The festering sore that is the relationship between President Muhammadu Buhari and Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu seems to be widening.
Further pretensions were put to rest on Saturday in Ondo State as the President joined other party stalwarts of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at a mega rally in support of the party’s candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu.
Buhari took advantage of the event to denounce claims by anybody that the gubernatorial primaries that threw up Akeredolu were anything but free and fair. It would be the first time since the September 3 primaries that the president would openly come against the position held by Bola Tinubu over the conduct of the primaries.
He had however received and endorsed Akeredolu earlier, when the governor of Plateau State Simon Lalong accompanied the APC gubernatorial candidate to the Presidential Villa, Abuja to visit him.
Buhari at the mega rally termed the emergence of Akeredolu as, “transparent, credible, free and fair,” adding that it was for that reason he personally showed up in Ondo State to lead APC’s mega rally. He congratulated the party chairman and other members of the National Working Committee (NWC), especially the Electoral Committee led by Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State for a job well done.
Tinubu, who was conspicuously absent at the event, had unreservedly condemned the conduct of the primaries and as a result called for the sack of John Odigie-Oyegun, the National Chairman of the party, alleging that some unstated interests were using the latter to undermine him.
In apparent show of utter disappointment with the party leadership, Tinubu, has since distanced himself from almost all party activities, choosing to hibernate abroad under the guise of catching up with various scheduled appointments in Africa, Europe and America.
Political watchers say the act is deliberate to force home his total rejection of machinations intended to diminish his stature within the ruling party.
Not only was Tinubu absent at the Ondo rally, his ‘boys’, governors Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun, and Ajimobi of Oyo, conveniently chose to excuse themselves from the event.
Ripples Nigeria reliably gathered that Aregbesola who missed the airport formalities in honour of President Buhari returned to his base and avoided the rally.
Findings show that the presidency anticipated what would happen and came prepared to douse the tension threatening to dismember the party in the Southwest. To guard against any embarrassing slips, given the sensitivity of the occasion, Buhari’s media team, led by the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, issued a terse statement on arrival.
Buhari said, “I am very pleased that those of you who lost the primaries are still very much in the party. That you lose elections doesn’t mean you should walk away, you keep on trying. I went to the Supreme Court three times in my bid to become the President of Nigeria.
“I like your high spirit and your commitment to the party and I hope your constituencies are taking note of that.”
How Tinubu intends to pursue his disenchantment with the party he helped to form remains a subject of speculations. In the Southwest, it is reported that he is retooling his political structures with the resuscitation of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) under which one of the aggrieved candidates from the Ondo APC gubernatorial primaries, Olusola Oke, is running for the November 26 governorship election.
Elsewhere, there are also speculations that the acclaimed national leader could be part of underground moves to force the realignment of political forces with the emergence of another political party. His close aides, however, say he is not leaving the party and would remain to fight any perceived rot from within.
As it stands, the likelihood of Buhari pushing for the sack of Oyegun seems quite remote. Not with the absolute vote of confidence shown on the party chairman at the Ondo rally.
Aside Buhari-Tinubu face-off, APC foundations have been severally rocked with the latest being public mudslinging between former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and Governor Nasir el-Rufai over who is corrupt or not.