By Johnson Momodu
The much-awaited national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has come and gone, but the ripples are yet to die down. It was a convention that can best be remembered for the orchestrated humiliation of the party’s so-called leaders in the North.
Not only did the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu prove he was the ultimate kingmaker, he proved he could run rings around the North’s political heavyweights. Not only did Tinubu bring his towering influence to bear on the choice of candidates, he took all vital decisions for all the other leaders, albeit without their consent. He rubbished all speculations about how the APC governors were planning to hijack the party and how the North was laying ambush to take over the party structures.
In a party that has heavyweights like former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and an array of otherwise hot-headed governors like Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Murtala Nyako, Tinubu freely ran rings around them. He practically selected the entire executive, starting from the chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, the deputy chairman (North), Senator Lawali Shuaibu, deputy chairman (South), Segun Oni, National secretary, Alhaji Tijjani Tumsa, Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the National Legal Adviser, Alhaji Muiz Banire.
While Buhari, an Army General, has quietly accepted his imposed role as Tinubu’s alter-ego without any whimper, the humiliation of Atiku Abubakar was final and complete. While Buhari lives on the delusion that Tinubu will later deliver the party’s presidential ticket to him on a platter of gold, Atiku and his allies have systematically been edged out and made to play spectators to Tinubu. It took the orchestrated bashing, which a section of the fed on to conclude intelligently that Atiku had been zoned out of the 2015 presidency and for Atiku to forcefully defend himself that he was still very much in the race for the presidency in 2015. Beyond the two, several others who were seen as the North’s leading lights in the party, lost their voices at the convention; and so did the candidates they were supposed to be supporting.
While the Northern heavyweights rooted for the former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi or former Bayelsa governor, Timipre Sylva, Tinubu rammed the choice of Odigie-Oyegun down their throats. It didn’t matter to him that the choice of Sylva was primarily to checkmate President Jonathan in his home and bring some parity of presence between the APC and PDP in the South-south zone.
Atiku’s ally, Chief Tom Ikimi who has clashed severally with Tinubu since their Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) days, was also targeted with the propaganda that he was too high-handed to lead the party. The attack was so ferocious that a night before the convention, Northern party leaders had to prevail on Atiku, Ikimi’s major backer, to ask the ex-Foreign Minister to step down for Oyegun. It was the height of their capitulation, especially since the Tinubu camp had threatened to quit the APC if Ikimi emerged and one of the newly elected officers of the party.
Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and another Atiku’s protégé, Alhaji Kashim Imam, who were reportedly eyeing the National Secretary, also took a bitter dose of Tinubu’s medicine as both were also cleverly edged out of the contest. The zoning arrangement his foot soldiers designed first took the position out of el-Rufai’s zone to the North East, but to complete the humiliation of Atiku, Kashim Imam was forced out of the race. It was so difficult for him that it took the former Vice President himself to announce his withdrawal from the race few minutes before the election began.
To compensate the North West for el-Rufai’s loss of the Secretary, the Deputy Chairman North was eventually zoned to them but given to Senator Lawali Shuaibu, another Tinubu man in the zone, who was the National Secretary of the defunct ACN.
Just before the convention, rumours had filtered out that the former Vice President had also been zoned out of the presidential contest following a new arrangement. Though the Atiku Media Office denied there was a party arrangement outside of the convention plan, observers say it is a foretaste of the impending humiliation of Atiku as Tinubu has already put machinery in motion to single-handed pick the party’s presidential candidate. His close aides insist that even for Buhari, the presidential ticket is not signed and sealed as the General’s allies believe.
How one man was able to bring a whole region to its knees remains a mystery but it has become a given that in that party, the North has been condemned to play the second fiddle. It goes without saying therefore, that very soon the North’s leaders in that party will queue to bow before Tinubu one after the other as the scheming for the APC presidential nomination commences. We may yet witness another round of humiliation or get a different surprise altogether.
This scenario playing out in the APC is getting more interesting by the day. The politicking therein has assumed its own life. Tinubu appears to be on top of his game, manipulating the entire North on the chessboard of political intrigues, preparatory to the 2015 presidential politics. Never before has the fate of a region, yes, northern region, been put in the hands of one man from the south of the country as typified by Tinubu in the APC. Never since after the days of Sardauna of Sokoto has one unpredictable man from a questionable pedigree played the North’s kingmaker; never.