Following the simmering crisis in the APC, the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has started reaching out to his former political foes in the South-West in order to consolidate his influence in the region.

The multi-layered crisis in the ruling party is threatening the erstwhile chummy relationship between Tinubu and President Muhammadu Buhari, and some agents in the APC.

The crisis in the ruling party started before the 2015 general elections but became full-blown after Buhari was sworn in as president. There has been discontent within the Tinubu camp.

Sources said that members of the group and their principal were not happy with what they saw as attempts by APC leadership and the presidency to diminish Tinubu’s high contributions to Buhari’s emergence as president and undermine his leadership in the South-West region.

The Punch learnt over the weekend that some of Buhari’s closest associates have been pushing back by telling those who are close to Tinubu that Nigeria cannot have a 'co-presidency'.

Although the two leaders had tried futilely to keep the frosty relationship away from public, things came to a head a few days ago when Tinubu wrote an open letter lambasting the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who is believed to enjoy the support of the president.

Tinubu’s harsh denunciation of the party chairman has been widely interpreted as a direct protest against Buhari. In private, Tinubu’s loyalists are complaining that his political capital is being eroded by the hostile actions of the president’s men and the inactions of President Buhari.

Tinubu’s loyalists in the South-West have listed Buhari’s hostile actions against the APC leader to include the exclusion of his candidates from Buhari’s final ministerial list, the gang-up against his candidate in the Kogi governorship election, James Faleke, who was late Audu Abubakar’s running mate; and alleged fraud against his candidate in Ondo governorship primary, Olusegun Abraham.

Until the recent crisis, the APC had managed the discontent within its leadership as insinuations were rife that some of Buhari’s closest political associates had perfected a plan to humiliate Tinubu.

But pro-Tinubu elements within the party and other sympathisers have vowed to resist any attempt to humiliate the respected politician.

Some of Tinubu’s close associates spoke to The Punch anonymously.

A chieftain of the party in Osun State, said, “This is the beginning of the end of the APC. The party will shatter into smithereens. We are ready for them. They are going nowhere.

“We know the political leader of the South-West and that person is unmistakably Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. They are envious of Tinubu’s achievements, but they don’t have Tinubu’s clout. None of those scrambling to wear Tinubu’s shoes have the clout to do so. These ingrates are the people that have benefitted immensely from Tinubu’s large-heartedness. Now, they are stabbing him in the back. We are in the South-West together, we shall see.”

Speaking in a telephone interview with The Punch on Friday, Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, said he would not hesitate to fight against any anti-Yoruba policy by the Buhari-led administration. He said he would team up with like-minded leaders in the South-West to resist attacks on any of the region’s political leaders. 

Fayose said, “I will resist any policy that is formulated by Buhari administration against the interests of the Yoruba. Some people may say it is too early to criticise them now, so, we are watching.

“We will keep our fingers crossed and our gunpowder dry. We won’t be hasty in our condemnation; when you put water on fire, you wait for it to boil. We don’t want it to appear as if we are looking for an opportunity to nail them. Let them continue their governance, we are watching.”

A pro-Tinubu stalwart in the ruling party also declared that the plot to ridicule Tinubu and reduce his influence and standing in the South-West had “already failed.”

Another APC leader in the South-West said; “we won’t be surprised if the EFCC wakes up tomorrow to say they are probing Tinubu or his associates. They may even send the DSS after him because that is the step the Buhari government has taken against all their perceived enemies. Asiwaju knows that they may come for him.”

Another top member of the APC said it is wrong that they are sidelining Tinubu.

The source said, “Those leading the rebellion against Tinubu are politicians who lost their wards and constituencies in elections, even when they were governors. His loyalists are not in government, despite the contributions of Asiwaju to the 2015 electoral victory. Asiwaju has realised that they are ready to go to war with him so he is consolidating. This is not a time to hold on to past wounds and we are glad Yoruba elders who were critical of Tinubu before are rallying round him because they understand that this is a South-West matter. It is beyond our national leader.

“The elders have held several meetings with him and they are realigning. Don’t forget what Pa Ayo Adebanjo said; he said any insult to Asiwaju is an insult to the Yoruba race and Adebanjo is not known to be flippant in his choice of words.”