By OLUSESAN LAOYE
For the past six months, the heat has been turned against the leader of the All progressives Congress (APC) over his alleged presidential ambition for the 2023 presidential race. Tinubu’s ambition is no longer a secret; although he has not made his intention known, all his foot soldiers have been working underground for the actualisation of his ambition.
One of the issues that may be a major stumbling block to Tinubu’s ambition is that of the bullion van said to have been driven to his house in Lagos on the eve of the 2019 presidential election. Last week the convener of concerned Nigerians Deji Adeyemi had submitted a petition to the EFCC to investigate Tinubu over source of money allegedly conveyed to his residence with bullion van during the 2019 presidential election. This is a loaded political gun that may explode before 2023.
But since the inauguration of the second of this government, it has not been business as usual for the political grandmaster as the Lion of Bourdilon has been facing serious antagonisms from those opposed to his ambition both within the APC and outside it.
The picture of the magnitude of the opposition which Tinubu would face started manifesting before the last general elections when it appeared that he was losing grounds in the party but he masterfully managed the crisis to face the elections.
But as soon the election was over those after Tinubu never hid their opposition. This manifested in the choice of ministers as it was believed that none of his nominees were honoured and those who were thought that came from him were discovered later that, they made the list through different sources.
Since then he too has not been inconspicuous and largely quiet and unobtrusive in respect of party activities. Although he played a critical role in mobilizing the National Assembly to accept the party’s list of nominees for leadership, having relocated his base to Abuja during the horse-trading, the outcome seems to have tilted toward the president rather than him.
Indications to this emerged not long after when governor of Kaduna state Mallam Nasil
El-Rufai went to Lagos to cast aspersions on Tinubu over his ambition. He said that despite the claimed popularity of Tinubu, there was not much to show for the performance of the APC in the South West particularly in Lagos.
Also, the body language of the cabals indicated that they were all out to scuttle the presidential ambition of Tinubu. The perceived hostility against the vice president Yemi Osinbajo was interpreted in some quarters to mean that the cabal within the presidency and some powerful groups in the APC were after him as a result of his closeness to Tinubu and that they were after those who could be helpful to his ambition.
Although some people believed that despite the fact that the vice President is one Tinubu’s protegees, targeting him was in two fold, to whittle down the support for Tinubu and to cripple him, Osinbajo, strategically and other wise as he was seen as an alternative to Tinubu in the South West. All these it was argued were moves to prevent Tinubu or those associated with him from moving to power after President Buhari.
One of those who are targeted and believed could also contribute immensely to the ambition of Tinubu is Mr Babatunde Fowler, the boss of the Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS, who was suddenly queried over the revenue collection of his agency. Observers saw as a subtle tactics to deny him second term. The query generated so much controversy which became so glaring that it was not Fowler that they were after but his mentor Tinubu.
Of all the forces against Tinubu, those from the North are more intense and they seem not to have hidden their opposition to his ambition.
The Northern group which is spare headed by the Kaduna state governor, El-Rufai may have done a lot of sensitisation among some prominent elites, and leaders in the region who have been coming out with derogatory statements against both the interests of Tinubu and the South especially the South West on the presidency in 2023.
Some of the Northern leaders, who have been vehement about the presidential ambition of the people from the South, and the South West in particular, are Alhaji Tank Yakasai, Dr. Junaid Muhammed and Professor Ango Abdulahi. They have all spoken against the South West taking over from the North. Both Yakasai and Ango Abdullahi never hid their feelings against Tinubu as one of them even said that only Osinbajo could get his vote if the South West ever become a presidential candidate.
There is no doubt the opposition to Tinubu’s ambition is swelling by the day. Right in his home base the South West, Tinubu is equally facing some oppositions and all appear not to be well completely for him. .Apart from the opposition outside his party in the South West, there appears to be strong opponents within the APC even among those he had helped to stardom. It is believed that some of them are now working with forces against his ambition.
For instance in Lagos State, it was believed that he is no longer enjoying a close and cordial relationships with the likes of Munis Banire and even the Minister of Works who was his chief of staff and his appointed governor of Lagos State for eight years. Fashola is one of the people who is being prompted for the presidency in the South West in 2023. It was even believed that the relationship between him and Tinubu had gone bad since 2015, when it was said that Tinubu opposed his ministerial appointment but was picked by President Buhari on merit who eventually made him minister of three powerful ministries, power, works and housing.
Also Tinubu has the Akinwumi Ambode group to contend with. Since he prevented him from running a second term, the relationship between them has soured so bad to the extent that they both engaged in war of words and character assassination. It is now glaring that except miracle happens, Ambode and his group would never back his move to the presidency.
Apart from Lagos, he has people like Ibikunle Amosun who may not forgive him for the role he played to prevent his choice emerge as the flag bearer of the APC in Ogun State.
There is also the incumbent Governor of the Ondo state Rotimi Akeredolu who has been having a running battle with Tinubu, who is alleged to be opposed to his Second term bid in the state. His loyalists in Ondo state have been after Akeredolu and there was a serious gang up to impeach him or even suspend him from the party.
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state used to be one of his trusted henchmen; indeed, he was accused of being too Lagos oriented in his first term which was essentially why he lost. But since moving to Abuja as minister and return as governor, things seem to have fallen apart between them as he is said to be the north’s side kick for Presidency in 2023.
Because of the perceived personality clash between the duo over their presidential ambitions, it was insinuated that the recent statement of Tinubu against the Airport project of the government of Fayemi openly at the convocation of Afe Babalola University in Ado Ekiti was an attack on Fayemi. Tinubu at the convocation said that the airport should not be the priority of the state government and that the money should have been diverted to something more profitable. The people of Ekiti state did not take kindly to this statement, which they believed was an affront to the people who were yearning for the airport.
But Tinubu sensing the reaction of the people of the state and those in government had to issue a statement that his statement was not an attack on the government of Kayode Fayemi.
The convener of concerned Nigerians Deji Adeyemi in the petition said that as a private citizen who ordinarily should not be seen with a convoy of bullion vans with an undisclosed amount of money which he admitted to publicly.
The Arewa youth consultative forum under the leadership of Yerima Shetima in an interview said that he was not sure the EFCC would probe Tinubu over the petition written by Adeyanju because of his closeness to the corridor of power as the National leader of the APC.
He said there was the need now for Tinubu to clear himself of the allegation and charged the EFCC to do what is necessary and let the whole world know its outcome on the matter raised by concerned Nigerians.
Also Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly Lagos is one of the top Nigerians in the south West that has been critical of Tinubu’s wealth and is also interested in the position. He argued that there are those today in the society who live big on the commonwealth of the people and cannot be said to have sustainable source of income, a veiled reference to the bullion van episode.
He said that Nigerians should be mindful of those they would vote for as leaders.
While reacting to the presidential ambition of Tinubu the leader of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Network vision for his presidency Mr.Sola Omodeni who was the former commissioner for physical planning and urban Development in Ondo state, said Tinubu is the best presidential material in 2023.
He said he has proved to be reliable and responsible leader. He pointed out that his tenure as the governor of Lagos state was still the best because he laid the foundation which subsequent governors are now building on.
Also Mr. Samuel Ade Pelemo, a former lawmaker in Ondo State who is the coordinator of BAT and his Deputy Bukky Oluderin extolled the virtues and the leadership qualities of Tinubu and called on Nigerians to support him as they would not regret having him as the President.
They argued that BAT is solidly on ground in Ondo State and the foundation of the group would be used to test run the governorship election in 2020, apparently saying that the candidate supported in the state, not Akeredolu would emerge the Governor of the State.
They argued that Tinubu would be in the best position to carry on with the foundation already being laid by President Buhari.