El-Rufai’s coup, Aisha Buhari the ‘Star Girl’, Abeokuta outburst — how Tinubu secured his landslide victory:
As projected by TheCable, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos state, defeated all comers to win the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on Wednesday.
He polled 1,271 votes to defeat 13 other presidential hopefuls, with Rotimi Amaechi, former minister of transportation, coming a very distant second after scoring 316. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo got 235 while Senate President Ahmad Lawan, the “consensus candidate” of Abdullahi Adamu, APC national chairman, polled 152.
How did Tinubu pull such a convincing victory — far beyond what the most generous pundits predicted? A common retort on social media is the role played by money, but, as TheCable reveals below, there was more to the landslide than that.
1. THE ABEOKUTA OUTBURST
In a fire-spitting address to south-west delegates five days to the APC convention, Tinubu recounted how he helped President Muhammadu Buhari win in 2015. He said Buhari had given up and cried on national TV after failing thrice in his quest to be elected president. Tinubu recounted: “But I went to his home in Kaduna. I told him ‘you would contest and win, but you won’t joke with the matter of the Yoruba’…” He insisted in Abeokuta that it is the turn of Yoruba to produce the president and in Yorubaland, “it is my turn”.
The outburst enraged his opponents and some in Buhari’s inner circle. Even Adamu, the party chairman, said his utterances would have consequences — a subtle threat to disqualify him. But Buhari did not buy into the negative reactions reportedly because everything Tinubu said was true. Although Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, later issued a statement saying it was “millions of Nigerians” and not Tinubu that made Buhari president, the president himself is said to have assured Tinubu when both of them met briefly on Saturday night that he would not interfere in the primary. This was after the president’s meeting with aspirants.
2. THE COUP BY EL-RUFAI
While Buhari was conferring with presidential aspirants, Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna state, quickly convened a meeting of 11 northern APC governors to counter an underground move by some of the party’s stalwarts to retain power in the north. The meeting persuaded Abubakar Badaru, the governor of Jigawa state, to withdraw from the race and decided to meet with Buhari to inform him they had resolved that power must shift to the south in the national interest.
However, TheCable understands that they were afraid they might be blocked or delayed from having audience with Buhari, so the outcome of the meeting was quickly leaked to the press and the attendance register was attached to make it look like a communique. The message gained immediate mileage in the media. Badaru later said decisions taken at the meeting, including his withdrawal, were to be presented to Buhari for his consent and that he was against the leak. It was rather too late — other APC governors fell in line, apart from Yahaya Bello of Kogi state who remained adamant. Most of the APC northern governors thereafter felt free to work for Tinubu.
3. ‘SCARE THE USELESS PEOPLE AROUND BUHARI’
Aisha Buhari, the president’s highly political spouse, was the “Star Girl”: she played an important role in Tinubu’s victory. After Tinubu’s Abeokuta outburst, there were fears that his ambition might have been jeopardised. Although he spoke in Yoruba, it was translated into English in a way that made it look like he was disparaging and ridiculing the president. Buhari was initially upset, according to insiders who spoke with TheCable. Adamu wanted Buhari to “cage” Tinubu because of his utterances. Tinubu also issued a somewhat apologetic statement saying he did not intend to disrespect the president.
However, TheCable was informed that the first lady insisted Tinubu did not say anything wrong and should keep up the heat to scare the “useless people” around the president who were working against the realisation of Tinubu’s presidential ambition. The president’s wife’s position, TheCable learnt, was that a promise was made to Tinubu before the 2015 presidential election and Buhari was duty-bound to honour his word as “a man of integrity”. Even if he would not endorse Tinubu, he should not stand in his way or succumb to pressure to support Lawan. She clapped in excitement as Kayode Fayemi, the Ekiti state governor, announced that he was stepping down for Tinubu at the convention ground.
On the day of the convention, Aisha prevented some politicians from having access to her husband at the presidential residence so that he would not be persuaded to change his position on not imposing any aspirant. Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman, has issued a statement that Buhari would not interfere. Aisha distributed the statement through all her social media handles. A picture was circulated on the social media appearing to show her wearing a dress with Tinubu’s emblem.
4. WITHDRAWALS AND ENDORSEMENTS
After several failed attempts to get the south-west to present a candidate, with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in no mood to step down for his former boss, there were fears that the region’s votes would be split and this could inadvertently hand over victory to someone else. Many people knew Tinubu was going to win if the contest was not manipulated, but there were still fears that northern governors could be working secretly for Lawan in order to retain power in the region, especially as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has already given its ticket to Abubakar Atiku, former vice-president.
However, Tinubu’s hand was further strengthened when candidates from different regions started endorsing him. Godswill Akpabio, from the south-south, led the way. Badaru made the biggest statement when he stepped down and endorsed Tinubu. There was a feeling of “game over” as it became clear that the APC northern governors, bar Bello, meant business. Ibikunle Amosun, senator from Ogun state, also stepped down for Tinubu. They were previously arch rivals. From then on, it was a spate of withdrawals and endorsements — seven in all for Tinubu. The direction of the voting was no doubt enhanced there and then.
5. FORMIDABLE POLITICAL MACHINERY
With the exception of MKO Abiola and former president Olusegun Obasanjo, no Yoruba politician has made more in-road into the north than Tinubu, who has been building and oiling his political machinery and relationships for two decades. It was payback time. He had a solid strategy ahead of the APC presidential primary: focusing his energies and resources on states with the highest number of delegates: Kano, Katsina, Oyo, Akwa Ibom, Osun, Borno, Jigawa, Niger, and Delta. With Lagos, Kaduna, Kwara and a number of others also in his corner, a landslide victory was inevitable.
So strong was Tinubu’s political network that all efforts by Hope Uzodinma, governor of Imo state, and Adamu to neutralise him fell flat. “Uzodinma worked actively for Lawan and was already fancying himself as the vice-presidential candidate,” a party official told TheCable, adding that there were last-minute attempts to change the delegate list in the south-west and put those who would vote for Lawan but it ended up not having any impact on the final outcome.