POLITICS

2023: I knew Buhari was deceiving Tinubu – Afenifere chieftain, Adebanjo

Following insinuations that the recent developments in the All Progressives Congress were indications of a rift between the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has said he knew the President was allegedly deceiving Tinubu all along.

Adebanjo said the national leader was also deceiving the President as he described the APC as a gathering of incompatible persons. He argued that there was no ideology binding the party members together and that it was all about sharing offices and power.

Even though the Presidency said there was no rift between Buhari and Tinubu, many commentators described Thursday’s decision of the National Executive Committee of the APC to dissolve its National Working Committee as a blow to Tinubu, who is believed to be pro-Adams Oshiomhole, the sacked chairman.

There have been widespread claims that Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State, was eyeing the presidency in 2023, and that the recent development in the party was a way of truncating his ambition.

Adebanjo said, “I have worries for him (Tinubu). He knew all these things but he relied on Buhari and worked to make him the President. I said it before publicly that Buhari is deceiving Asiwaju and Asiwaju is deceiving Buhari. Everybody is trying to use the other. Why can’t Tinubu hammer on restructuring knowing that this was what brought Buhari to office?

“I have been in this game for 70 years. So, many of those who are talking now were not born then. That is the truth – even Buhari was a toddler. He is now 74. Each time I tell you, why should Tinubu, the Vice-President (Yemi Osinbajo) and all those who were in Alliance for Democracy run to the APC? Why are they hesitating now to stand for restructuring? They can’t talk.

“All the things I am telling you now – it is not the first time. I said both Jagaban (Tinubu) and Osinbajo should get out of the APC. I said it openly. It is a disgrace and disservice to the Yorubaland. So, what is happening now shows there is nothing to bind them together.”

Why I haven’t decided on 2023, Tinubu reveals, says time not right

Meanwhile, Tinubu on Saturday broke his silence on the leadership crisis that rocked the party in recent times.

In a seven-page statement, Tinubu dismissed allusions that the dissolution of the NWC by the NEC at a meeting, presided over by the President and attended by top government officials and party chieftains, was targeted at his supposed presidential ambition in 2023.

Tinubu, who is not a member of NEC, stressed that he had yet to make a decision on 2023 given the health and economic crises occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had infected no fewer than 24,077 and killed 558 persons in the country as of Saturday.

He said rather than engage in politicking around 2023, he had devoted the last few months to thinking of policies that could help the nation during the present exigency.

Tinubu, who lost a close ally and former governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, to the virus on Thursday, stated that he found it distasteful talking about what he might do or not do in three years’ time (2023) when there is a national emergency. “2023 will answer its own questions in due time,” he added.

The statement titled, ‘Becoming the party we were intended to be’, partly read, “To those who have been actively bleating how the President’s actions and the NEC meeting have ended my purported 2023 ambitions, I seek your pity. I am but a mere mortal who does not enjoy the length of foresight or political wisdom you profess to have. Already, you have assigned colourful epitaphs to the 2023 death of an alleged political ambition that is not yet even born.

“At this extenuating moment with COVID-19 and its economic fallout hounding us, I cannot see as far into the distance as you. I have made no decision regarding 2023 for the concerns of this hour are momentous enough.

“During this period, I have not busied myself with politicking regarding 2023. I find that a bit distasteful and somewhat uncaring particularly when so many of our people have been unbalanced by the twin public health and economic crises we face.

“Personally, I find greater merit trying to help in the present by offering policy ideas, both privately and publicly, where I think they might help.”

Tinubu added that he had toiled for the party as much as any other person and perhaps more than most, and that like himself, no member of the party should have problem with making personal sacrifices.

He, therefore, appealed to the sacked NWC members and all party members to sheathe their swords.

…asks Oshiomhole to take responsibility for mistakes made

In the meantime, Tinubu, who commended the former NWC members for the party’s “great and important victories” under their leadership, especially in ensuring Buhari’s re-election, asked Oshiomhole to accept his mistakes.

Tinubu said he believed strongly that Oshiomhole tried his best but that his peace moves came late.

He added, “Those who disagreed with one another stopped trying to find common ground. Attempts were made to use the power of executive authority to bury each other. I must be blunt here. This is the behaviour of a fight club not the culture of a progressive political party.

“Some members went against their chairman in a bid to forcefully oust him. In hindsight, his fence-mending attempts were perhaps too little too late.

“I believed and continue to believe that Oshiomhole tried his best. Mistakes were made and he must own them. Yet, we must remember also that he was an able and enthusiastic campaigner during the 2019 election. He is a man of considerable ability as are the rest of you who constituted the NWC.”

Tinubu added that he hoped the disagreements in the party would be resolved but that order, party discipline and mutual respect “went out of the window”, leading to unnecessary court cases, which the President; the former interim chairman, Chief Bisi Akande; and himself condemned respectively.

“With lawsuits so numerous, one needed a spread sheet to keep track, President Buhari has reasonably decided that he had seen enough. I do not lament his intervention or its outcome. I lament that the situation degenerated to the point where he felt compelled to intervene.

“President Buhari is much more than a mere beneficiary of the party. He is one of its founding fathers. The APC does not exist in its current form without his singular contributions. That is not opinion; it is undisputed fact.

“President Buhari has done what any parent in his position and with his authority would do. The President has spoken and his decision has been accepted.”

He called on Oshiomhole to support the party’s candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, in the September 19 Edo State governorship election.

He added, “In this, Oshiomhole has a crucial role to play. I encourage him, now, to return to Edo State to energise the campaign for the election of Pastor Ize-Iyamu.”

Buhari has no rift with Asiwaju, Presidency declares

The Presidency has maintained that there is no rift between the President and Tinubu.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement in Abuja on Saturday, said the requests Buhari put to the party’s NEC which were unanimously approved were aimed at saving the party, which at the time faced an existential crisis.

In arriving at the decision, he said the President followed the constitution and carried everyone along.

He said while Buhari’s action had been widely accepted by lovers of democracy and party members, the Presidency was concerned that some people were seeing it as a “Buhari-Tinubu showdown.”

“Nothing can be farther from the truth,” he said.

Shehu said in the formation of the APC, Buhari and Tinubu were both inspired by democratic norms, national interest and not by partisan motivations.

These, he said, were the qualities that have made them move past cynical distractions.

The statement added, “They (Buhari and Tinubu) are in touch with each other. Their relationship remains as strong as ever and between the two of them, only they know how they manage their enviable relationship.”

Ex-party chair surrounded by bad advisers –Caretaker committee

Following the ousting of Oshiomhole, the Caretaker/Special Convention Committee set up by the NEC has said the ex-labour leader must have been surrounded by bad advisers.

A member of the committee, Senator Yusuf Yusuf, who spoke on behalf of the committee, described Oshiomhole as a union activist who had passion for leadership.

In an interview with journalists in Abuja on Saturday, Yusuf, who is also the Chairman, Senate Committee on Special Duties, said, “I respect Adams Oshiomhole but circumstances breed circumstances. He came and he tried to solve the problem but certain problems came up, and he is an activist. You will not take that away from him. He has passion.

“Whatever he is doing, he is passionate about it. But probably the advisers around him did not advise him well; I don’t know, but we will look into it and see how we are going to solve the problem. For me, we are saving Nigeria and not only the APC.”

Yusuf said members of the dissolved NWC might be reelected if they embrace peace and drop their proposed legal action against their sacking.

The senator, who confirmed that the panel would be inaugurated at the party secretariat in Abuja on Monday by noon, said committee members had started reaching out to the aggrieved members.

He added, “Of course, we will meet our brothers and talk to them. If they don’t go to court, they will consider them and say these are good family members, come back and contest. We are coming to find a solution. In the next six months, every APC member will be involved. Nobody will be excluded because that has been the major problem.”

On allegations that APC governors had taken over the party affairs, Yusuf admitted they were very relevant to the party. “Whatever you are doing, can you extricate the governors? Assess that interim management and tell me who is controversial or has taken sides.”

Sacked Oshiomhole-led NWC yields to pressure, dumps court action

Meanwhile, Oshiomhole and the 16 members of the defunct NWC loyal to him have accepted their dissolution by NEC.

Oshiomhole, at a press conference in Abuja on Saturday, declared allegiance to Buhari and the party now under the leadership of the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker /Convention Planning Committee.

He said, “At the end of the NEC meeting as you all know, the NWC was dissolved and accordingly I ceased to be the national chairman of the APC.

“Mr President graciously invited me to run for the office in 2018. The President told me then that if we do not reform the APC, we can as well forget about the party.”

Asked if he had regrets, he said, “You know that reforms are challenging and it will entail taking difficult decisions. Mine has been a life of trouble and I accepted this and I believe I did my best.

“I’m happy that at the end of the day, our President had more votes in 2019 than in 2015. We have more members in the National Assembly.

The former chairman expressed delight that he achieved one of his set objectives, especially producing a National Assembly which would work harmoniously with the executive to deliver on the party’s campaign promises.

He also said he was not going into the legality or otherwise of his unceremonious ouster, noting that he had accepted his fate. He noted he gave the party his best.

‘Buhari invited me to lead party, presided over meeting that sacked me’

Oshiomhole also said the President was instrumental to his emergence as the party  chair in 2018, adding that he also presided over the NEC meeting that sacked his team.

He added, “The bottom line is that the President who invited me to lead the party and who mobilised all the support for my emergence as chairman also presided over the meeting where the NWC has now been dissolved.

“As a demonstration of my loyalty to Mr President, our party and Nigeria, I have decided to accept the decision in good faith and to maintain my loyalty, respect and admiration for President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Accordingly, I have instructed my lawyers to withdraw my case that is currently pending at the Supreme Court which has to do with the issue of my suspension. To sustain the legal action would be tantamount to disobeying one of the decisions that the President has made. I have a duty to live by example. I have taken a bow and accept the decision of the NEC.”

Members of the defunct NWC also announced their decision to accept their fate. They said this in a statement jointly signed by the former Acting National Chairman, Hilliard Eta and Acting National Secretary, Waziri Bulama.

The group recalled that they had informed the public that they were embarking on consultations.

They added, “The feedback from our consultative engagements is that we wholeheartedly accept the decision of the NEC. We have already begun engaging the caretaker committee and assure all that we will not contest their authority but instead work selflessly with the team in its peace and consensus building efforts within our party.”

Earlier, the former National Vice Chairman, South-West, Bankole Oluwajana, said, “The dissolution of the NWC is a move to end the lingering crisis and needless court cases. Events in the last few months have created unnecessary distractions that needed to be stopped.”

He also appealed to members of the party in the zone to unite ahead of 2023.

Also, the former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Yekini Nabena, in a statement called for support for the new caretaker committee, while appealing to other party members with pending cases in court to withdraw them to enable the party move forward.

By OLALEKAN ADETAYO, JOHN ALECHENU,SUNDAY ABORISADE, OLALEYE ALUKO and TUNDE AJAJA

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