In recent times, supporters of the former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, for the 2023 presidential project, have been silent following the long absence of their principal from Nigeria. The former governor has spent months in London as a result of ill health. As a result of this, the agitation for him to publicly declare interest for the 2023 presidential election seems to have lost its tempo. Daily Trust on Sunday examines the situation.
The long absence of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress in the country, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has triggered an uneasy calm among his supporters and loyalists.
Findings revealed that most of his supporters are apprehensive over his long absence from the political scene, which is also said to be partly responsible for the worsening infighting within the party in Lagos State, a situation that has resulted in emergence of factions.
A former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos, Mashood Salvador, who is now a chieftain of the APC, recently cried out that people were using the name of Tinubu to perpetrate injustice in the state.
Salvador, who is the leader of the Conscience Forum, his political group, with membership cutting across the length and breadth of Lagos, spoke in response to the outcome of the ward and local government congresses of the party held recently.
He said: “The Asiwaju I know doesn’t like injustice. When someone complains, they will blackmail the person by saying he is fighting the former governor. They don’t even know how regularly I speak with him. They should allow him to have peace. He is a national leader; let them stop bringing him into Lagos issues, which they have orchestrated for selfish interests,” he said.
Salvador, who expressed displeasure over how his members have been treated, said, “The national body published how we are going to pay for forms. The party’s account was provided and our members made payments. The ward congress came and the national body gave directives of consensus, but the leadership of the Lagos State APC didn’t deem it fit to invite me to be part of the stakeholders. I was the state chairman of a political party, and the constitution of the APC states that the qualification to be a member of its caucus is the position of former party chairman.”
Tinubu, who is strongly believed to be nursing the ambition of succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, was last seen in public during the presentation of a book on the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, on April 8 this year. He also met Buhari in May with the founding chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande.
He has reportedly travelled abroad for what some of his aides called “routine” medical check-up.
In July, a report went viral, claiming that the APC leader was indisposed and hospitalised in a hospital in Paris, France. But his media aide, Tunde Rahman, dismissed the report, saying his principal was hale and hearty and that he would soon be back in the country.
He said: “Asiwaju Tinubu is fine. He is not in any hospital. He has no medical problem that would require hospitalisation. Yes, he is out of the country at the moment but he will be back shortly.
“Anytime he travels out of the country, the next thing some mischievous people would say is that he is sick and hospitalised or has died. It is shameful that perpetrators of this evil are not deterred by the fact that each time this fake news is propagated, it is proved wrong.”
But Daily Trust on Sunday reports that more than one month after, the APC leader is yet to come back home despite the tempo of activities in his party.
Tinubu was conspicuously missing during the July 24 local government election in the state and did not also participate in the ward congresses of the party, a situation that fuelled speculations about his state of health.
Sources told our correspondent that the worry generated by his prolonged absence in the country informed the decision of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to visit him in London on Tuesday August 3, 2021. The governor confirmed that his visit was to dispel rumours surrounding Tinubu’s state of health.
Since Sanwo-Olu’s visit, many of Tinubu’s loyalists and supporters have been thronging London in what is believed to be a ‘get-well-soon’ visit to their political leader.
Those who have visited him in London include the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa; Rep James Faleke (APC, Ikeja); former APC legal adviser, Dr Muiz Banire, among others.
A member of Tinubu’s camp who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said that while they were worried about the state of health of their national leader, they were convinced that he was fast recuperating and would be back in the country very soon.
“Some of the recent visits to him have given us assurance that Asiwaju is doing fine. We are expecting him to be back soon to face the tasks ahead. That I can assure you,” our source said.
But there are concerns that the Tinubu presidential project is losing its steam over his long absence from the country. Although several branches of his support group are being inaugurated across the country, his absence is not giving their activities the expected glamour.
Sources also said there has been lack of coordination from the support groups because the man they are fighting for is not around.
“We are even more concerned that there is no information on the state of his health and when he is expected in the country. There is no doubt that the 2023 battle has commenced and the lobbying is getting more intense by the day.
“The ward congress has been held, so also the local government congress; and the state congress is around the corner, which is a prelude to the convention. We really need him around to be part of the politicking and horse-trading towards the convention. We in the Tinubu support group need to play an active role in the emergence of the next chairman of the party to ensure that the person is someone that can be relied upon in fighting the course of the Tinubu presidency,” the source said.
Daily Trust on Sunday, however, learnt that those in the Tinubu camp have also perfected an alternative plan in case the ticket of the APC in 2023 slips from the national leader.
To this end, a prominent Tinubu’s supporter who spoke with our correspondent in confidence said, “We are conscious of the fact that some people are working against Asiwaju to clinch the APC ticket. They are working in cahoots with some governors who also have their eyes on the 2023 presidency and the APC ticket. But I will not disclose our game plan. We are watching as events unfold.”
Also, Kunle Okunola, the founder of the Tinubu 2023 Non-Negotiable (TNN), one of the numerous support groups advocating a presidential ticket for him in 2023, said that while his prolonged absence from the country called for concern, it was imperative for the national leader to take care of his health before returning to the country for the task ahead.
Okunola, however, said reports from those who visited him in London indicated that he was recuperating, adding that no human being has a control over his/her state of health. He also said there was no going back on their agitation for the Tinubu presidency.
“By and large, it is better for him to get a very good medical attention to get him prepared for the task ahead than to quickly return to Nigeria because he wants to satisfy some clandestine interests. People have been visiting him in London and he is recuperating,” he said.
Also speaking, Comrade Hakeem Adegoke Alawuje, the national coordinator of the Disciples of Jagaban (DOJ), said Tinubu was getting stronger than before and would soon be back in the country.
He said it was not true that Tinubu’s supporters were withdrawing their support, instead, his support base is growing.
“The DOJ is calling on all the groups and individual supporters to be calm and focused on our mission and vision. Tinubu will be back very soon; in fact, in some weeks from now,” he said.