The gloves have been worn and the fight for who controls the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Osun State promises to be bloody, literally.
The mud fight may have already been brought to the doorstep of the National Leader of the party and presidential hopeful, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
If something is not urgently done to pull the combatants back from the brink, the center might hold no longer, both for Tinubu’s political family and his presidential ambition.
Sources close to the first layer of Tinubu’s political lieutenants told The Guardian that the maverick politician might face stiffer opposition to his presidential ambition from his supposed loyalists more than people outside his political caucus. Specifically, it was learned that some of his core loyalists do not see him as “politically fit to govern the country apart from his rumored health challenges.”
And the seeming crack in the “Bourdillon school of politics” is said to be the chief reason many beneficiaries of his magnanimity are also gunning for the presidency or supporting another aspirant against their supposed leader.
It was gathered that while some governors in the country are planning to “retire” Tinubu from active politics by 2023, some other ‘enemies within’ are working round the clock to whittle down his political influence and stop his bid for the presidency.
But sources close to the former Lagos State governor said the gang-up against him is not new and expressed confidence that Tinubu will clinch the party’s presidential ticket and become Nigeria’s president by 2023.
One of them said: “Go and check the records, many politicians that worked against him in the past later came back to be his friend, and he was magnanimous enough to welcome them back with open arms. Those working against him now will soon know that they are political featherweights.”
Sources said the open vituperation by Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, against Tinubu in a video that has gone viral is mere child’s play compared to what would be coming out from his “loyalists” in the next few weeks.
It was also gathered that the presidential ambition of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and that of the Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, has not only strained their relationship with Tinubu but also divided loyalists that once belonged to the same political family.
A source said: “Osinbajo and Fayemi are now called many unprintable names by Tinubu’s core loyalists. They are not only being referred to as traitors but also likened to the former Premier of Western Region, Chief Ladoke Akintola, who challenged the political authority of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the then Action Group.”
Other prominent lieutenants of Tinubu who are said to be indifferent to his presidential ambition are Minister of Works and former Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola; former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu; immediate past governor of Lagos, Akinwumi Ambode; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Babafemi Ojodu.
Unknown to many, Tinubu is alleged to be supporting Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, who is at daggers drawn with the Information Minister over who controls the party in the state.
The factional chairman loyal to the governor, Mr. Sunday Fagbemi, has been recognized by the national secretariat of the party, while Mohammed is on the watch list of Tinubu’s loyalists on his next political moves.
While some estranged Tinubu loyalists have not made public their resentment to his presidential ambition, Ojudu, who is known to be one of Tinubu’s foot soldiers and eggheads, had specifically said that he would not work for Tinubu’s presidential ambition.
Ojudu in a statement titled: ‘Principled Political Choices Are Not Betrayal’, said he could not, in good conscience, support Tinubu or vote for him in the party’s primary.
He said: “So, on the 2023 matter, I wish him well, but I cannot, in good conscience, give him my support or vote for him in the primary. It is my right. I am above 60 years. At a point, I almost died seeking democratic rights, detained and severely tortured.
“As such, no one should think he could browbeat or blackmail me to do what does not agree with my conscience or ideals. Enough of the telephone threats and embarrassment of my family members,” he said.
Ojudu said he knows Tinubu very well, adding: “I respect and adore him. Many of his latter-day supporters do not even know him. If they do, they won’t resort to emotional and physical blackmail.”
He recalled that when Tinubu decided to go against Afenifere and Yoruba elders in 2003 by refusing to support President Olusegun Obasanjo, he did not betray the Yoruba nation, nor was he a traitor of Afenifere.
However, the latest onslaught and sign that Tinubu’s political dynasty is crumbling came from Aregbesola, who has drawn a battle line with the national leader of the party.
It was gathered that the cause of their political crisis was the way Tinubu allegedly imposed Governor Gboyega Oyetola on Aregbesola as successor. It was said that while Aregbesola looked for a successor from Osun West senatorial district, Tinubu handed to him Oyetola from Osun Central senatorial district.
A source said despite efforts by Aregbesola and party officials to ensure Oyetola won, the new governor, shortly after, reversed some of the policies he inherited from his predecessor.
The no love lost relationship between the two leaders split members of the party in Osun State, which led to parallel congresses, but the national secretariat of the party has recognized the faction loyal to Oyetola.
Meanwhile, Aregbesola has told the APC National Leader to stop playing God and subsequently announced what he described as “freedom” from Tinubu’s political fiefdom.
Reacting to the implication of the war of attrition between Tinubu and Aregbesola, a political analyst, Dr. Wale Adediran said the feud could not affect the presidential ambition of the former governor of Lagos State because Osun cannot determine what affects the whole country.
He said, “Tinubu has a political structure and supporters in almost all the states of the federation. Besides, I see the crisis as the ranting of a godson against godfather that will soon fizzle away like a storm in the teacup after the Osun governorship election.
“Besides, we have to acknowledge the fact that there is no permanent friend or enemy in politics. Don’t be surprised if you see them working together after the election.”
For an emeritus professor of Political Science at the University of Ibadan (UI) and former Director-General of Centre Democratic Studies, Prof. John Ayoade, “It appears that we are not told what is the cause of the problem. Tinubu has not talked about it. We are in the dark about the cause of the problem. Politicians only tell us what they want us to know. If it is personal, they should not make it political. They should not get us involved in their personal affairs. This is unnecessary.”
Talking about its effects on the presidential contest, he said it is a storm in a teacup. The issue is only happening in Osun State. According to him, Tinubu has a lot of following in the country and so the conflict has no effect on his presidential ambition.
“Even in Osun State, there is a balance of power. Aregbesola is a former governor. The incumbent governor has more access to the people. Aregbesola is putting too much into the battle. He is talking about Akande and Tinubu. It is a wrong strategy. Aregbesola is fighting too many battles.
“People will say Aregbesola has done his tenure. He should allow the current governor to do his own. It is immoral”, he argued.
But an elder statesman and former Nigerian Ambassador to the Philippines Dr. Yemi Faroubi, said: “The crisis between Aregbesola and Asiwaju Tinubu is not an indication for a united home front in a quest for the highest position. It exposes the underbelly of the Asiwaju political machine.
It will encourage some opponents, who ordinarily would have kept quiet. A number of people who would have abandoned their opposition roles out of apparent fear of the threat of the Asiwaju machinery will be emboldened to challenge the system and that might reduce the degree of support they would get. It is not the best for them, whichever way you look at it”.
But former National Vice Chairman Southwest of APC, Pastor Bankole Oluwajana, said such a crisis was normal in politics as long as there are mechanisms to resolve it.
“I do not see the feud between the two leaders as capable of destroying APC or depriving the Southwest region of producing the next president.
“The party witnessed a similar scenario in 2018 during the build-up to the 2019 general election when Tinubu and former National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun had a serious confrontation and the likes of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and erstwhile Senate President, Bukola Saraki and others left the APC. The party still did its national convention and went ahead to win the general elections.
“This Aregbesola/Tinubu feud will definitely not deprive southwest the presidential ticket just that the one expected to get it may not be”, he suggested.
However, a very close ally of the duo who pleaded not to be mentioned in print told The Guardian how the minister disclosed to him that he would fight Tinubu dirty over the lingering crisis in Osun State.
He said the misunderstanding has degenerated to a very bad state and it has given the northerners a kind of edge to penetrate the progressives’ ranks in the south.
He warned Tinubu specifically that the defiance of Aregbesola with the kind of unprintable remarks coming from the minister might be the handiwork of the North to deliberately polarise the Southwest. He said: “The two leaders must realize the fact that any spark in Osun State today will ginger the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency, which would be a minus for whosoever the region would present as its candidate in 2023.
He blamed Tinubu specifically for the crisis, saying, the National Leader did not employ enough political maturity to address the feud before it degenerated to this level.
He, therefore, called on the traditional institution to rise up to the occasion. He stressed: “There is no politician of substance in the Southwest APC that can intervene in the matter except the monarchs wade in to resolve it.
Meanwhile, another chieftain of the party, Fouad Oki, said both Aregbesola and Tinubu do not deserve pity from anybody because they are both reaping from what they have done to others in the past.
He said the fracas is definitely going to cost the national leader his presidential aspiration, which according to him is a fact he (Tinubu) knows very well.
On the minister, Oki said Aregbesola has no choice but to fight otherwise he will go into political oblivion if he loses the battle.