By Eric Elezuo
A lot of things have happened in recent past to suggest that the one known as Jagaban of Borgu, and by implication, as far as his followers are concerned, the Jagaban of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, may not be having the best of times in his political career. This is as he continues to delve into one political obscurity after another. The latest being the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) supposedly taking sides with his latest political rival and National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
For as long as the political circle can remember, the duo had been embroiled in one crisis after another in the fight to decide who takes the superior decision in the party affairs; whose opinion must be respected and treated as gospel truth at all times irrespective of the direction.
Tinubu who is chairman of the peace and reconciliation committee recently set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to reconcile all aggrieved persons within the party had alleged in a 7-page letter that the national chairman was sabotaging his efforts. But in a swift reaction, Odigie-Oyegun who denied the allegation of sabotage promised to give the Tinubu committee all the needed support in ensuring its success in the discharge of its assignment. Whether it is mere talk, or he meant it, is still left to be desired.
As national chairman, Oyegun officially has overriding influence as against Tinubu, who is blessed with the title of national leader, a post not recognised by the constitution of the party, but only exists as an honour. So while Tinubu acts on influence, Oyegun rides on the wings of authority, legality and officialdom. It is therefore, not hard to imagine where the pendulum of obedience and loyalty would naturally swing to among party members.
In the not too distant past, the NWC struck the last blow that broke the camel’s back when they passed a vote of confidence on the administration of the party chairman, Oyegun in total scorn of Tinubu’s protests and incessant complains about Oyegun’s total disregard of his status in the party and President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent assignment to reconcile the aggrieved members of the party.
The Forum of All Progressives Congress (APC) State Chairmen, during their meeting on ahead of the National Executive Council meeting, “unanimously resolved” to propose a two-year tenure extension for Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee and other constituted organs of government at the state, local and ward levels, according to their communique.
The development means a major knock-back for interests, within the party, opposed to the continued stay of Odigie-Oyegun which Tinubu represents.
Today, followers of Tinubu in Lagos, where his influence is strongly felt, has rejected the extension of Oyegun’s term. This, according to political watchers, is a typical example of the voice of Jacob, but the hand of Esau.
The face-off between the self-acclaimed political godfather of the Southwest region, Tinubu, and the Edo-born chairman of the party, Oyegun is dated back to the twilight days of 2016 when the battle for the soul of Ondo State was being fought. While tinubu, in his wisdom preferred a Segun Abraham, the party chairman allegedly opted for due process where Rotimi Akeredolu emerged winner. Oyegun insisted on the winner of the primaries to the chagrin of Tinubu. Since then, even as Akeredolu went ahead to win the election and was sworn in in February 2017, the cold war between the two has continued. The demystification of Tinubu at the Ondo front gave impetus to the chairman and other party bigwigs to constantly call his bluff, leading to his near-obliteration from political relevance. Things did not get better as the leader of the party, President Buhari, failed to accord relevance and recognition to the man whose ingenuity unseated a sitting president. Tinubu’s influence and relevance continued a free, unabated fall, prompting his wife, Senator Remi Tinubu, to cry out, accusing Buhari of ‘thrashing’ her husband. This outburst, political watchers say prompted Buhari to give Tinubu a near impossible task of reconciling the aggrieved members of the party ahead of the 2019 General Elections. Tinubu is supposedly meant to reconcile himself as well.
In the cause of assuming to do the job, Tinubu raised an alarm, claiming that the chairman was stampeding his efforts, accusing him detrimental actions aimed at sabotaging the ‘presidential assignment’ of reconciling the warring interests within the party.
In the letter, which many referred to as ‘bomb’, Tinubu did not spontaneously ask the chairman to relinquish his position as was the case in 2016 when he slammed him for allegedly breaching the APC “democratic pledges” in the wake of the conduct of the party’s governorship primaries in Ondo State, but sternly prevailed on him to stop being a spanner in the wheel of progress.
Buhari’s invitation of the chairman to Aso Rock for a closed door meeting in the absence of Tinubu ‘could have meant one thing – a pat on the back for a job well done’.
Much as the media waited, no party voice condemned Oyegun for his affront against Tinubu, rather every notable office in the APC family has given his approval for the elongation of tenure for the chairman, leaving Tinubu continually aggrieved and embattled.
When the state chairmen expressed support for the leadership of Mr. Odigie-Oyegun as well as President Muhammadu Buhari, whom they urged to present himself for another term in 2019, they positively spoke one voice, and that is that the president and the chairman are on the same side of the divide, and whoever does not seem to agree with them is an outsider. Tinubu understands such language in the political equilibrium.
In a communiqué released after the vote of confidence meeting, the body declared: “The forum, after dissections and thorough appraisal of the APC-led Government, hereby unanimously pass a vote of confidence on our dear President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Chairman of our great party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and other leaders of our great party for their numerous achievements, despite the challenges so far experienced in our dear country.”
“We also urge Mr President to present himself for (a) second tenure come 2019.”
Mr. Odigie-Oyegun and his officers were due for re-election or removal this year in a national convention, having assumed their positions in 2014.
In a related development, the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, said while discussing with state house correspondents after a meeting with APC governors and the president that state governors elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress and the majority of the party members have confidence in the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
The statement was in obvious reaction to the letter written Tinubu to Odigie-Oyegun for sabotaging his efforts aimed at reconciling aggrieved party members.
Tinubu had among other allegations accused the party chairman of unilaterally constituting a parallel party executive council in Kogi State.
Bello, in spite of Tinubu, insisted that the governors have confidence in Odigie-Oyegun, warning against what he described as “one size fits all” method for all the affected states.
Bello said, “We the governors and the majority of APC members have confidence in our National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun.
“We also believe in the President by appointing Bola Tinubu, our leader to reconcile some aggrieved members of our party.”
While the governors have ‘confidence’ in Oyegun, they only ‘believe in the president’ as regards Tinubu’s situation.
The governors Bello spoke for include Senator Jibrilla Bindow (Adamawa), Abubakar Mohammed (Bauchi), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Muhammad Badaru (Jigawa), Nasir El-rufai (Kaduna), Umar Ganduje (Kano), Aminu Masari (Katsina), Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi) and Yahaya Bello (Kogi). Others are Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Tanko Almakura (Nasarawa), Sani Bello (Niger), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe) and Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara) as none has so far extricated himself from the blanket representation.
Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu is reputed as the brain behind the ousting of former President Goodluck Jonathan when he made full use of his political sagacity in 2013, bringing together strange bed fellows from various political divide. But today, events have proved that most of his political associates just rode on his back to stardom, and thereafter ‘thrashed’ him.
Tinubu’s situation today is akin to all that he faced in 2016 during the runoff to the Ondo State governorship election. Unfolding events have proved however, that he did not survive the onslaught as unleashed on him by the duo of Oyegun and Akeredolu, which began the gradual eclipse of a once vibrant political dynasty. As it stands now, the political clout of the once voice to be reckon with is gradually dwindling except for a handful of followers from Lagos – his base. It would not be a surprise if Nigerians wake up one day to hear that Tinubu has defected to another party, or has formed his own (another) unilateral party.
Time will tell!