The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), is a house of mirrors where a game of cloak and dagger is going on presently.
The key elements of the game are stealth, surprise and deception.
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The players in this game are currently circling around like the gladiators of old in a Roman amphitheatre sizing each other and looking for weak points to strike a fatal game-ending blow.
It is all about the 2023 elections and who will succeed President Buhari. The aim of the game being to seize control of the party and use it to such ends.
In this regard, the APC is split unmistakably between those who are aligned with the party’s putative leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on the one hand, and those who believe that the Asiwaju should take a hike and allow someone else preferably from their ranks to succeed President Buhari. In this category are some governors and ministers. This much came up in clear relief following the recent suspension of the party’s chairman Adams Oshiomhole which action in itself was sequel to the disqualification of Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki from participating in the party’s primaries for the governorship elections scheduled for September this year.
What featured prominently in the discussions that followed these sequence of events was that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the party’s supremo whose protégé Oshiomhole is, had lost out to the coalition of the party’s so called ‘’young Turks’.
But I think it is too premature to make that claim because among the forces that supported the Oshiomhole ouster are those who are not necessarily against Tinubu. They just do not like the sight of the suspended chairman, whose excesses had gone beyond the pale, and took the opportunity of the moment to align with those who wanted him out in order to cut Tinubu to size.
But knowing how dangerous that impression, if left to linger, would cause the party especially at this early stage, and given the well-known fact that Asiwaju Tinubu is no slouch when cornered, APC grandees were quick to make reassuring, conciliatory statements to Tinubu.
It is in keeping with this posture that the new caretaker chairman Governor Mala Buni of Yobe State made an ostentatious, photo ops visit to Tinubu in his Bourdillon road, Ikoyi residence all the while making the appropriate sound bites on reconciliation and party unity.
But to discerning observers however, all this hardly obscures the fact that the APC is trying to hide behind a finger. Without a shadow of doubt, the Tinubu question is the greatest poser facing the APC which will determine its fate in the coming months.
And to put it in proper perspective, quite frankly it will take more than the machinations of the “young Turks’’ to knock Tinubu out of his perch in the party or indeed the polity. For if the APC were an invention, then Tinubu alone quite rightly holds the patent and the party is destined to swim and sink with him in the coming months.
It is necessary to understand that the APC is in essence Tinubu’s long term strategic presidential project. In deciding to merge his All Congress of Nigeria (ACN) with Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progress Change (CPC) along with other parties back in 2014, Tinubu had determined that his chances of achieving his presidential ambition will be better enhanced if he took that step. It was not necessarily out of a conversion to the principles that Buhari espoused or of any admiration for the man whom he had longed opposed and worked against on the three occasions the latter had contested the presidency of Nigeria. It was a shrewd, strategic move to maximize Tinubu’s chances of succeeding Buhari as president eventually. And once Tinubu helped concretized the merger he made two strategic moves; to position himself firmly behind Muhammadu Buhari in the party’s pecking order and deliver the presidential ticket of the new party to him, and work tooth and nail to ensure that Buhari won the presidency in the 2015 and 2019 elections. The second move was to make sure he took the commanding heights of the party such that nobody else apart from Buhari was more relevant than him in the party.
Thus the political DNA of Tinubu is so firmly established in the APC that he has become an immovable object in the party, much like a bull in a china shop or as the proverbial lizard perched delicately on an earthenware pot full of water.
Those currently working to sideline Tinubu within the APC must therefore reckon with the fact that doing so may not necessarily result in success and if it does may turn out to be a pyrrhic victory which will do incalculable harm to the party.
Essentially therefore the APC is about a tale of two personalities; Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the unspoken arrangement is for the party to be a special purpose vehicle for the actualisation of their presidential ambitions. All others in the party are to play a supporting role to this fact. And now that President Buhari has had his shot, Tinubu will fancy his chances of being next in line.
Tinubu did not go to all this trouble just to see someone else profit from his endeavours after the exit of President Buhari in 2023. Going by the plans he had nurtured all these years, he will expect to clinch the APC ticket and go on to win the presidential elections of 2023 God willing. Tinubu’s whole endeavours in helping to actualize the merger of political parties leading to the establishment of the APC and its sustenance, through to the victory of Muhammadu Buhari in both the 2015 and 2019 elections was not an exercise in political philanthropy nor is it intended to introduce a new political paradigm in Nigerian politics whereby a leading Nigerian political figure could for the first time altruistically work assiduously for the emergence of a president and willingly forego the position when it becomes available.
The question that comes to mind then is can Tinubu make it?
(To be concluded next week)