united Nigeria and stopping the drift to balkanisation. However, Tinubu cares less about this in so far as his ambition is achieved.
Tinubu’s refusal to heed logical and sensible calls on him to jettison the Muslim-Muslim ticket is further seen as an arrogant slap on the face of Nigerians and a spit on the graves of Nigeria’s nationalist forebears. It has also created deep divisions within the ranks of the APC and positioning the party for a disgraceful election loss. There had been arguments that the only glue still holding the party together is Buhari. However, those close to Tinubu believe that with a very huge financial war chest, the APC candidate was in position to buy his way to the Presidency. This, his acolytes argue, is evidenced by the presence of bullion vans at his Lagos residence in the 2019 general election, an action, which though offends the Electoral law, has gone unpunished.
Analysts argue that the refusal of the government to either question or punish Tinubu for that transgression, which bordered on money laundering, gave him the courage to stockpile massive cash, ostensibly for vote purchase. There are insinuations that he had created a N200 billion war chest for the presidential election, an allegation he has not been able to deny. Though no evidence has been produced to back the allegation, Tinubu’s outburst against the government, is said to be a pointer to some truth. Those who are in the know insist that Tinubu would not have raised a finger had the Central Bank of Nigeria monetary policy of Naira swap not affected his plans for the presidential election.
Tinubu had argued that the Federal Government policy of Naira swap was targeted at sabotaging his campaigns. He also alleged that the lingering petrol scarcity was intended to further sabotage him. Analysts say that Tinubu was directly pointing at President Buhari with the allegations on the grounds that a similar petrol scarcity last December was quickly resolved after the Department of State Security, DSS, issued a mandate against operators of petrol filling stations across the country. Issues about petrol in Nigeria rest on President Buhari’s desk. He is the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
It is also being argued that the cash-swap policy was being vigorously enforced to frustrate attempt by politicians to engage in vote-buying during the presidential election as even the new notes become scarcer. Pundits argue that there must be more than meets the eyes on the twin-issues. Why is it only Tinubu that is complaining? There are 18 presidential candidates on the ballot. How come he is the only one crying foul?
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