Political manoeuvring typical of Nigeria’s nascent democracy is shaping up to a new height as political parties’ standard bearers, especially presidential candidates, jostle to take over the mantle of leadership from President Muhammadu Buhari next year.
In a twist of political permutations, the candidates and parties are losing followers to the opposition on one hand and gaining supporters on the other, including personalities who used to be critical of them.
Daily Trust chronicles some outspoken politicians who now pitch their tents with candidates and parties they once condemned.
Back in the noughties when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was governor of Lagos State, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), called him out over alleged certificate forgery. Keyamo also took the matter to court.
When asked how he would assess the Tinubu-led administration in an interview with The Week Magazine, Keyamo lampooned the Lagos State House of Assembly for allegedly shielding Tinubu and rated the ex-governor’s performance low in the education sector.
He had said, “I am saying this authoritatively. He (Tinubu) needs more money to go to parties here and there, he needed more money to also circulate to douse the raging controversy of certificate forgery, momentary votes to a section of the public who are responsible for the dissemination of information and to the Lagos State house of assembly. I say this very seriously.
“Lagos State House of Assembly has also been a beneficiary of this. There is one time they were calling it “Toranto allowance,” “Chicago allowance” in the house. I have challenged them on a number of occasions to take me up on this. It was what was used to settle them individually and collectively for standing by the governor and covering truth and promoting falsehood in the case of certificate forgery.
“….When we are talking about tertiary education, Tinubu has almost destroyed tertiary education in Lagos State. Go and ask LASU teachers and students, they will tell you. Go and ask the LACOED teachers, they will also tell you.
“….I found it funny when I see certain adverts comparing the governor with the likes of Mahatma Ghandi and Awolowo. I think it is a mockery of those personalities and it is not fair to those personalities to do that. I say this with all seriousness. The only likeness you can draw between Tinubu and them is not in their works but because they all wear round rimless glasses. That is so childish.”
About two decades later, Keyamo is now the spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, routing for Tinubu’s victory in the 2023 general elections and using his ‘landmark achievements’ as former governor of Lagos State to canvas for votes.
However in a statement in August, Keyamo said he didn’t sue Tinubu over alleged certificate forgery.
“I never sued Tinubu. No. I sued the House of Assembly seeking an interpretation of the law. Once the Supreme Court pronounces on an issue, it becomes binding on even the lawyer who loses and he is bound to obey and defend the judgment of the court.
“So assuming (which is not conceded) that I made any kind of accusation in the matter, once the Supreme Court ruled, that was the end of the matter and from that moment, it behoves me to stop pushing a matter already laid to rest by the highest court of the land and defend the decision.
“So, once the issue is laid to rest, we move on. Anyone who thinks I would still harbour any kind of resentment more than 20 years later should examine his/her head,” Keyamo said.
Spokesperson for the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation, Daniel Bwala, was a staunch critic of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) until July when he dumped the APC in protest against the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Bwala, who was Special Adviser to the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege on Legal Matters, said on Channels TV in August that only PDP stood a good chance of defeating the APC at the presidential election.
In the build-up to the 2015 general elections, Dino Melaye, a former senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, alongside some governors then, defected to APC from PDP.
Melaye criticised the PDP government led by former President Goodluck Jonathan and supported President Muhammadu Buhari to win the election at the time. The former lawmaker, however, returned to PDP in 2019.
Speaking to Trust TV in an interview in August 2022, Melaye, who is now a spokesperson for Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation, said he was blind when he criticised PDP.
He said, “Once I was blind, now I can see. As at the time I criticised the PDP, I was a member of the PDP at the time and I criticised the PDP. When I also became a member of the APC, and APC was going haywire, I also criticised the APC.
“No political party is 100 per cent clean but to compare the PDP and the APC is like comparing light and darkness. Where PDP is the light, PDP at that time committed what I call miscellaneous offences, they committed minor offences but what the APC is doing today is completely destroying the fabric of our country and the problem I had with the
“PDP then has nothing to do with threats to the unity of this country or even to the existence of this country but what the APC has done today has not only created disunity but is also threatening the very existence of Nigeria.”
In what appears to be a dramatic U-turn, a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode is now supporting the APC presidential candidate, Tinubu, after acerbic criticism to de-market the former governor of Lagos State in the past.
Fani-Kayode, who is now the Director of New Media for the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, specifically said Tinubu would not become president “as long as Jesus sits on the throne.”
In a series of tweets on July 14, 2019, Fani-Kayode accused Tinubu of selling his soul to the devil in response to the Latter’s comment over the death of Funke Olakunrin, the second daughter of Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti.
Tinubu’s comment on the murder of Funke Olakunrin, who was suspected to be killed by herdsmen, had generated controversies.
During a condolence visit to the Afenifere National Leader, Tinubu argued that Fulani should not be held responsible for the incident, saying that her death should not be used to divide the country.
While responding via a series of tweet, Fani-Kayode wrote, “Even for a confirmed quisling and desperate serf, this time Tinubu has gone too far. Funke has not been buried yet and he is already pissing all over her bullet-riddled body. Tinubu has sold his soul to the devil and his conscience to the north.
“He has become a slave to his ambition and a plaque to his people. He is a shameless soul and wicked old man who is ready to sacrifice anyone and anything to become President. I make this pronouncement today: as long as Jesus sits on the throne, he will fail woefully.”
Fani-Kayode had also attacked the APC government on a number of occasions. But in September 2021, he stated that the ruling party he heavily criticised then was not the same APC he eventually joined.
The ex-minister, while defending his defection, explained that the APC he joined is forward-thinking and accommodating.