Buhari's decision not to extend the tenure of APC Chairman Oyegun was in Tinubu's favour and it's smart politics.
These presidency sources often cite Buhari’s decision not to intervene in the politics of the 8th national assembly in the early days of the APC administration; and not handing sufficient powers to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu after he won the 2015 election, as proof that for all his years in the army and governance, he remains a political neophyte.
Well, at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the APC which held on March 27, 2018, Buhari proved he’s been taking political notes and listening to his political advisers by putting a stop to the tenure elongation plans of APC chairman John Odigie-Oyegun.
On February 27, 2018, a motion was moved and upheld by NEC to the effect that when the tenure of the current executives of the APC expires in June of 2018, they should be allowed to continue for another year.
The current APC executive is of course led by Oyegun and it is called National Working Committee (NWC).
At the time, the argument put forward by party faithful was that since the APC will be facing a fierce election contest in a few months, changing the national executive midway would amount to rocking the party’s boat.
'Why not wait till after the general election to hold an elective congress to change the NWC?' was the prevailing argument.
“Holding elective congresses at this time would have led to some acrimony and division within our party before the 2019 general elections. We thought it was best to leave the team as it is and hold elective congresses immediately after the 2019 contest”, one top ranking APC official disclosed to Pulse in February.
Of course Bola Tinubu wasn’t happy with the decision to retain the party executives for another year. And for obvious reasons as well.
Tinubu and Oyegun are sworn enemies.
Tinubu has written two public letters in which he took Oyegun to the cleaners and warned him against destroying the governing party.
In September of 2016, Tinubu unequivocally asked Oyegun to leave his position.
“Oyegun’s transgressions are a warning. He is but the mercenary of forces that seek to return the nation to the old ways”, Tinubu had written.
“If they get away with this infraction, no telling what or whom they will undermine tomorrow. Much is at stake. On the chopping block, lies the future of the political party in which the majority of voters had placed their confidence.
“To rescue the party, Oyegun must go. He has shown that he and democratic fair play cannot exist in the same party at the same time”, the Jagaban wrote.
After Buhari handed Tinubu the job of uniting a fractured APC back in February, the Jagaban Borgu (as Tinubu is fondly called) accused Oyegun of frustrating the presidential directive.
“Disappointment greeted me when I discovered that you had swiftly acted in contravention of the spirit of our discussions. Instead of being a bulwark of support as promised, you positioned yourself in active opposition to the goal of resuscitating the progressive and democratic nature of the APC”, Tinubu wrote to Oyegun this year.
Tinubu fell out with Oyegun in 2016 when the party Chairman backed Rotimi Akeredolu for the Ondo governorship seat against Segun Abraham who was Tinubu’s handpicked candidate.
Akeredolu would go on to win the primary and the general election in that Southwest State, much to Tinubu's chagrin.
By opposing the tenure elongation of Oyegun and his team, Buhari is essentially aligning with Tinubu and ditching Oyegun.
And it’s smart politics. Buhari needs the Southwest now more than ever before--for re-election purposes. Tinubu is lord and manor of Southwest politics. Any close watcher of the political game in recent times, would have noticed that Buhari has been pandering a lot to Tinubu lately.
The president has been holding regular talks with Tinubu at the Villa, he’s handed Tinubu the task of uniting the APC; and this week, Buhari will be in Lagos to attend the 10th Bola Ahmed Tinubu colloquium.
The president is increasingly sucking up to Tinubu and at the moment, that’s deft, pragmatic politics.
Of course Tinubu, who was spectacularly absent at this week’s Abuja meeting, wasted little time hailing Buhari’s decision to overturn Oyegun’s tenure extension.
In Tinubu’s words: “President Buhari’s action has saved the party from serious legal turmoil.
”If the elongations were deemed illegal, then all subsequent party actions, including the nomination of all of our candidates for elective offices, might also be of questionable legality.
”Such a predicament would constitute an unnecessary and mortal blow to the party and its role in promoting progressive governance to Nigeria.
”Moreover, President Buhari has affirmed for all to see that our party is one based on the rule of law coupled with a firm adherence to internal democracy.
”While it would have been easy to allow the ill-conceived motion of 27 February to stand, President Buhari showed principle and courage by steering the party back to its original and correct path.”
It may have been Buhari’s voice at the APC NEC meeting this week, but it was no doubt Tinubu’s hand. And the biggest loser here is Oyegun who will be kicked out of the leadership of the party in June without mercy. He has become a bargaining tool or make-weight in the larger scheme of things.
It’s called politics. Good ol' politics.