Buhari-Tinubu meeting: Fence-mending or political stunt?
by Mabel Dimma
November 5, 2017 | 1:22 pm| | | Start Conversation
“With the movement of President Muhammadu Buhari into the Villa, the Tinubu political dynasty assumed it had at last gotten to the centre. Many followers of the man called Lion of Bourdillon, who had stood with him, were preparing to replace departing PDP office holders at the national level, ostensibly based on their contribution to the victory of APC,” wrote Chucks Oyema-Aziken in an article.
It was reported a year ago that Bola Ahmed Tinubu, national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), prior to the birth of the APC, had tried to make make peace with his former political foes in the South-West in order to consolidate his influence in the region, and that he reached out to prominent Yoruba leaders.
According to the report, the Yoruba leaders did not agree with him on the formation of the APC and the choice of the presidential candidate (Buhari). Now that the game is allegedly turning against him (Tinubu), he has to manoeuvre.
It was also reported then that a top APC leader said apart from efforts to destroy Tinubu’s political structures, it is believed that the Buhari government would attack Tinubu by going after his business interests and associates.
“We won’t be surprised if the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission wakes up tomorrow to say they are probing Tinubu or his associates. They may even send the Department of State Service after him because that is the step the Buhari government has taken against all their perceived enemies. Asiwaju knows that they may come for him,” a source said.
Nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the first time since he returned from his medical trip on August 19, met with Tinubu at the Presidential Villa on October 30, 2017. The meeting has since sparked controversy among Nigerians, with many saying that it is just a ploy to curry Tinubu’s favour as election year is drawing nearer and the credibility of the party is waning.
The President welcomed Tinubu, who reportedly, arrived at the Villa exactly 3.30pm, five minutes after the President hosted some top members of the ruling party, including; John Odigie-Oyegun, national chairman, APC; Bukola Saraki, Senate president; Yakubu Dogara, speaker, House of Representatives and some governors. The same day the APC was expected to hold its caucus meeting.
After the meeting, the former governor of Lagos state said: “I just met with the President. Our discussion was fruitful, productive and it was about the country and leadership as a whole- and that got him excited.”
Though the meeting between the two men held in secret, there are musings in several quarters that Buhari is trying to mend fences ahead of 2019, but this is Nigeria, and this is politics, anything can happen between now and the end of 2018.
For several political observers, Tinubu has been short-changed by this present administration and his loyalists have listed Buhari’s several hostile actions against the former governor. Some of the issues raised include the exclusion of Tinubu’s candidates from Buhari’s final ministerial list, the gang-up against his candidate in the Kogi governorship election, James Faleke, who was the late Audu Abubakar’s running mate, and the alleged fraud against his candidate in the Ondo governorship primary, Olusegun Abraham.
It was said that Tinubu lost out during the appointment of political office holders, members of the Federal Executive Council inclusive. This, according to observers, was part of the new administration’s plot to build a new power base, detached from the stranglehold of Tinubu
When asked about the alleged plan by President Buhari to seek re-election in 2019, Tinubu refused to comment, asking journalists who were present not to discuss the issue of Buhari’s 2019 anticipatory re-election bid with him.
Tinubu was also reported to have denied the rumours of friction between himself and the President. He also refuted allegations that a cabal existed in the administration which hijacked power and shoved him aside despite his huge efforts in helping the party come to power, saying that he has confidence in the leadership of the President.
“I have confidence in this President; there is no doubt about that. We worked hard to bring about the government, there are certain things that are unpredictable and those are things that can lean itself to gossips, insinuations and all of that.
“But once you create leadership and it is functioning, you don’t have to babysit that leadership unless there is a loss of confidence and I don’t have that,” he said.
“You know me. I’m not known to shy away from talking my mind and rebelling if it is necessary and taking charge of things that I believe are necessary. What is the myth in this leadership thing? What is cabal? It is a myth. We are the party of the people for the people and by the people and this is democratic environment. Each of us has our roles to play and that is why we are playing it. I don’t believe in the myth. I believe in confidence; building the trust that we have in the President,” he further said.
The politician also noted: “In the journey of democracy, you are going to have twists and turns, you are going to have conflicts. Conflicts resolution mechanism is inbuilt on how you handle your party; and the governance and the party are joined at the hips.”
On whether he believed his party was still on course, he asked, “Can you go back to the history of 16 years of the PDP? APC government is on course and will remain on course. We will remain focused on those necessary things about development, welfare and progress of our people.
But despite the picture Tinubu painted of a robust relationship between Aso Villa and Bourdillon, observers say that the alarm raised by Aisha Buhari, the First Lady, that a cabal may have hijacked power, cannot be a myth.
For close observers, Tinubu was just playing the normal politics of not washing the party’s dirty linen in public.
A chieftain of the party in Osun State was quoted as saying that “This is the beginning of the end of the APC. The party will shatter into smithereens. We are ready for them. They are going nowhere.”
“Tinubu’s travails are reminiscent of Lt. General Oladipo Diya (rtd.)-near fatal ride on the back of a rampaging late dictator, Sani Abacha. Diya was very vital in selling Abacha to the South-West after Chief Ernest Shonekan had been removed from office November 17, 1993. Diya narrowly escaped death in the hands of the Abacha junta,” said Oyema-Aziken.
He went on to explain that Tinubu did not reckon with a Northern oligarchy that was out of power for 16 years and was not willing to share the spoils of office, even with its allies.
Now, the election time-table has been released, previous perceived political allies and foes are aligning and realigning to actualise their political ambition come 2019. Once beaten, twice shy; will the Jagaban have both a water and air-tight strategy to ensure he stays on the winning team and plays an active role come 2019? Only time will tell.
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