Nigeria 2023: Tinubu takes battle to Buhari’s cabal 

By Eniola Akinkuotu

Posted on Monday, 6 February 2023 18:20
A campaign poster of candidate of the ruling Action Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Ahmed Tinubu is pictured at Surulere in Lagos on January 13, 2023 ahead of February 25 presidential election. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

With two weeks left to the Presidential election, All Progressives Congress candidate (APC) Bola Tinubu has all but taken the gloves off in his battle against President Muhammadu Buhari’s men whom he has accused of frustrating his campaign. Will he come out on top? 

For the last six months, the ruling APC had been mocking the Presidential candidate of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, over his dwindling chances at the poll due to a feud between him and five PDP governors known as the G5. 

This feud had made even public commentators write off Atiku in the upcoming election. However, unbeknownst to the APC, there were columnists within their ranks as well. 

I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.

A powerful set of individuals working in the shadows but having unfettered access to President Buhari were also orchestrating a grand scheme that would ensure Tinubu would lose

The Cabal 

Since President Buhari assumed office in 2015, the Nigerian media has been awash with stories of a tiny cabal that influences sensitive decisions and appointments at the Presidential Villa. Buhari’s wife, Aisha Buhari, had also complained bitterly about their overbearing influence back in 2016. 

Aisha said these people had influenced 80% of the President’s appointments. She, however, refused to mention their names. 

Responding to his wife’s allegations while fielding questions from journalists, Buhari said, while standing beside then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.”

The friction between Buhari’s wife and the cabal reached a climax in June 2020 leading to a shot being fired at the Presidential Villa just outside Buhari’s residence. The shot was fired by Aicha’s police orderly, Usman Sugaba, during an altercation with Tunde Sabiu Yusuf, an alleged member of the cabal. 

Tunde Sabiu, in his mid-30s, is a nephew to Buhari and also his personal assistant. Tunde is a gatekeeper who has unfettered access to the President more than anybody, according to Mrs. Buhari. 

Some other identified members of the cabal are:

  • The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu;
  • The Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami;
  • Former minister, Zangon Sani Daura;
  • and 83-year-old Mamman Daura, the leader of the pack who has often been referred to as Buhari’s twin brother and closest advisor.  

 Struggle for APC soul 

Some members of the cabal and Bola Tinubu have been at loggerheads over the control of the soul of the APC since 2016. It reached a climax in 2020 after Tinubu’s ally, Adams Oshiomhole, was eased out as the national chairman of the APC and an interim leadership led by Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, was set up inside the federal executive chambers at the Presidential Villa. 

Buni was sworn in by Malami and continued to take strict orders from the Presidency often to the chagrin of Tinubu and his loyalists. 

Buni, whose tenure as acting APC chairman was supposed to be for just six months, lasted for 20 months until some governors decided that it was enough and it was time for the party to have a substantive leadership. 

Buhari subsequently endorsed Senator Abdullahi Adamu as the national chairman, and this was ratified at the convention. 

Lawan candidacy 

After the APC leadership had been fully installed, the next step was to have a Presidential candidate. At least 24 people expressed their interest in the contest and even purchased forms. Chief among them were Bola Tinubu, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President Ahmad Lawan; ex-Governor Rotimi Amaechi; Governor Kayode Fayemi, Governor Dave Umahi, Governor Yahaya Bello, Governor Mohammed Badaru and several others. 

Barely four days before the primary, the APC chairman announced Senate President Lawan as the President’s anointed candidate based on the instructions of the cabal and asked the leadership of the party to endorse him. However, this led to protests at the party and Buhari was forced to disavow the APC chairman. 

Buhari’s indecision was well exploited by Tinubu who was able to mobilise supporters and huge resources to win the APC primary to the chagrin of the members of the cabal but the war was not over. 

Naira redesign 

With Tinubu just inches away from the Presidential election, there remain key members of Buhari’s government who do not want him to win. However, sources within tell The Africa Report that all members of the cabal are not on the same page regarding Tinubu’s ambition. 

Last October, the Central Bank of Nigeria announced a plan to redesign the naira, specifically the three highest denominations – N200, N500 and N1,000 – ostensibly to reduce the amount of cash in circulation and tackle counterfeiting. The CBN’s plan was so secret that even Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, was not informed ahead of time.  

They are hoarding Naira so that you can be angry and fight. They want confusion so that the election can be postponed.

The President, who has defended the policy, said the aim was to ensure corrupt politicians would not be allowed to deploy stolen funds to buy votes on election day. But Tinubu believes the policy was targeted at him. 

So far, the implementation of the policy has not been as smooth as expected. The deadline for the use of the current old notes in circulation lapses this week but the new notes remain scarce as Nigerians now literally sleep at ATM points that are not dispensing cash. Central bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, whose re-appointment was said to have been influenced by the cabal, has remained adamant. 

APC Governors led by Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, visited Buhari last week with a view to suspending the policy indefinitely, arguing that it could lead to the party’s defeat at the polls, but the President asked for seven days to review the policy. 

The shortage of naira has led to riots and inflation in some parts of the country. However, the CBN as well as anti-corruption agencies have begun arresting bankers and sanctioning banks hoarding the new cash

Government agencies have been posting videos of stacks of new naira notes hidden in bank vaults but are not being distributed all in a bid to frustrate the policy. 


With Buhari’s refusal to reverse the policy, some of the APC governors have proceeded to the Supreme Court with a view to getting the policy suspended ahead of the 13 February deadline. And with the deadline just a few days away, Tinubu and his men have all but declared an all-out war on Emefiele and the cabal. 

Emefiele doesn’t have the balls to do what he is doing on his own. He is wearing someone else’s balls to do it. He is nothing but a pawn.

Tinubu’s protégé, Femi Gbajabiamila, who is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, threatened to convene an emergency session of the legislature to compel Emefiele to reverse the policy. 

Eager to shield Tinubu from the protests that have accompanied the policy, APC strategists and media aides have gone on social media and media houses to dissociate him from the policy.  

They have propagated a theory that Emefiele is working in cahoots with the cabal to frustrate the APC at the poll and boost the chances of Atiku who has asked the CBN not to extend the deadline for the expiration of the old notes. 

Tinubu’s men allege that the alternative plan would be to ensure that the riots spread across the country and it would not be safe enough to hold elections after which Buhari would be compelled to hand over to an interim national government. 

Pre-election confusion

“They are hoarding Naira so that you can be angry and fight. They want confusion so that the election can be postponed. What they want is an interim government. But we are wiser than them. We will not fight. Any rat that eats the rat poison will end up killing itself,” Tinubu told supporters at a rally.

Also, Femi Fani-Kayode, a Spokesman for Tinubu’s campaign, went on a tirade on Twitter, accusing Emefiele and the cabal of trying to frustrate the APC. 

“Emefiele doesn’t have the balls to do what he is doing on his own. He is wearing someone else’s balls to do it. He is nothing but a pawn… The sadists that are using him whose balls he is wearing are the greater evil and we will blow them apart,” he stated. 

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, who is a top member of Tinubu’s campaign, said Emefiele was only upset because of his failed Presidential ambition and was trying to thwart Tinubu’s ambition. 

Governor El-Rufai has also been visiting media houses across the country to dissociate the APC from the current naira shortage, attributing the challenge to a cabal. 

He said most areas of the north do not have commercial banks hence the distribution of the new naira notes will not be feasible. 

Tinubu’s campaigner, Alwan Hassan, who is also the Convener, North-South Progressive Alliance, said Mamman Daura was not part of the fresh plot to scuttle Tinubu’s ambition but only Tunde Sabiu. 

Attempts to get a response from Sabiu proved abortive as he did not respond to calls or respond to a WhatsApp message. 

But Atiku has hit back. He accused the APC of conniving with some commercial banks to frustrate the distribution of the new naira notes. 

He also accused Tinubu of being frustrated that he will not be able to deploy the old notes he stashed away for the election.  

Who wins? 

With growing frustration over the new policy, public commentators and analysts predict that the APC may be the most affected by the policy. 

Jaafar Jaafar, a journalist who has written extensively on northern politics, tells The Africa Report that the rural north sees the CBN policy as an APC one and may thus punish the ruling party. 

“Tinubu was in pole position to win but suddenly the tide changed. Now, the PDP is taking advantage of this naira crisis because the policy has angered voters. The north is the most affected because it is a cash-based society and Internet penetration is weak, so online banking services are not too common. 

“The north harbours most of the votes and they will want to punish the party in power. Voters see no difference between the CBN and the APC,” Jaafar says. 

He adds that the policy would also affect the ability of the APC to buy votes because the ruling party usually has more money than the opposition. 

Jaafar said some members of the cabal had begun openly campaigning for Atiku. 

The north is the most affected because it is a cash-based society and Internet penetration is weak, so online banking services are not too common.

But in a chat with The Africa Report, 96-year-old northern statesman, Tanko Yakassai, says the policy would only go on to strengthen the resolve of the people to vote for Tinubu whom he is also supporting. 

“I believe Tinubu will still win. This policy will not affect him at the election,” he said.

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