Like a broken family whose members would  prefer to destroy their father’s inheritance rather than share it, shame has become a passé to the managers of the Presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress and that of the Peoples Democratic Party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar. As the Feb 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections draw feverishly near, the desperation in the camps of these two presidential candidates seems to have reached a new low. With the many gaffes and seeming lack of tact by Tinubu on the campaign hustings, a sense of ennui has set in. His desperate efforts to be the next President of Nigeria appear to be bogging down. But he keeps blowing hot. As respected columnist Sonala Olumhense wrote in the SUNDAY PUNCH of January 29, if there’s one political party that ought not to be on the ballot in the February/March elections, it’s the ruling APC.  

But, is the PDP better?  For Atiku, there’s no silver lining yet. Though the crisis rocking the party, no thanks to the G5 Governors, remains unresolved, the intensity of the G5 attack on their own party is waning even as Atiku’s men are reported to be articulating new strategy to go into the election without any the support of the disgruntled G5. Put together, the back and forth accusations between the camps of the two presidential candidates can be likened to the popular cliché in professional Basketball game that says,  when you have the ball with time running out on the clock, there’s only one thing you can do:Throw the bomb. That’s why you see the managers of the two presidential candidates in a dogfight, pulling some last-minute ploy. We  can see how desperate their ploy has become.

The Tinubu camp was the first to go on the offensive. At a press conference by its battery of spokespersons, led by Junior Minister of Labour and Employment,  Festus Keyamo, the party took a swipe at Atiku over allegation of corruption bordering on money laundering, criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation. It has since petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission(ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau, to immediately effect the arrest and prosecution of Atiku. Keyamo has gone to court for that purpose. The Tinubu camp is relying on the allegation of one whistleblower,  Michael Achimugu, who claimed to be a former aide of Atiku when he was the Vice President. The whistleblower alleged that Atiku laundered money using what he called “Special Purpose Vehicles”. He also claimed that Atiku used trusted allies as shareholders and directors.                                   Not to be outdone by Tinubu handlers, the Atiku camp, launched a counter-offensive  against Tinubu, and urged the EFCC and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA) to arrest, prosecute Tinubu over drugs allegations and money laundering. 

This is a running story. In the days ahead, more allegations from both camps will likely emerge. Don’t be surprised if you hear APC and PDP accusing each of being responsible for any miscarriage by women. Where is the issue-based campaigns that Nigerians clamoured for at the beginning of the campaigns? While  the Tinubu campaign’s relentless pursuit of Atiku seems to be backfiring, the Jagaban himself threw himself onto another vortex of the storm, again in Abeokuta,  Ogun state, where he made the infamous “Emi l’okan”(it’s my turn), the baptism of his presidential quest. This time around, he went overdrive in an outburst in which he  attacked his own party on many fronts. He also made a veiled attack on President Muhammadu Buhari administration. By so doing, he literally threw the entire party structure under the bus. His outburst contains not just innuendos but a trove of contradictions and outright lies that his handlers are struggling to do damage control.

 It all happened at a campaign rally in Abeokuta, where he delivered a hard-hitting speech. He cried out that the current fuel scarcity nationwide and the redesigning of the Naira by the CBN were plots by some “powers that be” to sabotage his presidential quest. However, he said the obstacles would not stop his march to victory. He called the ‘powers that be’  mischievous. “If they like let them hoard the fuel, we will trek there…if they like, let them change the ink of the naira , we will shock them…we will win the election’. He described the forthcoming elections as a “revolution”. Isn’t this a hate speech? Does Tinubu know that revolution is often a messy affair? Or is he planning to use the  “Jagaban Army” to actualise his revolution? Since he made that fiery speech, reactions have been coming like claps of thunder. Questions have also been asked: Who are the power that be that want to sabotage his presidential quest? Is President Buhari not the Minister of Petroleum Resources and leader of the ruling APC? 

Is Chief Timipre Sylva,  the Minister of state for Petroleum Resources not a high-ranking member of APC? Who was Tinubu referring to when he said, “we will vote them out”? Is his party not the one in power? Is Tinubu no longer the “national leader” of APC? You see, sweet and bitter things don’t emanate from the same foundation. You cannot be consistent and contradictory at the same time. The truth is that, Tinubu has stepped through a minefield, knowingly or unknowingly. He has undermined his own party and the administration of President Buhari. Perhaps he’s frustrated by his inability to stop the cashless policy and currency redesign meant to bring sanity in the economy and curb vote buying. That’s why CBN extension of the old naira banknotes deadline till Feb 10 looks like caving in to political pressure.

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Could what is unfolding now be the unseen hand in the recent attempt by the Department of State Service (DSS) to arrest the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele? And, again, you ask: how does the Redesigning of the naira and the lingering petrol scarcity affect only Tinubu’s campaign and not other political parties? Putting things in context, Tinubu has doubts about the support he is getting from his own party, including the President, even when the presidency has refuted that. Do we need any reminding that the cashless policy is the  policy of his own party through the monetary authority- the CBN? At the Abeokuta outing, Tinubu was unequivocal about who he was directing his jab at. Is he not aware that only the government in power  has the coercive instruments of state to scuttle an election? And who has that raw power at the moment? APC, of course.              Clearly, Tinubu’s latest outburst, in my view, is the most striking, most astonishing part of this whole campaign season. That’s what you get if a presidential candidate is lacking self-awareness,  too desperate for power for the sake of it, not seeking power to achieve great things for his country. One would have advised that his handlers should save him from himself. But it appears they are either ‘playing’ him to get whatever they can from him, or setting him up to fail, or both. If not, how then can you explain blaming the main opposition-  PDP for- for the nationwide fuel crisis? What sense does it really make? In all my career in journalism, this is the first time I have seen a presidential candidate with a stardust of media professionals at his disposal, yet the performance of these men are below that of amateurs.

Perhaps the worst of this was the recent claim by the Lagos state Organising Secretary of APC, Mr Ayodele Adewale in ARISE News interview that the bullion vans seen driving into Tinubu’s residence at Bourdillion Road, Ikoyi on the eve of  2019 Presidential election “missed their way” to come to Tinubu’s residence. Adewale’s position is at variance with Tinubu’s position in 2019 when he admitted it was his right to use his money as he deemed fit. From one damage control to another,  it has always been a near- fatal mistake by Tinubu’s handlers, and each time, they struggle to wiggle off every minefield they set for themselves after the damage had been done. Remaining comfortable in your own skin until a damage has been done, is not the way to wage a winning election.

After the Abeokuta fiasco, Tinubu was reported to taken three Governors of the party to Daura,  Katsina state, last week,  to plead with Buhari that his outburst on the fuel crisis and the Naira Redesign Policy was not meant to undermine his administration. 

Buhari is not naive not to understand. Going forward, this is my advice to Tinubu, his campaign managers, and other presidential candidates and their handlers. I am borrowing from the time-tested  counsel of George Stephanopoulos, former President Clinton’s Senior Adviser, in his book: ALL TOO HUMAN, in which he says, “separate what you thought was right and what you thought would work”. This, he stressed, “is a skill that will serve you well – at a price”. According to him, judging how the world will judge what you do – how a position will ‘play’ – is an essential political skill. If you can’t predict what will work, you can’t survive in office. As he reminded political leaders and those working for them, the “danger is when you stop caring about the difference between being right and being employed, or fail to notice that you don’t know what the difference is anymore “. 

All things considered, the heart of the matter is that, often, our politicians, ever so desperate for power, make  misguided correlation between winning and success in an election. And their handlers, always desperate to keep their job, and with an eye on getting appointments as part of a post-election gratification, often struggle to enjoy their accomplishments because they focus primarily on winning and let the loser go to court. They forget that when a candidate wins by hook or by crook, he has dug a deep hole, which sooner than later may consume him. Democracy offers options. This is the clearest message to Nigerians: Vote wisely.