On Monday, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu proved critics wrong, refusing to betray any emotions at a well attended event in Abuja where a book, ‘The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria,’ was launched in honour of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Expectedly, there had been palpable concerns over his presence at the ceremony, having, a week earlier, expressed utter disgust at the leadership of his party, All Progressives Congress (APC). Tinubu’s grouse with his party was unequivocal, he wanted the Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, sacked for blatantly disregarding the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) on the Ondo gubernatorial primaries.
Tinubu, who had been left badly bruised from the defeat of his candidate, Segun Abraham, by Rotimi Akeredolu, was hoping to upturn the entire process by calling for a rerun. He found willing horses in two protégés, Ajayi Boroffice and Olusola Oke who, in spite of high ratings, fell flat at the Ondo poll.
For the unsuspecting, the Abuja book launch seemed an innocent gathering of the high and mighty for the singular purpose of celebrating Buhari. It was much more than that. Ripples Nigeria findings show that the meeting provided a canopy for the embattled ruling party to bring its warring leaders together.
Interestingly, both Tinubu and Oyegun were made to sit side-by-side with both keeping a straight face almost all through the event, only sparing a manageable handshake for the sake of the media who were ready to feast on any mis-step. On Tuesday, Oyegun reportedly took Tinubu’s case to the Presidency after choosing not to join issues with the latter over the Ondo debacle.
The posturing not withstanding, Ripples Nigeria can authoritatively reveal that Tinubu, a prime mover in the project that overthrew the 16-year rule of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), is deeply irritated at efforts geared towards caging his expansive influence in the Southwest, and has began moves to retrieve lost grounds.
While his early call for Oyegun’s sack is considered preemptory, observers are quick to interpret Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s shuttle visit to Ekiti on Saturday as a tactical manoeuvre to checkmate Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Solid Minerals Development, who, reports say, was instrumental in the major upset that saw Akeredolu clinch the APC ticket in the Ondo gubernatorial election.
Aregbesola’s ceremonial visit to Governor Ayo Fayose, once considered an arch enemy, was amplified by his lecture on, ‘The Imperatives of Unity’, which has since set tongues wagging as to its true intentions. The move is considered by many analysts as a subtle call on the people of the Southwest to rally against advances made by forces loyal to the presidency who no longer trust Tinubu’s support for Buhari’s 2019 ambition.
For Tinubu’s team, the likes of Kayode Fayemi must be distracted or, indeed, stopped in Ekiti if Asiwaju is not to run the risk of losing substantial territory to perceived enemies. The decision to forge a new alliance with Fayose has been interpreted by insiders as a natural move as it consolidates the interests of two who now see the presidency as a common enemy to be curtailed.
Ripples Nigeria findings also show that Tinubu might be dusting up a back-up strategy by resuscitating the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the Action Alliance (AA) structures in the event that the presidency, through its cronies, insists on taking the Southwest by ‘all means’. The game plan, observers note, is for him and his team to dump the APC for AD, a virile political machinery once used as a wedge against ‘intruders’ into the Southwest.
The AD machinery has already admitted Olusola Oke who lost out in the Ondo APC primaries. There are wide spread speculations that Boroffice and Adams may follow suit in a deliberate move to send clear warnings on Tinubu’s open intention to return to the trenches and make Southwest impregnable under a new political platform.
Acknowledging that a single-handed battle might turn out a disaster, Tinubu’s 2019 battle plans may include building an alliance with Atiku Abubakar whose presidential ambition is common knowledge. A private meeting held in Lagos, about a week ago, between both party stalwarts is said to have raised serious concerns over ‘diminishing internal democracy’ within the party, forcing Atiku to publicly declare support for Tinubu on the call for a reversal of the Ondo primaries.
Signs that Atiku is keen on building new bridges in pursuit of his ambition is seen in his consistent call for a restructuring of the federation which firmly resonates with Tinubu and other southern interests. The Turaki Vanguard, Atiku’s political machinery, has since commenced underground mobilization for his pet project.
These rumblings and grumblings have reportedly put the presidency on edge with inside sources saying that Buhari is making frantic moves to pacify Tinubu without shaming the party leadership. The weeks ahead look quite unpredictable as the crises stoked by Tinubu’s camp in Ondo and Ekiti are already threatening to boil over.
More importantly, a greater headache for the presidency is the Tinubu/Atiku joker that has the potential to slow down Buhari’s free reign in the northern half of the country. What is unclear at the moment is how both will shield their individual ambitions for the larger game of putting Buhari in check.
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