Chief John Odigie Oyegun, the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), had maintained an impressive record of being punctual at the party’s national secretariat located at plot number 40 Blantyre Street, Wuse II Abuja. But soon after President Muhammadu Buhari announced the appointment of APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to lead the newly formed ‘Consultation, Reconciliation and Confidence Building Committee’, Oyegun’s punctuality which had attracted commendation from party faithful was said to have relaxed.
This, according to sources, is an indication that the party’s leadership was unhappy with the development as it considers the Tinubu panel as an indictment and manifestation of lack of confidence in the APC National Working Committee (NWC) by the presidency.
Although the National Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Maimala Buni described the appointment of Tinubu as a timely intervention by the president, analysts say the task before Asiwaju may not be a tea party considering the widening crack on the wall of the ruling party, especially ahead of the 2019 elections.
Interestingly, some pundits consider Tinubu himself as an aggrieved APC chieftain, describing his new reconciliatory role as tantamount to being a judge in his own case.
Against this background and being probably the first major assignment President Buhari has assigned to Tinubu since the 2015 general elections, his choice of leading the APC’s reconciliation committee ahead of the 2019 elections, is considered as a deliberate move by the president to secure Tinubu in his corner.
But to many analysts, the former Lagos State governor is not a stranger to mobilizing and even weathering the storm of party politics in Nigeria. He had played an unparalleled role of galvanizing support for then candidate Buhari to emerge as president under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), following the merger of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a section of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
This may have given credence to the general impression that Buhari would not have scaled through in 2015, if Tinubu had not collapsed his electoral fortune in the South West and his goodwill in other geo-political zones into the APC trail.
But many waters have passed under the bridge since Buhari’s emergence. At a time it was alleged that Tinubu had parted ways with Buhari on the grounds that he was not effectively ‘carried along’ during cabinet formation and other appointments even as his business empire and those of his close associate were allegedly grossly “undermined” under the watch of the very government he laboured to put in place.
Not a few observers consider the responsibility given to Tinubu.
While some believe that despite the fact that the ‘embargos’ placed on several of Tinubu’s interests have been relaxed of recent, he still has many reservations, even as most of the people he is asked to bring on board are believed to have their concerns over his selection.
It was gathered that the ‘blank cheque of freedom’ given to Tinubu to select members of his committee was also deliberate- to give him clear impression that he is trusted.
The announcement of his appointment by Buhari’s spokesman was silent on other committee members but when asked if the names would be released soon, he said: “Of course, he (Tinubu) cannot work alone. He will put the team together. When the time comes, he will assemble a team that will work with him.”
The APC as a party is deeply factionalized with many pundits expressing doubts as to whether it would withstand pressure from within and without ahead of next year’s general elections.
“With former heads of state including Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida already waging war against Buhari; coupled with pressure from many serving and former governors that have pending cases of corruption and other misdemeanours against them; Buhari cannot afford to allow Tinubu to join the bandwagon of the opposition. This is basically why he gave him this complicated assignment,” a chieftain of APC said.
The source who wouldn’t want to be named said Tinubu remains the biggest and most formidable force that might likely make headway in reconciliation.
Another source said Tinubu was chosen because he controls a big empire in the APC both at the national and regional level and President Muhammadu Buhari would not find it easy in the event the former Lagos governor revolts.
‘What Tinubu must do to succeed’
For Tinubu to succeed, those in the know said his first port of call should be the presidency where he should convince President Buhari to become a party man.
Another source said if anything, Buhari is the chief architect of the crisis in the APC because according to him, he does not treat it as a golden child; hence the apparent inactivity in the party with attendant acrimony, inconsistency about policy direction and poor financing.
Another port of call is the National Assembly, considered to be the root of the party’s woes. It is widely believed that the crises that enveloped the APC emanated from the National Assembly before spreading to states and even local government areas.
Similarly, the National Assembly also hosts all the key political gladiators including the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Senator Shehu Sani and many others.
The foundation of the APC’s crisis was believed to have been laid when Saraki and Dogara defied the party’s directive to emerge as Senate President and Speaker, respectively, in June 2015, when the National Assembly was inaugurated.
It was after the emergence of Saraki and Dogara that other crises in the party became pronounced at many levels.