It is no longer news that the cabal inside the Aso Rock and the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ahmed Bola Tinubu, are on different pages over the fortune of the governing party in the February 25, 2023 presidential election.
The expected news now is when a Third Act would be enacted for discerning political watchers to know who has the upper hand in the supremacy battle between the warring parties before the curtain draws on election D-day.
For three days running, February 1 to 3, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state had taken the centre stage having unveiled the Second Act of this ongoing war with his claim on the first and second day of the new month that presidential insiders were sabotaging Tinubu and then on the third day, stated that the cabal in the villa were northerners whose identity he would take time to disclose.
“All these conspiracies and hypocrisy are by people of the North. They want to portray us as ungrateful people, especially the Northern governors advocating for a power shift to the South and support for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu,” el-Rufai said on Friday in an interview with Hausa BBC Radio.
Two days earlier, he had told national television stations that, “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 but their candidate didn’t win the primary election. … They are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what he thinks is right.”
Rabble rousing statements but weighty, nonetheless, because of their crisis management implications for the party in the upcoming general polls, an informed senior government source confided in THEWILL, explaining that there is little to show from checks that the accused are disturbed in any way. “They are set in their ways” because the hostility which began last year before the party’s last July presidential convention in Abuja has shown no sign of abating.
At any rate, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, was quick to respond to el-Rufai’s claims, denying knowledge of any presidential opposition against Tinubu. He contended that what el-Rufai might be referring to as opposition was Buhari’s commitment to conduct a free and fair election.
“Free, fair and credible election actually means not favouring anybody or using anybody and everywhere he (Buhari) goes, he makes it very clear. So, if there’s anybody who is working against any candidate, we don’t know officially,” the Minister said.
UNMASKING THE CABAL
Not all members of the cabal allegedly working against Tinubu, as pointedly stated by el-Rufai necessarily reside or work within the presidential villa, according to our findings. But they operate within a structure, a formidable one that they built since the beginning of this administration and have bonded very well with the president. They have the President’s ears and attention at all times which gives them certain invincibility.
The notable persons among them, according to THEWILL checks, include Mamman Daura, the president’s nephew and the most influential of the lot; Auwal Lawan Abdullahi, a son-in-law to former military Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, IBB, who recently took over Polaris Bank; Sarkin Abba, a Senior Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs; and Yusuf Sabiu (Tunde), Buhari’s cousin, his Special Assistant and youngest member of the cabal. Others are Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, the group’s pre–convention presidential candidate and National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Adamu.
However, Mamman, Auwal, Abba and Sabiu according to our checks with senior sources in the Tinubu campaign are those Tinubu believes are actively working against his victory using the naira redesign policy as well as the acute shortage of fuel as weapons. The sources insisted that the cabal is working on its own without President Muhammadu Buhari’s support.
“The president is 100% with Asiwaju. There is no doubt about that,” one of the sources insisted.
“We have confirmed that the NNPC has enough petrol in the depots, they (Cabal) are making it unavailable to hurt our campaign, clearly,” another campaign source told THEWILL, anonymously. The NNPCL through its Group CEO, Mele Kyari, has said the scarcity has nothing to do with politics.
Coming a few days after Tinubu had alleged during a campaign stomp in Abeokuta, Ogun State that the powers that be were orchestrating the current fuel scarcity and currency redesign, (both of which are driving Nigerians crazy), to sabotage his chances at the upcoming polls, el-Rufai’s claim that those whose candidate lost in the party’s presidential convention were behind the subversion has once again raised the lingering power struggle between the powerful cabal and Tinubu.
A reliable source said el-Rufai’s disclosure shows that the warring sides can no longer deny there is an ongoing war between them and their supporters over who determines where the party goes in the election.
According to the source, who craved anonymity, Act One, Scene One of that ‘war’ unfolded on Thursday, June 2, 2022, the day Tinubu in Abeokuta, while seeking delegates votes for his party’s coming presidential primary on July 7, said it was his turn, (Emi lo kan) to be president after he had helped President Buhari to Aso Villa twice.
“That day, Jagaban drew the battle line through blackmail,” the source said.
The source recalled that weeks before Tinubu’s statement, Buhari had met with APC governors at the Villa and solicited their support to allow him choose his preferred candidate for the presidency amidst speculations that President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, was the anointed one. This later turned out to be true. Lawan became the cabal’s candidate and they pulled all the stops to make him win at the presidential primaries. They quaked when the president, in a display of statesmanship, denied supporting any candidate for the convention.
This gave the group the jitters, making party National Chairman, Adamu, who had earlier announced support for the choice, later denied it but soon let Tinubu know that he would be sanctioned for his Abeokuta declaration.
At the convention, however, Tinubu emerged victorious against all odds. The 19 APC governors from the north who supported his candidature ensured he won. Defeated, the cabal temporarily regrouped to strategise and have now chosen to support Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
THEWILL recalls that the composition of the Presidential Campaign Council, PCC, provided a chance for both parties in dispute to harmonise their differences. It was not to be. The party national leadership rejected the list of names, accused the candidate of working without input from the party and demanded for an expanded, more inclusive committee. Tinubu agreed and held a meeting with Adamu, pledging his support for the party. It did not last.
Then began electioneering with accusations and counter accusations over the perceived reluctance of Buhari to campaign for Tinubu.
THEWILL checks show that party bigwigs are divided over the ongoing power tussle between the cabal and Tinubu.
One group thinks Tinubu’s insistence on fulfilling his life ambition to become president is feeding his ego and would make him brook no dissent. His open barbs against the policies of the administration such as the recent fuel scarcity and currency redesign have not only appeared as a direct attack on the person of the president but has also created the impression of an unpredictable character. This Tinubu persona is said to have created fear among the cabal that a Tinubu presidency would relegate all of them to the background, an unthinkable prospect for power mongers.
On the other hand, there are those who support the current posture of the candidate because they calculate that once the man had taken the gamble and won at the presidential primary, he would still prevail so long as he still commands the support of the majority of the governors from the North since the party’s convention. “It is a catch phrase of the Jagaban that power is never served a la carte. You have to go for it and grab it,” the source said.
As at the time of going to press on Saturday, tales of frustrations and pains from the scarcity of petrol and cash at banks and ATMs across the country continue to dominate the news cycle and social media. The Governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele, addressed the press on Friday night to reassure Nigerians that the apex bank, aware of the hardship being caused by the new policy, was taking measures which would yield the desired results as soon as possible.
END IN SIGHT?
With about 20 days to the election, there appears to be no end in sight in the power game between the cabal and Tinubu. If what Tinubu’s point man among the governors in the North, el-Rufai, said about plans in top gear to unveil ‘elements in the cabal’ after the presidential election, the days would be long with the APC going into the crucial poll distracted by the President’s men.
The outcome of the 2023 presidential election is clearly going to be the most unpredictable since the country returned to democratic rule in 1999 because of the BVAS technology introduced by INEC to block voters accreditation fraud and rigging. THEWILL projects that the election will be very tight.