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APC: Tinubu’s Presidential Ambition and The Crack Within

former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the All Progressive Congress, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu
former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the All Progressive Congress, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu

BEVERLY HILLS, March 01, (THEWILL) – The ambition of the former Lagos State governor and National Leader of the All Progressive Congress, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu to be the country’s president in 2023 might have drawn him into a battle with certain powerful forces in the ruling party.

It would be recalled that in 2014, aside the fact that Tinubu and others led the Action Congress of Nigeria into a merger with Congress for Progressive Change, a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, that gave birth to the APC, he also played a leading role in the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as the party’s candidate and eventually as the Nigerian president.

However his belief that both President Buhari and other top notchers of the party will support his ambition to rule the country in 2023 as payback time to what he did in 2014 has already turned sour.

The signs that all may not be well with his ambition within the presidency and top ranking members of the APC started when Tinubu’s man, Babatunde Fowler, was unceremoniously removed as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services in December 2019.

Fowler who is known as ‘Tinubu boy’ and was believed to have been picked by Tinubu to head the Federal Inland Revenue Service as the Executive Chairman in 2015 wanted a second term in office, but Buhari would have none of it. So on Monday, December 9, 2019, he was booted out.

A seasoned tax administrator who rose through the ranks at the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) from 2005 to 2013, Fowler was credited with boosting the tax office revenue of Lagos, from one that generated N3.6 billion a month in 2006 to one that averaged over N20.5 billion per month in 2014 and arrived the nation’s tax office with plenty of goodwill and a track record of taking tax revenue in Lagos to record highs.

His removal, according to watchers of economic and political developments in the country, was part of effort of a strong group in the presidency nay APC to whittle down the power and influence of Tinubu in the APC-led federal government.

Then the second shock to Tinubu and his group was the manner through which Adams Oshiomhole, a close ally of Tinubu was removed as the National Chairman of the APC in June 2020. The belief was that with Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the APC, the ‘anointed’ delegates to the primaries may make it a work over for Tinubu to emerge as candidate in 2023.

Oshiomhole was sacked during a controversial virtual NEC meeting of the Appeal Court had upheld his suspension given by a high court. Majority of the NWC members had opposed the NEC meeting, saying it was wrongly called by Victor Giadom, whom they said was not competent to call the meeting. But President Buhari, however, declared support for the meeting, saying “the law is on the side of Victor Giadom as Acting National Chairman.”

Though analysts concluded that it was a blow to Tinubu‘s 2023 ambition, both Tinubu and President Buhari said that their relationship remained cordial and that the step was taken in good faith to find a way for the party to continue waxing stronger.

Buhari also said that the Caretaker committee was to last for only six months during which it would organize a convention that would replace the sacked executive within the period.

To the surprise of Tinubu and his group within the APC, the tenure of the caretaker committee was not only extended, but it was also saddled with the responsibility of conducting registration/revalidation of members.

On hearing this, former interim National Chairman of the Party, Chief Bisi Akande, former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba and former South West Vice Chairman of the Action Congress, Alhaji Tajudeen Olusi went to the Villa to convince President Buhari that there was no need for the exercise. But Buhari was alleged to have turned down their plea saying the exercise will hold as scheduled.

It was Akande who prepared the membership register that was submitted to INEC during the APC registration in 2014. But observers believe that having another register that will be ‘alien ‘to Tinubu and his group is also another way of whittling down his influence in the party.

The registration/revalidation of members brought joy to the camp of the faction of the party in Lagos State led by Fouad Oki. Farouk Oki’s faction which also has former Legal Adviser of the party, Dr Muiz Banire in its fold openly expressed support for the exercise and described it as victory for the truth.

Many believe that the registration and revalidation of members was done to weaken Tinubu’s influence in the party. The open criticism that greeted the exercise by Akande, Tinubu and Oshiomhole reinforced this position by the observers.

The open condemnation of the exercise by Akande and tactical support of Tinubu to Akande’s condemnation of the exercise showed that it is not wrong that the group is not comfortable with the exercise.

But former National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie- Oyegun said the controversy trailing the membership registration/revalidation exercise being organised by the party is shocking because, according to him, it is needless and unnecessary.

Odigie-Oyegun while speaking with THEWILL said the controversy trailing the exercise is unnecessary. “If Akande said it is wasting of time and resources, tell him I said it is not. It is a normal and routine exercise in a political party. If Oshiomhole said the revalidation exercise is not necessary and not in tune with our constitution, tell him I said it is necessary and in tune with our constitution.”

Political observers and watchers of political development believe Tinubu’s ambition is already causing noticeable crack within the ruling APC.

Speaking on the development, a chieftain of the Pan Yoruba Socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo said: “They said Tinubu is a strategist. I just laugh whenever I hear that. A strategist that can’t see what is happening in APC. You are the principal partner in this merger but you have no constitutional position in the party. They deceived you that they are going to make you chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) but they never set it up deliberately. So, the constitutional bodies of the party you have say no and yet, he is still thinking that he is something in the party. There was an occasion when Buhari told him that there cannot be two national leaders in the party and that as President; he is the only national leader. So, if Tinubu continues deceiving himself; that is his problem. You can see (Aremo Olusegun) Osoba now begging the party to call a national caucus meeting when they now know that by doing the membership registration, they are trying to edge them out and it is going to affect them. I have been saying it that Tinubu betrayed us and now in his lifetime, he is already receiving his reward. Are the APC people not paying him back? I am not saying this for the first time that Buhari is deceiving him and he is also deceiving Buhari. Let them keep deceiving themselves. He is already receiving the reward for his betrayal in his party•”