A seemingly cold war has ensued between the major power brokers of the All Progressive Congress – the current President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, and Bola Tinubu, the Presidential flag bearer of the All Progressive Congress, with rumours of them being at loggerheads.
Since the infamous “Emilokan” speech made by Tinubu during a rally at Abeokuta, Ogun State, where he made not-too-pleasant remarks about President Buhari, the silent rift between Buhari and Tinubu seems to have been exposed. This could be traced to the APC Presidential primary, which saw TInubu slug out for the ticket with 22 other candidates.
Recall that Tinubu didn’t enjoy the support of the Presidency cabal, who wanted another candidate to emerge. Even on the eve of the Presidential primary, it was reported that the APC chairman had informed party chieftains to support the candidature of the current Senate President, Ahmed Lawan – describing him as the preferred choice of President Buhari. As expected, this was met with fierce opposition.
Ever since there has been bickering between both camps, more recently, several policies have been made by the Buhari-led government, which have been described as moves to sabotage the efforts of the APC Presidential flagbearer.
Recently, fuel stations across the country have witnessed an upsurge in patronage. This is not unconnected to the fact that there has been a low fuel supply to stations, leading to a hike in fuel prices. A statement released by the Major Oil Markets Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) revealed that the fuel queues are caused by high demand and distribution delays. In their words, “the major cause is the shortage and high (US Dollar) costs of vessels ferrying product from mother vessels to depots along the coast.” Furthermore, the statement also mentioned another reason for the long queues. It said, “it is the inadequate number of trucks to meet the demand to deliver products from depots to filling stations nationwide.”
With the elections around the corner, supporters of Tinubu’s campaign believe it’s a ploy to frustrate their campaign, as it would only make the masses angry at the ruling party, which might cause more harm than good in the ongoing campaign. The Federal Government, led by President Buhari, set up a 14-man steering committee to address the issue of fuel scarcity – however, nothing productive has been achieved. The Presidential Campaign Committee of Bola Tinubu worries that this might affect their poll chances.
On October 26, 2022, Godwin Emefiele, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, announced that new naira notes would be printed to replace the currently used N200, N500, and N1000 notes, effective from December 15, 2022. This initiative was aimed at “combating the prevailing level of the security situation in the country, with the CBN convinced that the incident of terrorism and kidnapping will be minimised, as access to a large volume of money outside the banking system used as a source of funds for ransom payment will begin to dry up.”
More so, Emefiele also mentioned that the recent developments in photographic technology and printing devices have made counterfeiting relatively easier. As a result, the CBN has recently recorded significantly higher counterfeiting rates, especially at the higher denominations of N500 and N1,000 banknotes.” These were supposed reasons for the naira re-design.
While the naira redesign policy seems to have genuine underlying reasons, the timing for its implementation has been questioned. Moreover, with the CBN bent on mopping up currency notes back to its fold, this has sent the wrong message to the political elites, who see it sabotaging their efforts during the election. How? The new Electoral Act has helped curtail rigging, but one way the politicians get their way is through vote buying. And many of them have these currency notes, meant to be used during election, stockpiled in hidden locations.
Please remember that in 2019, two bullion vans were seen entering the house of the APC Presidential aspirant, Bola Tinubu; it was thought that the vans were loaded with cash meant for vote buying. There are insinuations that funds have been disbursed to several states to buy votes during the polls. And that is why many politicians are not supporting the new naira re-design policy, as they believe it would affect their performances in the forthcoming elections.
But ironically, the ruling party, APC, seems to be more vocal about the timing of this policy than every other party. This is connected to fewer currency notes being printed; hence, people need help getting the new naira notes. Banks have long queues, and Point of Sale (POS) outlets have also increased their charges on funds issued out. These have prompted Tinubu’s campaign team members to come out openly to speak against the naira redesign with claims that the election of their flag bearer will become more difficult considering the timing of this policy.
For instance, the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, spoke to traders in Kaduna recently, telling them – “Stop returning your money to the banks. Nobody will devalue your money. I am pleading with you, it’s just a matter of time, and now it’s 18 days left to the election. After the election, wait for what Bola Tinubu will say. He will reverse the policy. Please help us deliver this message to your brothers and sisters and everyone else to stop taking your old naira notes to the banks and continue doing business transactions with it.”
The above statement is a clear affront to the Presidency. Recall that El-Rufai is one of the ardent supporters of Tinubu’s candidacy. His stance has also been re-echoed by Bola Tinubu, who hinted at a sinister plot against his campaign. He said, “Let them increase the fuel price, let them continue to hoard fuel, only them know where they have hoarded fuel, they hoarded money, they hoarded Naira; we will go and vote, and we will win even if they change ink on Naira notes. Whatever their plans, they will come to nought. We are going to win.”
While over-zealous supporters might try to claim Tinubu wasn’t attacking the Presidency, it’s crystal clear that there can’t be a burning bush without fire. Tinubu is not one to hurl isolated utterances at anyone. Instead, there seems to be anecdotal evidence of a brewing cold war amongst the APC power factions.