By CHIKA ONYEANI
On April 5, barely seven days after Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s unprecedented win in the Nigerian presidential elections, former Lagos State governor and the acknowledged leader of the party that brought Buhari his win, Bola Ahmed Tinubu was already boasting to anyone who would listen how he single-handedly put Buhari in office. This is a theme that Tinubu would repeat again on April 22, in an article titled, “How the ‘Godfather’ of Lagos Could Shape Nigeria’s Government,” Senator Tinubu boasted “I am a talent hunter. I put talents in office, I help them.”
Tinubu proceeded, “I use the best hand, the best brain, the best experience for the job.” These articles were written by international journalists, and it was becoming apparent to Nigerian watchers that nothing that Buhari could do without the sanction of the ‘Jagaban’, an honorific name that an Emir in the north had bestowed on him.
These outsized accolades on Tinubu drew the ire of Buhari’s northern supporters, who began to whisper their frustration at Tinubu claiming total control of Buhari. They began to point out that the South-West which is Tinubu’s stronghold did not really produce the kind of earthshaking votes that the North had produced. But they forgot that without Tinubu, there would not have been the APC, an amalgamation of four parties, with Tinubu’s ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria) leading the way in bringing the party about with six governors, while Buhari’s party the CPC had only one Governor. It was an achievement worthy of note that even the Yoruba oracle, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, could not achieve in his liftetime, the final amalgam between the South West and the North.
These major contributions didn’t matter to Buhari’s northern supporters who wanted any way of stopping Tinubu’s influence. They found what they were looking for in another article also written by another international journalist, titled “General Muhammadu Buhari’s political partner is a former bagman for two heroin traffickers.” According to court documents that the article had quoted, Tinubu had allegedly confessed to being recipient of money from drug dealers who happened to be his cousins while he was living in Chicago. The article also pointed out that the U.S. government had seized $1.4 million from the drug money that belonged to Tinubu.
Buhari’s supporters seized on this piece of information to urge restraint on the part of Buhari on his dealings with Tinubu, saying as powerful as the Jagaban was in Nigeria, he might be considered a common drug criminal in America, and that Buhari should not taint his image with such an individual, to avoid drawing the ire of the U.S. government.
This is when Buhari and his supporters began to hatch a plan on how to cut Tinubu to size. They had inflamed Tinubu’s rhetoric of putting Buhari in office that Buhari himself had become irritated.
While planning for the G7 summit in Germany, Buhari and his inner circle were hatching a plan of how to humiliate Tinubu. They reminded the President that he had opined that he would not interfere with how the legislative branch handled its business. It was the opportunity they were looking for. The President, employing his constitutional duty, fired a letter to the Clerk of the House setting June 9 and 9:00 a.m. as the time that the 8th Legislature would commence sitting and elect its officers.
Meanwhile, on June 6th, the APC leaders had orchestrated and forced a straw poll that produced Senator Lawan as President of the Senate, and Rep. Ghajabiamila, a protege of Tinubu, as Speaker of the House. But two members of the Buhari inner circle, Senator Bukola Saraki and Rep. Yakubu Dogara saw the opportunity to carry out their conspiracy against Tinubu. They publicly and vehemently opposed the results of the straw poll. To play his part, Buhari called a meeting of the APC leaders and the senators, to the International Convention Center in Abuja, ostensibly designed to make peace between the warring factions, unbeknown to 51 Senators that the meeting was a ruse to carry out Buhari’s plan to cut Tinubu to size. Solidly 51 APC Senators enthusiastically responded to the call to meet with their President.
Here’s the outcome of that meeting as narrated by Tinubu himself, writing in his own newspaper The Nation. In his article, Tinubu explained that the invitation of the APC lawmakers to the International Conference Centre, ICC, was said to be at the behest of the President; shockingly, the President did not show up.
“The bewildered 51 APC Senators, who were waiting endlessly for the President in ICC, watched the proceeding of the inaugural session from a nearby TV box.
“Before the 51 APC Senators could race down the five-kilometre stretch from ICC to the Assembly Complex, Saraki had emerged as an unopposed candidate.
“To add insult to injury, President Muhammadu Buhari neither showed up nor sent apology to the stranded Senators at the ICC.
“They were left at the mercy of troops from the Brigade of Guards, who had already been deployed in the centre ahead of the supposed arrival of the President.
“Unfortunately, there was no communication between his office and the 51 APC Senators who heeded his invitation.
“It was around 10.35am, we saw that the inaugural session was already on and Saraki had been elected. If we were to be defeated, it should have been done on the floor.”
Tinubu said the APC is in tatters. “The President may need to assert himself by playing a fatherly role to reunite his political platform that is in tatters.
“When some leaders met with the President after the coup in the Senate, he was said to ‘be hollow’ without a solution to the crisis at hand. The time to act is now,” he emphasized.
After the article was handed to President Buhari, he was said to have chuckled. He knew he had won again, this time against the so-called Jagaban who was claiming omnipotence over him, because he believed that whoever complained first was the loser, and Tinubu had foolishly showed his egotistical ambition. Even assuming that Senator Saraki and Rep. Dogara were to be voted out, an unlikely event, Buhari and supporters are jubilating because they believe they stuck the needle and popped Tinubu’s balloon.