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<strong><br>THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST TINUBU &nbsp;</strong>

Failure to abate the spiralling fuel scarcity and enforcement of a Naira change policy appears part of a plot to damage All Progressives Congress’ presidential candidate’s run, writes Bolaji Adebiyi  

“Hide the petrol; hide the Naira; we will still vote! We will win!… Even if you change the ink on Naira notes, what you want will not happen; We will win.”  

That was the battle cry by Bola Tinubu, the presidential torch bearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress when he addressed a mammoth rally of his supporters and party faithful in Abeokuta last week.  

Frustrated by the potential adverse impact of two careless policies of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration on his electioneering, the party’s presidential candidate thought he needed to externalise an infighting that threatens his chances at the impending poll.  

For more than a year now, long queues have massed intermittently at petrol filling stations nationwide with no visibly concrete effort but lip service by the federal government to clear them. The situation worsened in the last three months with no fighting chance of abatement.  

Rather than relieve the people of the pains of the acute fuel scarcity, the administration introduced a new monetary policy, which redesigned the three largest denominations of the national currency and compelled Nigerians to swap the old with the new within three months. Meanwhile, while the old notes were being mopped up, the new notes refused to surface, forcing the people to join another line of excruciating queues for the elusive brand-new currencies.  

Public outcry has been naturally loud and coming on the eve of a general election that promises to be the keenest in the nation’s electoral history, an administration whose party has a candidate bidding for the country’s highest position ought to have shown more urgency of purpose to resolve the crises and ameliorate the suffering of the people, 94 millions of who are billed to cast their votes at the poll.  

This, perhaps, was the thinking behind Tinubu’s outburst at the Abeokuta rally that suggested he believed that some elements in the administration were sabotaging his presidential bid through avoidable policy failures. Although the flare-up forced a nocturnal fence-mending meeting between him and the president in Daura a few days after, berthing some concessions that were announced with respect to the new currency policy, the gains were minimal and largely cursory.  

First, the president announced the establishment of a committee, headed by him, to remove the fuel queues; then Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, emerged from a meeting with Buhari in Daura to announce a 10-day extension of the deadline for the validity of the old Naira notes, and further seven days for deposits at central bank outlets. Both measures, however, have not wiped out the debilitating queues at the filling stations and bank Automated Teller Machines.  

Obviously still frustrated by the ineffectiveness of these measures for which he probably apprehends continuing sabotage, Tinubu at his Calabar rally earlier in the week doubled down in what appears a searing critique of the foreign exchange policy of the administration, which had led to the massive depreciation of the Naira. “Today, they moved the exchange rate from N200 to N800. If they had repaired it, if they had arrested this, we won’t be where we are today, we will be greater. They don’t know the way, they don’t know how to think, they don’t know how to do,” he told his supporters.  

Not only opposition politicians but also public policy analysts have sensed that something must certainly be amiss for the national leader, who is also the flagbearer of the APC, to go public against his own party-led administration. Ordinarily, if the policies were felt to be injurious to the chances of the candidate, what was required was a meeting of the national caucus of the party, which would assess the situation and give the appropriate directive for the government to implement.  

Perhaps Tinubu attempted this but met a brick wall, a thing that must have strengthened his suspicion that this was an internal sabotage. El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State and a Tinubu supporter, was less restrained in putting the matter. “I believe there are elements in the villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way; they had their candidate. Their candidate did not win the primary election,” he told a national television network earlier in the week, adding:“They are trying to get us to lose the election, and they are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what he thinks is right.”  

El-Rufai merely buttressed the generally suspected goings-on in the ruling party as Tanko Yakasai, a former presidential aide and notable politician, had noted last week. “What I realise is that I’m not sure if Buhari is happy with the candidature of Tinubu. That is the issue. He is (in) 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, he said in an interview last week.  

Although Shehu Garba, a presidential spokesman, dismissed Yakasai’s charge of aloofness by Buhari as the rant of a busybody, Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture’s, response to el-Rufai, cleared any doubt about the president’s lackadaisical disposition to his party’s presidential run. Hear him: “Mr. President, I think, has shown by words and by deeds that he’s committed to a free, fair and credible election. A fair, free and credible election actually means not favouring anybody or disadvantaging anybody…So, if there’s anybody who’s working against any candidate, we don’t know officially.”  

If Mohammed, a former chief of staff to Tinubu, could say this, then it ought to be clear that the mischief suspected is real. How does a president’s support for the candidate of his party amount to a violation of the principle of a free and fair election? How does that affect the rules of play? In the meantime, does the enforcement of unpopular policies by the administration on the eve of an election not suggest a deliberate act to advantage the opposition that now has a more lethal weapon to demonstrate the adversity the people have suffered under the ruling party’s watch?  

Unfortunately for Tinubu, he can not be as robust as he should be in taking on the internal saboteurs because of the peculiar dilemma, he has found himself in. Blamed by the discerning public for engendering the Buhari presidency that has spectacularly underperformed, he cannot run the risk of a sustained confrontation with a cabal not only in power but also in the government that is superintending over an election in which he is a frontrunner.  

In the circumstances, he has limited choices, one of which is to work harder at the strategy he used to defeat the cabal within the APC in the presidential primaries in the hope that it would aid him to triumph over the same adversaries who are arrayed against his success in the 25 February general election.    

Adebiyi, the managing editor of THISDAY Newspapers, writes from  

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