The APC national leader, Bola Tinubu, has responded to the defections of Bukola Saraki and Sokoto state Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, stating that both men have been motivated to leave the party following their lusts for the presidency.
A long statement which reads partly as a campaign memo for re-electing Buhari, Tinubu acknowledges that the defections will be assessed by his party to evaluate the losses and gains. But he projects the image of the APC as having the capacity to overcome the challenge of the defections. Here are five of main the talking points in the statement:
Battle of Presidential Ambitions
Both Tambuwal and Saraki announced their departures from the APC within 24 hours of each other. As Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tambuwal’s move to the APC was instrumental in forging the coalition that became the APC but even then, it was no secret that he had eyes for the Presidency. Tinubu references this and believes that “Tambuwal’s ambition will dwarf Saraki’s when the two collide”, though the Governor still has a second term to attempt to run for. The thoughts of a presidential run are presently on Saraki’s mind but it is not yet clear that he will. While he was quick to dismiss the political implication of his visit to former Head of State Ibrahim Babangida, Saraki has been dropping subtle cues to demonstrate that if he has presidential ambitions, they should not be taken for granted.
The Rogue Senate President
It is no secret that the APC and Mr Tinubu in particular had no intention for Bukola Saraki to become Senate President in 2015. So that when the former Kwara governor played a fast one on them, as it were, it signaled the beginning of the clash of personalities that has culminated in the Senator’s eventual defection. The coming of the 9th National Assembly in about 7 months would seem an opportunity for the APC to attempt a correction and Tinubu is fairly confident that Saraki would have had it hot in APC:
“If Saraki had remained in the APC, he would be unable to reclaim his Senate seat let alone the Senate Presidency. He thus bolted because he lusts for the presidency but was promised by the PDP, at least, a return to his position in the Senate”.
The APC campaigned on restructuring as one of the core aspects of its manifesto in 2014. It was supposed to be a move that ensured the decentralization of governance in the country to curtail the excessive powers of the Federal Government. Three years have gone and nothing has been achieved in that regard beyond setting up a committee for the cause. Tinubu says that “the political class must relinquish some of its power and wealth so people can enjoy a more equitable portion of the national enterprise”, but there is no evidence that the party is advancing towards any such ideal.
More than a decade after he left the Alausa Government House, Lagosians still talk about how it is impossible to become a governor of that state without Asiwaju’s blessing or support. If that it is not evidence of a tightened grip on power, what else could be?
Dismissing the Third Force
The wave of defections away from the APC has been triggered because of a “moral battle”, Tinubu volunteers. According to him, the face-off for 2019 “pits one party, the APC, with all of its imperfections, that seeks national reforms against another party, the PDP, which symbolizes the perfection of the most selfish designs of the most selfish politicians among us”.
It is a dismissal of the possibility that Nigerians could be looking beyond the APC and PDP for their candidates in the coming elections. Both were the two big names on the ballot in 2015 and despite growing organisation by other parties and groups, including members of the Summit of the Alternatives coalition, Tinubu senses it will still come down to the Umbrella or the Broom.
Whoever authored this statement ensured that the word “progressives” was suffused in as many paragraphs as to make any reader take notice. In one place, Tinubu says “those who belong to that PDP mode of thought could find no permanent comfort in walking the path of progressive reform and progress”. In another, he says the absence of the defectors will make the APC “now better articulate our progressive stance without having naysayers among complaining that we are going too far or that the good we seek for the people ought not to be done”
But what are these “progressive” measures? Detaining citizens and journalists without bail, in Sambo Dasuki’s case against court orders? The assertion by an APC legislator that educated women are a threat to his political career? The declining budget for critical sectors of Education and Healthcare?