Before the current crises of confidence inside the ruling APC broke out into the open two weeks ago, most political observers were not caught unawares. In fact, most of them were really surprised that it had not broken out much earlier. If anything, observers are largely agreed that what is currently pretending to be a disagreement between Senator Ahmed Tinubu, the real power behind the throne and the lame-duck national chairman of the party, Chief Odigie Oyegun, is a developing proxy war between the national leader of the party, a nomenclature that Tinubu has firmly appropriated for himself, even though there is no such position in the hierarchy of the party and the acknowledged national leader of the party and the president of the republic, President Muhammadu Buhari. Observers believe that if Tinubu is flexing muscles against the way certain things are being run in the party, he is in deed, flexing those muscles against the president, who he believes is in contention with him, Tinubu as the caller of the shots in the party.
Everybody, inside and outside the party knows that Oyegun is merely a mere quiver in Buhari’s arrow, a man who has been a stooge since those days in the ANPP when Buhari took the first shot at the presidential bid in 2003, up till the CPC days when he tried his luck for the second time. And if you know Buhari, as some of us do, he is a man who believes and trusts in loyalty better than he trusts in competence and effectiveness. Oyegun definitely knows that from those days when we were hustling together at the Buhari Okadigbo campaign headquarters at our Gana Street offices at Maitama Abuja. He has played his cards well, by sticking to Buhari through thick and thin. Even in those days at TBO and at the 2003 campaigns, it was obvious that Oyegun had very little impact when it came to the issue of bringing votes to the candidate but it was important for him to hang around, just like Tony Momoh, another Edo man, who made sure that the General saw them almost on a day-to-day basis, claiming that they were representing the Southern minorities, after Buhari had lost his key SS men like Harry Marshall.
When Buhari moved over to the APC to seek his political fortunes, things changed dramatically, in that the place of loyalty was substantially demoted to make way for the capacity to garner non- Northern votes, without which the ticket would not have prevailed, and that was where Tinubu was the master of the game. Almost everybody in Nigeria is agreed that without the South west votes which were assured through Tinubu’s political control, perhaps, Buhari would not have become the president.
At the same time, many observers believe, along many in Tinubu’s camp that Tinubu has not been appropriately compensated, even though the vice president was hand-picked by him, just as many people who occupy key positions in the country and the National Assembly. Buhari cannot be blamed for the situation that made the position of the senate president to slip out of Tinubu’s ring.
Hence, it is important to ask: what does Tinubu really want now? Does he want to become the president, as that is perhaps, the only thing he and his camp do not have now.
But then again, knowing that power wielding in the Third World is absolutist, Tinubu should well know that his so-called control of the party is illusory and in the same vein, he must realise that if he continues his battles against the party chairman, purportedly over Ondo State, the president might move against him, especially as people close to the president have started interpreting his diatribe against Oyegun as a proxy war against the president. When such a proxy war graduates into a frontal one, the general in Buhari might emerge and the battle might turn bloody, with the person with less arsenal coming out the second best.
It is not hard to predict what the outcome will be if Abuja feels overtly threatened by Lagos. It is obvious that Buhari would take over the control of the party and work for the realignment of his forces. In all these, we should not forget those immortal words of the late Umaru Dikko when MKO Abiola was trying to hold everybody in Shagari’s camp hostage, over the latter’s second term bid. Umaru Dikko had chastised Abiola in these words: “nobody should want to hold us to ransom because he is a millionaire; after all, we can make his cook a millionaire by giving him just one contract”. In the same way, Tinubu should well watch it less he overstretches his luck, knowing that it would not take the entire world to empower people like Fashola to command the same or even greater power and influence than Tinubu himself.
At another level, what is happening in the APC might eventually degenerate to a stage of making Buhari to start thinking of the realignment of forces to reflect the political tradition which had always worked in Nigeria since the post-independence politics.
It is clear that since the days of the First Republic, political alliances between the North and the East had worked snuggly, giving rise to the alliance between Sarduana’s NPC and Zik’s NCNC. An attempt by the NPC and Akintola’s party in 1965 ended in katakata, Operation Wetie, military coup and ultimately a civil war. At the same time the attempt by Zik’s NCNC an Awolowo’s AG to work together in UPGA unravelled.
In the same way, the cooperation between the Northern military in governance had always worked while that between the North and the East had always collapsed like a house of cards.
Perhaps, that was what might have encouraged Buhari to pick a running mate from the South East on two occasions, as he must have been advised that it would make for greater stability. I was an insider enough in The Buhari Organisation (TBO) to have known that Okadigbo was a third place choice for Buhari behind Rochas Okorocha and Nnia Nwodo in 2003. Again in 2007, he had no problems picking Chief Ume Ezeoke who as the NPP speaker at the House of Representatives in 1979 worked perfectly well with President Shagari’s executive. In truth, nobody should blame Buhari for failure to extend his political olive branch to the East
What in effect I predict is that the crisis in the ruling party will expectedly get worse because Tinubu is asking for what Buhari cannot give. It is undoubtedly a result of the contradictions that were brought about by forming a party of very strange bed fellows who had divergent and unrealisable expectations. During the presidential elections against the PDP in 2015, astute observers expected another political battle to erupt soon after between the Tinubu and Buhari camps. Many are, therefore, surprised that it is coming this late in the day.