Forget pretence, APC will swim & sink on Tinubu ~ by Iliyasu Gadu
The ruling All Progressive Party (APC), is a house of mirrors where a game of cloak and dagger is going on presently. The key elements of the game are stealth, surprise and deception.
The players in this game are currently circling around like the gladiators of old in a Roman amphitheatre sizing each other and looking for weak points to strike a fatal game ending blow.
It is all about the 2023 elections and who will succeed president Buhari. The aim of the game being to seize control of the party and use it to such ends.
In this regard, the APC is split unmistakably between those who are aligned with the party’s putative leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on the one hand, and those who believe that the Asiwaju should take a hike and allow someone else preferably from their ranks to succeed president Buhari.
In this category are some governors and ministers.
This much came up in clear relief following the recent suspension of the party’s chairman Adams Oshiomhole which action in itself was sequel to the disqualification of Edo state governor Godwin Obaseki from participating in the party’s primaries for the governorship elections scheduled for September this year.
What featured prominently in the discussions that followed these sequence of events was that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu the party’s supremo whose protégé Oshiomhole is, had lost out to the coalition of the party’s so called ‘’young Turks’.
But I think it is too premature to make that claim because among the forces that supported the Oshiomhole ouster are those who are not necessarily against Tinubu. They just do not like the sight of the suspended chairman, whose excesses had gone beyond the pale, and took the opportunity of the moment to align with those who wanted him out in order to cut Tinubu to size.
But knowing how dangerous that impression if left to linger would cause the party especially at this early stage, and given the well-known fact that Asiwaju Tinubu is no slouch when cornered, APC grandees were quick to make reassuring, conciliatory statements to Tinubu.
It is in keeping with this posture that the new caretaker chairman governor Mala Buni of Yobe state made an ostentatious, photo ops visit to Tinubu in his Bourdillon road, Ikoyi residence all the while making the appropriate sound bites on reconciliation and party unity.
But to discerning observers however, all this hardly obscures the fact that the APC is trying to hide behind a finger. Without a shadow of doubt, the Tinubu question is the greatest poser facing the APC which will determine its fate in the coming months.
And to put it in proper perspective, quite frankly it will take more than the machinations of the ‘’young Turks’’ to knock Tinubu out of his perch in the party or indeed the polity. For if the APC were an invention, then Tinubu alone quite rightly holds the patent and the party is destined to swim and sink with him in the coming months.
It is necessary to understand that the APC is in essence Tinubu’s long term strategic presidential project. In deciding to merge his All Congress of Nigeria (ACN) with Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progress Change (CPC) along with other parties back in 2014, Tinubu had determined that his chances of achieving his presidential ambition will be better enhanced if he took that step. It was not necessarily out of a conversion to the principles that Buhari espoused or of any admiration for the man whom he had longed opposed and worked against on the three occasions the latter had contested the presidency of Nigeria. It was a shrewd, strategic move to maximize Tinubu’s chances of succeeding Buhari as president eventually. And once Tinubu helped concretized the merger he made two strategic moves; to position himself firmly behind Muhammadu Buhari in the party’s pecking order and deliver the presidential ticket of the new party to him, and work tooth and nail to ensure that Buhari won the presidency in the 2015 and 2019 elections. The second move was to make sure he took the commanding heights of the party such that nobody else apart from Buhari was more relevant than him in the party.
Thus the political DNA of Tinubu is so firmly established in the APC that he has become an immovable object in the party, much like a bull in a china shop or as the proverbial lizard perched delicately on an earthenware pot full of water.
Those currently working to sideline Tinubu currently within the APC must therefore reckon with the fact that doing so may not necessarily result in success and if it does may turn out to be a pyrrhic victory which will do incalculable harm to the party.
Essentially therefore the APC is about a tale of two personalities; Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the unspoken arrangement is for the party to be a special purpose vehicle for the actualisation of their presidential ambitions. All others in the party are to play a supporting role to this fact. And now that president Buhari has had his shot, Tinubu will fancy his chances of being next in line.
Tinubu did not go to all this trouble just to see someone else profit from his endeavours after the exit of President Buhari in 2023.Going by the plans he had nurtured all these years he will expect to clinch the APC ticket and to go on to win the presidential elections of 2023 God willing. Tinubu’s whole endeavours in helping to actualize the merger of political parties leading to the establishment of the APC and its sustenance, through to the victory of Muhammadu Buhari in both the 2015 and 2019 elections was not an exercise in political philanthropy nor is it intended to introduce a new political paradigm in Nigerian politics whereby a leading Nigerian political figure could for the first time altruistically work assiduously for the emergence of a president and willingly forego the position when it becomes available.
The question that comes to mind then is can Tinubu make it?
In this regard, Tinubu is banking on three factors. First he expects to hold firm on his southwest support base. Secondly he expects president Buhari to return the favour he did the president by supporting him to clinch the APC ticket and turning the huge support the president enjoys in the north to him. Thirdly he stands ready to deploy the massive financial muscle at his disposal to oil his presidential campaign.
Can these expectations add up and will it guarantee him success in his bid for the presidency in 2023?
Pertaining to Tinubu’s support in the southwest, this can at best be described as dodgy. Of the six states in the region, he can only be sure of two, namely Lagos and Osun where his nephew is governor and where Tinubu himself hails. Lagos is critically important for many reasons not least being due to its role as Nigeria’s economic hub, but also because of the massive votes it commands. Lagos is where Tinubu looms large and his political network in the centre of excellence is extensive and unimpeachable.
But the same cannot be said of Tinubu’s influence in Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Ekiti.
However, if the APC presidential ticket is yielded to the Southern part of Nigeria, then for reasons of group solidarity it can be expected that the southwest will rally round Tinubu overwhelmingly. He will clinch the APC ticket under such circumstances beating any other southern candidate from any of the three regions handsomely with some considerable distance to spare.
As for expected support from president Buhari and the northern votes, there are no guarantees here for Tinubu. From antecedents, president Buhari has never been known to “anoint” any political candidate. Knowing full well that the issue of 2023 presidency is a politically sensitive one, we can expect president Buhari going by antecedents to want to hide behind the need to observe legal provisions to evade supporting Tinubu. “Asiwaju’’, he is likely to say to Tinubu, ‘’let us go by what the law and the courts say’’.
Despite his best wishes, Tinubu should also not expect to have a full guarantee of northern votes even in the unlikely event of president Buhari endorsing and campaigning for him in the north. First of all the massive support president Buhari enjoys in the north is not necessarily transferable to any other political figure whether from the north or elsewhere. And more tellingly, as a result of failure to live up to the expectations of northerners generally, the unquestioning reverence president Buhari enjoys in the north has suffered what economists would term ‘’the backward leaning supply curve’’. Quite frankly there are places in the north today where president Buhari’s presence will be met with either hostile reception or ironic cheers of derision. For president Buhari under the circumstances to seek to introduce Tinubu as his successor will amount to the northern masses as provocation and hence counterproductive.
The situation is compounded by Tinubu himself and his lack of direct political connection with the northern grassroots. It is particularly instructive to note that Tinubu has hardly been seen or heard empathising with the northern masses battling with the scourge of terrorism, banditry and other existential survival challenges. Unlike the late venerable Chief MKO Abiola who would as soon fly into northern communities and commiserate with them in the aftermath of a disaster bringing along tons of aid materials and in situ monetary donations and provision of amenities even before the government wades in, Tinubu hardly does that. Tinubu prefers to outsource his connection with the north rather surreptitiously through proxies who he expects to deliver his presence among the northern masses. This is perceived in the north as manifestation of inner contempt and disregard for the people of the region.
How then can Tinubu hope to get the support of the north in 2023 with this cavalier political attitude?
Perhaps Tinubu figures that money which he has in almost limitless amount will be his ultimate joker in the 2023 race. He may not be far off the mark if he thinks so because Nigerian politics is majorly about money not political ideology. I believe with this mindset Tinubu is most probably thinking to ‘’nairanize’’ and where possible, ‘’dollarize’’ the critical stakeholders and enablers of the 2023 elections to a state of stupor including even the opposition, such that the elections will merely be his coronation.
But again given the prevailing mood in the country which is likely to build up to 2023 and with Tinubu’s own glaring political limitations it is a toss-up if the approach of spending his way to the presidency will work.
Perhaps this is what has emboldened the “young Turks’’ to have a go at Tinubu sensing that his strength and weaknesses are just about even Steven.
But their chances are hardly up to scratch. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state had to be heavily assisted by Federal might to win the governorship of the state. And his influence beyond that state in the southwest is zilch. Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna will struggle to keep a political toe hold in that state not to talk of the northwest. Rotimi Amaechi has been effectively bounced out of Rivers state by Nyesom Wike his erstwhile political protégé. Nobody even considers Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as being of any political relevance.
But because for their own political survival post Buhari, the ‘’young Turks’’ will not relent at their plots to keep Tinubu at bay, the APC faces a very combustible future ahead with very serious consequences for its survival.
Like him or not then the APC remains stuck with Tinubu. He is not only their political fixer, he is the single most important political figure in the party. And realising this fact, Tinubu will stick in there and duke it out no matter what. And from that vantage position he will send silent but ominous signals that he will either have his way or sink the party whose patent he holds.