Nigeria: Civil war looms in APC as Tinubu demands Buhari’s seat or nothing

By Akin Irede
Posted on Saturday, 4 June 2022 12:41, updated on Sunday, 5 June 2022 17:52

Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC National Leader (Photo: twitter)

With barely two days to the Presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lagos godfather, Bola Tinubu, insists that he alone deserves the party’s ticket. He also sent a warning to President Muhammadu Buhari not to mess with the southwest amid plans to give a northerner the ticket. With Tinubu and his supporters spoiling for a fight, a civil war looms

Feeling hurt and betrayed by those he had helped to power, Lagos godfather Bola Tinubu took the gloves off and all but threatened President Buhari at a meeting with delegates in Ogun State ahead of the Presidential primary of the APC.

For the first time, Tinubu took a trip down memory lane to narrate how he helped a serial failure, General Buhari, to become the President of Nigeria.

“If I didn’t lead the battle at the war front, Buhari wouldn’t have emerged. He contested the first time, second and third times, but lost. He even cried on television that he wouldn’t contest again.

“But I went to his home in Katsina, I told him you would contest and win, but you won’t joke with the matters of the Yoruba. Since he has emerged I have not been appointed minister. I didn’t get any contract. This time, it’s Yoruba turn and in Yorubaland, it’s my tenure,” he stated.

Tinubu also set the record straight on how Yemi Osinbajo – who is now contesting the Presidential ticket against him – emerged as Buhari’s running mate ahead of the 2015 Presidential election.

He noted Buhari had offered him the Vice-Presidential ticket ahead of the election but Senator Bukola Saraki launched a campaign against the APC presenting two Muslims as candidate and running mate and this forced him to step aside.

“I told them that I have a candidate that is a Christian that I can nominate so that the party will not break, that was how I nominated Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. I surrendered my right to him (Osinbajo),” Tinubu recalled.

This rubbished the claim by Osinbajo that it was former Governor Rauf Aregbesola that took him to meet Buhari, a narration which Tinubu’s supporters have described as an abridged version of events in order to downplay the effect of “Osinbajo’s betrayal”.

Although his campaign team would later issue a statement clarifying and taking some of his comments, the damage had already been done.

The consensus move

Although Tinubu’s bitterness started a long time ago, his recent outburst seems to have been triggered by an ambiguous speech by President Buhari shortly before he departed for Spain on Tuesday. The President made it clear that the APC governors had been given the luxury of handpicking their own successors and now he needed their support

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“First term governors who have served credibly well have been encouraged to stand for re-election. Similarly, second term governors have been accorded the privilege of promoting successors that are capable of driving their visions as well as the ideals of the party,” the President stated.

“In keeping with the established internal policies of the party and as we approach the convention in a few days, therefore, I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor, who would fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023,” the President added.

Buhari therefore called on the 23 APC governors to ensure that their interests “align” ahead of the primary which takes place on Monday.

This put the party in a frenzy as all the governors began meeting with a view to picking one out of the 24 aspirants that would emerge as the candidate of the ruling party. While some of the governors argued that the party gives its ticket to a northerner as a strategy to defeat Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, some maintained that since Buhari, a northerner, had ruled for nearly eight years, it was time for the party to produce a southern candidate in the spirit of fairness and equity. This left negotiations in a stalemate.

Reports suggest that Tinubu is in pole position to win the primary if the race is thrown open. However, Buhari’s insistence on being allowed to handpick his successor implies that he may anoint a candidate, a move which Tinubu’s supporters are against.

“We are demanding an open contest. That is all. No consensus,” James Faleke, who purchased the N100m ($240,000) Presidential form on behalf of Tinubu, told The Africa Report.

But Buhari had said earlier in the year that he had a preferred candidate but he would not reveal the person’s identity so that he doesn’t get assassinated.

The President’s aide, Femi Adesina, had also stated Buhari indeed has a preferred candidate but he doesn’t know if the President would impose the individual or not.

Taste of his medicine?

But Tinubu’s critics believe he should not be complaining about the imposition of any candidate since he has always done so in Lagos where he has remained the godfather since 1999.

Ahead of the governorship primary in Lagos in 2019, he ordered that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode be denied a second term ticket. Even in recent primaries in the state, most of the aspirants he didn’t support lost out.

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All Presidential aspirants – except Tinubu – have expressed their willingness to bend to the President’s consensus move.

Closing ranks

In a desperate attempt to solidify southwest solidarity, Tinubu along with six other aspirants from the region including Vice-President Osinbajo, Governor Kayode Fayemi, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate, Ajayi Boroffice, and Lagos pastor, Tunde Bakare, are all expected to meet on Saturday.

The outcome of this meeting could determine the success or otherwise of the southwest.

Speaking with The Africa Report, social commentator, Dare Ariyo-Atoye, who is the Convener, Adopt a Goal Initiative, a non-profit, says the APC could be pushed into a major crisis if Tinubu’s grievances are not addressed.

“It is obvious to any keen observer that Tinubu is ready for a big fight and to force the party to conduct an open primary. His outburst was as a result of the information reaching him that he would not be the consensus candidate of the President.

“I fear that if Tinubu is denied, the APC may not have a Presidential candidate in 2023 because of the legal fireworks that would take place. However, the lesson is that Nigeria should deepen its culture of democracy that will not be based on godfatherism,” he stated.

An aide to Tinubu, however, said the Lagos godfather would play the spoiler if he is disgraced.

“All we are asking for is a fair and open race. If Tinubu loses in a fair contest, then he will concede. But if he is disqualified or cheated, then we will work for Atiku who is his long time friend. However, nothing is impossible in politics. If he is given some concessions, he may bend but this is a tall order,” the aide stated.

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