It was a miracle APC survived the apocalyptic prediction of its imminent fragmentation under the weight of intrigue and contradiction which were in full display during its last week convention. Tinubu while savoring his well-earned victory after brutal two-nights of many knives convention in which all his opponents, treacherous protégées and a cabal hiding under Buhari’s presidency to serve other tendencies were roundly defeated, assured all those who did not vote for him have nothing to fear. Those who know the Jagaban as a politician with malice towards none know he meant every word of his solemn undertaking. Some of those who served as his foot-soldiers in the exercise were in no distant past his political foes and one should not be surprised if those who betrayed him last Tuesday are found brainstorming with him in his sitting room in no distant future. Tinubu is therefore a political analyst’s nightmare because he alone knows how best to fight his own battles. All a keen observer of the Nigerian political process and its self-serving, political governing class can do therefore, is to put all the macabre dance and chilling scheming by aspirants and party leaders in those two nights of many knives in perspective.
First the APC convention confirmed that our political governing class have faith neither in democracy which they see just as a method to buy their way to power nor in the party system which they see as nothing other than a vehicle to power. It also exposed the southern political ruling class as a groveling self-serving gamblers and traders with no abiding faith in anything while their northern counterparts demonstrated that politics is not a dirty game but that what we have are dirty politicians for whom in the words of Kashim Shettima, ‘anything goes’.
First the public disrobing of the cabal at war against Nigeria. Before last Tuesday when it climbed the tree beyond its leaves by underestimating Tinubu’s resolve to fight rough and an unexpected patriotic stand of northern governors, many of whom may not necessarily like Tinubu’s guts, against Mai Buni and Abdullahi Adamu’s attempt to foist Ahmed Lawan as APC consensus candidate fraudulently using Buhari’s name, the identities of the cabal that have held Buhari and Nigeria hostage for the greater part of seven years remained in the realm of conjecture. But last week’s APC vicious intra-party battle changed the narrative.
But for the northern governors, with Buhari’s ‘government of delegation by abdication’, Adamu and Mai Buni would have by their pursuit of selfish and parochial agenda created more social dislocations for a deeply divided society where an irresolute president has mismanaged crisis of nation building. Sadly a trip through memory confirms this has been the pattern of the cabal’s operation in the past years.
We all remember how Bukola Saraki by his own admission in 2015, literarily stole the senate presidency, with Shehu Garba speaking for a vacillating president saying ‘the cure for headache was not cutting off the head’. The country was made ungovernable for four years after that. It was the same when church massacre (similar to recent Owo tragedy) was first carried out in Benue, followed by sacking, confiscation of community land and condemning of survivors of mindless killings to IDP camps. An unrestrained response of Buhari’s minister of defence was to blame everything on encroachment of pre-colonial and pre-36 states creation grazing routes. Governor Ortom’s anti-open grazing laws was similarly criticized by the minister while ex-emir, Sanusi Lamido from his far away Kano fiefdom encouraged Fulani immigrants in Benue to resist their host state’s anti-open grazing laws.
It was not different when Governor Akeredolu of Ondo ejected AK-47 wielding criminal Fulani herdsmen illegally operating in his state’s reserved forest. Garba Shehu, Abubakar Malami and Bauchi’s Bala Mohammed viciously attacked Governor Akeredolu quoting the fraudulent 1999 constitution. Similar strategy was also adopted when Shehu Garba purportedly speaking for Buhari, rejected the 36 states’ demand for state and community policing citing problem of funding and equipment.
Now let us turn to the groveling consensus-seeking presidential aspirants. If Rotimi Amaechi, who long ago destroyed his political base had any preparation for his presidential ambition, it was humouring President Buhari. How about his claim the president is infallible, locating University of Transportation in Katsina and buying into the president vision of extending rail line to Niger Republic? For his pains, the cabal assured the Daura-turbaned Amaechi of becoming Buhari’s APC consensus presidential candidate.
The ambition of Kayode Fayemi, the adopted son of the caliphate was also probably predicated on the promise of Mai Buni, his friend that he could emerge Buhari’s consensus candidate. Although eminently qualified, it was doubtful he would have contested against a benefactor that helped him to retrieve his stolen mandate after three years and rehabilitated him when condemned to political wilderness by PDP and Fayose. Ibikunle Amosun who lost his political base to Osoba and Tinubu was probably also thinking of becoming Buhari’s consensus candidate on account of his closeness to the president. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi was also probably bitten by the cabal’s “consensus” bug.
They discovered too late on the nights of many knives that they have all been outwitted by Adamu and Buni who named Ahmed Lawan as President Buhari’s consensus candidate and outsmarted by Tinubu who did not just work hard to earn the trust of some northern governors but also took sacrifice to ‘esu’, the Yoruba god of confusion with the centre unable to hold between the cabal and their northern governors.
Of course the cabal are the masters of the game. They planned for the future by honouring past promises. They proved as Nasir El Rufai has argued, ‘you can go to the bank with their words’. They also know southern politicians have prices. In the first republic, with promises of positions and contract, the Yoruba politicians turned truth on its head to nail their leader. In the words of Hubert Ogunde, they ‘invited the thief and also invited the owner of the farm’ to catch him. This time around with the promise of consensus candidacy, they suddenly realised Tinubu, their leader was dictatorial and ambitious and they prayed hard that God may bring him down. But swindled by Buni and Adamu, they sang a new song about Tinubu being their brother.
Of course the cabal knows the Igbo political elite more than they know themselves. If a group that created a permanent enmity between those who look up to them for direction and Yoruba, their chief hosts because Zik was prevented from becoming the premier of the West in 1952 when a Yoruba man cannot contest for local council councillor in Igbo land in 2022, why will they not swallow the bait they could reap where they did not sow in 2023? Kalu Uzor Kalu, Rochas Okorocha and other Igbo contestants believe the cabal would persuade Buhari to declare one of them a consensus APC candidate as if Igbo votes alone could secure for them the presidency. But the cabal knows that for the Igbo, politics is the art of the possible. They didn’t waste time licking their wounds before falling over each other to join Atiku or Lawan. The cabal knows, in Igbo, the north has an ever ready and willing beautiful bride.