The suspicion had been rife in the air, long before now, that a powerful clique close to President Muhammadu Buhari didn’t want Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu to fly the presidential flag of the All Progressive Congress (APC), in this year’s general elections, but he did and with a wide margin. But the influential and well-entrenched cabal hasn’t stopped playing pranks to prevent Tinubu from winning the election.
In spite of the behind-the-scene maneuverings, Asiwaju Tinubu has continued to outsmart the cabal and their co-travelers and seems set to win the elections. The APC governors, deserve commendation for standing by their candidate.
The governors have by their actions heeded the call by well-meaning observers who prayed that the ruling party would put its house in order, by reconciling aggrieved contestants, and prosecuting the general elections with a united front, making maximum use of incumbency factor, so as to retain power at the center.
Unfortunately, the Villa cabal is hell-bent on ensuring the defeat of the party, which brought their benefactor to power.
Nobody can now pretend that all is well with the ruling APC. While the cracks in the wall of the ruling party were previously being discussed in hushed tones, and coded tongues, Governor Nasir El-Rufai (it can only be him) threw a bombshell last week (Wednesday, February 1), and made the simmering crisis in his party a topic for intense public discourse. In his usual earthy frankness, while appearing on a Channels TV political programme, El-Rufai said: “I believe there are elements in the Villa that want us to lose (the 2023 presidential) elections because they didn’t get their way. They had their candidate. But their candidate didn’t win the primary elections. They are still trying to get us to lose the elections. And they are hiding behind the President’s desire to do what he thinks is right.”
It was not by accident, or coincidence, that the opening shots of the rumblings in the APC were fired by Nasir El-Rufai. It is on record that the same El-Rufai was the arrow-head of an internal revolution within the party that forced an apparently unwilling Caretaker Committee Chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni, to hold a National Convention of the party, to enable it to resume effective preparations for this year’s general elections. With the active support of other North West progressive governors, El-Rufai mobilized support for Senator Tinubu, in order to ensure that presidential power reverts to the southern part of the country after President Buhari’s tenure. In the estimation of El-Rufai and his well-meaning colleagues, the power shift was not only a matter of equity and fair play; it was sorely needed to oil the wheels of political stability and national cohesion.
Current twists and turns in the political arena make it clear that some people in the corridors of power are determined to prevent power rotation to the south after eight years of President Buhari. The President’s nephew is being fingered as the linchpin of the anti-power shift gang; while two influential ministers, one of them from Buhari’s home state, are the leading lights of an unpopular agenda. The cabal seems to have found a willing tool in the Central Bank Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele.
It is on record that the Aso Rock cabal had attempted to field the Senate President, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, as the sole presidential candidate of the APC during the June 8 Convention, a move ably thwarted by the EL-Rufai-led governor’s consortium. Having won the initial battle it is left to be seen if they can also win the war, that is, to successfully deliver Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as elected President of Nigeria on February 25. Again, Nasir El-Rufai said he believes that Tinubu’s victory is a done deal.
Therefore, the battle line has been drawn between the shadowy characters in and around the seat of power and the APC governors. While the cabal appears unwavering in their determination to frustrate the presidential ambition of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the governors are resolute in their effort to deliver their preferred candidate and keep their party in power.
According to Mallam El-Rufai, the Northern APC governors have what it takes to sway victory to their party’s candidate, and they are going to do it irrespective of any obstacles. After all, the cabal opposing them comprises unelected people, some of whom cannot win ordinary councillorship elections in their native wards. The North West Governors want to install Tinubu in order to cement the political alliance with the South West bloc, the very alignment that delivered President Buhari to power in 2015 and 2019. One good turn, they say, deserves another.
However, the cabal will not go down without giving a fight. It is now widely believed, rightly or wrongly, that the ill-timed, poorly thought out, and badly implemented currency redesign of high-value Naira notes was initiated with the primary purpose of blocking what they see as Tinubu’s pathway to victory in the February 25 presidential polls. In the process they have thrown everyone into a big crisis and the economy into a big mess.
The cabal believes that the APC candidate, more than any other candidate, had stashed huge quantities of raw cash to prosecute his presidential ambition. Colour alterations on the currency notes, they say, would render his money chest ineffective for vote-buying and other things that can influence voters’ behaviour.
But elections are very expensive. Any candidate running for an election has several expenses to pay for, so the issue of vote buying doesn’t carry any weight. On 25th February Tinubu must pay his agents in the 176,974,000 polling units to help safeguard his vote. This certainly isn’t corruption.
Far-fetched as it sounded, Senator Tinubu also expressed the view that the fuel scarcity that has ravaged the country since September 2023, and the worsening electricity supply in the country, were deliberately concocted by the fifth columnists in the corridors of power, to abort his widely anticipated victory. The strategy is to pitch the people against the APC.
In the run-up to February 25, it is very likely that the cabal will dig deeper into their bag of tricks to bring up additional measures to try to stop the Asiwaju political moving train. For instance, they can authorize the tendentious posting of security personnel, such that certain formations are manned by officers detailed to work in a certain manner. Though this is very unlikely to happen, it remains a remote possibility in the current battle of political attrition. But, according to Political Activist Deji Adeyanju, any weapons fashioned against Asiwaju Tinubu would fail, since the APC flag bearer is primed to scale the hurdles and ultimately outsmart his traducers, the same way he outsmarted them during the APC primaries.
While the storm rages, President Buhari has maintained his characteristic aloofness, on an issue that will definitely determine his place in history.
As usual, nobody wants to implicate him in the fracas. Governor El-Rufai implied that moles close to the President are simply exploiting his desire to do what he considers to be best for the collective. Femi Fani-Kayode, former aviation minister and one of the spokesmen of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, made a similar claim in one of his television appearances that the President was committed to the victory of the party’s candidate at the polls, but that some of his appointees and advisers did not share that commitment.
Those appointees and none “appointables” who have spent eight years in office, and in the Villa, with nothing to show, are trying hard to create hardship in the land to elicit hatred for the government in power and its candidates.
The puzzle is, does the President fully understand the dire consequences of what is happening now in the country, for him, his family members, and the entire citizenry? If the colour of the Naira was tweaked to curb the undue influence of cash in swaying voters, why is the swap allowed to inflict unspeakable hardship on the populace? We cannot even begin to imagine the possibility that fuel distribution is being sabotaged, by misdirected public functionaries, as a ploy to block APC candidates from winning the election! Ditto for the disruption of electricity.
Many commentators have expressed fears that the chaos in the land, if not arrested swiftly, can threaten democracy and national stability. Instances abound, in Nigeria and beyond, where disgruntled moles created chaos as a prelude to dismantling extant political systems. President Buhari can relate to this sort of plot, recalling what happened in the country shortly before fellow coupists pulled the rug under him and his military junta, in August 1985. It is expected that hindsight would make the president quickly wake up and smell the coffee.
If the electorates want Tinubu, it is only fair, just, and democratic to allow the election to proceed without encumbrances. Any resort to undemocratic methods to determine who wins or loses an election, as the cabal seems to be doing now, can only lead to more chaos and a possible political tsunami from which the APC would be the ultimate loser!