President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent assignment to a national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to reconcile feuding members of the party is not as easy as it seems. Oyebuchi Ezigbo writes

President Muhammadu Buhari recently made a surprise move by beckoning on a former Lagos State governor and leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to help rally support for the party and reconcile aggrieved members. The president’s decision almost took everybody unawares, because for a long time, he had not been conspicuously involved in the affairs of the party at the national level.

Therefore, naming Tinubu as the chief reconciliatory officer of the party as political activities towards 2019 polls gather momentum is seen as strategic as it amounts to putting him on the spot and making the support of South-west for APC in 2019 the ultimate charge.

Observers of the intriguing political development in the country today see President Buhari’s action as well thought-out to salvage the party from disintegration. The president must have read the handwriting and felt that it was only by getting Tinubu back on his side that could help to replicate the 2015 feat.

Following disenchantment that trailed the style of governance delivered by President Buhari’s administration, which has left the party and most stakeholders of the APC complaining bitterly of being neglected and abandoned, there was nothing the president would have done other than to go back to the roots, many reckoned.

In a terse statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, Buhari gave Tinubu’s terms of reference to include leading consultative and reconciliatory moves aimed at rebuilding confidence in the party.

He also assigned Tinubu the responsibilities of resolving existing disputes among party men and women as well as between party leadership and political office holders in some states.

Given these responsibilities, the job of Tinubu is tasking as the crisis in APC is deep and endemic. As at now, the party is faced with numerous crises both at the national and state levels. First, there are party men and women, who felt betrayed by Buhari for allegedly leaving them ‘in the cold’ after working assiduously for his election.
Second, there are others who have had running battles with their benefactors within the party in some states. There were also clash of interests among the political gladiators in the party of which the former Lagos State governor was himself a major actor.

In reality, even the president needs to be truly reconciled with his party men, who are in charge of affairs at the National Assembly. For the better part of the three years duration of this administration, there was no love lost between the Executive arm of government and the Legislature. Their relationship has been anything but cordial. Although both parties tried to cover things up, the situation is still less than cordial.

Also, Tinubu, himself needs to reconcile with some key players in the party, especially with regard to what transpired during the power tussle for the emergence of the principal officers of the National Assembly. Importantly, he would need to also reconcile with the man currently at the helm of affairs of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, whom he had cause to call for his resignation from office at some point.
In states like Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi and Kogi, the governors are at loggerheads with some members of the National Assembly. In some of these states, the frosty relationship has gone almost beyond manageable proportions.

A good example is the acute face-off between Kano State Governor, Ibrahim Ganduje, and his benefactor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso. Kwankwaso was last week forced to put off his proposed rally in Kano following a stern warning from Ganduje that his security could not be guaranteed in the state that he governed for eight years, with Ganduje as a development partner. Yet, it was Kwankwaso, who unilaterally brought Ganduje and installed him as his successor in the same APC in 2015.

A similar situation is playing out in Kogi State, where Governor Yahaya Bello is pitted against Senator Dino Melaye. It is even more complicated, because the governor is also not on the same page with the party leadership in the state.

Also in Kaduna State, Governor Nasir El-rufai and the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, have been engaged in a running battle, which deepened shortly after the conduct of party congress in the state.
Similar problems exist in many other states between party executives and some ministers and other appointees of the federal government. However, bearing in mind that Tinubu has at various times clashed with some of the party stakeholders, there are genuine concerns that he might find it difficult to play the unbiased umpire in his judgment.

Yet, his assignment has elicited mixed reactions, particularly that it would keep him busy till the time of the elections.
It is, perhaps, the reason some moderate members of the APC however see the move as a welcome development, which is long overdue.

National Vice Chairman of the party for South-south, Hilard Eta, described it as a fantastic idea, which will arrest the prevailing disunity in the party and put it back on pre-March 2015 status. Eta, who spoke in an interview said, “Let me tell you, when in 2014, the process of the merger of APC began, the two inspirational leaders that led to the success of the merger were President Buhari and Tinubu. And if one has become the president and calls on the other person to try and take care of some flashpoints in the party, which he could not handle maybe because of his tight schedules, that idea is fantastic”.

Eta dismissed insinuation that the president’s move was tantamount to taking over duties of the party’s NWC led by Oyegun, because such reconciliatory efforts fall within the purview of the party’s national leadership.
There were others who saw it as a strategy to bring Tinubu to do the dirty job of cleaning up the mess created in the the party as the general election approaches.

One of such people was one Dr. Dipo Awojide, who succinctly said: “It is election season. Tinubu is important again.”

On its part, the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has mocked the presidency for embarking on what it described as an ill-fated mission to salvage the badly derailed chances of retaining power come 2019 presidential election.

The party criticised the Buhari-APC administration for abandoning its responsibility of governance and now deploying resources meant for the good of the people to push a desperate but ill-fated mission to perpetuate on Nigerians, an obviously unpopular presidential candidate in 2019.

National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement on Thursday added that it was ludicrous that after almost three years of failure to deliver on the littlest of its campaign promises, the Buhari presidency is now moving around, cap-in-hands, looking for those to use once again to beguile Nigerians ahead of the 2019 elections.

Before the appointment of Tinubu to oversee reconciliatory efforts, the national leadership of the APC had set up reconciliation committees to take charge of the six geographical zones. But in the end, the committees failed to substantially reconcile the warring parties. One of the reasons for the inability of the committee set up by the Oyegun-led NWC to fully reconcile the aggrieved persons were that the conflict had become deep-rooted, as much as the issues that led to it.

Another factor is the fact that some of the personalities involved in the intra-party feud wield enormous influence in the party.

As Tinubu and his team begin their assignment, one thing is very clear and that is, it would not be easy to handle and time is not on their side to genuinely put right the internal squabbles that have lasted for almost three years in just few months to the commencement of campaigns for the next elections. Though Tinubu is an experienced
politician and political strategist, the current assignment is a Herculean task.