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APC Power Blocks In Cold War Over Control Of Buhari Presidency

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By Austin Ofor
SAN FRANCISCO, May 05, (THEWILL) – With the inauguration of General Muhammadu Buhari less than four weeks away, feelers from the in-coming governing party indicate a growing silent war between a group of young Turks and the old guard for the soul of Aso Rock. The former camp, consisting mainly of technocrats turned politicians, are determined to hijack the Buhari presidency and dictate who gets what in the new dispensation. They played some strategic roles in the national office of Buhari presidential campaign.

Towards this end, the young Turks, it was reliably gathered, are banking on the power of the media, including the cyberspace, to launch scathing crusade against key figures among the “old guard” in the party perceived to enjoy cosy relationship with the President-elect on account of the decisive roles they played in helping him secure the party’s nomination, and eventual electoral victory.

Those on the hit-list include the strongman of South-west politics and national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, outgoing Kano state governor and senator-elect, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, vocal governor of Edo State, Governor Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun. Also targeted is the national chairman of the party, Chief Odigie Oyegun, who is seen as enjoying absolute confidence of President-elect on account of “respectable manner” he has carried himself since emerging as leader at the party’s national convention in Abuja and the presidential campaign proper.

The goal of the smear campaign, it was gathered, is to discredit these heavyweights before General Buhari. Series of damaging articles and spurious analyses have been lined up to feature in the print media with a battery of sponsored “internet warriors” also unleashed in the social media. Impeccable inside sources linked the said smear campaign to a couple of anti-Tinubu news reports already carried by an influential newspaper based in Apapa, Lagos State in the last two weeks.

As for Oshiomhole, the “magic” he performed in delivering 45 percent of the votes to GMB on March 28 while the other five states in the South-south sub-region posted miserly figures understandably impressed General Buhari now said to view him as someone who can be trusted to provide effective leadership in the South-south. The development is said to have drawn the “envy” of some powerful players from the South-south.

Oshiomhole’s feat on March 28 was achieved despite choking use of “federal might” consisting of heavy cash pay-out and the deployment of the military by the ruling PDP.

After three previous failed attempts, General Buhari clinched the presidency on March 28 on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) with massive support from the South-west controlled by erstwhile Lagos governor, Tinubu. In the Northwest, the 1.9m bloc votes secured from Kano through Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso also proved decisive.

In appreciation of the extra-ordinary efforts made by Tinubu to deliver the South-west votes despite massive injection of cash by the presidency, General Buhari has publicly expressed gratitude to the man fondly called the “Lion of Bourdillon”. Tinubu’s influence had earlier swung the APC’s ticket to Buhari at the national convention held in Lagos in November last year against formidable contenders like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Governor Kwankwaso.

Contrary to expectation, Tinubu had declined offer to be running mate to Buhari and instead nominated his erstwhile Attorney-General, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

The forces
Buhari’s open acknowledgement of Tinubu’s sacrifice and role in the March 28 polls, it was gathered, drew ill feelings among some elements who, ironically, included some of the “Tinubu boys” in the South-west including Dr Kayode Fayemi, who failed woefully in his bid to return for second term as Ekiti state governor and Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) of Lagos state.

In the northern flank, Kaduna state governor-elect, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is leading the pack. From the South-south, the out-going Rivers governor, Chibuike Amaechi, the Director-General of Buhari/Osinbajo Presidential Campaign is the linchpin. The out-going Rivers governor is said to be nursing deep grudge against the “Lion of Bourdillon” for not supporting his dream of becoming the running-mate to GMB. As DG of the Buhari/Osibajo Presidential Campaign Organisation, Amaechi was said to have kept at arm’s length, anyone linked to Tinubu. A good example is the case of a one-time Information Commissioner of Lagos who was almost blocked from being included in the Publicity Committee of the Presidential Campaign reportedly at the instance of Amaechi. Even when Tinubu eventually made a strong case for him, the veteran journalist was still sidelined in the disbursement of funds for all the media activities.

On the other hand, Kaduna governor-elect, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai, is said to have taken it on himself to form a “shield” around Buhari against their perceived imaginary “South-west mafia”. The outgoing Lagos governor, Mr. Fashola, SAN, and former Ekiti governor, Dr. Fayemi, on their free volition are believed to be striving to chart a course independent of Tinubu in the emerging order.

At the party’s national convention held in June last year, Fashola and Fayemi, who rose to the gubernatorial seats in Lagos and Ekiti respectively on Tinubu’s back, had worked against the emergence of Chief Odigie Oyegun strongly backed by the Jagaban for the national chairmanship of APC. In the race for the governorship ticket in Lagos, Fashola backed Supo Sasore against Tinubu’s own choice, Akin Ambode, who eventually won the race.

According to insiders, in the subsequent electioneering campaign for Lagos governorship, Fashola reluctantly pulled his weight behind Ambode after the state congress in enlightened self-interest that a PDP win would have spelt a personal political disaster for him with unimaginable consequences.

Despite his failure to deliver his Surulere council to APC in the elections of March 28 and April 11 in Lagos, Fashola is said to be eyeing a plum portfolio in Buhari’s cabinet, preferably the post of FCT minister.

PDP’s Governor Ayo Fayose, on the other hand, exposed Fayemi, as a political “featherweight” in his native Ekiti State. He was defeated as incumbent in the governorship polls in Ekiti last year. To show that his victory in the governorship contest of August 2014 was not by chance, Fayose delivered Ekiti to PDP by clinching the three senatorial seats as well as a comfortable lead in the presidency poll on March 28. Fayose also posted an emphatic victory in the state assembly elections on April 11.

But in assessing the strength of the young Turks in the emerging order, a top national officer of APC who hails from North-central expressed some concern.

The official said: “Much as I will agree that scheming and back-stabbing are inevitable in situations like this, my only worry is whether this supremacy battle will not inadvertently constitute some distraction for GMB who at this time requires full concentration to tackle the monumental rot bequeathed by PDP.

“Honestly, I don’t believe these so-called young Turks mean well not only for General Buhari but also the survival of our party. It is quite laughable that guys, some of whom could not deliver either their local council or state on March 28 or April 11, are now aiming to displace the real pillars of our party. Whether they like it not, no one can deny Tinubu his dues for his huge sacrifices both financial and otherwise to the struggle to make GMB become President. I am sure GMB himself is too perceptive and intelligent to see through the shenanigans of these political neophytes. Go and mark on the wall, they will soon burn their fingers.”