By Comfort Obi
For most of the time, he was not firm. He was aloof, almost, to the affairs of his party. He had a penchant for eating his cake, and still wanting to have it. Now, President Muhammadu Buhari and his party the APC, seem to have lost a grip on, at least, four states.
In Rivers state, the party has been shut out of presenting candidates for any office, except the Presidency. Zamfara remains uncertain. And, in this mismanagement of party affairs, arising from an untidy and commercialised Primaries, he has lost one of his closest allies, Ogun state governor, Ibikunle Amosun.
It is dangerous for one to eat ones cake, and still have it. It back fires, all the time. In almost all the cases at hand, PMB wanted the best of both worlds. I now don’t know how it will work out for him. But he may lose one, or both, if care is not taken. He is walking on egg shells.
Let me confess that I am a fan of his friend, Amosun. And that’s not because of his funny, pointed-to-the-sky caps.
My admiration of him started on the day the former governor of Osun state, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, he too, a man of funny caps, was buried. Tension was high. A number of the mourners were in a fighting mood. They, including his family, were convinced that Adeleke’s death was not ordinary; that he was forcefully sent out of mother-earth by his political opponents who were afraid of his desire to take another shot at the governorship seat, having been sent packing after only one term. Everybody, including state government officials, was suspect.
So, on the day of Adeleke’s funeral, they were vigilant, looking out for anybody suspected of any underhand business, especially, Osun state government sympathisers. Then strolls in this well-dressed woman, identified as an aide to the immediate past governor, Rauf Aregbesola. In addition to that, the blood baiting mob had also been told that she had been penciled down by Aregbesola for the position of a would-be Deputy Governor. So, they pounced on her. They removed her head-tie and wig, thus exposing an unbrushed, hairless head. Tragedy was a-foot. But, steps in Amosun. Courageously using one hand, he clutched the woman by his side, and used the other to intermittently protect her, and at times, stern faced, wagged a warning finger at the mob. He led her out of death zone. When the photographs were published the next day in newspapers, I was impressed.
But this write-up is not about Amosun’s courage. It is about Amosun and President Muhammadu Buhari; it is about a very close relationship, gradually going sour.
It is a fact, well known by not a few, that both men are friends. The governor never misses an opportunity to flaunt it. He revelled in the relationship, and wore it like his underpants. At most functions, you would see him by Buhari’s side. I guess it gave him a sense of fulfilment each time he saw the photographs published. A few others are like that. I remember another Ogun state big man, an ex-governor. One day, months before he went back to his vomit, he had with him, hard copies of photographs he took with Mr President. At a function, he was busy, giving them out to senior journalists one after the other, and seriously begging them to use it for him in their medium. It was preparatory to his jumping ship. I was appalled. But I digress. I was talking about Governor Amosun.
So, his closeness to Mr President was not hidden. But now, I don’t know. It seems the relationship is entering a freezing zone. Things seem to be gradually falling apart. Proof: This day at an emergency caucus meeting of the APC during which the President was present, Amosun was one of the governors absent. Another was Imo state’s Rochas Okorocha. The two who particularly loved nothing more than to be seen with PMB. But, nothing confirms the now shaky relationship better than two incidents which took place in Amosun’s Ogun state in the past few days. To non-politicians, it is like a declaration of war on his party, the APC, and on PMB. Or, perhaps, a deliberate embarrassment of both PMB and the APC. But maybe we are just letting our thoughts roam about idly. With hard-core politicians, one never can draw a conclusion.
But signs that things were beginning to fall apart was unmistakable during the APC controversial governorship primary in Ogun state, Amosun had an anointed successor. Except in Lagos state where Jagaban Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has that exclusive right, in most states, the out-going governors choose their successors. It has not always worked out for them. Their political godsons turn out to become their worst political enemies. Yet it never deters new out-going ones from wanting to choose their own successors.
So, Amosun, using the indirect primary method, since his party approved either the direct or indirect primary, picked Adekunle Akinlade, a member of the House of Representatives as his successor. To him, it was a done deal. And why not? Afterall, the President is his best friend and father. So, who would dare? But he forgot that in the animal kingdom, all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. To PMB, when it comes to his re-election, there are those that are more relevant to him than Amosun. There are those he cannot afford to offend. Added to that, Buhari’s very loyal, cerebral Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, is from Ogun state. Shouldn’t he have a say in who becomes the governor in his state? Did Amosun consult him? Doubtful, a number of people say. Worse, the APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, knows where his bread is buttered. He knows who got him into the coveted office he now revels in.
So, while Amosun watched, the rug was pulled from under his feet. While he glowed over Akinlade’s choice, the party leadership had another game plan. They embarked on a Direct Primary, and ignored Amosun’s protests. At the end, Dapo Abiodun, a rich young guy, was picked as the candidate. Amosun threatened fire and brimstone. Nothing. He reported to Buhari, relocated to Abuja, almost. Nothing. Buhari played safe and made no commitment. Amosun pointed accusing fingers at Lagos, specifically, at Asiwaju Tinubu. Big mistake. If Tinubu could pick candidates, why not him, he thundered. Another big mistake. How could he? How did he ever think that anybody would annoy Tinubu in order to please him, Amosun? At a point, some Ogun state women, including Deputy Governor Yetunde Onanuga, threatened to go to Abuja and protest half-naked. That would have been quite a spectacle to behold. They chickened out. In the end, when he knew he had lost, he fell back on his Plan B – a political party which he quickly floated – Allied Peoples Movement, APM. He pushed Akinlade and several others, including his aides to APM. And, Akinlade became the Governorship candidate. Meanwhile, Amosun is clutching the APC Senatorial ticket under his arm. A case of serving two masters. While he funds the APM – a brazen anti-party activity – he remains in the APC. A man of courage or, so I thought, his courage failed him. He does not have enough guts to leave the APC. But, that is because he knows he is also dealing with jellies, and a PMB who wants to eat his cake, and still have it. The APC leadership just barks. It does not have the courage to discipline him. To the extent that the day he took Akinlade before the President, both men were given a red carpet reception. PMB even took a photograph with them, all grinning. PMB seems to have become a master of the game.
But things came to a hilt this other day when Mr President went to the Ogun state capital, Abeokuta, to campaign. Before the APC leadership, which included Osinbajo, Oshiomhole and Tinubu, Amosun’s sympathisers stoned, and threw pure water at them. They accompanied that with boos and shouts of Ole. Nobody was spared. Nothing could have been more disrespectful of the President. Watching it, I was nervous. With PMB’s delicate frame, what if a stone had hit him on the forehead? Amosun’s pleadings with the crowd to not embarrass him before his father, Buhari, fell on deaf ears. As Tinubu left the venue in anger, boos and shouts of Ole, Ole, accompanied him. Amosun was to celebrate it, almost, when he described how Tinubu escaped through a back door.
Thinking of it, he had every reason to celebrate. Afterall, the President did not scold him. Instead, he encouraged him by playing safe. He failed to endorse Abiodun, the APC candidate. The impression he gave to the party faithfuls was to vote for him and, for other offices, vote your conscience. That was demoralising. It was selfish. To quite a large number of people, he meant that only his candidacy mattered. That seemed like a betrayal of his party.
Lest we forget, Mr President played the same game in Imo state, the day he went for his campaign. In a bid to eat his cake, and still have it, he did not endorse the candidacy of Senator Hope Uzodinma as governor. Even though he belatedly raised his hands, the harm had been done. He asked his listeners to vote for him as President, but for other offices, vote their conscience.
Here is the game he is playing. In Imo, he wants votes from both the APC and the governor’s party, the AA, where he shooed in his son-in-law as its governorship candidate. In Ogun state, he wants votes from both the APC and the APM. The difference between the Imo and Ogun state scenario is that nobody booed him and his entourage, or threw stones and pure water sachets at them in Imo, unlike Ogun. Instead, they booed Okorocha because he was undiplomatic in his speech. Yet, I admired him for speaking his mind.
And so, because the President, in the two states, spoke from both sides of the mouth, people are confused as to who he really wants. In Imo, Nwosu and his father-in-law, Okorocha, are making a song and dance of it. The President did not endorse Uzodinma, they chorus. In Ogun state, they are not only celebrating PMB’s double talk, but it has emboldened Amosun and his supporters to go for broke.
On Monday, February 18, distributors of the Trader-moni had gone to the Lafenwa food market in Abeokuta for the distribution of the controversial cash. It is, ordinarily, what Amosun and his supporters should support. Afterall, it is their government. But infuriated, Amosun quickly dispatched some people, led by the Chairman of Abeokuta North west LCDA. The order: scatter them. They not only did that, but they also took into their custody, the Iyalode of the market, and another person, to Amosun’s house. Why? According to the Chairman, the Trader-moni distributors were asking the traders for the PVCs. “Why should they ask them for their PVCs,” he queried. Indeed, why? And does that confirm anything? Sure it does.
For long, opposition parties had alleged that Trader-moni is nothing but vote buying. It does seem that Amosun has finally confirmed that. Big mistake.
But finally, a word for Amosun. It is in his own interest that his plans work for him – which are:
1: That Buhari wins Ogun state comfortably.
2: That he, Amosun, wins the Senatorial seat.
3: That Akinlade wins the governorship seat.
Otherwise, I pity him. He will be so chewed raw that the open harassments the opposition members are alleging had been unleashed on them since 2015, will be like a child’s play to what his lot will be – beginning with an expulsion from the APC. For the President’s friend, that will be a shame. But as you know, these guys have no permanent enemies or friends – only their selfish needs.