As President Muhammadu Buhari visits Lagos today to attend the 10th Bola Tinubu Colloquium in commemoration of the 66th birthday of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, several questions have been raised on why the president eventually made a u-turn to come to Lagos State almost three years after he assumed office.
ONE of the questions being raised, particularly among the citizens of Lagos State and those who staked their neck to ensure Buhari won the presidential ticket during the keenly contested APC primary at the National Convention held at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos in December 2014 is why did Mr. President stay away from Lagos since May 29 2015 when he assumed power?
It is also puzzling that Tinubu, who obviously played key role in ensuring the candidacy of Buhari in the party’s presidential primary and his subsequent victory in the 2015 presidential election, suddenly became an ‘outcast’ as soon as the election was won and for close to three years remained irrelevant in a political ‘coup’ believed to have been masterminded by some alleged ‘cabal’ operating at the corridor of power in collaboration with Mr. President.
Surprisingly too, the conspiracy against the former governor of Lagos and the acclaimed arrowhead of Southwest politics in the ruling party became obvious during the Ondo APC governorship primary where Governor Rotimi Akeredolu emerged as the party’s candidate in spite of Tinubu.
The same Abuja cabal with the said nod of Mr. President were claimed to have been responsible for the humiliation meted out to the national leader in the controversial November 21 Kogi State governorship election when his (Tinubu) man, James Faleke, the running mate to the party’s candidate, Abubakar Audu, who died few hours to the declaration of the election result was denied the mandate, instead, the incumbent governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello was supported by the party’s leadership to emerge.
There were also hues and cries over how Tinubu was sidelined by President Buhari in the appointment of ministers with the insinuation that not a single nominee of the national leader was considered for ministerial portfolio by the president.
It was also on record that Tinubu, at a point, openly demanded the removal of the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, whom he accused of graft and causing unnecessary division in the party.
The former governor did not also hide his discontentment against the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, whom he publicly lambasted over the fuel scarcity in the country.
The development got so bad it was insinuated Tinubu was being placed under surveillance by the government, which at some point culminated in him (Tinubu) going on self-exile.
As a matter of fact, one of the Southwest leaders of the party expressed displeasure over the manner the presidency tried to decimate Tinubu in the hands of his political benefactors. Also chieftains of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere and some Southwest Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders spoke in defence of the APC national leader.
The alleged frosty relationship got to a stage when Mr. President’s wife, Aisha was forced to cry out that those who helped her husband to attain power have been sidelined.
In a statement recently, one of the leaders of the APC, SKC Ogbonnia alleged that people loyal to President Buhari, were focused on “strategies to decimate the Tinubu-led brain trust that brought Buhari to power.”
Ogbonnia claimed that despite mapping out the strategy that brought Buhari into power, Tinubu was sidelined by the President and his loyalists.
He also alleged that Buhari made the former Lagos State governor a “mockery in all pepper soup joints” after declaring that he is not the national leader of the party.
But recently, Buhari’s posture to Tinubu took a twist.
On February 7, Buhari appointed Tinubu to reconcile all aggrieved APC members across the country but no sooner had the national leader settled down to commence the president’s directives, other things started falling apart.
On February 27 at a meeting of the APC attended by President Buhari the tenure of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) and other executives was extended by one year.
The target was Tinubu. His reconciliation committee suffered a big blow while the Odigie-Oyegun-led national executive seemed relieved.
The controversies generated by the tenure extension reverberated across the states and particularly in Lagos, the base of Tinubu where some members of the APC threatened to go to court.
From that period, the well-publicized Tinubu reconciliation committee went to sleep despite the efforts by some party members, like Prince Tony Momoh to explain that the tenure elongation decision was subject to ratification at the National Convention scheduled to hold in June.
Meanwhile, Buhari, on Tuesday, two days before today’s colloquium, shocked members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) when he reversed the tenure extension for party officials.
Has Buhari realised the implications of distancing himself from Tinubu? Or with the next general election less than a year away, is Buhari stooping low to conquer?
Why has Tinubu, whom he allegedly kept at a distance since 2015, now become a factor to reckon with? Whatever Buhari is going to say at the colloquium today about Tinubu, the party, the state of the nation and his administration’s scorecard since 2015 would indicate a lot about the direction of the party as the next general election approaches.
Party leaders who spoke on condition of anonymity warned Tinubu not to get carried away by the sudden rapprochement of Buhari and avoid repeating the mistake he made in 2015.
According to one of them, “I am not too sure Buhari’s sudden change is not without a motive. Now that nearly all the ex-military generals and Heads of State are unhappy with the Buhari’s policy and with the persistent herdsmen killing across the North Central all of which is making the president unpopular, he might just be looking for an ally to boost his reelection ambition in 2019.
“On this premise, I think Mr. Tinubu should be careful and know what to negotiate. He should not fail to carry the Southwest stakeholders in the party along this time like he failed to do in 2015, which is one of the reasons it was easy for the alleged cabal to harass him.”
Another leader of the party said the ordeal Tinubu went through in the party was due to his personal mistakes stressing: “his failure to carry other leaders of the region along in negotiating with the Northerner after the 2015 election made him vulnerable.” He continued: “he also did not manage his political protégés appropriately, which led most of them to turn their back against him.
He should, therefore, be careful this time otherwise if he allows the same mistake to repeat and allow Buhari to use him to secure Southwest zone, for reelection, I wonder what would happen to him.”
Meanwhile, the Secretary General, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, Mr. Akin Malaolu said the issue of Nigeria is not just about Buhari and Tinubu.
Expressing displeasure over Tinubu’s management style of Southwest politics, Malaolu said, “Nigerians should beware of going back to the period of an ‘accidental president’ when 16 was greater than 19. We should never make one man a hero in a democracy that belongs to the people.”
A former lawmaker who represented Epe Federal Constituency, Lagos, Mr. Lanre Odubote said Tinubu’s birthday this year is unique because of his insistence on internal democracy in the party.
He said the reversal of the tenure elongation and the decision by Mr. President to visit Lagos for the first time since 2015 is timely because of the unique manner Lagos is developing compared to other states.
According to him, “It is Mr. President’s joy to come and visit Lagos to witness and commission world-class projects.”