The open feud between the camps of a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu and the Senate president, Bukola Saraki reportedly had its root in the well-orchestrated opposition to the emergence of a muslim running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari, Saturday Tribune’s checks have revealed.
In the build-up to the National Assembly leadership contest, Tinubu had stoutly stood against Saraki’s ambition to lead the National Assembly as the Senate president, while showing preference, first, for former Minority Leader, Senator George Akume and later Senator Ahmed Lawan.
It was, however, gathered that Tinubu’s disavowal of Saraki was predicated on the role the Senate president reportedly played in stopping him (Tinubu) from emerging as Buhari’s running mate in the course of searching for the vice-presidential candidate for the party.
The slot was said to have been exclusively reserved for Tinubu who also openly admitted wanting it, but had to let go when the whole nation railed against the proposed Muslim-Muslim ticket with Buhari, despite the General’s stated positive disposition to the planned controversial pairing.
Tinubu eventually brought in now Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo as his replacement on the ticket but unknown to many, Saraki reportedly played a crucial role in stopping Tinubu from actualizing his vice-presidential dream.
Saraki, it was learnt, led a high-powered delegation of the party’s front-row leaders to Tinubu, asking him to perish the thought of flying a Muslim-Muslim ticket with Buhari.
The Saraki delegation and senior Nigerians across tribes which the delegates appeared representing, reportedly communicated decisively to Tinubu that his project with Buhari would not fly.
Following his alleged tenacious demand for the VP ticket in the heat of the search, Tinubu came under severe media attacks, especially from online media. It was also learnt that Tinubu’s camp reportedly suspected that Saraki’s group, including the immediate past governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, was behind the massive media attack rained on Tinubu in the days of long knives, before Osinbajo was announced.
In the heat of the moment, Tinubu had to, twice within 24 hours, issue press statements stating his desire for the job and giving reasons for his withdrawal from the race.
Saturday Tribune learnt that from the moment of his withdrawal, Tinubu’s camp swore that the Saraki group would be denied any of its aspirations and Saraki in particular would be given a dose of his own medicine.
Saturday Tribune had exclusively reported the struggle between the duo in the build-up to the National Assembly leadership elections and the plots to outwit each other.
With Saraki using the religious factor to win the first round of the battle, Tinubu’s camp was said to have planned using same to knock him out of the Senate presidency race by going for Akume, a Christian, as its preferred candidate for Senate presidency.
The argument then was that the Christian minority in the North should be given a sense of belonging in the new administration.
The counter-argument within the party that the Senate president should be a Muslim with the emergence of Osinbajo a Christian as VP reportedly forced a detour by the Tinubu camp which then switched from Akume to Lawan, in a bid to flow with a more popular opinion within the top echelon of the party.
Core Northern elders, predominantly Muslims, were also said to have kicked against Akume’s choice, reportedly arguing that it was a ploy to return to the days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo when Christians occupied the first and third positions on the national protocol list all through.
Tinubu’s camp was said to have also come up with the race card in shoring support for Lawan with a well-circulated argument then that the emergence of Saraki would see Yoruba occupying the number two, three and potentially four, with the permutation that Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos, would emerge the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The argument being circulated then, allegedly by Tinubu’s camp, was that Saraki is a Yorubaman from Kwara, while his maternal root in Owo, Ondo State, was also being alluded to, to further prove his Yorubaness.
The choice of Lawan from Yobe, the heart of Hausa-Fulani conclave by Tinubu’s camp, was said to have been primed to further push the narrative for a full-fledged northerner as the Senate president.
The northern establishment, according to findings, was also expected to excitedly key into the Lawan candidacy due to his ethnic and religious placements.
Saturday Tribune, however, gathered that the northern establishment lined behind Saraki in the Senate presidency game and still having his back in the post-National Assembly election struggle, because Tinubu reportedly refused to heed the North’s warning not to attempt choosing candidates for positions zoned to the North.
Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal and a former governor from the North West (name withheld) were said to have separately met with Tinubu severally in the heat of the struggle to tell him the pervading feeling of the North on his position on choosing candidates, especially for the Senate leadership, but he was said to have stuck to his gun.
Tambuwal, who was once a beneficiary of Tinubu’s political alliance, reportedly met with him thrice, begging him to respect the decision of the North to pick its candidate for the Senate president, without any commitment from the former governor of Lagos State.
At such meetings, Tinubu was said to have consistently told his guests that all he was doing was to ensure the emergence of the right change team that would share the dreams and passion of the president.
At one of such meetings with the former governor who is now a senator backing Saraki, Tinubu reportedly told him that his backing for Lawan was in the interest of the president and that he was working on his behalf.
The former governor, who is known for straight shooting, reportedly demanded from Tinubu which president he was referring to, while asking rhetorically “your president or our president” (meaning North’s president).
At that point, he reportedly told Tinubu that the North would take everything from him, including the speakership initially conceded to the South-West for which Gbajabiamila had been pencilled in.
His threat was said to have confirmed the earlier subtle one from the sitting governor who reportedly told Tinubu that “his ogas (northern establishment) may take everything from you if you don’t leave the Senate presidency for them”.
Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who the northern establishment earlier pencilled in as Gbajabiamila’s deputy speaker, was consequently asked by the North to run against the latter.
In order to beat Tinubu’s camp to its reported race and religious cards, the Northern establishment decided to go for Dogara, a Christian minority from the North as the speaker to puncture any argument of religious imbalance that might be thrown up later.