The simmering feud between President Muhammadu Buhari and a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is already causing disaffection amongst aides of the president, Independent has learnt.
According to sources, some presidential aides who are loyal to Tinubu, who played crucial roles in the formation of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari’s ascendancy to power, are not happy with the treatment being meted to the former Lagos State governor by power brokers in Aso Villa.
Some of these aides, who were appointed directly to work with either the president or the vice president’s office, it was learnt, are angry with the disparaging remarks being made by the president’s loyalists against Tinubu.
Independent also learnt that even Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is one of Tinubu’s trusted associates, is always kept in the dark “until the last minute about some key decisions in the presidency”.
Though principal officers of the ruling party have denied the existence of a feud between Tinubu and the president, those with keen knowledge of developments in the party said both men have decided to keep each other at arm’s length as the feud continues.
Tinubu was absent fortnight ago when President Buhari visited Osun State on a one-day working visit as part of the 25th anniversary of the creation of the state.
He was also absent at the Edo State APC gubernatorial grand finale campaign rally in Benin City, Edo State, where President Buhari campaigned for the party’s governorship candidate, Godwin Obaseki.
According to a principal officer in the South West, who spoke with Independent, there is an ongoing attempt by those who have the ears of the president “to continue to widen the gulf between the president and Tinubu. The reason for this is what is unclear to us”.
Speaking further, he said efforts to reduce Tinubu’s influence in the party began shortly after the death of Abubakar Audu, former governorship candidate of the party in Kogi State.
While many people in the party believed that the ticket be handed over to his running mate, James Faleke, who is believed to be Tinubu’s protégé, the party leadership decided to give it to Yahaya Bello, the aspirant who came second in the party’s primary.
He also added that contrary to the norm whereby those seeking elective offices in the South West run to Tinubu for blessing, many of them now choose to seek the blessing of key officials in the presidency.
This, he said, played out in the recent governorship primary of the party in Ondo State.
The highly-charged contest was won by Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) defeating Tinubu’s anointed candidate, Dr. Segun Abraham.
It was also learnt that some of the presidential aides, who never wanted Tinubu’s candidate to win, celebrated Akeredolu’s victory openly, a development that didn’t go down well with Tinubu’s loyalists.
“There is an ongoing attempt to reduce the influence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the party. It is like those close to the president are telling him he doesn’t need the support of Tinubu or any other leader in the South West to govern the country. It is not only Tinubu, even Papa (Bisi) Akande is not happy with ongoing developments in the party”.
“I can authoritatively tell you that this has polarised the aides of the president, especially those loyal to President Buhari and those on the side of Tinubu.
“They no longer trust themselves and there is no way they can achieve common goal if they continue along that line.
“Look at the recent election in Ondo, many of us in the party believe that there is no way Akeredolu could have won without the support of the president’s men”, he said.
Another party source, who confirmed that the relationship between South West leaders and the president is not cordial, said the crisis may have started during the early stage of the administration when Alhaji Lai Mohammed (then national publicity secretary of the APC) said President Buhari is not the national leader of the party.
When asked who the national leader of the party is, Mohammed, who is now the Minister of Information had stated that President Buhari is a product of the party and not the party’s leader.
“This statement from Mohammed, who is seen to owe his loyalty to Tinubu, angered those loyal to President Buhari. Aside seeing it as an affront, they also believe it is a calculated attempt to belittle the president.
“Though Alhaji (Lai Mohammed) never said out rightly that Tinubu is the national leader of the party, many believe that his statement is a veiled one to the fact that Buhari is not the party’s leader”.
“To counter this claim, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, spoke on the same programme a few days later where he explicitly stated that President Buhari is the national leader of the APC”, he said.
“As it stands, Tinubu has no official position in the APC. Many thought he will be elected as the party’s Board of Trustees’ chairman but that was not to be. As at now, his power is confined to the South West and that is also being threatened given what played out in Ondo State recently”, he said.
Efforts by Independent to speak with the media aides of the president proved abortive as they declined to make comments on the issue.