With the approval granted by President Muhammadu Buhari that the national convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will hold in February 2022, the coast is getting clearer as the next item on the agenda after the convention is the party’s primaries. Of paramount importance to stakeholders in the party is the presidential primary where the candidate who is expected to fly the APC’s flag in the 2023 presidential election will be elected.
Speaking in an interview with Daily Independent last week, Omoba Tunde Ajibulu (mni), a former member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council said it is not out of place for President Buhari to play a huge role in the emergence of the APC presidential flagbearer, who may likely succeed him in May 2023 if the ruling party wins the election.
According to Ajibulu “He most certainly should be interested in who will take over from him and build on the legacies his government is putting in place, especially the transport system, like the rail and other infrastructural developments in the country. He should be instrumental even in the emergence of such a person”.
Many APC leaders have said they don’t understand the body language of the President now as to his choice for 2023. He has not given directives to national leadership of the party to work for the emergence of any candidate. However, one thing is certain, the Presidential candidate is coming from the Southern part of the country. The leaders also agreed that whoever the president backs stands a chance of getting the ticket as most stakeholders in the party will align with his decision.
One Good Turn Deserves Another?
“One good turn deserves another” is a popular English maxim which, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary is “used to say that a person should do something nice for someone who has done something nice for him or her”. This is what loyalists of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos state and APC national leader are looking forward to in the 2023 elections. But for God and Tinubu, Buhari wouldn’t have become president in 2015. After three failed attempts in 2003, 2007 and 2011, Buhari gave up, wept and said he will not be contesting the presidency again.
“This campaign (2011) is the third and last one for me since after it, I will not present myself again for election into the office of the president,” Buhari, who ran on the platform of the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) had said . However, an alliance with Tinubu’s Action Congress of Nigeria( ACN) changed the game. With support from All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) led by Ogbonnaya Onu and a part of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by Rochas Okorocha, APC was formed and Buhari became the presidential candidate.
Buhari had massive northern support but in terms of financial war chest, analysts believed that he couldn’t have defeated former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar in the APC primary. But he did, courtesy of Tinubu, the APC governors and other stakeholders in the party.
Right from the presidential primary of the party in December 2014 which was held at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Tinubu used his influence to package Buhari for the election. He provided the funds, logistics, media coverage and other campaign materials used by Buhari for the election. Infact, most of the statements ascribed to Buhari during the election has been denied by the President. Many of those promises are just ‘sweet words’ Tinubu and his foot soldiers came up with to market Buhari and make him attractive to Nigerians while making the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its then candidate, former President Goodluck Jonathan look like lepers that shouldn’t even be touched with a long pole.
In February 2018, Tinubu’s wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, granted a television interview where she decried that her husband was ‘trashed’ or discarded after the APC won the 2015 presidential elections.
She had said “He (Tinubu) was campaigning, I did too. We were running three campaigns in my house. And for him to be trashed like that? “Occasionally, I would chip in and I would say, ‘You’re still helping out? Why are you helping out?’ He would say, ‘This country matters to me more.”
Before Mrs Tinubu’s interview, President Buhari’s wife , Aisha, had also lamented that those who worked for her husband to get into power had been sidelined in the scheme of things under the current administration.
Against all odds, Tinubu still went to campaign for President Buhari’s reelection in 2019. Unlike 2015, the 2019 election was a herculean task for Buhari, owing to his performance in office which many believe was below par. However, with support from Tinubu and other major stakeholders, he won.
There is no doubt Tinubu is desirous of contesting in 2023. At least, that has been confirmed by elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai whom Tinubu recently visited in Abuja. When asked whether Tinubu told him he would be contesting for President in 2023, Yakassai said, “He (Tinubu) did and he asked for my support”.
It is however unclear if Buhari thinks of Tinubu as a worthy successor. Already, there are landmines already set in front of the man popularly called ‘Jagaban’ if he decides to run. One of them is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Already, various petitions have been submitted to the commission on Tinubu who has been accused of controlling the finances of Alpha Beta Consulting and for using the company to divert Lagos State funds. Petitions to investigate the contents of two bullion vans entering Tinubu’s Bourdillon residence on the eve of the 2019 presidential election is also in the custody of the EFCC.
Recently, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), AbdulRasheed Bawa, said Tinubu is under investigation.
“You asked me a question earlier about arresting people before investigation and now you are saying why didn’t we arrest Tinubu? Why didn’t you just say ‘arrest him”? Investigation is ongoing. When you are investigating matters like this, they don’t end in a day.
Another landmine being plotted against Tinubu is religion which was used to stop his aim of becoming Vice-President to Buhari in 2015. Some stakeholders in the party are rooting for a Southern Christian as the presidential candidate. According to them, it will be unfair for another Muslim to emerge as the flagbearer after Buhari, a Muslim has spent eight years in office.
Tinubu’s Loyalists Speak
Speaking on whether Buhari will support Tinubu’s presidential bid, the South West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA’23), a political platform promoting the presidential aspiration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has said it is confident that President Buhari will not betray the former Lagos state governor on the issue of who clinches the ticket of the APC for the 2023 presidential election.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Daily Independent, Bosun Oladele, a former member of the House of Representatives who is the national secretary of SWAGA said he believes that President Buhari, as a man of honour and integrity will reciprocate Tinubu’s good gestures if he decides to contest in 2023.
“The president has been a man of honour and integrity. At least, people say he doesn’t betray his own. So, if that is the case, I don’t see him betraying Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. And if I become as old as the President, in my advanced age, the only important thing that I should be chasing is when posterity will judge me”.
“That is the most important thing that should occur to anybody that is advanced in age because it is only the grace of God that has given each person that advancement in age. So, if we have that grace, we must not waste it. A man’s word should be his bond”.
Also, another group within the ruling party, APC Nigeria4Nigeria Youths Alliance (APCN4NYA) stated that President Buhari and members of the party from the North are morally bound to support Tinubu’s presidential bid.
According to the group, the contributions of Asiwaju Tinubu to the formation, growth and progress of the APC was too massive and difficult to be ignored by stakeholders in the build-up to the forthcoming poll.
“The year 2023, it said, will mark a watershed in the nation’s political journey when the party, particularly stakeholders from the North deliberately allows the South to take over Nigeria’s leadership mantle. To us, no other person in the South fits the bill to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari than Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu come 2023, the group said.”
“We members of the APC Nigeria4Nigeria Youths Alliance are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari and our brothers in the various chapters of the party in the North to collectively support the bid and aspiration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for the presidency in 2023”.
“It is a known fact to all Nigerians that but for the efforts, mental sagacity and resources that God has endowed Asiwaju Tinubu with, we are sure that the party won’t be in government today. One good turn deserves another.
Will Buhari repay Tinubu back for the support given to him in 2015 and 2019 and queue behind if direct primaries was used to select the APC flagbearer? Time will definitely tell.