✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters
Nigeria 2023 Elections: Gubernatorial Results (Source:INEC)

APC against Tinubu?

The ‘cold war’ that has been going on in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) boiled over to the surface last Wednesday when the party’s…

The ‘cold war’ that has been going on in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) boiled over to the surface last Wednesday when the party’s presidential candidate said, once again in Abeokuta that the national crises arising from fuel scarcity and the naira notes redesign by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) are targeted specifically to sabotage his election next month. That is a very serious accusation to come from any leading presidential candidate; that it comes from the candidate of the ruling party is even more so. It is certainly the rarest accusations we have seen from the presidential candidate of the ruling party since 1999.

For a man who was much more instrumental than any other individual politician in getting Buhari finally elected as Nigeria’s president in both 2015 and 2019, you would think Tinubu would have had an easy ride during the primaries. He won with a large margin to his nearest rival, but the battle he and his supporters fought within the party to win was fiercer and more intense than anything Nigerians have witnessed in a presidential primary election in modern times. He ultimately won the primary election battle, but the war itself has been far from over.  

Many of the forces ranged against him at the primary hurdle remain active and are still well placed to do damage to the candidate between now and the election period. At least, this is what the candidate himself believes as implied by his Abeokuta speech. More importantly, the accusation is an indication of Tinubu’s still marginal position in relation to the real corridors of power under Buhari’s government, never mind that it is a government he did more than most to help form. This is true at least with respect to this election. His second Abeokuta speech, like the first, was a cry of the marginalised. For us mere observers therefore, all of this raises two key questions: are Tinubu’s claims true? And if so, who are the saboteurs within his own party and the APC government? 

None of these questions is easy to answer definitively by an observer, but we can, at least, speculate by analysing the questions, rather than giving answers to them. For Tinubu’s sabotage claim to be true, there must first be a deliberate plan or scheme by some people within the government and his party, and second, the plan must be logically workable to lead to the outcome Tinubu thinks the saboteurs want to see happen. That is, the sabotage scheme must be based on the idea that a biting fuel scarcity and a failed naira redesign policy would get Nigerian voters angry enough to vote against the APC and its candidate in the presidential election.  

I don’t know whether anyone in the APC government actually sat down to hatch such a plan against Tinubu. But if Nigerians continue to suffer the sort of hardships millions currently encounter from fuel scarcity and the mess around old and new naira notes, as well the CBN’s cash withdrawal limits, then it is possible that just enough Nigerians might be angry enough to vote against the APC in the coming election. But the more crucial point is that if the sufferings continue, then the same outcome is possible even without any deliberate plan by anyone within the APC government or party.  

This is what gives credence to Tinubu’s claim, regardless of whether it is factually true or not. Nigerians are really tired of this government and its botched policies, and voter anger against the government might be transferred to the party’s candidate at the polls. This is what, I suppose, the Tinubu camp wishes to avoid by all means, and hence, the candidate’s latest Abeokuta bombshell. So, who might the saboteurs scheming against their own party’s presidential candidate be? And where are they located within the APC or the government? Again, we can’t know for sure, but a careful observer would easily see that many around Buhari are lukewarm towards the APC candidate. All you need is to look closely at the pattern of the Buhari presidency.  

Broadly, there are three kinds of people who have worked in the Buhari presidency since 2015, all of them defined by their relative proximity to the president himself. The outermost category of people to the president are the technocrats at the top of federal agencies and departments, big or small. Many of these people don’t really have any direct proximity to the president, even if they have links to the party or to other people close to Buhari. They wield some power in their own little domains, but that is about it. Many of these have never had more than a passing encounter with the president, and as such, know their place in the government.  

The second category are closer to the president in that they were with the party prior to and up to the moment of victory in 2015. These are the ministers and heads of major government agencies in the Buhari presidency. They are closer in proximity to the president and wield a bit more power than the first group, and occasionally, have an audience with the president, but mainly in relation to their jobs. What they lack the most is what the third and most important group has: real influence on the president and his government.   

The innermost group of people around Buhari are the few who have been with him all his life and those who work with him during the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change) years or earlier. These are the people with real power in the Buhari presidency, and quite frankly, they are scarcely more than a dozen people, if that many. Some are ministers or heads of the most powerful agencies or departments in government. By their roles, some work directly with the president every day. One or two are governors or are placed in the party machinery, and some are advisers with no known official portfolio of any kind.  

What these people have in common are three. First, they have access to the president way above all others in the first and second categories. Second, by their rather privileged proximity to the president, they get to speak to the president on issues and as such are able to influence the direction of both politics and policy. Finally, these people know themselves and others also know them as the men and women with the real power in this presidency, a factor that actually reinforces their power. 

The real challenge, for Tinubu, is that most of the people around him within the APC do not belong to any of these three categories of people around the outgoing Buhari presidency. This means that there will be a cleavage, not continuity, between a Tinubu and the Buhari presidencies, even if they are formed of the same party. The closer you are to Buhari, the farthest you are likely to be in a Tinubu presidency if he wins, with a few individual exceptions, of course. Therefore, for most, not all, of the closest people around Buhari today and in the past eight years, a Tinubu presidency will be much the same as a presidency formed by any other political party. But I should leave the rest to the reader’s own imagination.