- His men that lost out at NASS
If former governor of Lagos State and the foremost leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, were to be a professional boxer, he would have been Floyd Mayweather Jnr., probably the only boxer in history who has never lost a bout.
That was the case of Asiwaju Tinubu till last Tuesday, June 9, 2015.
Tinubu’s political career has been characterised by many battles and he has come out of each of those battles triumphant. Right from the early 1990s when he contested and won a senatorial seat, he has never looked back politically.
He made a comeback in 1999 and became the governor of Lagos State. When in 2003 he became the only governor from the South West that withstood Obasanjo, many did not understand that he had a political ace up his sleeve.
From being a governor in 1999, Asiwaju has carved a political niche for himself, built what seemed an impregnable political fortress in the South West from where he came to the APC merger table as a senior partner.
Demystification of a kingmaker
Tinubu is used to making kings and keeping those kings under wraps. This is his greatest strength. As at the last count, he had become a godfather to five governors in the South West who never had the balls to disagree with him. That perhaps, made him to forget the age long saying that the kingmaker is always the first victim of the king.
When he successfully midwifed APC to fruition, he carried along with him the godfather mentality and this explained why he had his hand in every pie in the struggle for the party structure. When it was time to get a party chairman, he stepped in and outwitted every other person; when it was time to nominate a vice presidential candidate, every other contender was relegated to the background but him. In fact, insiders said he submitted three names: Bola Tinubu, Oluremi Tinubu and Yemi Osinbajo. That was how powerful Tinubu used to be until last Tuesday.
In addition to having the Vice President, Tinubu’s calculation was to get the Speaker of the House of Representatives and perhaps, the Senate Leader through whom he could have a better hold on a President, Tinubu envisaged would be evasive. But while he was perfecting his plans, the array of forces against him was not sleeping.
An apolitical watcher of events may not factor in 2019 in the struggle to render Tinubu politically irrelevant, but the whole power struggle is geared towards 2019 in the increasingly likely event that President Buhari would waive his rights to a second term in office. Considering that Tinubu is the major kingmaker, the core North has become somewhat fed up of him. Therefore, the earlier he is taken out the better for the 2019 equation.
The most prominent forces that rallied to asphyxiate Tinubu are those that have 2019 in their focus. Such forces as Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the trio had never hidden their ambition to be president and in their thinking, Tinubu, the godfather, may not be favourably disposed to their 2019 ambitions and this explains the expediency of finding another route to the Yoruba.
Saraki may not be influential when it comes to Yoruba politics, but propping him up as a counterweight to Tinubu’s unquestionable influence may be a welcome development.
In their calculation, Saraki as a senate president can open another door to the Yoruba kingdom especially through the mainstream Afenifere group who do not recognise Tinubu as the leader and perhaps through Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC who during the last election never hid their disdain for Tinubu’s brand of politics.
Plot that finished Tinubu
Of all those who betrayed Tinubu in the build up to the eighth National Assembly leadership struggle, the only person that got to Tinubu’s heart according to his close allies was that of Governor Tambuwal. Tinubu’s allies say that the pain in the heart of Asiwaju was that there was no Tambuwal until Tinubu stepped into his life in 2011 and made him the speaker of the House of Reps.
Insiders say that it was Tambuwal who brokered the deal between PDP and Dogara and was said to have sent a discreet delegation to the PDP’s Port Harcourt retreat where all the deals were reached.
Tambuwal was said to have leveraged on his closeness to the PDP to paint Tinubu and his candidates in a very bad light. It was learnt that he took time to explain to the PDP that if nothing was done at this stage to cut Tinubu to size, his influence can only expand and if his influence keeps expanding, the PDP would be shut out of power permanently.
While Tambuwal was solidly backing Dogara, he was still reassuring Tinubu of his support for Femi Gbajabiamila. “The pain in Tinubu’s heart about the role Tambuwal played in the whole struggle can only be imagined. Who was Tambuwal before Tinubu’s intervention? Femi Gbajabiamila could have died in defence of Tambuwal.
At the height of the Tambuwal debacle at the hands of the PDP, these men stood solidly behind him at the risk of even their personal safety. However, one thing is certain, lessons have been learnt,” a source very close to Tinubu’s camp said.
Having succeeded in stripping Tinubu bare, there are very strong indications that the next target of the forces stacked against Tinubu is the party structure. Already, there are mooted calls by some ranking members of the party for the resignation of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the national chairman of the party.
The argument of those making the call is that he (Oyegun) is a lackey of Tinubu and was responsible for the shame the party went through at the hands of the PDP.
It is obvious that calling for the head of Oyegun is a direct attack on the hold of Tinubu on the party. Majority of the party’s NWC owe their allegiance to Tinubu and any attempt to take away any of them would spell doom to the cohesion of the party and make it easier for the party to be hijacked from their vice grip of the Tinubu.
The onslaught against Tinubu is planned to be total and aimed at leaving him no chance for survival. The sudden re-listing of the suit on Funsho Williams where one Bashir Junaid, a cemetery attendant has fingered Tinubu is a curious coincidence according to Tinubu loyalists. Tinubu’s camp does not want to believe that the sudden and curious re-listing of the murder trial of late Funsho Williams 12 years after is a mere misfortune.
In this era where the ex-Lagos governor is being hunted, there are permutations that this newest development may be another way of keeping him on his toes, keeping him fighting to clear his name and keeping him a distant away from active politics.
Tinubu, Buhari relationship dipping
Pre-election and post election, President Buhari never hid his admiration for the sterling role Tinubu played in actualising his (Buhari’s) ambition after four attempts. In fact, he attributed all the election successes to Tinubu’s personal sacrifices and doggedness.
However, all that seems to have changed. Insiders say the relationship between Tinubu and the President is at all time low with those described as ‘strangers’ having hijacked the ‘ears’ of the president feeding him with all sorts of damaging things against Tinubu.
The Oba of Lagos and a close ally of Tinubu was the first to raise the alarm when he said, “All Lagos residents should pray the labour of Tinubu should not be in vain. A lot of things have been happening now. Some people have been telling Buhari all sorts of things.
“Awujale and I have decided to meet Buhari because Lagos and Southwest States must benefit from the General Buhari administration.”
This was the first indication of a frosty relationship between the President and Tinubu. But since the Oba of Lagos made this statement, the relationship had degenerated to an almost irredeemable level. Tinubu was said to be irked by the President’s aloofness in the struggle for the leadership of the National Assembly despite all entreaties by Tinubu for the president to intervene and call some northern elements to order.
Tinubu’s allies believe that the President did not want to help in getting Tinubu’s men into the leadership of the National Assembly because of what he was told about Tinubu.
“Curiously, the President has allowed himself to be hijacked and it is in bad taste. If the President knew he was not going to come to the meeting at the International Conference Centre, ICC, when it was communicated to him, why did he not communicate back and said he indisposed?
“Why keep Tinubu’s loyalists waiting when others had already assembled at the ICC? There is no other explanation but political treachery. I can tell you that Tinubu feels adequately betrayed,” a source said.
Can Tinubu fight back?
Although Tinubu is used to political battles, this is one battle he is unlikely to go into for a number of obvious reasons. The new friends of the President who want him (Tinubu) out of the way may not spare the use of state machinery to look into the stupendous wealth of Asiwaju.
With the revisiting of Funsho Williams’ death, one thing the embattled APC leader wouldn’t want on his troubled menu is the addition of inquiries into his mind boggling acquisitions as alleged by the PDP before the last elections. Such inquiries may end up unearthing things that may not be in the best interest of the former governor. He cannot even fight back through proxies as such would amount to endangering his liberty.
Realignment and Ekweremadu factor
Ekweremadu’s emergence as the deputy senate president is a carrot to the recalcitrant South East and a huge indication that the core North is ready to realign ahead of 2019.
No doubt, the South West was the springboard through which the core North rode to power, but with the souring relationship between the leader of the South West and those he toiled to crown king, it may be difficult to count on him or the zone for 2019.
This explains the decision by a cabal in the North to squeeze in the South East through the back door by allowing Senator Ike Ekweremadu retain his seat as the deputy senate despite coming from a minority party.
Although it is still morning in the political firmament of this administration, the decision to shove Tinubu aside may come back to be the greatest miscalculation of the already stalling Buhari administration.