The cock has not crowed even once and members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are denying themselves many times over. It may be a matter of character or frustration. What is unfolding around the party may signal what may yet transpire in the months ahead. Clearly now, the lame duck period has kicked in for Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency.
Of course, some will argue that the President has actually been a lame duck of sorts long before now. The escalating recriminations within the party mark, perhaps, a somewhat formal commencement of the winding down of the Buhari administration. Even at that, there is no doubt that the various power-grabbing elements within the presidency at Aso Rock, who have over the years done all manner of things in President Buhari’s name will continue to drop his name till the end of his tenure in May.
What recent developments within the fold of the APC indicate, however, is that the truck that will convey the personal belongings of Buhari home to Daura in three months may not even leave the gates of Aso Rock before his actions in office are either repudiated or subjected to serious inquisition by those who were his acolytes hitherto.
Nasir el-Rufai characteristically set the ball rolling last week. Speaking on a national television programme, the Kaduna State governor pointedly levied an accusation that some forces in Buhari’s Aso Rock are not in support of Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the ruling party. These elements, el-Rufai alleged, are working for another candidate and doing everything to ensure Tinubu’s downfall at the presidential election in three weeks.
The accusation was an unmistakable jab at President Buhari, forget the reference to some forces in Aso Rock. To interpret el-Rufai’s dig any other way is to confirm the contention in some quarters that Buhari is not in control of his government. But el-Rufai had been a close apostle of Buhari. Whatever the case may be, Buhari is in the dock, squarely brought thence by el-Rufai. Truly, the clock of the Buhari presidency is running down.
Although Buhari’s disposition to Tinubu’s candidacy, has been neither hot nor cold, el-Rufai, characteristically, with eyes on the next stop, stopped short of directly calling out the President for presiding over a house where anti-party activities are being carried out presently.
The attempt by Information Minister Lai Mohammed to deflate the Kaduna State governor’s charge by dismissing his allegation with a declaration that there was no known anti-Tinubu coalition at the presidency was met with a swift and sharp el-Rufaic response. He threw it in Mohammed’s face that he, Lai Mohammed, knew those at Aso Rock working against Tinubu. At that juncture, loquacity met pugnacity. The resolution is still being awaited.
Three weeks before the presidential election, with the ruling APC having no worthwhile record to run on, in all honesty, the APC is hovering on the brink of an equivalent of black-on-black violence within its fold. Some of those who used to swear by Buhari will soon, very soon, swear at him. Across the states, more so in the North, there are worrisome moves away from the ruling party.
El-Rufai’s measured shot at Buhari’s Aso Rock was not the first stone thrown at a location that was hallowed in APC, until recently. Tinubu himself, having patiently waited and courted Buhari’s endorsement, which appeared not forthcoming, understandably became petulant. He suddenly woke up to a realisation that the performance of APC in government was dismal and offered him no viable route to Aso Rock. He moved to distance himself from the APC government.
His first step was to aim a shot at Buhari and their government, alleging on a campaign podium in Abeokuta that the acute petroleum scarcity and naira redesign policy that have caused unprecedented hardship on Nigerians were acts of sabotage aimed at derailing his presidential ambition. At another campaign outing in Akwa Ibom, he scored the performance of Buhari’s APC government outright “F 9”. Suddenly, the Buhari government became ‘their’ government and no longer a joint enterprise in which he was a major stakeholder and leader.
For long, Tinubu had appeared conflicted on how to align his ambition to be President on the platform of APC with the woeful performance of the party in the last eight years. Try as he may wish, Tinubu cannot extricate himself from APC. He remains national leader of the party. He had also repeatedly declared at roof top that he made Buhari President. The recent attempt to exculpate himself from the woeful record of the APC government, what he classified as “F 9 all over” cannot work. Tinubu remains APC and APC remains Tinubu. If the Buhari government scored “F 9 all over” as he put it in Akwa Ibom, that record rubs off on him, no less.
Interestingly, Tinubu had earlier declared that he will continue Buhari’s policies. That was a most audacious and awkward pitch a candidate could make, against the backdrop of a dismal performance by the Buhari government such that even his wife, Aisha, felt compelled by conscience to tender national apologies. But Tinubu was ready to do anything necessary to keep Buhari on his side. He had expected Buhari to put the powers of an incumbent President at his disposal on his way to the election. Alas, Buhari seems to have an entirely different idea, one that Tinubu did not see coming.
As it seems, it is either that Buhari is seeking redemption of his name through ensuring an election that will be credible and respected at home and abroad, as he had repeatedly promised, or he has his own agenda. Whichever is the case, it does not offer Tinubu much comfort. What he has got from Aso Rock is obviously not what he expected when he launched out to succeed the man he said he installed. Here lies the root of the simmering discontent that is manifesting in stones being hurled at Aso Rock from inside APC.
With nothing to lose at this juncture, Tinubu, who already has his hands full with issues of integrity, serious health challenge, drug record and contested personal record, seems to have decided, to go it his own way. His F 9 scorecard is a statement of departure.
Suddenly, last weekend, President Buhari, in what now appears like a teasing game, showed up at Tinubu’s campaign in Nasarawa and gave him the long-withheld endorsement. It remains to be seen now how Tinubu will alter those F 9 scores. He will surely try. He may embark on another visit to Buhari’s personal home in Daura, as he did after accusing those who approved redesign of the naira and those who run the petroleum policy of sabotage against his ambition. His minders made futile efforts after the Daura fence-mending trip to explain that the saboteurs in reference were folks in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Hopeless.
Eighteen days before the presidential election and three months before the Buhari presidency comes to an end, APC is worth watching closely. The indicators are blinking. The governors seem uncomfortable that Buhari is not playing ball. Muhammadu Buhari should get ready: more stones will come his way, from within the APC. What an interesting time.