What has been discussed in political circles in hushed tones and which was released through innuendoes a few days ago, by the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, at a campaign rally in Abeokuta, was, yesterday, elevated to the national discourse, by Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. Insinuations have been rife within the APC, as well as among the opposition elements, that President Muhammadu Buhari might not have shown enough support for his party’s presidential candidate, Tinubu.
Appearing on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme, el-Rufai belled the cat, when he pointedly said some people in the Presidential Villa (Ask Rock) are working against Tinubu and plotting his failure at the polls. El-Rufai also revealed that the said individuals, who he didn’t mention, had their candidate during the APC presidential primary, but the candidate did not win. He added that those individuals are hiding behind President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire to do what he thinks is right.
Tinubu had at the keenly contested presidential primary in June, trounced top aspirants including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President Ahmad Lawan; former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Labour Minister, Chris Ngige; among other party stalwarts. He said: “I believe there are elements in the Villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way; they had their candidate. Their candidate did not win the primary. “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. I will give two examples: this petroleum subsidy, which is costing the country trillions of naira, was something that we all agreed would be removed.
“In fact, I had a discussion with the President and showed him why it had to go. Because, how can you have a capital budget of N200 billion for federal roads and then spend N2 trillion on petroleum subsidy? This was a conversation I had with the President in 2021 when the subsidy thing started rising. He was convinced. We left. It changed. Everyone in the government agreed, but it changed. “The second example I will give is this currency redesign. You have to understand the President. People are blaming the CBN Governor for the currency redesign, but no. You have to go back and look at the first outing of Buhari as President. He did this; the Buhari, Idiagbon regime changed our currency and did it in secrecy with a view to catching those that are stashing away illicit funds. It is a very good intention. The President has his right. But doing it at this time within the allotted time does not make any political or economic sense.”
According to him, the policy of currency redesign at this moment is the idea of a few people in the Presidential Villa and was never the policy of the APC. “I must say that the naira redesign and fuel scarcity is the handiwork of fifth columnists because they want to bring the country down, otherwise, why must redesigning of naira be the priority of the Federal Government at this time.” But in a swift reaction, the Federal Government debunked insinuations that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and a cabal in the Presidency are working to sabotage the electoral chances of Tinubu in the February 25 presidential election. Briefing newsmen after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the State House, yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who had kept sealed lips after last week’s outbursts by Tinubu, affirmed that President Buhari was committed to ensuring free and fair election, adding, “If there’s anybody working against a candidate we don’t know officially.”
According to him, the leader of the administration, who is also the leader of the ruling party, is more concerned with seeing the elections being credible, and not tilted in favour of any particular candidate or against anyone. Mohammed said: “On a more serious note, one thing I can assure you is that no matter what, this administration is focused and determined to ensure a free and fair election. “But I think with this administration, the most important person is Mr President, and I think he has shown by words and deeds that he is committed to a free, fair and credible election. And fair, free, credible elections actually mean not favouring anybody or disadvantaging anybody. And everywhere he (Buhari) goes, he makes that very clear, even as recently as last Friday when he was in Daura, he said the same thing.” Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, yesterday, shared the video of el-Rufai’s appearance on Channels TV. The President’s wife, in a post on her verified Instagram account, shared the clip of the governor with a simple caption: “#LongLiveTheFederalRepublicOfNigeria”.
MEANWHILE, APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, who has been visibly absent at recent campaign rallies of Tinubu across the states, was yet to comment on the development, same for the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. But the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) of the APC has said el-Rufai only stated the obvious when he said some elements in Aso Rock are working against Tinubu’s victory.
Reacting to what el-Rufai said at the launch of the ‘ThinkingCaps’ app, aimed at gaining the support of youths for the Tinubu-Shettima ticket, the Special Adviser, Media and Public Affairs, Mr Dele Alake, who is also the PCC’s Director of strategic communications, said the governor’s comment was self-explanatory. He explained that there was nothing spectacular about what el-Rufai said. Alake explained that in all institutions, you cannot have 100 per cent of all the operatives in an organisation seeing issues exactly the same way. His words: “He did say that some people, but he never said the President and in any organisation, including your own individual media houses, you have your editorial policy and there are elements within your organisations that don’t agree with the editorial policy, but they still work there.”Alake added that the conspiracy against Tinubu by forces within the Villa would fail, insisting that Tinubu remains unbeatable in the presidential poll.
The National Vice Chairman, of APC Southwest, Isaac Kekemeke, has called on Adamu, to act swiftly on what el-Rufai said. According to him, “no one who is a keen observer of actions and inactions of many people in the party would be constrained to want to agree with Governor el-Rufai that some forces in APC do not want Tinubu to succeed. “These elements have refused to campaign for or project the party in any way despite having benefited immensely from the party. They are doing nothing about the image of the party.” Kekemeke added that whereas the policies of the government may have been explained and defended to be for the good of Nigeria, “it is obvious that those policies are deliberately tailored to bring a lot of hardship to the people at this very delicate period such that it could easily de-market the party and not only its presidential candidate but other contestants too.”
The Southwest National Vice Chairman added that el-Rufai is an insider in APC both at party and government levels and for him to have come out means something is seriously going on. “It is time for the leadership of the party, Mr President and the national chairman to stand up to the occasion.”
In another reaction, immediate past National Vice Chairman, Southwest APC, Pastor Bankole Oluwajana, said those cabal the Kaduna governor is referring to should also know and understand the fact that the South will not fold its hand and allow the North to keep the Presidency for another eight years if that is their agenda. Oluwajana added though that the President is not part of the scheme, otherwise, he would have expressed his feelings that he doesn’t want Tinubu right from the onset. “I believe Governor El-Rufai understands what he said and he also knows the implications of what those cabals are doing, otherwise how can somebody be redesigning the naira at this delicate time? How can they allow fuel scarcity during this period? These policies are creating hardship and anger, bitterness in the people against APC government.”
The Chairman of Senate Committee on Local Content, Teslim Folarin, who is also the gubernatorial candidate of APC in Oyo, said the fact that Tinubu had said the would remove fuel subsidy could have been part of why those cabal, who were beneficiaries of the subsidy, are fighting back. A former Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, said the position of el-Rufai did not come as a surprise to him. “Events in the party have indicated that some forces don’t want Tinubu and or power to shift southwards,” Shittu said those forces who hijacked President Buhari and made him a victim are again at work operating against the interest of Tinubu.
“It will be very painful if APC loses this election. Take a look, those forces are tactical, they locked Tinubu out of government for eight years, the national leader never participated in governance, and he doesn’t even know what was going on in government, but now the same force are creating a scenario to blame the current hardship on him so that he will fail.”
By Seye Olumide (Ibadan), Adamu Abuh, Terhemba Daka (Abuja) and Abdulganiyu Alabi (Kaduna)
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