From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The return of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to the country after nearly two weeks’ trip to London would not have come at a better time than now.
His arrival on Thursday night was such a big relief for the ruling party and his teeming supporters. While he was away, many things almost went wrong in the party. The controversy over the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) list between the APC National Working Committee (NWC) and the campaign council leadership had escalated to a disturbing dimension.
The deepening crisis desired his input and intervention, but he was far away to do so. He could not mediate while the party decried the audacity of the PCC leadership to usurp its responsibility in the execution of campaign activities, especially the attempt to distribute appointment letters to the members of the campaign council, and deft moves to even inaugurate the council in fragrant disregard to the statutory rights of the party’s leadership.
Also, while he was away, the governors of the party, the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) members, could not get succour for their endless complaints of relegation to inconsequential positions in the build-up to campaign activities and blunt refusal to accommodate their interest in the campaign list.
Also while he was enjoying his break in the UK, his counterparts in other parties were scaling up and perfecting arrangements to hit the ground running and even physically participated and appended their signatures on the Peace Accord agreements with only him being represented by his running mate, Kashim Shettima.
Hence, his absence had fuelled speculations about the state of his health and capability to preside over the affairs of the country.
Peeved by the situation, many of the electorate had threatened that only presentation of his certificate of medical fitness can convince them to gamble with their votes for him. Others felt that he does not deserve their votes having confirmed that he is going to be another absentee president who will govern the country through proxies.
Indeed, in his absence, he missed the bright opportunity to leverage on the celebration of Nigeria’s 62nd Independence Anniversary to reach out to Nigerians riding on the crest of his party.
While he was away, rumour mongers had gone to town to announce his admission into the intensive care unit of a London hospital, and had become incapacitated or worse still died.
His absence actually generated serious concerns in every part of the country to the point of polarising Nigerians along religious and ethnic divides. It became, understandably, the most dominant topic of political discussion.
To suspend the growing apprehension of the already precarious situation, he and his managers had released series of pictures and video clips, including where he engaged in a vigorous physical exercise in the gym that lasted few seconds and another with his grandchildren as a sure prove that he was still medically fit and set for the tedious task of the presidency.
Dismissing the controversy Tinubu’s absence generated, the spokesperson of his campaign council, Festus Keyamo, had bluntly expressed anger on why the London trip suddenly became the issue on the front burner.
While appearing on a television programme, Keyamo said: “Our candidate is not in the country currently and I don’t have any information on where he is. I know he will be back in a couple of days…
“He is also not on a medical trip; I don’t have such information. It is not true that we have not started campaigns because our candidate is sick and not around.”
But regardless of the party’s defence, the real concern should be the effect of missing conspicuously in action throughout the first week of the commencement of political campaigns on September 28.
But, casting the comments and anxieties behind him, Tinubu had talked tough upon his return, describing himself as the help Nigerians need and the one to restore the hope that is almost fading away.
Explaining that he took a break, he assured Nigerians of a better future if elected, without explaining how he intends to tackle the myriad of controversies rocking the ruling party in his absence.
“The trip was very good. I enjoyed my break. And I am happy to be back to my fatherland. Nigerians should expect a very intelligent ability to think and perform. Nigerians should expect that the help they need is here, the hope that is almost jittering is back and back actively.
“And we hold every effort to the country of patriotism, dedication, capacity, and ability to do the job. Not negative thinking, not the fact that Nigeria has failed; this country is the greatest.
“If it is to rebuild, we are builders; if it is construction, we are constructors. If it is assurance, we give Nigerians the assurance that we definitely make a better country out of it all,” he said.
Beyond his posture as the right person for the job, the meeting of the leadership of his party, the NWC, the state governors, the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), and members of his PCC leadership that ended in deadlock shows that his return would not have come at a better time than now.
His presence is actually needed now to intervene in reconciling the grey areas to help the ruling party formally kick-start the much-awaited campaign as a united family.
A member of the party’s leadership told Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity that the era of cosmetic approach to activities for the poll should give way to realities.
“Yes, we may not be behind schedule, but the manner we are handling issues lives much to be desired. Personally, I am not an apostle to those pictures and videos Asiwaju was sending. He must not go to such an extent to prove any point. If you ask me, I would prefer he concentrates on the tedious task ahead in packaging our campaign programme instead of deploying trivialities to prove that he is healthy and fit for the job of president.
“What you should understand is that Nigerians are not ready to go through that road again. They saw it during Umaru Yar’Adua, and even President Buhari and we know where it took us to. He should ignore the public perception about his health and do something more concrete to win the favour of the Nigerian electorate. We should be more serious and focused.
“He must intervene in resolving the lingering rift over the campaign list, it must be sorted out with dispatch. He must resolve the issues contained in the letter the party’s leadership sent to him, especially the excesses of the leadership of his PCC and the usurpation of the responsibilities of the party’s leadership.
“Another issue he must nip in the bud is the brewing crisis over the campaign fund. While the party is insisting on organising fundraising, Tinubu and his supporters have proved that they are not favourably disposed to such moves. The roles of everybody must be clearly defined if he intends to make any impression in next year’s presidential election,” the member of the party’s leadership charged.
Head or tail, the APC presidential candidate may have his hands full in managing the teething challenges confronting him and the ruling party.
While he contends with the viable solution to the Muslim-Muslim joint ticket, the composition of the campaign council, the uncompromising stance of the northern APC governors to sabotage the collective aspiration of the party, the fundraising controversy, his medical state and other sundry issues have continued to rear their ugly heads.
He has also put the first foot forward in visiting to inspect the venue of the proposed inauguration of the controversial campaign council and perfecting 24 hours after return from his trip to the UK.