By Eric Elezuo
When two elephants fight, they say, the grass suffers aptly describes the scenario playing out in the house of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the person at the center of it all is none other than its National Leader, “Reconciliator” in-chief and Jagaban Borgu, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The Boss has gathered that the fear of Tinubu and his influence in the party is causing so much rumpus in the party that many people are becoming uncomfortable and so angry that they are beginning to murmur about a possible exit.
The simmering problem may have actually come to head with the about turn of the President on the issue of the one year tenure extension granted the National Working Committee headed by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
The extension which was announced at a meeting by the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party attended by the President was seen as a slap on the face of the Asiwaju who had initiated a campaign to ensure a change of guards.
His immediate reaction was not palatable. Speaking through his Media Aide, Mr Tunde Rahman, Tinubu said that there was no basis for the one year tenure extension. He said the action was against the constitution of APC and Nigeria.
He insisted that the NWC and all those who benefitted from the extension should seek re-election when their tenure expires, Tinubu said the APC should always strive to do things in accordance with the constitution, noting that that was the only thing that separated the APC from other political parties.
The relationship between Tinubu and Oyegun had began to very sour in 2016 during the run up to the Ondo Gubernatorial elections.
Odigie-Oyegun, the National Chairman called Tinubu’s bluff and presented, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN as the party’s flag bearer when Tinubu had pitched his tent with Mr. Segun Abraham.
As the Supremo of the party in the South West, this was an affront of the highest order but he had no choice as a smart politician but to keep quiet and bid his time.
It should be said however that the open defiance of a whole Asiwaju by Chief Odigie-Oyegun led to even lesser men dousing his invincibility in other party-related matters, and his influence waned.
Tinubu literarily got his groove back as the scheming for 2019 began and he was appointed from out-of-the-blues by President Buhari as Chairman, Reconciliation Committee of the party.
The appointment certainly rekindled the rivalry between Odigie-Oyegun and Tinubu, this was obvious from the scathing the Asiwaju wrote, complaining of how Oyegun has become a clog in the wheel of the party’s progress.
In the letter, he raised the alarm of how the party executives had refused to let him do the job the President assigned to him.
So, one could have imagined his shock when the NEC announced the tenure elongation. And so it was no surprise when he rejected the tenure elongation for the NWC.
Armed with this new position, Asiwaju, the dye-in-the-wool, deft political strategist that he is was able to warm his way back into the hearts of President Buhari and other key officials.
Insiders alleged that it was Asiwaju Tinubu that impressed upon the President that the one year extension will rubbish the party’s democratic credentials.
Eventually, the President saw the matter from the viewpoint of the National Leader-and that has now changed the dynamics within the party. In fact his new influence within the party is sending chills down the spines of some members of the party.
It would be recalled that in March 2016, an online news portal, National Network, published that barely eight months in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, key political leaders including former Nigeria Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Lagos and Kano States governors Bola Tinubu, Musa Kwankwaso, and incumbent Senate President Bukola Saraki all resolved not to support Buhari should he decides to take a second term shot at the Presidency in 2019, according to sources in the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The sources said the decision by the leaders to not support Buhari’s reelection bid should he chose to run is borne out of the way they were treated in the selection of ministers, the handling of political issues as well as the complete neglect of the key APC leaders by the president and his so called cabal in the running of the government.
Consequently, APC political leaders have begun firming up their political structures across the country and have begun serious consultations with main opposition party the PDP and other political parties with a view to forming an alliance ahead of 2019 presidential election.
Indeed, while Tinubu and his supporters are happy that they are back to reckoning, Buhari’s close allies are not.
We are told that the President knows full well that for him to succeed in 2019, he needs Tinubu and the South West, and he must do everything possible to ensure that all was well.
Those close to him are wary that Tinubu’s reappearance will not only reduce their influence on the scheme of things, if he also gets his own team to replace Odigie-Oyegun as members of the NWC, he would effectively be controlling the party. There is really a mutually assured destruction element playing itself out within the APC.
With Oyegun out of reckoning, and with Buhari doing everything possible to please Tinubu, who he believes can turn the table to his favour in 2019 as he did in 2015, the stage is set for the party to be torn to pieces.
But for Buhari and Tinubu, working together will benefit both men. Insiders are alleging that the prize for supporting Buhari in 2019 is for Tinubu to get the Presidential ticket in 2023 with the muscle of President Buhari.
The calculation is that if another person becomes President, he is most likely to do two terms and that is far too long a time for Asiwaju and his team.
It was with this permutation in mind that Tinubu declared that “We must support President Buhari and complement his efforts in his resolve to stimulate the economy and reposition the country.”
If the Tinubu factor succeeds in breaking APC, the party will go down in history as the major political party with the shortest life span ever in Nigeria.
The APC was formed in February 2013 when the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) led by Chief Bisi Akande, the Congress for Political Change (CPC) led by Muhammadu Buhari, the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) led by Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and his followers from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the breakaway nPDP led by Alhaji Kawu Baraje.
The party became more formidable when five governors of the PDP defected to join them with a retinue of legislators from the Federal and state levels. It went ahead to win the 2015 Presidential Elections with clear majority in the National Assembly, and therefore became the governing party.
However, since the inception of the administration, the party has been bedeviled by one crisis after another with clear traces of disunity, open attacks at structures and personalities capped with hardship the masses have been made to face ever since.
Without a shadow of doubt, followers of the two gladiators share a great chunk of mutual distrust and this may eventually lead to its destruction.