After secret talks: Buhari takes steps to end feud with Tinubu

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Tinubu, Buhari

Tunde Odesola, Toluwani Eniola and Tobi Aworinde

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

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

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 the ex-Lagos
governor’s candidates in the Kogi elections and
Ondo governorship primary, among other ills.
A reliable source who was 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 the President
contacted Akande, who is one of Tinubu’s closest
associates and a former Interim Chairman of the
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. Mrs. Buhari also threatened not to
support her husband in 2019 if the President did
not change tack.
Sources said although both men’s relationship
began to sour almost as soon as Buhari won the
election, it deteriorated when Professor John
Paden, in his book titled ‘Muhammadu Buhari:
Challenges of Leadership,’ claimed that 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 All Progressives Congress
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.
Shortly after, Tinubu in a scathing open letter
asked the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John
Odigie-Oyegun, to step down, after alleging that
the chairman doctored results of the Ondo State
APC governorship primary. Odigie-Oyegun, a
former Edo State governor, who had been cautious
in his initial response to Tinubu’s letter, paid a
visit to Buhari in Aso Rock and thereafter launched
an attack on Tinubu, describing his letter as
‘reckless.’
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 our correspondent
that Akande, who cut short his trip abroad to see
the President, did not mince words during the
meeting.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity,
said Akande told Buhari that despite the roles
Tinubu and the South-West played in making him
President, he had relegated the APC national leader
and the region.
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 stated that 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.
said that 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.
Akande, who travelled abroad after the meeting
with Buhari, could not be reached for comments,
but a top APC member close to him confirmed
details of the meeting, saying, “They want Buhari to
accept Tinubu’s list when he makes changes in
his cabinet. They specifically told him that they are
only in support of one of the South-West ministers
in his cabinet. They also asked him to get the
party leadership to hold the National Executive
Council meetings regularly while also facilitating
the constitution of the party’s board of trustees.”
A source close to the South-West leadership of the
party disclosed to one of our correspondents that
Akande and Aregbesola had met at the former’s
residence in Ila-Orangun two Wednesdays ago
before meeting the President.
Akande had been honoured by the Catholic
Diocese in Otan-Ayegbaju, Osun State, where a
school was inaugurated in his name. The late
mother of a former Governor of Osun State, Prince
Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who hailed from Otan-
Ayegbaju, was also honoured by the church, which
inaugurated a multipurpose hall in her honour.
APC leaders, members and supporters, including
Aregbesola, who thronged the venue of the
ceremony, accompanied Akande to Ila-Orangun as
a mark of respect.
It was gathered that Aregbesola and Akande held a
meeting at Akande’s residence, where they
discussed the face-off between Buhari and Tinubu.
The source said, “We were at Otan-Ayegbaji
together. We later accompanied Baba Akande to
Ila-Orangun after the Otan-Ayegbaju ceremony.
When we got to Ila-Orangun, both the governor
and Baba Akande went inside for a very long time.
I’m sure that was where the decision to intervene
in the matter was taken.
“When they met Buhari, they complained about the
marginalisation of Tinubu’s men. At the meeting,
Aregbesola said they (Tinubu loyalists) were not
out to fight Buhari, but that the President should
consider the Tinubu group in terms of
appointments.
“Buhari told them that he was not out to
undermine Tinubu’s group and that things would
change in the coming days.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on
Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in an interview
with one of our correspondents, said he was not
aware of what transpired during the meeting
between the President and the APC chieftains.
He said, “I am not aware of what was discussed
with the President in the said meeting. As a matter
of fact, it is not the nature of the President to
disclose what people discuss with him in
confidence during meetings.”

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