By Femi Fani-Kayode
I do not like to delve into matters touching and concerning the APC because I am not a member. However what is happening in the ruling party today transcends partisan politics and should be a concern to us all. At the very least we can learn some very hard lessons from it.
The truth is that the behaviour of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun towards the man that single-handedly made him the National Chairman of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is reprehensible. And neither does this matter begin or end with the way and manner in which the Ondo State governorship primaries were conducted or its final outcome.
It goes much deeper than that and the Ondo affair is only symptomatic of a much deeper malaise and wider conspiracy to humiliate the National Leader of the APC by forces within his party that are even greater than him.
Those forces represent the hidden hand. They are a small cabal of power-brokers who constitute the leadership of the Buhari-led CPC. These people believe that they were born to rule and that they own Nigeria.
They simply used Tinubu’s old ACN as a compliant and ready piggy-back to catapult their way back to power and once they achieved that, they never looked back.
Some of us warned Tinubu at the time about the dangers of riding the tiger and allowing himself to be used by these very dark and sinister forces, but he would not listen.
No true student of history could have made such a cataclysmic and monumental error, given the terrible experiences of others from the south-west, and, indeed, the entire south, who collaborated with such ultra-conservative, sectarian and arcane forces with a clear and distinct ethnic and religious agenda in the past.
Such forces can never be comfortable with a well-connected, highly sophisticated, independent-minded, strong, unpredictable, uncontrollable and experienced Yoruba leader and southern gladiator with a June 12 pedigree, a NADECO background, a massive war-chest and a widespread and formidable political base.
They may use him to achieve their objective, but they can never trust him or allow him to have control of the party machinery or to wield any real power when it comes to running the affairs of the nation.
Most importantly, once they have finished using him, it becomes their duty and cardinal objective not just to cut him down to size but also to castrate and render him impotent and eventually destroy him.
That is their way. It is also a classic and vintage Nicollo Machiavelli move. This great writer that has had more influence on political thinking and strategies than perhaps any other author in human history taught us a critical and crucial lesson in his famous 14th century literary masterpiece and treatise on the power game titled “The Prince”. He tells us that the first thing that a Prince must do once he has achieved power is to destroy those that put him there.
And that is precisely what those that seek to do Tinubu in are doing. Worst still they are using his own erstwhile disciples as a first line of attack against him.
It is not just Odigie-Oyegun that has turned his back on him but also his former political proteges and former ACN associates like Tunde Fashola, Ibikunle Amosu, Kayode Fayemi, Biodun Ajimobi, Olorunimbe Mamora, Niyi Adebayo, Rotimi Akeredolu and numerous others.
Pulling the strings from behind the scenes and encouraging and funding the rebellion are hardline Buhari-supporters like my good friend Governor Nasir El Rufai and a number of others.
Their objective is to establish a new political order in the south-west which is beholden to them alone, to replace Tinubu as the National Leader of the party and to utterly demystify and crush him in order to prepare the ground for the emergence of a new and more compliant Yoruba running mate for either Buhari himself or el-Rufai in 2019.
As a graphic illustration of this interesting and unfolding agenda, the powers that be in the APC, led by Buhari himself, fired six shots at Tinubu immediately after they formed government. The first was the Senate Presidency affair and the Bukola Saraki matter which saw the defeat and humiliation of Tinubu’s preferred candidate for Senate President.
The second shot was the Speaker of the House of Representatives affair and the Yakubu Dogara matter which, again, saw the defeat and humiliation of Tinubu’s preferred candidate for the position of Speaker of the House.
The third was the vital issue of ministerial appointments in which not one single ministerial nominee of Tinubu’s was accepted and appointed as a minister by Buhari. Every single person that he nominated from the south-west and elsewhere as minister was rejected and, instead, the slots were filled by his political adversaries and/or their nominees.
Many erroneously believe that Mr. Lai Mohammed, who is from Kwara State, was Tinubu’s choice and nominee for Minister of Information; but this was not the case. The person that he nominated for Minister of Information was not Lai Mohammed but Mr. Dele Alake, his former Commissioner of Information in Lagos State.
Again, he nominated Mr. Wale Edun, his former Commissioner of Finance in Lagos State, for the position of Minister of Finance but this was rejected and Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s candidate, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, got the job instead.
This went on across the board for every single person that Tinubu nominated and presented for the position of minister last year and it was a terrible humiliation for him. It was a dirty slap in his face.
The fourth shot was the James Faleke matter in Kogi State where it was agreed by the real landlords of the APC in the core north that Tinubu must not be allowed to gain a foothold in the north central zone by getting his own Yoruba kinsman and candidate to be elected as governor of that state.
Hence, Faleke was ruthlessly dropped and shabbily treated and another person was selected to be the gubernatorial candidate of that state. It worked, Faleke went to court and, sadly, he lost. That was the end of the story.
The fifth shot is the thorough and systematic, though subtle and covert, humiliation and relegation of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a close associate and political protege of Tinubu and a spiritual son of the revered Pastor Enoch Adeboye of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, to not just a spare tyre as vice president but also to a very flat one.
Rather than being allowed to participate in the crucial decision-making processes on vital and critical issues of state and governance as any vice president should, Osinbajo has been kept in the dark about virtually everything and he has little or no power to effect anything.
When such decisions are to be debated, discussed and made, the vice president is never invited into the room and neither is he even aware that there is such a meeting going on. Worse still, he is constantly being directed to represent the President at official functions all over the country, as if he were more his Personal Assistant, Special Advisor or minister rather than the vice president of the country. Osinbajo’s crime is simply that he is loyal to Tinubu and he has refused to dump or betray him.
The sixth and perhaps most devastating shot is the fact that the party machinery has not only been taken away from Tinubu with the effective hijacking of Odigie-Oyegun, but that it has also opted to do the bidding of his mortal enemies and to fight him.
An eloquent testimony to this disturbing fact is the outcome of the Ondo State gubernatorial primaries where Tinubu’s candidate was edged out and cheated of the nomination by the party leadership. This was the last straw that broke the camel’s back and predictably, Tinubu has reacted in a very loud, aggressive and profound manner by publicly calling for the removal of the National Chairman of the party.
Yet, calling for the removal of Odigie-Oyegun is not enough. The whole situation calls for critical thinking, sober reflection and deep retrospection. The point that needs to be clearly understood when considering these six shots and the unfolding anti-Tinubu agenda within the APC is the fact that, contrary to all pretensions, President Muhammadu Buhari is part and parcel of it and he is, in fact, the moving spirit behind the whole conspiracy.
Nasir El Rufai and a number of others are simply the strategists and enforcers. Buhari, Mamman Daura and Abba Kyari are the masterminds.
If Tinubu does not realign quickly and fight hard to save his dwindling political fortunes and empire, his APC friends and allies will destroy him in a slow, clinical, sadistic and systematic manner. And they will do it with a big, beautiful and friendly smile on their faces. He gave them his all, caused them to win an election and trusted them to honour their word and treat him with respect and decorum.
Yet, if the truth is to be told, no matter what mistakes he may have made, Tinubu does not deserve to be treated this way.
Up until the Presidential elections were conducted last year, he led and held together the south-western wing of the APC with an iron fist and he was the undisputed leader of the APC in that zone. All four APC governors from the south-west and virtually every single party leader waited on his every word and he called the shot.
Sadly today, just over one year later, he is a caricature of his former self. Today, Tinubu can only boast of having the ear and the full support of only two of those governors, namely, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, who will NEVER betray him no matter what; and Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos State who will also stand firmly behind him until the very end.
The truth is that Tinubu has lost much ground and political mileage in recent times and, as more daggers are pulled out over the next few months and years, it is bound to get worse for him. Yet, that does not mean that he is finished. I say this because he is a tried and tested fighter and a formidable adversary who is quite capable of pulling the whole APC house down. It would be a fatal error for any of his adversaries to underestimate him or dismiss his ability to fight back.
In July 2016, just after my release from detention and during the course of an interview with Channels Television (which can still be viewed on Youtube), Mr. Seun Okinbaloye asked me whether I could ever contemplate going back to the APC and how I thought the ruling party would fare into the future. I told him that I would NEVER go back to the APC under ANY circumstances. I also told him that in any case, by 2019, there would not be an APC, as it is presently constituted, because the party would have spilt up into three separate and distinct political entities.
I told him that the Tinubu group comprising of men like Baba Bisi Akande, Rauf Aregbesola, Akinwunmi Ambode and others would establish one party; the Atiku Abubakar group comprising of men like Bukola Saraki, Rabiu Kwakwanso and many of the former PDP leaders and governors that had left for the APC when President Goodluck Jonathan was in power would establish another; and that the Buhari group comprising of men like Nasir el-Rufai, Bello Masari, Aminu Tambuwal, Rotimi Amaechi, Rochas Okorocha, Chris Ngige, Ogbonaya Onu, Adams Oshiomhole and virtually the entire structure of the old CPC leadership in the core north would constitute yet another. I stand by this prediction.
These three strong and equally forceful factions can be likened to the proverbial three blind yet ravenous wolves. They cannot stay in the same cage or remain on the same platform for long without tearing one another to pieces. Eventually, they will all go their separate ways and, hopefully, contend with a newly-branded and reinvigorated PDP in the field of battle in 2019.
What we are witnessing today in the ranks of the APC is the beginning of that bitter separation and messy divorce and it is going to get far worse. It will be loud, bitter, acrimonious and rancorous and many political empires, careers and aspirations will be destroyed as a consequence of it.
My hope and prayer is that the PDP, which is also going through its own rigorous process of redefinition and reinvigoration, can get its act together before then, take advantage of the situation, pick up the pieces and win the presidential election in 2019. I am sure that we will.
Meanwhile, my advice to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is to watch his back, consolidate his base, fight his enemies, reach out to new friends, accept the fact that he is at war and sleep with one eye wide open. The truth is that it will get far worse before it gets any better.