Buhari, Akeredolu and Odigie-Oyegun at the rally in Akure
Begins reconciliation of APC stakeholders ahead of Ondo polls
There is fire in the All Progressives Congress (APC). No more pretensions, the major combatants have taken battle positions. The old war general has found his musket! The November 26 governorship election coming up in the Sunshine State of Ondo, is turning out to be the defining moment for the battle of wits and intrigues that has been going on in the amalgam political platform called the APC.
Suddenly, against the popular notion of political aloofness and disinterest, President Muhammadu Buhari, has begun to take serious interest in political activities. Last Saturday, the president led APC bigwigs from across the country to whip solidarity for Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, the party’s standard-bearer for the Ondo governorship polls.
Recent developments in APC, which has been going through some internal discomfort, tend to present the possibility that ever since he mounted the saddle as civilian president, Buhari does not want to share his exalted political podium with former Lagos Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Like a trained soldier that he is, the president managed a decoy, affording Tinubu the pleasure and freedom to over reach himself in the belief that it was the same Buhari that used to pass multiple nights at his legendary Bourdillon residence that he was dealing with.
In the long interface between ex-military officers and civilian politicians in the country, the civilians have shown a markedly poor understanding of the psychology of a trained soldier. Take away the discipline, soldier’s value intelligence and they see every engagement from the perspective of combat. Tinubu and his foot soldiers, most of who believed that Buhari’s seemingly political naivety and taciturnity would redound to their greatest opportunity, must by now begin to see the other side of midnight.
It is not impossible that a great many of political actors in the country would be relishing a sense of vindication in the feeling that ‘we warned him, but he could not listen’. But right from day one, during his inauguration, the president had hinted in his speech that he belongs to all, but to none. That is the typical jargon of those adept at camp fights in the jungle: no friend, no foe!
However, without having second thoughts about that charged sound bite, Asiwaju carried on as if he remains the ‘national leader’ of APC, despite the coming on board of a president on the party’s platform.
That could explain why the former Lagos governor wanted to be the one to determine the leadership structure and pattern of zoning of floor functionaries in the National Assembly. After playing the hide and seek over the manner of emergence of Senate and House of Representatives leaders, Tinubu was led to believe that his strategies were defrayed by the party leadership.
Then there was the intrigue surrounding the appointment of cabinet members. Instead of according him the ‘honour and dignity’ of being, not only the leader of the Southwest caucus of the party, but also as the Jagaban of the merged recessive political platforms, notable emergent politicians were penciled and informed to go and do obeisance to their principal. But the appointees were made to know who was doing them the favour so as to reciprocate with their loyalty.
Yet overlooking the potent signs of changing times, Tinubu had the political boldness to tongue-lash the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, over his jocular utterance that he could not become an emergency magician to improve the fuel supply situation in the country.
Sources close to the major occupant of Aso Villa, said the essence of that public rebuke via a scathing letter that was celebrated in the media, was not lost on the former military head of state. Then there was the other kitchen squabble when the ‘national leader’ descended on the national chairman of the party during a constricted National Executive Committee meeting of the party.
Alleging gross incompetence and undue vacillation in taking crucial decisions concerning the running of the party, the former Lagos governor was reported calling for the replacement of the national chairman through an ambassadorial or similar appointment to displace him from the commanding heights of APC’s administrative structure.
The compound effect of his frustrating experience in what the APC was turning to, Tinubu was to cast away every strain of restraint to make an unambiguous call on Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to resign from office as national chairman of APC, owing to the perceived bungling of the Ondo governorship primary of the party.
But while interested parties claimed that Tinubu was crying for the loss of his preferred candidate, some aspirants brought up what they called credible evidence of delegate padding and manipulation of the process. This warranted a review. But the findings of the committee were thrown over the window, for not adopting credible methodology or getting all sides to the issue.
At that point, those who were playing pranks against his political designs and interest could no longer hide behind a finger. Tinubu brought out the Jagaban in him and decided to play his own hide and seek, refusing to engage the top hierarchy of both government and party, even as he recalled that the Kogi debacle came to be because “these people want to mess with me.”
But last Saturday, all pretensions that the battle line had been drawn disappeared. President Buhari not only went to Akure to lead campaign for the ‘defective’ APC governorship candidate, but also used the opportunity to talk on the primary election that threw him up.
Waxing bold in full presidential boldness and freedom, Buhari told the gathering that he was happy to be among the APC faithful that have gathered to throw their support behind Akeredolu so that he becomes the next governor of Ondo State. Raising his signature clenched fist, the President said: “We are here to show our support and solidarity for Akeredolu and we want to tell the people of this state that we will win the election on Saturday.”
Perhaps in an indirect jab at those who shunned the rally, including Tinubu, Buhari noted that you lose elections doesn’t mean you should walk away. You keep on trying. (After all) I went to the Supreme Court three times in my bid to become the President of Nigeria.”
May be in anticipation of the possibility of the President’s support for Akeredolu and covert distance from Tinubu, supporters of the former Lagos governor had mobilized a procession restating their support for Asiwaju.
It is obvious that the Ondo governorship polls will throw up new political realities. But what is not yet clear is how far the struggle for power in that central Southwest state would go to re-enact a throwback to first republic politics, when a disagreement between Ladoke Akintola and Obafemi Awolowo led to the declaration of state of emergency.
That apprehension was felt by those that heard the president say, “We want to tell the people of this state that we will win the election on Saturday.” Given the intriguing wrangle in the courts over the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was the president giving an indication of possible connivance of APC in the contrived attempt to exclude the party ostensible to brighten the chances of APC?
It is in such calculations that the Ondo governorship polls raises apprehension about possible breakdown of law and order. There is also the ethnic coloration being given to the political schemes. One of the governorship aspirants on the APC, Chief Olusola Oke, who felt disenchanted with the primary crossed over to the Alliance for Democracy (AD), which is the foundation political platform of choice of mainline Yoruba politicians in the present dispensation.
Even as those who align with Tinubu accuse Akeredolu of being an imposition from the northern Fulani, outgoing Governor Olusegun Mimiko is said to be torn between siding the northern ‘intruders’ or the Yoruba solidarity with Tinubu to support the AD candidate.
Already division has emerged among the traditional Tinubu political family. What is left to be seen is how the people would vote on Saturday assuming the preferred PDP candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, does not reclaim his ticket. Again, the greatest concern is whether the outcome of the election would be dependent on the votes of the people as the final verdict?
Shortly after the disputations over the outcome of the governorship primary, some APC chieftain started calling for a review of the zone’s stake in the party. They claimed that they are not getting as much returns as their support for Buhari’s emergence as president.
But the sentiment among certain entrenched interests in the APC, particularly those from other legacies parties, is that Tinubu and his Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) arm has got more than their fair share from the spoils of victory.
For instance Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, who was quoted as saying that Tinubu has no reason to complain of marginalization because his interest was well catered for in Buhari government, told The Guardian that it has been “acknowledged the uncommon contributions of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu and his group, in providing the critical supplement, which made President Buhari’s victory from the presidential primary to the main presidential election possible.”
From nominating the vice president and occupants of Grade A’ ministries such as Finance, Power, Works, Communications, Information, Health, Solid Minerals, FIRS and three special advisers out of five, and many special assistants, he argued that Southwest fares better than Southeast that has only one Grade A Minister and no Special Adviser.
Okechukwu noted that unless Tinubu was particular about his immediate household, the Southwest has not got a short shrift of what their contribution merited. Okechukwu, who was a chieftain of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), before the merger said the best thing for Tinubu is to “own his great achievement for the Yorubas and distance himself from gossip merchants, who are trying to dismantle his hard-won victory. After all, he introduced all the appointees to Mr. President, except Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, who was with us in the defunct CPC.”
The idea of nominations may be right sounding, but in the Southwest, much stress is placed on dignity. Ego may have come into play in Ondo and the coming of President Buhari to campaign for a candidate that Tinubu does not sanction could be taken as an affront to their sense of political worth. This could presage the tempo of coming political battles as 2019 inches closer.
Meanwhile, President Buhari had commenced the process of reconciling aggrieved members of the party with a view to securing victory for Akeredolu next Saturday as he held meetings with leaders of the party.
The Guardian gathered that leaders at the meeting included all the aspirants in the last primary election of the party, the National and State Chairman of the party, Chief Odigie Oyegun and Isaac Kekemeke respectively, and two leaders from each of the 18 councils of the state.
Party chieftains, who attended the APC rally included the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, the Senate President, Dr. Busola Saraki; the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; his information counterpart, Lai Mohammed; former Ondo Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, Senator Joshua Dariye, former Edo State governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomole.
There were also eight incumbent governors from APC-controlled states across the nation like: Imo, Plateau, Kano, Ogun, Jigawa, Nassarawa, Kogi and Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who was newly sworn in to succeed Oshiomole.
It was garnered that the National leaders of the party, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Bisi Akande, who were neither in the meeting nor grand rally, sent apologies for being conspicuously absent, while other governors in the Southwest region too, save Ogun State, were absent.
Thereafter, he headed to the palace of the traditional ruler of Akure Kingdom, the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo, where he met other First Class traditional rulers in the state; and ended the visit at the venue of the rally.
The Senate President, who led a team of APC National Assembly members to the state, urged the people to vote for the party in the upcoming election so as to enjoy more dividends of democracy.
Saraki warned of the consequences of not being affiliated politically to the party at the National level, referring to the distribution of appointments and other developmental benefits that are often times allocated based on party affiliation.
The National Chairman of the party, Odigie-Oyegun, alongside the South West Chairman, Chief Pius Akinyelure and the State Chairman, Isaac Kekemeke, lamented the level of underdevelopment and poverty in the state.
Akinyelure stated, “it is time to tell the PDP that has been in government for the past eight years to start packing. We are looking forward to a period of development, growth, and economic boom in Ondo State through change.
Kekemeke attributed the present predicament across the country to the excesses and corrupt nature of the past Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), assuring the party that members were more united to win the Saturday election.
The Chairman of the state’s governorship campaign council and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, concurred with the chairman of APC Governors Forum, Rochas Okorocha and Kogi State colleague, Yahaya Bello, that Akeredolu would defeat his rivals at the poll.
According to them, “He is taking Ondo people from captivity to freedom. The way we announced it in Edo State,” Yahaya emphasized, “we are going to do it in Ondo State.”
Okorocha disclosed that some of his colleagues tried to persuade the APC governorship candidate to pick up a Federal Government appointment, but he declined on the firm excuse that he wished to serve his people better at the grassroots.”