Kassim Afegbua

On November 19, 2014, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu had glowing words for the matured politics of the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, when the latter decidedly withdrew from the presidential race, even as a most favoured candidate to clinch the ticket.

Tinubu was pleasantly surprised to experience such political magnanimity on the part of Tambuwal who stated unequivocally that he did not have any inordinate ambition to occupy the office of the president. Pouring encomiums on Tambuwal, Tinubu had footnoted in his media statement that such decision taken by Tambuwal was uncommon in the annals of Nigeria political history, adding that his place in history had become one that will sustain the test of time.

Tinubu had declared in that media statement that Tambuwal “undoubtedly have what it takes to lead this country to a better future and we take note of your astuteness, brilliant political trajectory and preparedness for higher service”. Continuing, he added: “Your sacrifice for the cohesion of the party and a greater Nigeria will go down in history as one of the greatest pragmatic and progressive political sacrifices ever made in the politics of our country.”

These are moving testimonials of Tambuwal’s selfless political undertakings as aptly captured by Asiwaju Tinubu when the APC was at the verge of electing its presidential candidate. Given Governor Tambuwal’s political profile, he was seen as the strongest presidential contender to a Buhari presidency when the cards were placed on the table.

But Speaker Tambuwal took a selfless decision to withdraw from the race in recognition of the admonition of some top APC chieftains who prevailed on him to step down for PMB, especially when they knew the House of Reps members had purchased presidential nomination form for him.

Tambuwal, in deference to the party chieftains, had to submit to wisdom and reason. When you reconcile these eloquent testimonials of Tinubu in 2014 with his press statement of Sunday, August 19, 2018, barely four years, it is easy to draw an irrevocable conclusion that we surely do not have role models any longer.

I took time to read the said statement and the many conjectures and concoctions laced in beautiful prose, and I began to wonder if this was the same Tinubu that eloped at the early life of this administration when the presidency shut its doors against some leaders of the party including Tinubu himself.

But given Asiwaju’s presidential ambition in 2023, he’s ready to back a Buhari presidency even if the latter is on wheelchair in the course of such campaigns, provided that similar support would come his way when it is payback time.

The rationale given by Tinubu for the defection of Tambuwal to the PDP does not only run contrary to the real reason why Tambuwal defected, it also exposed the inherent problems within the APC reason why its acclaimed progressive status and democratic content is a subject of suspicion.

The word “progressive” featured so glaringly in the said media statement to a point that I began to wonder why it is often so convenient for our so-called political leaders to live in self-denial when they are confronted with a choice between falsehood and truth. The claim that direct primary election would have denied men like Tambuwal and Saraki the tickets to seek re-election tickles me to a gale of laughter. How possible? What is the meaning of direct primaries in a party where political thugs have consistently undermined the process?

We saw it in Ekiti State during the primary election, we saw it in Osun State recently where the APC worked from answer to question in the choice of who becomes the candidate of the party for the forthcoming gubernatorial election. Even during the Lagos State local government primaries, we saw the deliberate assault on the people before the very eyes of all.

If that is what Asiwaju Tinubu meant by being progressive and democratic in the face of flagrant disobedience to all known rules and regulations of the process, then we are in serious trouble. For sure, nobody in the PDP promised anyone automatic ticket.

In fact, in the light of the defections that swept through the corridors of the APC, it was the APC power mongers that were promising automatic tickets amid a host of other mouth-watering offers just to stimulate the inner sensibilities of the heavy political weights that turned their back on the rudderless APC and their co-travellers.

Suddenly, a president that had maintained aloofness found himself courting friendship and political patronage from people he had once abandoned. He threw open the doors to the Aso Villa as he welcomed one prospective defector or the other. Asiwaju was unilaterally imposed as the reconciliator-in-chief by the president even though his actions ab initio were essentially why the party became suspicious of itself.

How long the reconciliation was able to correct all the misgivings remains a matter of conjecture, but suffice it to say that the reconciliation became a stillborn in the light of other issues that led to the mass exodus of those earlier first elevens who gave APC credibility, colour and shape at formation.

Since the defection of Tambuwal, it’s been one ridiculous lie or the other. Senator Aliyu Wamakko who prides himself as a political godfather had to hire crowd from neighbouring states of Kano, Zamfara, Kebbi and Kaduna states to get a semblance of befitting crowd to justify the empowerment he was allegedly blessed with.

He broke aviation rules and turned Sokoto airport to another market place for Okada riders in show of lawlessness that is typical of federal might by those who lack self confidence in local politics. They often visit home with horde of battle ready policemen to convey a wrong impression that they are in charge.

First, the pictures of Tambuwal’s mammoth crowd became handy for promoters of Wamakko’s political outing until Tambuwal’s men exposed the lies and the spins.

Secondly, they chorused a wrong narrative that Tambuwal had abandoned Sokoto for Wamakko for fear of being ridiculed. When Tambuwal went back to Sokoto and was received by thousands of students, they suddenly tried to invoke another narrative. This time, they said 252 political aides of the governor resigned and joined APC.

How can? Even if Tambuwal were to be the most inconsiderate political leader, he cannot lose 252 in one fell swoop to APC that offers no hope for the hopeful let alone be abandoned by his political foot soldiers who have enjoyed Tambuwal’s magnanimity as earlier captured by Tinubu. The story had gone to town by APC spin doctors until the real gist unfolded.

Tambuwal had just relieved the services of those over 200 political appointees in order for him to readjust the present political dynamics within the PDP. He had earlier dissolved his cabinet in the state to create an opportunity to accommodate party faithful in the PDP and those who defected with him within the APC to the PDP.

Why did it take the political appointees this long to resign almost two months after their principal defected, if they were not trying to be clever by half? Why did they wait to be relieved of their responsibilities before the dubious thought of resignation suddenly became their convenient narrative? Since the defection of Tambuwal, the APC power apparatchiks have become restless and confused. They are ready to rake up muds to rub off on the governor’s political and democratic credentials in order to alter the narrative.

Seeing him as the strongest challenger to a Buhari re-election plot, a point well made by Asiwaju Tinubu in his media statement, supporters of President Buhari would stop at nothing to draw impressionistic narratives that would tend to suggest that Tambuwal has problems back home.

But the reality that stares them in the face is one that is crystal clear to the discerning minds. 2019 will be a contest between the old, tired and retired brigades and the young, vibrant and energetic Nigerians which Tambuwal represents.

It will be a contest between political liars, known for their pretentiousness and hypocrisy in the APC and political astuteness and correctness, of those who speak truth to power without minding whose ox is slaughtered. In fact, 2019 will be a contest between APC versus Nigerians.

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