Opinion

Buhari’s Heart Is Not With Tinubu

By Casmir Igbokwe

These are not the best of times for the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The other day, the director, Civil Society Liaison, in the APC Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), Hajia Naja’atu Muhammad, resigned from the PCC and the APC. She has been spilling the beans regarding her association with Tinubu. She said, among others, that everything about the APC presidential candidate revolved around money. Besides, there are doubts about the cordiality of Tinubu’s relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari and some key figures in his party.

Last week, the former Lagos State Governor could not bear the internal heat anymore. At the APC campaign rally in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, he said the powers that be wanted to scuttle his chances at the election. He snarled: “They are full of mischief. They want to create fuel crisis; they have started creating fuel crisis. But forget about it, put your mind at rest. I am assuring you, I, Asiwaju, will end fuel scarcity. Let the price of fuel continue to increase, they are the ones that know where they are hoarding it. They are hoarding naira notes, they are hoarding fuel. We will vote and we will win. If they like, they can change the ink in the naira note, we will shock them. We will win the election.”

Recall that during the run-up to the APC presidential primary election last year, Tinubu, in the same Abeokuta, cried out over what he felt was an attempt to edge him out of the presidential race. He reeled out how he helped Buhari to become President, blurting out his now famous quote, “emilokan” (It’s my turn). As he reportedly put it, “It is my time. I’m educated. I’m experienced. I have been serving people for a long time. Bring me the presidency, it is my turn.”

Tinubu and his handlers have repeatedly denied any rift with the President. When negative reactions trailed his “emilokan” statement last year, Tinubu recanted. According to him, he has high regard and respect for Buhari and will never denigrate him. He said he only desired a level-playing ground for all aspirants and an adherence to stipulated rules and due process.

Also, when he and his handlers realized the implications of his latest statement in Abeokuta, they went for damage control. In a statement, director, media and publicity APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, said Tinubu did not mention, blame or accuse President Buhari for the current challenges in the country.

“Asiwaju Tinubu was only averting government’s attention to the sabotage being carried out by some fifth columnists in the system, possibly working in cahoots with the PDP,” he said.

Excuse me! Here is a presidential candidate of a ruling party denouncing the policies of his own government and someone is telling us cock-and-bull stories! The PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, hit the nail on the head. Atiku, through his special assistant, public communication, Phrank Shaibu, said Tinubu had become frustrated by his inability to stop the cashless policy and currency redesign of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that would curb vote-buying in the forthcoming election.

The point here is that the APC and its presidential candidate have engaged in unsuccessful attempts at a whitewash. Why is it that, out of the 18 presidential candidates, only Tinubu is crying foul over the naira redesign? On the eve of the 2019 presidential election, two bullion vans entered his premises on Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. Is he angry because this may not be possible anymore with the new CBN policy?

It is becoming increasingly clear that Buhari’s heart is not with Tinubu. On the eve of the primary election of the APC in June last year, the national chairman of the party, Abdullahi Adamu, announced that the consensus presidential candidate of the party was Senate President Ahmad Lawan. Adamu reportedly said then that he arrived at the choice after consultation with Buhari. The plot failed because other National Working Committee (NWC) members refused to ratify the decision. Since then, Buhari has been doing some other things, which subtly indicate that he has lost favour with Tinubu. Forget the public show of raising his party’s candidate’s hand at rallies. Do you expect him to do otherwise? As President from the ruling party, he cannot openly show support for another candidate. That would be sacrilegious! I strongly feel he is tagging along with his party’s candidate just to fulfill all righteousness.

Elder statesman, Tanko Yakasai, had this same feeling. He said recently that he was doubtful if Buhari was happy with the candidature of Tinubu: “Definitely, the personality of Tinubu doesn’t make him happy from my assessment of the situation.”

The Presidency attacked him, saying the times were hard and the old man, perhaps, needed a bit of help. Buhari’s senior special assistant on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, said Yakasai’s questioning of the loyalty of Buhari stood in sharp contrast with the actions of the President. He cited Buhari’s attendance at a rally in Bauchi in support of the standard-bearer of the party as an example. Saying Buhari was scheduled to make further appearances at campaign events in the coming weeks, Shehu added that the President’s support for Tinubu was unquestioned.

Shehu is doing his work. He couldn’t have said otherwise. The President had maintained on many occasions that he would leave a legacy of free and fair elections to Nigerians. Sometime in March 2022, at the national convention of the APC in Abuja, he warned politicians to de-emphasise money politics. He enjoined the new NWC members to ensure that party primaries were not influenced by “highest bidders.” Contrary to the President’s admonition, the highest bidders still had their way.

To further show how aloof Buhari is from his party’s candidate, he stated recently that “Nigerians should vote for whoever they like from whichever party. Nobody will be allowed to mobilize resources and thugs to intimidate people in any constituency. That is what I want to go down into Nigerian history for.”

What is not very certain is the candidate Buhari is rooting for. It may shock you to know that it may not even be Atiku Abubakar.

Intrigue is the name of politics in Nigeria. We have seen and will still see a good dose of it before the crucial presidential election coming up on February 25, 2023. The onus is on Nigerians, especially voters, to dispassionately examine every political message coming their way and refuse to be fooled this time. As progressive Nigerians have continued to say, we must take back our country. The wiles of the wicked ones will not succeed this time.

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