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Twice within eight months in Abeokuta, Ogun State, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, expressed his frustrations with the alleged lack of strong commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to his presidential ambition. Ejiofor Alike writes that the former Lagos State governor’s latest outburst last Wednesday may pose a threat to the ongoing presidential campaigns of the ruling party
It is no longer news that it took the political savviness of the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, for him to outsmart his formidable opponents and emerge as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). What is however news is that even after he survived the intrigues by the leadership of his party and won the free and fair presidential primary, the battle of wits seems unabated.
Tinubu had expected that with the support he gave Buhari in 2015, the president would return the favour at the appropriate time but he was obviously disappointed.
Before he publicly declared interest to vie for the party’s ticket, forces that hate his guts in the party had read his body language and were prepared to frustrate his ambition.
When the plots against him thickened few days to the primary, his patience became overstretched in early June 2022 and he made what were considered as disparaging remarks against President Buhari in Abeokuta, Ogun State, where he claimed that he was instrumental to Buhari becoming Nigeria’s president.
Many thought his outburst had finally nailed his ambition but he survived all the plots.
Even a threat by the National Chairman of APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu to sanction him, ended up as an empty threat.
When he successfully emerged, many had expected the cold war to come to an end but it persisted.
Tinubu expected the president to lead his campaign as former President Olusegun Obasanjo did for the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, but the president seems to be more interested in bequeathing a legacy of free and fair elections to Nigerians.
This is why elder statesman, Tanko Yakasai last week said: “What I realise is that I’m not sure if Buhari is happy with the candidature of Tinubu. That is the issue. He is the APC because he is the President elected on the platform of the APC but is he committed to Tinubu’s presidency? I have my doubt.”
Asked which candidate Buhari is supporting, Yakasai said, “I don’t know but I have not seen the commitment from him supporting the candidature of Tinubu in the APC. I’m not sure if it’s APC or not but definitely, the personality of Tinubu doesn’t make him happy from my assessment of the situation.”
However, the Presidency in a statement, berated him for questioning Buhari’s support for Tinubu, saying the president’s “support for Tinubu is unquestioned.”
The statement signed by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said: “Alhaji Tanko Yakasai is unknown to the APC. Everyone is entitled to their view, but what we do know is that his insight in a recent interview does not come from within the party or the President’s team.”
It was therefore not surprising that an uncomfortable Tinubu flared up again last Wednesday in Abeokuta, alleging that the current fuel scarcity in the country and the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to redesign banknotes, were contrived to sabotage his victory at next month’s election.
Tinubu, whose outburst was seen by many as a direct attack on the president, who is also the Minister of Petroleum, vowed that he would win, despite the disruptions.
He told APC members and supporters at the party’s presidential campaign rally that the fuel scarcity and naira redesign project were artificially created to deny him victory at the February 25 presidential election.
Tinubu stated, “We will use our PVCs to take over government from them. If they like let them create fuel crisis, even if they say there is no fuel, we will trek to vote. They are full of mischief; they could say there is no fuel. They have been scheming to create fuel crisis, but forget about it. Relax, I, Asiwaju, have told you that the issue of fuel supply will be permanently addressed.
“Whoever wants to eat the honey embedded in a mountain won’t worry about the axe. Is that not so? And if you want to eat palm kernel, you would bring stone and use it to break it, then the kernel will come out.
“Let them increase the price of fuel, let them continue to hoard fuel, only them know where they have hoarded fuel, they hoarded money, they hoarded naira; we will go and vote and we will win, even if they changed the ink on naira notes. Whatever their plans, it will come to naught. We are going to win. Those in the PDP will lose.”
But reacting to Tinubu’s comments, the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, in a statement by his Special Assistant, Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, stated that the APC presidential candidate was obviously frustrated by his inability to stop the cashless policy and CBN’s currency redesign project.
Quoting from the Holy Bible, in Proverbs 28:1, which says, “The wicked run when no one is chasing them, but an honest person is as brave as a lion,” (Good News Translation), to buttress his point, Shaibu stated, “Even though the CBN policy affects all the 18 political parties, Tinubu is the only one frustrated because his plan to deploy bullion vans and bribe poor voters and security agents on the day of election has failed woefully.”
“Also frustrated by President Muhammadu Buhari’s unwillingness to attend some of his insipid rallies, Tinubu launched an attack against the president, who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum,” Shaibu added.
But in a swift reaction, the Director of Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, in a statement, denied that Tinubu’s outburst was an attack on Buhari, stressing that the PDP which was allegedly working in cahoots with fifth columnists were the ones bent on inflicting avoidable pains on hapless Nigerians to achieve a political end.
He added, “When the guilty are afraid of being uncovered, they try to push back with red-herring.
“For the records, Asiwaju Tinubu during APC campaign rally at Abeokuta on Wednesday, in his statement, did not mention, blame or accuse President Muhammadu Buhari for the current challenges in the country.
He argued that Tinubu was only drawing the government’s attention to the sabotage being carried out by some fifth columnists in the system, possibly working in cahoots with the PDP.
“The CBN officials, including Governor Godwin Emefiele, have said many times that enough new Naira notes have been supplied to the banks, yet our people complain that they have not been able to get the new notes.
“In recent days, many ATMs are either not working or when working they are dispensing the old notes, just a few days to the January 31 deadline.
“Similarly, Asiwaju Tinubu is aware of the salutary efforts by President Buhari to end the fuel queues, by chairing a 14-man panel. Yet the queues and agony continue,” Onanuga explained.
Onanuga’s clarification merely suggested that Buhari and the ruling party are no longer in charge of the monetary policy of his administration and the Ministry of Petroleum.
How his response will douse the tension generated by Tinubu’s outburst remains to be seen.
The outcome of Tinubu’s second outing in Abeokuta may also hurt the party’s desire for Buhari to lead the presidential campaigns in the remaining states.