Cracks appear to be widening on the walls of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over its presidential standard-bearer, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Daily Trust reports.
Barely a week after he raised the alarm over an alleged plot to sabotage him in the forthcoming election, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State and staunch supporter of Tinubu on Wednesday re-echoed a similar position, saying elements within the presidency were working against the presidential ambition of the former Lagos State governor.
Daily Trust recalled that while addressing a campaign rally at the Moshood Abiola International Stadium, Abeokuta, Ogun State, recently, Tinubu alleged that some interests were against the elections as scheduled.
He specifically said the scarcity of fuel being experienced across the country and the redesign of the naira, the Nigerian currency, were part of the plot to sabotage him at the polls.
But he assured his supporters, who attended the rally, that neither the elections nor his victory can be stopped.
Aside from lingering fuel scarcity, Tinubu was referring to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which had on October 26, 2022, announced its plan to redesign the three banknotes.
Buhari subsequently unveiled the notes on November 23, 2022, while the apex bank fixed the January 31 deadline for their validity.
As the January 31 deadline approached, many Nigerians have been lamenting the scarcity of the new notes while the National Assembly demanded a six months extension.
However, emerging from a meeting with the president on Sunday, the apex bank boss said Buhari gave permission for the deadline to be extended to February 10.
Mixed reactions had trailed Tinubu’s comments, even as the presidential campaign organisation of the PDP candidate had berated the APC candidate of trying to blackmail President Buhari and blame the APC-led federal government over his “looming rejection by Nigerians.”
Just as the dust raised by the Tinubu comment was about to settle, Governor Nasir El-Rufai yesterday stirred the hornet’s nest when he declared that elements in the Presidency were working against Tinubu’s candidature.
El-Rufai, who spoke on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme, said those people backed a different aspirant in the APC presidential primaries but the aspirant did not win the ticket. According to him, people are now hiding behind President Buhari to pursue their interests.
“I believe there are elements in the villa who want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way; they had their candidate. Their candidate did not win the primaries.
“They are trying to get us to lose the election, and they are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what he thinks is right,” he said.
Aisha, wife of the president yesterday backed El-Rufa’i over his claim that some elements in the presidency are plotting to sabotage Tinubu’s victory.
The first lady, who wields great influence in the Villa, voiced her support for El-Rufai when she shared a clip of the interview containing the governor’s main allegation against the saboteurs who are non-members of the party and are exploiting the president’s goodwill for their selfish ends.
El-Rufai’s comment won’t affect Tinubu’s chances – APC
The Director of Strategic Communications of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council, Dele Alake told Daily Trust that El-Rufai’s statement has no effect on the chances of the party’s presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Alake said the most important person in the Villa is President Muhammadu Buhari, who he said was very much in support of Tinubu and his emergence as his successor on May 29.
He said, “The statement is self-explanatory. He said some people; he never said the president.
“In your individual media houses, you have an editorial policy and there are elements within your organisations that don’t agree with those policies but they still work there.
“So it is a natural phenomenon in all organisations, in all institutions. Not all staff in organisations see issues the same way.
“The most important person is the president and Commander-in-Chief. He has spoken often and he said Tinubu is his candidate and he has appealed that we should vote for him who is coming to consolidate his achievements and address whatever challenges that would be left because he has the managerial competence, he has the intellectual acumen, he has an outstanding record of experience and performance.
“So we know that Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the candidate to beat. Asiwaju is the only fruitful candidate and that is why all of them are envious of him. But that has never won them an election and this one won’t be different”, he said.
Cabal fighting back – CSO, dons
The Executive Director, Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms (CODER), Dr Wunmi Bewaji, said El-Rufai’s comment is an indication that some members of the Aso Rock cabal are still aggrieved with the outcome of the APC primaries.
“The implication is these are people who are taking advantage of Buhari himself. When you say somebody is president, of course, there are a whole lot of people surrounding him.
“We heard what Governor Ortom of Benue said, of how he was prevented from seeing the president by some powerful forces within the villa. So these are people, by nature of what they do around the president, who could determine what happens in the country. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, it is the president that will be blamed by the people.
“When Asiwaju made that statement in Abeokuta, those who were ignorant of what was going on thought there is a problem between Asiwaju and Buhari. Absolutely not! The same people, this same cabal who wanted to be the one to determine who will succeed Buhari come 2023, are the same people who recruited all the people that Asiwaju defeated.
“They recruited all of them and in the end their candidates lost. This is it, but by and large, it is manifesting clearly that it is not Buhari that is against Bola Tinubu. It is the so-called cabal that he has defeated during the primaries. He defeated all their candidates and of course, they are already jittery,” Bewaji, a former member of the House of Representatives said.
On his part, a university don, Prof. Gbade Ojo said, “It is a demonstration of a party that is not cohesive. Ordinarily, there cannot but be quislins in a political party but where irreconcilable differences cannot be managed to the point of working against the flag bearer of the party, sad enough it means Mr. President is not in charge!”
Reacting, a renowned political scientist, Professor Kamilu Sani Fage of Bayero University, Kano (BUK) said the utterance from the Kaduna state governor is not strange as it is “part of Nigeria’s party politics which is devoid of any clear-cut ideologies separating the parties. Therefore, you have these 5th columnists in every part that as losers tend to sabotage and go about with the mentality of ‘if I can’t get it, no one else should.”
He said what is happening in the ruling party is similar to the face-off between Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP and the G-5 governors led by Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.
He also likened the development to a similar crisis within the then Action Group (AG) that led to the collapse of the First Republic and also a similar crisis in the then Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in the Second Republic.
“This does not augur well for democracy. It is undemocratic and positions like this (sabotaging one’s party) is a short-sighted approach because if your party loses, the opposition will give all of you tough times,” he added.
Buhari not supporting anybody – Lai
Contacted, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, simply replied: “You want to know the names? Wouldn’t it be better for you to ask the governor?”
However, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, while reacting to El-Rufai’s statement, said officially, the government was not aware of anyone within the Presidential Villa engaging in such action.
He said the government had been fair to all candidates regardless of party affiliation and that President Muhammadu Buhari had consistently demonstrated that he was for free, fair and credible elections.
The minister, who was asked to react after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, said: “On a more serious note, one thing I can assure you is that no matter what, this administration is focused, determined to ensure free and fair elections. But I think with this administration, the most important person is Mr. President and I think he has shown by words and by deeds that he is dedicated to free, fair and credible elections.
“Fair, free, credible elections means not backing anybody. And everywhere he goes, he makes that very clear even as recently as Friday when he was in Daura, he said the same thing. If there’s anybody working against a candidate, we don’t know officially.”