Bola Tinubu left his political party in the lurch before the Ondo governorship contest. Will the APC close ranks now?
Is Bola Ahmed Tinubu (also known as Jagaban) being demystified before our very eyes?
Of course it will be hasty and premature to draw conclusions from one election contest, but Rotimi Akeredolu's victory should resonate--godfathers don't always get what they want nor should they be allowed to.
Tinubu wouldn't shun an APC campaign rally in his traditional South West base even if he had to show up on the stump on crutches.
But he shunned Akeredolu's rallies--one after the other.
He was protesting the choice of Aketi (as Akeredolu is nicknamed) as governorship candidate from the Ondo APC primary election.
Tinubu kicked against the primary election process that threw up Aketi and launched a blistering attack on APC Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun.
Tinubu called on Oyegun to resign for overseeing a primary election which threw up Aketi.
Tinubu had written: "Oyegun’s comportment regarding the Ondo State primary will become the textbook definition of political treachery and malfeasance of the basest order. Oyegun and his fellows seem to be on a different wave length. They are the cohort of Unchange.
"As party chairman, Oyegun was supposed to protect our internal processes and be an impartial arbiter, a person in whom all had confidence. Instead, he donned the garment of a confident man, duping the NWC, the party, and INEC in one fell blow. He has robbed APC members in Ondo State of the chance to pick in a fair manner who they believe is the best candidate.
"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".
In the weeks leading to the Ondo vote, Tinubu kept Oyegun and Aketi at arms length. He wouldn't touch the governorship candidate of his political party with a ten-foot pole.
In public, Aketi said he had no beef with Tinubu.
“I don’t have any rift with him. Since the primaries, you would see that as leaders of the party, he has not said anything about it. He has accepted the primaries and we are moving on. So, I don’t have any rift with him at all and we are moving on,” Aketi said.
But you could have felt the rift with a knife.
As President Muhammadu Buhari flew into Ondo to rally support for Aketi a week before the vote, Tinubu made himself unavailable yet again.
The Asiwaju and three prominent South West Governors, boycotted the political rally.
Word quickly spread, thanks to Plateau State Governor Solomon Lalong, that Tinubu was absent at the rally because he had cupped an illness.
“If a leader was not there and he said he was not there because of ill-health, we have prayed that God will heal him,” said Lalong.
Moments later, one of Tinubu's loyalists, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, poured cold water on the "ill health" story and berated the Governor for his remarks.
Afikuyomi described Lalong's comments as “carelessly disingenuous, patently false, grossly unfair and most embarrassing".
He added that: "I traveled to the United States of America with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to witness the recent U.S. elections. We traversed a number of cities together where we engaged with a number of Nigerians who are genuinely concerned about the state of affairs in our dear country.
"Jagaban was in a remarkable state of mental and physical wellness. When we ended our trip, I saw him off to the airport in Chicago from where he headed for Europe again. I still met with him in Europe thereafter”.
Interpretation: Jagaban was travelling the world at a time he should have been pulling out all the stops to get the candidate of his party elected Governor.
Before the Ondo governorship election, several Tinubu loyalists spoken to for this story, told Pulse that Jagaban had adopted the AD's Olusola Oke as his candidate.
But it was a support so covert, no one can accuse the former Lagos Governor of anti-party activity or mutiny.
It was also an act of defiance few could have missed.
"Of course you don't expect Asiwaju to say he's backing Oke publicly because that will amount to anti-party activity. But Oke is who he is sponsoring...Oke is our choice...Oke is Okay", one Tinubu loyalist had told Pulse days before the election, on the basis of anonymity.
Tinubu's activities led to a split of the governing party into "Tinubu boys" Vs "Buhari boys".
Where "Tinubu boys" went for Oke, "Buhari boys" threw their support behind Aketi.
On the side of the "Buhari boys" were Works and Power Minister Babatunde Raji Fashola and Solid Minerals Minister, Kayode Fayemi.
Fashola and Fayemi were once "Tinubu boys", but had weaned themselves over time.
Aketi who had been looking for an opportunity to wean himself off of Tinubu, was presented with one during the governorship contest--he needed no second invitation.
APC party faithful have told Pulse that the "Buhari boys" made sure to support Aketi with all the federal funds at their disposal, in a bid to get back at Tinubu, who had fallen out with them in the past.
Moments after the governorship contest, APC chieftains told Pulse that the battle before the party in the coming days, will revolve around how to unite a fractured party.
Tinubu made reference to the disunity in the APC in his statement congratulating Aketi.
"I must express profound congratulations to President Muhammadu Buhari, the national leader of the party, whose stature and dignity helped guide the APC to another victory that should advance the progressive aims of the party and the people.
"I appeal to all party members, including those who have been disaffected from the primary until today, to come together for the good of our party and its progressive ideals," Tinubu said.
Tinubu's sparring partner, Oyegun, also called for the sheathing of swords in the wake of the election victory.
“With the 2016 Ondo State governorship gone, the task before the party leadership is uniting the party and healing wounds", Oyegun said.
“The APC thanks the Ondo electorate for voting for the party in the keenly-contested election. The Ondo electorate have voted for the candidate with a proven track record of performance and who will bring about the kind of focused leadership and multi-faceted development which the state deserves. The party assures that we will deliver on this expectation.
“Also, the outcome of the Ondo State governorship election powerfully demonstrates the confidence and trust by our people in the overall leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari’s APC-led administration. The party and the President hold sacred this trust.”