APC Presidential Candidate and the Villa Mouse
The intrigues preceding the All Progressives Congress primary election on June 6, 2022, which produced former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the party’s candidate for the February 25 presidential election, was like a horribly boiling cauldron.
So toxic and noxious was the heat it emitted that everyone involved in the cooking got soaked with the lacerating and self-destructive grime of permanent bitterness. If anyone ever doubted this, they have the ever-revealing campaign fusillades of the last two weeks to erase those doubts. Unfortunately, the emerging developments have put the Presidential Campaign Council of the APC in the unenviable spot of having to play the Orwellian Squealer – whose fabled job it is to clarify every perceived misdeed – ad infinitum. NewsReport gathered
It is an unenviably taxing role, honestly. But try as it will, the PCC can no longer stifle the suspicion that there is trouble in the APC control room. More obvious is that the affliction will keep the party company to the very day of presidential election. It doesn’t seem like anyone is in a position to do anything about this.
This online information understands that the APC knows itself better and may just be able to do something about its internal troubles. As a reporter, what appears more interesting, and curious, to me is that the APC flag bearer, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, is worried by the activities of some people or a group of persons in Aso Rock who have once or twice been referred to (not by him) as ‘fifth columnists’ – a twentieth century European political term for enemies of the state – traced, according to Wikipedia, to Emilio Mola Vidal, a Nationalist general during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39).
Given the enlarged connotations of ‘fifth columnists’, I will rather stick with the term used by the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai (typically an agent provocateur to some) when he spoke on a television programme recently: ‘Elements in the Villa’. To be sure, the Villa refers to Aso Rock Villa, the official residence of Nigeria’s president, and the people commonly associated with that residency are the president and his advisers or aides, including the Chief of Staff (who could sometimes be extra-ordinarily powerful like the late Abba Kyari).
You could add the president’s wife, also referred to as the first lady, and the vice president to the list. In the Nigerian media, Aso Rock Villa or the Villa very often refers to the president and his advisers. We have also come to know that there are some powerful elements in the Villa who don’t parade any known label or official designation – they could be the president’s relations, and they fret and strut their way, sometimes more noisily than the bureaucrats, in the Villa.
Thus contextualized, ‘Elements in the Villa’ becomes a group of official and unofficial persons close to the president. Ironically, when accusations are made against the Villa by ‘those who know’, the unofficial persons are the suspects. Thus contextualized, we may now approach El-Rufai’s observation with better understanding.
This was what he said: “I believe there are elements in the Villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way; they had their candidate. Their candidate did not win the primaries. They are trying to get us to lose the election, and they are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what he thinks is right.”
So far, the ‘Elements in the Villa’ are a certain group of politicians and their acolytes whose favourite candidate missed the presidential ticket, and that would include the APC chairman, Abdullahi Adamu.
Now consider this: “I will give two examples: this petroleum subsidy, which is costing the country trillions of naira, was something that we all agreed would be removed. In fact, I discussed with the president and showed him why it had to go. Because – how can you have a capital budget of N200bn for federal roads and then spend N2trn on petroleum subsidy? This was a conversation I had with the President in 2021 when the subsidy thing started rising. He was convinced. We left. It changed. Everyone in the government agreed, and it changed.”
Proceeding from the above, the cabinet is now part of the ‘Elements in the Villa’. But wait for this: “The second example I will give is this currency redesign. You have to understand the president. People are blaming the governor of the Central Bank for the currency redesign, but no. You have to go back and look at the first outing of Buhari as president.”
Did you read that very well? Don’t blame Godwin Emefiele, the Central Bank governor, blame the president. In case you still don’t understand, here’s it: “He did this (before) – the Buhari-Idiagbon regime changed our currency and did it in secrecy with a view to catching those that are stashing away illicit funds. It is a very good intention (oh, sure). The President has his right. But doing it at this time within the allotted time does not make any political or economic sense.”
So, President Muhammadu Buhari is, as it should be, part of the ‘Elements in the Villa’.
Why then did our senior colleague, the versatile Dele Alake, deny the president membership of this privileged group in his recent outing?
Consider Alake’s trying-very-hard clarification: “So, for el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, stating the obvious is nothing to glare (or gloat) about. We know that the mischief makers, the opposition, would latch on to it and twist it out of context. But that is the way of the opposition, especially the opposition that we are contending with in Nigeria today.”
He continues: “As a campaign council, it is very simple. There’s really nothing spectacular about what El Rufai has said. And it’s even self-explanatory. He did say that some people but he never said the president. In any organization, including your own individual media houses, you have editorial policies, and there are elements within your organizations that won’t agree with those policies. Yet, they still work there.
“It is therefore not a spectacular thing. It is merely a natural phenomenon. In all organisations and institutions, you cannot have 100 per cent of the operatives see issues exactly the same way. However, it is the preponderance of views that matter. Now, in terms of the presidency, who is the power base? Of course, it is the Commander in Chief.” Did you get that?
“He holds all the aces. We do not expect that he would actually see all his staff eye to eye. But they’re still there.”
I am yet to find a more contradicting argument than Alake’s. How can you admit, like El-Rufai did, that the president is at the head of the table and still shade him away from the decisions taken at that table?
If you ask me, the two troublesome issues that Tinubu have fingered as plots hatched to deny him the presidency – fuel and naira scarcity – have repeatedly been owned by President Buhari. So, why the quibble?
One has only to read Tinubu’s accusations again to understand where the suspicions are piling.
Here’s one from the rumbling Abeokuta rally: “Hide the petrol, hide the naira, we will still vote! We will win.”
He added: “Even if you change the ink on naira notes, what you want will not happen. We will win. That umbrella party will lose. We will take this government from them — saboteurs that are dragging power with us.” Certainly the umbrella party did not initiate the fuel or currency shortage, or did it?
Here, it is either Emefiele or Buhari – none other is responsible for the naira redesign. As for the fuel crisis, President Buhari is the Minister of Petroleum, so is better placed to account for the shortage in fuel supply or price hike?
At the Ekiti Parapo Pavilion in Ado-Ekiti, venue of the presidential campaign rally on Friday, Tinubu also said: “They are hoarding naira so that you can be angry and fight. They want confusion so that the election can be postponed. What they want is an interim government. But we are wiser than them. We will not fight. Any rat that eats the rat poison will end up killing itself.”
Who are the rats hoarding the naira? An endless line of profiteers extending to bank managers. Are these the people who want interim government? No, those in the corridors of power. So, that could only be one of the unofficial residents of Aso Villa we have already spoken about. The rats are ‘Elements in the Villa’, and the president is one of them – the buck stops at his table. Even proxies like Emefiele and Melee Kyari who both lead the ongoing disasters are subject to Buhari’s intentions – they’re Buhari’s men, his errand boys, who do his bidding, which is why Emefiele would rather go chasing Buhari in Daura than answer summons from the National Assembly. As a prominent Nigerian has observed, the CBN governor knows who can sack him if he goes contrary.
So, by now, you know what my take is: Buahri is the leader of the ‘Elements in the Villa’, and there should be no attempt to exonerate him from the fuel and naira shortage blame. If Tinubu has other people in mind, then he has not been very generous with the truth, for the simple reason that it is dishonest to blame the messenger and absolve the sender.
Buhari’s role in Tinubu’s presidential bid – as all Tinubu’s men know – reeks of plain ambivalence and it’s just political finesse to avoid admitting this in the open, but Tinubu has – when rattled – blurted it out in no uncertain terms. All the clarifications and defences coming from the PCC are needless. Buhari and his errand boys are the political rats playing hide and seek with Tinubu. And, of course, the rat that eats poison shall die.
It is noteworthy that as they move towards the election day, the two big parties in the country are wrestling with the same demon: resentment. And the source of this demon in both instances was the unhealthy politicking that dominated their presidential primary election. Incidentally, the courts across the country are overwhelmed by petitions arising from party primaries at every stage – from state legislative and governorship to National Assembly and presidential primaries. We hope someday this ugly experience of sinister primaries will become history.