APC primary: Tinubu’s victory, an utter humiliation for Buhari, Adamu
Let’s face it, Professor Osinbajo’s abysmal performance, with just 235 votes out of 2,340, was a repudiation of the Buhari government’s so-called achievements by the APC’s rank and file
Bola Tinubu’s landslide victory in last week’s presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is an unmitigated humiliation for President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu. Forget their now embarrassing volte-faces, it’s an open secret that Tinubu was not their choice as the party’s standard bearer in next year’s election. Yet, he outmanoeuvred them and clinched the party’s ticket!
A few days before the primary, Tinubu had stirred the hornet’s nest with an emotional speech in Abeokuta on June 3, in which he spoke derisively about Buhari. Many thought that the outburst would work against Tinubu, but, alas, it worked for him. The speech reminded APC governors, leaders and delegates of Tinubu’s long-standing investment in the party, and, thus, his indispensability and entitlement as the party’s presidential standard bearer.
Of course, Tinubu’s angry remarks were provoked by the shenanigans he suspected were going on within the party’s leadership and the presidency, which he feared were designed to deny him the party’s ticket for the 2023 presidency. So, out of desperation, he spoke in anger to remind the party’s leadership and members of his singular role not only in forming the APC, but also in Buhari’s emergence as president in 2015 after three failed attempts.
Dramatising his words for maximum effect, Tinubu said that Buhari ran for president “the first time, he crashed (“olule”); the second time, he crashed; the third time, he crashed. And he wept on national television.” The derogatory “olule” comment became a viral comedy joke on social media. But Tinubu’s comments merely exposed his self-interested calculations and deep sense of entitlement. He said Buhari wouldn’t have been president without him. “I made Buhari president,” he said, before staking a bold claim: “It is my turn to be president.”
Expectedly, Tinubu’s remarks triggered responses from the party’s leadership and the presidency, fuelling speculations that there were plans to deny him the presidential ticket. Surely, the “olule” mockery and the remark that Buhari became so despondent about being a serial loser that he wept on national television only to be consoled and helped by Tinubu were bound to offend President Buhari and his loyalists. And they did!
In a swift response, the perpetually morose-looking APC national chairman, Adamu, said Tinubu’s “utterances are very insulting,” adding that he “does not show any appreciable level of respect for the office of Mr. President.” He rejected Tinubu’s later statement that he held Buhari in high esteem and threatened that the party might sanction him for his “unbecoming” behaviour.
The presidency too responded, rejecting Tinubu’s claim that without him Buhari wouldn’t have been president. In a statement by Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, the presidency said: “No one can or should claim to have made Buhari president in 2015.” More instructively, it added: “Yet, as important as that moment was, it is not what should decide the next general election,” suggesting that Tinubu could not rely on whatever role he played in the emergence of Buhari as president in 2015 to stake any claim to APC’s ticket for the 2023 presidency.
This was the rather hostile atmosphere that Tinubu faced ahead of the APC’s presidential primary. The situation was complicated by President Buhari’s earlier statement to APC governors that he should be allowed to pick his successor and the later frenzied attempt by APC governors, based on Buhari’s request, to find a consensus candidate. More alarmingly, there was a sinister attempt by the APC national chairman to impose Ahmad Lawan, the Senate president, as the consensus candidate, a move rejected by APC’s Northern governors and poopooed by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State as “an expensive joke” and “a flight of fancy” by Adamu.
Yet, there were fears that Buhari and Adamu were working in cahoots, especially given Buhari’s Janus-faced character. Truth is, President Buhari’s insistence on inclusion of the consensus option in the new Electoral Act and his imposition of Adamu as APC’s national chairman, and the enforcer of his will in the party, suggested he wanted a consensus candidate as the APC presidential flagbearer. But Tinubu wasn’t going to be the consensus candidate.
In the end, however, the Tinubu force was too powerful and irrepressible. President Buhari dropped the idea of picking the APC’s standard bearer and the search for a consensus candidate failed, with everyone, including some members of the APC National Working Committee, disowning Adamu’s choice of Lawan as the consensus candidate.
So, eventually, there had to be an open presidential primary, with all the 23 aspirants contested. But when the chips were down, Tinubu coasted to victory. With seven aspirants stepping down for him, he secured 1,271 of the 2,340 votes cast, leaving his closest rival, Rotimi Amaechi, the former transport minister, with 316 votes, while the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, came third, with a measly 235!
Let’s face it, Professor Osinbajo’s abysmal performance, with just 235 votes out of 2,340, was a repudiation of the Buhari government’s so-called achievements by the APC’s rank and file. Surely, if APC members believed the Buhari administration had done creditably well, the vice president, who has been utterly loyal to the president, would have benefited from that perception of success by securing much higher votes in the primary, even if he didn’t win the contest. But Osinbajo was humiliated, a consequence of being part of a failed government!
Yet, Tinubu won overwhelmingly in his own right. He succeeded in securing the support of the Northern governors and delegates, undoubtedly through inducements. Tinubu is arguably the wealthiest politician in APC, and probably one with the widest network, who, for years, invested heavily in party matters, with an eye on the presidency.
Surely, Tinubu is not called a consummate strategist for nothing. He famously said: “Seeking the presidency is my lifelong ambition.” Yet, he did not run for president until now, aged 70, Why? Well, he knew that his then regional parties, Action Congress (AC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) were not viable routes to the presidency, and that, to become president, he must align with the North. So, for years, he strategically bid his time, spending massively to build political structures in the South-West and political alliances in the North, culminating in the formation of the APC in 2013.
Truth be told, without Tinubu there would have been no APC, and without APC there would have been no Buhari presidency. All APC members, including the delegates who voted at last week’s primary, recognise this fact, and they know too that Tinubu could have been Buhari’s running mate and vice president but for the opposition to a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Furthermore, they know his track record of funding parties and elections over the years.
In his autobiography ‘My Participation,’ Chief Bisi Akande, former Osun State governor, wrote: “Anytime there was need for money, Atiku would say ‘Bola, please help us,’” adding: “Bola was the only one spending the money among us.” Forget about the source of Tinubu’s wealth, a question for another time, the truth is that he spends it on building a political empire.
But here’s the lesson: in an open primary where delegates can be induced, only the stupendously wealthy can emerge as a presidential candidate in any of Nigeria’s major parties. Truth is, no aspirant without Tinubu’s phenomenal wealth would have won the APC’s presidential primary; the outcome was skewed in favour of the highest bidder.
Which bring us back to Buhari and Adamu: they lost out! Buhari told Channels TV in January that he had a “favourite,” which wasn’t Tinubu; Adamu tried to impose a consensus candidate, apparently with Buhari’s knowledge. Both tried to stop Tinubu but failed woefully. Of course, they’ve both congratulated him, but they must also be licking their wounds. Humiliating!