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2023: Panic in Tinubu’s Camp Over Buhari’s Waning Influence

By AMOS ESELE with TUNDE IMOLEHIN in Sokoto

Tinubu Cariccature
THEWILL APP ADS 2

…APC Dominance in Northwest Shaky

…Atiku’s Growing Influence, Major Concern

…No Cause For Alarm – Ruling Party

Roughly three weeks to the official kick-off of electioneering campaigns on September 28, 2022, the Presidential Campaign Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is in a panic mode. The North, where the party’s electoral fortunes rest, with majority governors and a huge voting population, is shaky, causing the committee to rethink its strategy and take a firm stand on issues that would resonate with the people across social strata.

Starring the committee on the face are three crucial challenges. President Muhammadu Buhari, despite promising to work for the party, appears to be undecided, no thanks to fallouts from the June 6, 2022 presidential convention.

THEWILL has learned that the defeat of the party’s consensus candidate, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, still hurts as Buhari is said not to be doing enough in selling the candidacy of Tinubu to his northern folk.

BEGINNING OF THE PROBLEM

THEWILL recalled that the National Chairman of the party, Abdullahi Adamu, who was ceded a 40-day executive power to oversee the processes toward holding the presidential convention, had publicly declared Lawan’s consensus candidature only for 13 out of the 19 governors from the North to vote against it in favour of Tinubu, whose claim to the ticket, had added insult to injury.

Those few days of political maneuvering actually polarised the party into two hostile camps.

“The president has not been disposed to Tinubu from day one in office, treating him and his associates badly. Look at the way the Federal Government is handling the ASUU matter for instance and some policies that make Nigerians feel undisposed to the party makes you wonder whether they really want the candidate to win.

“President Buhari has said he would work for the party’s victory, though, his popularity in the North is a far cry from what it was between 2003 and 2015 when most of those who won elections rode to victory on his popularity.

“I was in Dawakin-Kudu Local Government Area in Kano State last week and I could not see any of Tinubu’s campaign posters.

“I am not saying the party is not popular as the governor whose deputy is the candidate would want to work for the party’s victory. I am saying that Tinubu must begin to distance himself from Buhari’s policies and if they do not work hard, they know what will happen to them,” a seasoned journalist from the North, who craved anonymity, told THEWILL on Friday.

BUHARI’S WANING INFLUENCE

Impeccable sources in the North also said that the loss of APC’s grip on the grassroots through the President’s waning infuence and popularity brings the next challenge causing panic in the Tinubu camp. Kano, which is reputed for turning in massive and decisive votes in millions, for the ruling party, is far from being certain for the APC at the moment.

To make a statement of the party’s firm grip on the state, Tinubu had held a pre-presidential convention outing there with fanfare. Former Representative, Abdulmumin Jibril, an erstwhile Tinubu campaign coordinator in the North, who gathered 1,000 Imams to pray for Tinubu’s success at the polls, has also defected to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).

ATIKU’S GROWING INFLUENCE/ACCEPTABILITY

THEWILL also gathered that the growing influence and acceptability of the PDP Presidential candiate, Atiku Abubakar, in the North is already making the Tinubu Campaign team jittery. THEWILL authoritatively gathered that Buhari’s people are defecting from the APC to the PDP. His relative in the House of Representatives, Fatuhu Mohammed, representing Daura/Sandamu/ Maiadua Federal Constituency of Katsina State, has defected to PDP just as the Senator representing his constituency,Katsina North, Senator Ahmed Baba- Kaita, has also defected to PDP. Only last week, some 19,500 APC members in same Katsina North Senatorial District, defected enmasse to PDP.

This, amongst many other underhand happenings in the APC in the north, is believed to be scaring Tinubu and his campaign, a development that made the Presidency to issue a statement affirming that Buhari will work for Tinubu.

Also, former military leaders, Ibrahim Babangida, Aliyu Gusau and Abdusallami Abubakar, are believed to be leading the mobilisation for Atiku.

Added to this, is former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau’s recent defection, first from the APC to NNPP and now to PDP, after holding failed talks with Tinubu. The massive reception to welcome Shekarau back to the PDP in Kano is already a cause for concern in the Tinubu camp. This is believed to have greatly affected the party’s grip on Kano, now considered a three-pronged party affair ahead of the 2023 general election, with Shekarau, former Kano governor and NNPP presidential candidate, Rabiu Kwakwanso and his Kwankwasiyya Movement sharing the state with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje with a possible ripple effect across the North-West states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi.

SENTIMENTS AT THE GRASSROOTS

The third challenge facing the Tinubu group, THEWILL gathered, is the prevailing sentiments among the grassroots, which, for the first time in a long time, are finding it hard to follow the elite as in the past.

Media Adviser to Senator Shekarau, Malam Sule Yau, told THEWILL that the three –pronged problem of banditry, kidnapping and terrorism and the general feeling of insecurity in the North has created a great roadblock for the APC, an assessment that made his boss to reject going back to the party and defect to the PDP.

He said, “In the North, people are very unhappy about the insecurity, which has defied solutions. And that will affect the chances of the APC in the North. In the North-West, the problem is banditry and kidnapping. In the Northeast, the lingering challenge posed by Boko Haram still persists.”

With the insecurity question, mixed reactions have continued to trail the level of acceptance of Tinubu among the northern electorate, ahead of the general elections.

Our correspondent reports that such concerns expressed by political pundits, party supporters and religious leaders across the northern states were hinged on religion, health and ethnic sentiments.

A viral video authored by a Kaduna-based Islamic preacher, Sheikh Ibrahim Aliyu Kaduna, speaks to the rising sentiments among the electorate. In the video, the Sheikh had faulted the northern elite for betraying what he called the North’s political interest by working for the emergence of the APC standard bearer.

The cleric, in a 3-minute clip, which was obtained by THEWILL, told his congregation what good Muslim faithful should look out for in electing a leader.

“I would like to state that the northern elite have betrayed us. Before you choose a leader, you must look for three qualities which dwell on sound health, devotion in Islam and being a trustworthy person.

“But our leaders have decided to choose otherwise by ensuring the emergence of a particular candidate,” Sheikh Ibramin laments in Hausa, apparently referring to Tinubu.

NO CAUSE FOR ALARM – APC

Attempts to reach the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr Felix Morka, failed as he was unreachable. Also, Bayo Onanuga, Director, Media and Publicity, APC Presidential Organisation, could not be reached as his telephone line did not go through when THEWILL called on Friday.

However, the Deputy Director, Media and Publicity, APC Presidential Campaign Council, Dr Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, told THEWILL that the party was holding on to its base in the North and any story to the contrary was untrue.

Kawu said, “President Muhammadu Buhari has agreed to lead the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (ABAT) APC presidential campaign. That was announced a couple of weeks ago. The statistics we have show that the most enthusiastic support base for the Tinubu-Shettima ticket is actually the North.”

For elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, Second republic Political Adviser to President Shehu Shagari, though the APC may be faulted on so many grounds during its seven years in office, its elite still dominate things in the North to give Tinubu a brighter chance vis-à-vis other candidates.

Emphasising that he was no party man but entitled to give his candid opinion, he told THEWILL that the majority of the state governors on the platform of the governing party are still with Tinubu.

“APC has been in power for seven years. It does appear that Tinubu still has the support of the majority of the state governors in the North and where he comes from, the South-West. These are two views anybody can see for themselves. I am just a human being and you are entitled to your opinion.”

However, the Acting Coordinator of Asiwaju Volunteers in Sokoto State, a support group on the platform of APC, Dr Yakubu Meccido, said no amount of tribal and religious sentiment would stop the party from winning the 2023 presidential election.

He added that the region would never play politics based on religious inclination, saying that Tinubu would get “at least 80 percent of e northern votes.”

He said, “We have deployed grassroots politicians who believe in detribalised politics. Honestly speaking, as far as we are concerned in Sokoto, we don’t think of religious or tribal beliefs when it comes to playing politics. This has been our stance in the past elections and this forthcoming general election wouldn’t be an exception.”

A Kaduna-based politician and Women Leader of the party, Hon. Hadiza Ladi Yahuza, said the bloc votes needed for the party’s presidential candidate will be coming from the northern electorate.

She described Tinubu as a frontline politician who has been building human capacity in politics.

“We saw this as one of the major attributes of being a good leader and a way of payback. That is why we felt he should be supported to a higher political level. We have been working tirelessly to canvas votes for his candidature among our women folk.

“We have gone through very transparent primaries and came up with very competent, experienced and acceptable candidates. We have the united front of our Governors’ Forum to work for the victory of our presidential candidate is an added advantage.

“I also know the efforts made by the Northern Senators’ Forum headed by distinguished Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko. These are the frontier in this journey and I know that with their support, experience and guidance, APC will become victorious in the general election,” Yahuza told THEWILL.

TOO EARLY TO PREDICT – NASARAWA GOVERNOR

Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa, an APC governor, was very cautious in his optimism last Friday.

“It is too early to say these things. Campaign has not started and campaign is not conducted on social media. I read a report that one of the presidential candidates went to a state and was booed, but his party has explained that it was not so. It is too early for anybody to say this candidate is going to win and that one is going to lose. Let the campaign start and we will see,” he said.