As we count down to the presidential election scheduled for February 25, it will no longer serve any purpose for anyone to doubt whether President Muhammadu Buhari is standing with the All Progressives Congress (APC) standard bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The matter was settled in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, last Saturday when President Buhari declared emphatically that Asiwaju Tinubu is a “tested and trusted political ally of over 20 years.”
This overwhelming endorsement could not have come at a better time amid political undercurrents that tended to suggest APC was a divided party or that there was a cold war between President Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu.
“Tinubu will be a good successor,” Buhari added so that his message can sink in during the campaign rally to mobilize the teeming supporters of his party. Whereas we desire a free, fair and credible election, people tend to forget that the President’s party is APC, and charity must begin at home.
The Lafia outing was significant for several reasons. Not too long ago, Asiwaju Tinubu alleged that there are fifth columnists in Abuja working against the interest of APC so that the party will lose the presidential election – and possibly other elections in a bandwagon effect.
Being the presidential candidate of APC, Asiwaju remained defiant and fired on all cylinders as he went to say at different campaign rallies that the fifth columnists want to scuttle the general election and install an interim government.
In his view, the shortage of petrol and unavailability of new naira notes which have caused untold hardship for Nigerians formed part of a deliberate plot by the Abuja cabal to cause anarchy and destabilize the country.
The plot, Asiwaju Tinubu noted, will fail woefully. He also said confidently that the presidential election will hold as scheduled and he would be declared the winner.
There were other thought-provoking comments by Asiwaju Tinubu which were mostly interpreted as direct attacks on the Buhari administration. But if the same Buhari is saying Asiwaju Tinubu will be the next President after him, you can just grab your popcorn, relax and calm your nerves.
Why did I say you should relax? In simple language, APC leaders are saying they are united and their goal is to win the general election – no more discordant voices will be allowed from any quarter.
Don’t forget that the party has the power of incumbency and it could become a crucial factor. President Buhari continued his campaign for Asiwaju Tinubu in Katsina – that’s the home state of Mr President.
Shortly after Asiwaju spoke about the machinations of fifth columnists in the corridors of power, Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, re-echoed similar concerns on Channels TV, Arise News, TVC and BBC.
Nasir el-Rufai may not be the spokesperson of APC or the presidential campaign council (PCC), but he displayed excellent PR and engagement skills during his media tour. He spoke with so much candour, passion, confidence and clarity of purpose during the interviews.
He explained that some “elements” in Aso Villa are determined to frustrate the electoral process and truncate our democracy simply because their preferred candidate did not win the APC presidential primary in June last year.
The idea of an interim government is a dangerous proposition which will be unhelpful to anyone. Do they want another “June 12” crisis on our hands?
The Kaduna State governor said the aim of the cabal who throw their weight around in Aso Villa is to disrupt the general election by making the country ungovernable. El-Rufai said members of the cabal who are Northerners like him will not succeed with their plan.
He described them as “parasites”, “cowards” and “opportunists” who are not members of APC but wield a lot of power and influence in Aso Villa because of their close association with President Buhari. In the past, First Lady Aisha Buhari made a similar allegation, saying that some people who did not work for the success of the party have become the major beneficiaries and pipers dictating the tunes in Aso Villa.
The strategy of the cabal, El Rufai alleged, has always been to deceive President Buhari with proposals or advise him to turn down approved government policies. El-Rufai cited the example of State Police which the cabal opposed after President Buhari agreed with him that it was a good idea.
Unfortunately, the APC Restructuring Committee which el-Rufai headed made several recommendations which were resisted by the Abuja cabal and the Eight Senate under the leadership of Bukola Saraki – an APC member at the time but now a PDP stalwart.
If you want political and economic power, you just have to fight for it. Clearly, what is at play is the fight for the soul of Nigeria between progressive and reactionary forces.
Nasir el-Rufai has challenged the cabal to come out of their hiding for an open combat. He said that at the right time, he will name and shame the “elements” in Aso Villa who are holding Nigeria to ransome.
The Kaduna state governor, from his comments, will not be fighting the cabal alone; he has the full backing of all the other 21 APC governors and key stakeholders of the party who have only one mission: overthrow the cabal. But can they? How will they do it?
Is Godwin Emefiele, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, working with the cabal as it is being speculated? Who is behind the unending fuel scarcity?
El-Rufai said during his interviews that leaders of the party are working together to achieve victory at the polls in spite of the cabal at the Villa. From all indications, Aisha Buhari is likely to join this fight by the gladiators, offering her services free of charge to the governors to wrestle down the cabal.
El-Rufai also said all the 22 APC governors out of 36 states are on the same page, dismissing claims by the opposition that some APC governors are silently working for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He noted that APC governors own the structure of their party in their respective states which is a huge advantage. He added that not one APC governor is working for the opposition. PDP has 13 states while All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has one state.
What exactly is the cabal’s next move now that their preferred candidate, according to Nasir el-Rufai, did not get the APC presidential ticket? Could it be that they want Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, another Hausa Fulani, to succeed Buhari?
If truly the cabal wants power to remain in the North, it will be against the laws of natural justice, equity and fair play. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his G-5 colleagues (all of them are members of PDP) have been campaigning vehemently since last year against this idea and refused to support Atiku’s presidential bid.
To emerge victorious in the presidential race, the candidate must poll at least 25 percent of the total votes cast in at least 24 states, in addition to polling the highest number of votes. Now, if all the 22 APC governors are able to deliver their states, it means APC would only need to win two additional states to meet the constitutional requirement for Asiwaju Tinubu to be declared winner of the election.
That is assuming he polled the highest number of votes cast.
The task before the APC governors therefore would be to look beyond 24 states in order to overcome the cabal. Their permutation for electoral success is hinged on APC’s “winning survey” Nasir el-Rufai cited during his interviews which he said gives Asiwaju the advantage over other candidates.
However, el-Rufai did not give details of the survey. In terms of national spread, demographics, current challenges, expectations and voting population, what did the survey reveal? We may never know.
Meanwhile, let it be clear to everyone that the race to Aso Villa will be tight because the stakes are high. Nasir el-Rufai admitted that it will be a close race between APC and PDP, adding that Asiwaju Tinubu will win the presidential election because APC governors will deploy their wide network and goodwill.
Although there are 18 presidential candidates, the focus has always been on APC, PDP, Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigeria People’s party (NNPP) because they are the main contenders for different reasons. For example, in all the ongoing conversations, they always record the dominant share of voice in the media. It is one of the secrets of successful brand building.
Although APC and PDP are the leading parties in view of their historical antecedents, it will be foolhardy to wish away the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, as well as his “Obidients”.
The former Anambra State governor might be the reason for a run-off in the presidential race.
-Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)