Temidayo Akinsuyi, Lagos
The alleged continued silence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, national leader of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), on the gale of defections rocking the party is causing disquiet in the presidency, especially among loyalists of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Some of the presidency sources, who spoke with Daily Independent on Thursday, said loyalists of President Buhari are unhappy that Tinubu, who was appointed by the president to head the party’s reconciliation team in February, has not uttered a word since the defections began a fortnight ago with the departure of 14 senators and 37 House of Representatives members to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The lawmakers’ defection was followed by the exit of Senate President Bukola Saraki; Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State; Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto; Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara and Bolaji Abdullahi, National Publicity Secretary of the ruling party.
Others who dumped APC include Alhaji Musa Ibeto, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to South Africa, as well as some members of the state Houses of Assembly in Kwara and Sokoto states.
Our source, an official in the presidency, who was the first to reveal to Daily Independent last week that President Buhari will be embarking on vacation in the United Kingdom (UK), said the president’s men believe Tinubu’s silence in the midst of the crisis “is an indication of tacit support for the renegades”.
According to him, “Buhari’s men are angry that Asiwaju Tinubu and his men such as Papa (Bisi Akande), Segun Osoba have not uttered a word in the midst of this national crisis. It is a national crisis because key stakeholders, including the number three man in the country, state governors, federal lawmakers and others are leaving the ruling party in droves.
“The National Assembly has been shut because of the selfish motives of some people till September while party primaries will begin later this month, according to INEC timetable. INEC is complaining that the shutdown of the National Assembly will affect its smooth operations because its request for fund is still pending yet Tinubu as the party’s national leader and head of the reconciliation team has not said anything.
“One of them told me it is unusual of Tinubu not to make comment when serious issues like these are happening. Recently, during the governorship primary in Ekiti, there were reports that Segun Oni has dragged Fayemi to court, Tinubu alongside Akande, Segun Osoba, Niyi Adebayo issued paid advertorials condemning Oni’s actions and pledged loyalty to Fayemi. If he and his lieutenants can bare their minds on Ekiti APC primary, why have they chosen to keep mute on these defections as if it is something insignificant”, he said.
Another source in the presidency alleged that there are reports Tinubu may have met with Saraki privately few days to the defection of the Senate President.
He, however, said those who got wind of the report are not sure of what was discussed. He said it may be a last minute intervention by Tinubu to persuade Saraki not to dump the party.
“There are even strong speculations that Tinubu privately met with Saraki few days to the defection of the Senate President. What was discussed at the meeting is not known. If Tinubu actually had the meeting with Saraki, maybe in a last minute attempt to persuade him not to leave APC, he should come out and let the world know. His silence over this very important issue in the party he laboured to build is totally uncalled for”, he said.
When Daily Independent contacted Tunde Rahman, Tinubu’s media aide, he promised to give our correspondent a comprehensive response after seeking clarifications from his principal.
Reacting on the defections, the PDP said more APC stalwarts including governors, National Assembly members and members of President Buhari’s cabinet are joining its fold.
Speaking with our correspondent, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, said its doors are open to every Nigerian, including Tinubu.
“For us in the party, we are confident that more members of the APC are still on their way to PDP. More governors are still coming, senators and members of the House of Reps are coming; including serving ministers in President Buhari’s government will soon announce their defection to our party”, he said.
On the possibility of Tinubu joining PDP, he said, “Our party is open and we welcome every Nigerian that is desirous of a change in the clueless and incompetent government of President Buhari”.
Also speaking, Yinka Odumakin, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, said maybe Tinubu as head of APC’s reconciliation committee is working behind the scene and may have chosen to remain silent so that his efforts will not be jeopardised.
“Maybe he is working underground. He may be working behind the scene and doesn’t want his efforts as the chairman of the reconciliation committee to be jeopardised”, Odumakin said.