Sunday, 23 October 2016

Secret Talks Update: Buhari takes steps to "settle" with Tinubu

The prolonged cold war between President Muhammadu Buhari and his erstwhile close political ally and South-West political strongman, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, may soon come to an end.

Reliable sources within the party said that the two sides began planning to bury the hatchet during a recent meeting that President Buhari held with some of Tinubu’s close men in Aso Rock.

The President had met with the trio of Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, former Osun governor, Chief Bisi Akande, and Senator Olusola Adeyeye last week Sunday. The sources also said both parties agreed that the President needed to take some confidence-boosting measures to restore Tinubu’s faith in him.
According to The Punch, the two men reportedly fell out following what Tinubu and his loyalists saw as attempts to diminish his contributions to President Buhari’s victory at the 2015 poll and erode his political capital in his South-West base. Some supporters of the former governor had also complained that the President rejected Tinubu’s ministerial nominees, and worked against his candidates in the Kogi elections and Ondo governorship primary, among other ills.

A reliable source privy to the events that culminated in the meeting said its seeds were planted during President Buhari’s three-day state visit to Germany. Prior to that time, Buhari and Tinubu had not had any private communication in a while. But the source said Buhari contacted Akande, who is one of Tinubu’s closest associates and ex-Interim Chairman of APC, asking him to see him in Aso Rock.

The President’s call reportedly came barely 48 hours after the controversial interview the President’s wife, Aisha, granted the British Broadcasting Corporation. In the interview which went viral, the president’s wife accused her husband of neglecting those who helped him to power in 2015.

Sources said although both men’s relationship began to sour soon after Buhari won the election, it deteriorated when Professor John Paden, in his book titled ‘Muhammadu Buhari: Challenges of Leadership,’ claimed Tinubu was against the emergence of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as Vice President. Both Buhari and Tinubu were present at the book launch.

Insiders say this did not go down well with Tinubu and his men, as the APC national leader’s camp saw it as yet another attempt by the President and his men to reduce his contributions to the emergence of the APC government and also rewrite history.

Seeing that he was fast losing at the centre, the APC chieftain, popularly known as the Jagaban (of Borgu), started reaching out to his political foes in the South-West in order to consolidate his influence in the region. With several meetings held, Tinubu’s most vocal critics such as Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Sir Olanihun Ajayi, among others, began to drum up support for him publicly.

A source in the presidency told Punch that Akande, who cut short his trip abroad to see the President, did not mince words during the meeting.

The source said Akande told Buhari point blank that with the huge roles Tinubu and the South-West played in making him President, it is totally unacceptable the way Tinubu was being undermined.

The source said, “Baba Akande told the President that they were not happy with him. He told Buhari that apart from not giving Tinubu sufficient consideration during the ministerial appointments, everything that played out in the Kogi and Ondo elections showed that the President was supporting Asiwaju’s enemies.

“Baba also said Paden’s book was a major slight and that they believed the President was aware of the content of the book before it went public. He further said some of the people around Buhari were hell-bent on ensuring that the President and Tinubu became enemies because of what they would gain from the crisis.”

The source said Buhari countered that he was unhappy with the acrimony in the ruling party and that he had tried to be fair to all parties. But Akande was said to have disagreed with the President in his response, and cited further examples.

Akande told the President to take practical steps to show that he was not fighting Tinubu and the South-West. While listing their demands, Akande and others told him that they needed to see more representation of those that helped him to power during the next cabinet reshuffle.

There have been reports that a cabinet change is imminent.

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