2019: Buhari rebuilding the broken bridges
There is a popular adage “when you use a ladder to climb, don’t destroy the ladder, you may need it when you are coming down”.
For keen observers of the political marriage that birthed the All Progressive Congress ( APC), in 2013 and subsequently the emergence of Buhari’s administration, it is obvious that the relationship between President Muhammadu Buhari and Ahmed Tinubu is more than just the ‘ladder and climber’ affinity.
Here, it is obvious that Tinubu is the ladder, or better still, the bridge. But soon after the election was won and the President sworn-in, it did appear that the bridge was broken and the relationship between these two elder statesmen soured.
But recent events show that the President has regained the confidence of the bridge builder.
Thus, when both of them jetted out together in the Presidential jet, Nigeria’s version of the United States Air Force one, for last week’s 5th European Union- African Union( EU-AU), Summit in Cote D’ Ivoire, it was obvious that the President has commenced the building of strong bridges ahead of 2019.
It is now an open secret that President Muhammadu Buhari is gradually, but steadily working towards his second term.
This is very obvious in the ways he has allowed the military ‘macho’ in him to also gradually give way to a more amenable socio-political interactions with his party members in the All Progressives Congress ( APC)
Prior to this time and for over one and a half years, the man, President Buhari was viewed as a hard, unapproachable hardliner with a mindset that was unwilling to bend to public pressure no matter what.
He was also accused of surrounding himself with a group, if you like, a ‘Cabal’ who dictated his pace of movement and even the direction of his administration.
As if to further convince Nigerians of his respect and regards for Tinubu, the President, for the first time, described Tinubu as “Our Leader”.
That statement no doubt has sealed the mouth of anyone who was ever in doubt as to the status of the ‘Jagaban Borgun’ in the APC.
Even though the party made no provisions for the position of ‘national leader of APC’ Tinubu had always seen himself as one and even acted so on several occasions.
“I also thank our leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He has brought me a very beautiful piece of information which I was not aware of until I sat down and read it.”
President Buhari made this declaration during an interactive session with the Nigerian community in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, on Tuesday night.
The President, who did not disclose what the piece of information was, however promised to discuss it in detail with the former Lagos State Governor.
“Thank you very much for your hard work and I will discuss that paper with you,” the President said.
Recall that in 2010, Tinubu had also brokered an arrangement that saw maverick Preacher-turned politician, Tunde Bakare, working as running mate of Buhari.
The President had also extended an olive branch to the national caucus committee of the All Progressives Congress, when he met the party hierarchy at the Presidential Villa, ahead of an enlarged meeting with the National Executive Committee (NEC).
In all of the recent maneuverings, the President never reckoned with, neither did he acknowledged the absence of his rivals and follow contestants for the party’s Presidential ticket in 2014, Rabiu Kwankwaso and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
This is just as the President has completely ignored Atiku Abubakar’s exit from the party.
But the only reference he made in relation to it was during the inauguration of the 30-member national minimum wage committee, where, while exchanging pleasantries with John Odigie-Oyegun, national chairman of the APC, the President jokingly told him to “accept my sympathy for losing a senior member of your party”.
The comment expectedly attracted laughter from people closed bye and even the Party Chairman himself.
What is however, certain ahead of the plots towards 2019, is that the President has the APC Governors fully under his firm grip.
More importantly too is the fact that the President is also in firm control of Adamawa State where the former Vice President hails from. Thus the President does not really see any serious threats to his 2019 re-election from Atiku’s camp.
This is even so as Governor Jibrilla Bindow, who had firm control of Adamawa has declared that the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Adamawa will remain solidly behind President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that they will not follow Atiku out of the party.
Two important factors will work in favour of President Buhari in Adamawa State come 2019.
Firstly, his wife and First Lady, Aisha Buhari is from the Adamawa royal family and she is highly respected and can swing the direction of Adamawa voters in favour of her husband.
Secondly, from evidence of history, the State loathes being an opposition state.
Thus, it had always preferred to associate itself with the government at the centre, especially in the wake of the current high level of insecurity threatening the socio-economic situation in the entire North East.
Bindow’s position which came on the heel of speculation amongst political pundits that the state may be fragmented politically following Atiku’s decision to quit the party, further reaffirmed the fact that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s exit from APC will not adversely affect the party’s fortune in the state come 2019.
Bindow said the APC in Adamawa has remained strong and will continue to be so united behind President Buhari.
Bindow, who also declared that the former vice president is more than matured enough to decide whatever he wants to do for himself, however, added that he wasn’t afraid of standing against the former Vice President
“I am one of those, alongside the current Senate President that worked very hard to ensure that all members of the National Assembly agreed to move to APC, so, I cannot see any reason why, today, that the House I built, I will leave. So I am in APC for the rest of my life.”
He explained that “Atiku, just like every elder in Adamawa State, l regard them as my parents or elders. So, Waziri remains somebody I respect as a father and the same with any other elders in the state.”
He also joined the league of other governors to throw their weight behind President Buhari’s 2019 re-election ambition
“Yes, I was fortunate enough, very rare opportunity to be the first governor to do that for our president. As far as we, the people of the north east are concerned, we will remain loyal to our president who is highly committed to the fight against insurgency. We will remain loyal to our president,” he said.
Given the above scenario, it is therefore not difficult to understand why the President has continued to grow more confident about his chances in 2019.
The President has also demonstrated that the welfare of Nigerians is dear to his heart with the recent directives to his key finance men to work with representatives of Nigerian Governors’ Forum to determine how much of their unpaid debts can be released to them before Christmas.
This directives, which was in response to pleas by the governors who came to the State House under the leadership of Abdul-Aziz Yari, chairman of the Forum, asking the President to give a commitment to pay all outstanding debts owed them from London and Paris Club deductions to ease their financial hardships.
The President said he was not averse to the payments as long as the treasury can afford it and the economy will not be destabilised.
The President also insisted that the people must feel the impact of the gestures, since they were made in the interest of the people.
“This should be done, not only for next year’s budget but for this Christmas. The Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning and the Central Bank should sit down with you in a sub-committee to see how much can be released before Christmas.
“For Nigerians without sources other than their salary, I am concerned that workers should be able to pay rent, school fees, buy drugs and take care of their families. I am so much concerned that people should have something to eat for Christmas,” he said.
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