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.