•National leader speaks on party crisis, admits APC heading in wrong direction
•Says Comrade Oshiomhole tried his best
Tobi Soniyi in Lagos, Omololu Ogunmade and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, described his relationship with the national leader of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, as strong, enviable and unbreakable, saying he has resisted various ploys by the opposition to break the bond. Buhari stated this in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu. It was in reaction to insinuations about an alleged exclusion of Tinubu from last Thursday’s emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC.
There were suggestions that Tinubu might have lost out in the party’s power tussle after the dissolution of the National Working Committee (NWC), which he had backed, and its subsequent replacement with a caretaker committee. The committee was to pilot the party’s affairs and organise a convention within six months.
The latest outcomes were also rumoured to indicate a rift between Buhari and Tinubu, with some saying it signalled the end of the latter’s alleged 2023 presidential ambition.
In response to the speculations, Tinubu had issued a lengthy statement last night, where he spoke extensively on the state of the party, admitting unequivocally that the ruling party headed in the wrong direction before Buhari’s intervention last Thursday.
But in the statement by the presidential spokesman, Buhari dismissed the insinuations that the decision not to invite Tinubu to the NEC meeting implied a “showdown” between the two leaders. The statement said the relationship between the president and the former Lagos State governor was inspired by democratic norms and national interest, and that both men were constantly in touch with each other.
According to the statement, “To put the records straight: In the formation of this great party and giving it leadership, President Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who are reckoned as the founding fathers of the APC, are both inspired by democratic norms, national interest and not at all by partisan motivations. These are the qualities that have made them move past cynical distractions.
“They are in touch with one another. Their relationship remains as strong as ever and between the two of them, only they know how they manage their enviable relationship.”
The statement said the NEC meeting had been called to save the party from collapse. It said those insinuating a face-off between Buhari and Tinubu were merely engaging in “political vulturism.”
The statement added, “The very essence of the requests put to the Emergency National Executive Committee meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by President Muhammadu Buhari, which were unanimously approved, aimed to pull back the party, faced with an existential crisis, from the brink of collapse, follow the constitution and take everyone along.
“While this action has been widely accepted with great relief by lovers of democracy and the rank and file of the membership, we are concerned that political vulturism masquerading as ‘smart analysis’ is selling the commentary that this is a Buhari-Tinubu ‘showdown.’ Nothing can be farther from the truth.”
The presidency accused the opposition parties of sponsoring a campaign of falsehood, saying Buhari would never habour bad intentions towards Tinubu or engage in any pursuit out of selfish motives.
The presidency stated, “Try as hard as they could, the opposition parties have used all their intellectuals and their supporters in the media to break this relationship and have failed.
“For President Buhari, who has received much of the cynical commentary, Nigerians know him as someone, who will not do anything with bad intentions. Neither will he do anything out of partisan motivations or for himself.
“This whole exercise, that should lead to massive reform and overhaul of the leadership of the party, as he said in that brilliant speech, was ‘to save the APC from the imminent self-destruction. We have to move ahead. We have to take everyone with us and ensure that the party is run in accordance with democratic norms and with consensus. We have to work for the benefit of the country.’”
It said both leaders who had received mandates to serve at different levels in the country would only be judged by the outcome of the decisions taken at the NEC meeting.
“The leaders of the party, who have received two successive massive mandates to govern the country and a majority of the states should be judged by how this exercise turns out in achieving these objectives, not cursed at the mere commencement of the process,” the statement added.
In his own statement, where he tried to address of the recent issues in APC, Tinubu admitted that his party made some mistakes and was heading in the wrong direction. But he insisted that Buhari was right in his intervention. Tinubu, in the statement, which he personally signed, appealed to aggrieved members of the dissolved NWC of the party to sheathe their swords and embrace the larger picture of strengthening the party. He said the dissolution did not preclude the former NWC members from seeking re-election to the body.
“Yet, we must acknowledge that something important has gone off track,” Tinubu stated, explaining, “For some months, we have experienced growing disagreement within the leadership of the party. This unfortunate competition had grown so intense as to impair the performance of the NWC, thus, undermining the internal cohesion and discipline vital to success.”
Tinubu regretted that at a time, when the country was confronted with many challenges and required politicians to be focused on fixing those challenges, “intramural fighting has come to occupy the attention of many high ranking party officials and members. The NWC itself became riven by unnecessary conflict. Those who disagreed with one another stopped trying to find common ground.
“Attempts were made to use the power of executive authority to bury each other. I must be blunt here. This is the behaviour of a fight club not the culture of a progressive political party. Some members went against their chairman in a bid to forcefully oust him.
“In hindsight, his fence-mending attempts were, perhaps, too little too late. I believed and continue to believe that Comrade Oshiomhole tried his best. Mistakes were made and he must own them. Yet, we must remember also that he was an able and enthusiastic campaigner during the 2019 election. He is a man of considerable ability as are the rest of you who constituted the NWC.”
Tinubu said even though predictions of APC’s imminent demise were premature and mostly mean-spirited, “an honest person must admit the party had entered a space where it had no good reason to be.”
According to him, a political party that has lost sight of its reason for existence would become the vehicle of blind and clashing ambitions. This, he said, was not the reason that drove the creation of APC. He said those who came together to form APC believed that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was leading the country into a pit and that the country had to be rescued.
“Those most intimately involved in founding the party remain faithful to this benign, timely assignment. Sadly, many members have lost their balance. Their personal ambition apparently came to greatly outweigh the obvious national imperatives,” Tinubu stated.
He said with several lawsuits as well as lack of order, party discipline, mutual respect, and consensus by members of the defunct NWC, Buhari had reasonably intervened to save the party.
“I do not lament his intervention or its outcome. I lament that the situation degenerated to the point, where he felt compelled to intervene,” Tinubu said, adding that the president has spoken and his decision has been accepted.
The former governor said, “President Buhari is much more than a mere beneficiary of the party. He is one of its founding fathers. The APC does not exist in its current form without his singular contributions. That is not an opinion; it is an undisputed fact.
“Given these antecedents, he cares about the condition of the party as any parent would care for his offspring. President Buhari has done what any parent in his position and with his authority would do. The more troubling consideration is that so many trusted people acted in such a way as to force the president to put aside the issues of statecraft in order to address these problems.
“It is now beholden on all of us, as members of the APC, to recommit ourselves to the ideals and principles on which our party was founded.”
Commending Oshiomhole, Tinubu urged him to return to Edo State to energise the campaign for the election of the party’s governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. He called on other members to work for the party’s success in Edo and Ondo.
“In Ondo, we must set the procedures for primaries and conduct that exercise in a fair, transparent manner that shows the Nigerian people the party has left turmoil behind,” he stated.
Tinubu used the opportunity to respond to those who claimed that his ambition to become president in 2023 had been dashed by the dissolution of the NWC.
According to him, “To those who have been actively bleating how the president’s actions and the NEC meeting have ended my purported 2023 ambitions, I seek your pity. I am but a mere mortal, who does not enjoy the length of foresight or political wisdom you profess to have. Already, you have assigned colourful epitaphs to the 2023 death of an alleged political ambition that is not yet even born.”
He said at this time when COVID-19 and its economic fallout had continued to ravage the country, he could not see as far into 2023, because the concerns of “this hour are momentous enough”. He reiterated that he had yet to make any decision regarding 2023.
Tinubu said, “During this period, I have not busied myself with politicking regarding 2023. I find that a bit distasteful and somewhat uncaring particularly, when so many of our people have been unbalanced by the twin public health and economic crises we face.
“I have devoted these last few months to thinking of policies that may help the nation in the here and now. What I may or may not do three years hence seems too remote given present exigencies.
“Those who seek to cast themselves as political Nostradamus’ are free to so engage their energies. I trust the discerning public will give the views of such eager seers the scant weight such divinations warrant.
“Personally, I find greater merit trying to help in the present by offering policy ideas, both privately and publicly, where I think they might help. I will continue in this same mode for the immediate future. 2023 will answer its own questions in due time.
“I have toiled for this party as much as any other person and, perhaps, more than most. Despite this investment or perhaps due to it, I have no problem with making personal sacrifices (and none of us should have such a problem) as long as the party remains true to its progressive, democratic creed.
“Politics is but a vehicle to arrive at governance. Good politics promotes good governance. Yet, politics is also an uncertain venture. No one gets all they want all the time. In even a tightly woven family, differences and competing interests must be balanced and accommodated.
“My fellow party members, who now feel aggrieved by the NEC meeting, I urge you to accept the sacrifice you have been asked to make so that the air can be cleared, the party can assume its proper role of helping this government lead the nation toward enlightened improvement, and the party itself can grow and firmly establish itself as the best, most democratic party in the land.”
Tinubu called on members to support for the caretaker committee to fulfil this assignment in an impartial manner.
“As I understand it, no one has been precluded from seeking any party office to which he is otherwise eligible,” he stated. He added, “Former NWC members are free to seek re-election to the NWC. Provided they have the support of party members, they will have an opportunity to return to serve the party in a leadership capacity. This reflects our overriding desire to restore and maintain internal democracy, not subvert it.”