A leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu, lambasted the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Sunday, describing him as an undisciplined and disloyal APC member on paper, but a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in soul.
Mr. Tinubu denied a newspaper report that he was conspiring with Mr. Saraki to undermine President Muhammadu Buhari, and seized the moment to confirm his relationship with Mr. Saraki remained fractious since the latter defied his party to contest and win election as senate president.
On Saturday, the Sun newspaper reported that Mr. Tinubu was under security watch for allegedly plotting with Mr. Saraki to undermine President Muhammadu Buhari. The paper said Mr. Tinubu was angry the president rejected his nominees for ministerial positions.
The presidency denied the report, describing it as false and baseless. Garba Shehu, the president’s spokesperson, said the report was another instance of an attempt by “two or three newspapers to breach the excellent relationship between the pillars of our party and government”.
In his reaction Sunday, Mr. Tinubu denied the report and wondered how he could conspire with Mr. Saraki whom he described as an APC member on paper, but PDP member in soul.
“The idea of an alleged conspiracy between Tinubu and Saraki against the President is a lie. Tinubu is committed to the APC vision and the Nigeria Project. The way Senator Saraki captured his current seat travestied party discipline,” a statement signed by his media director, Sunday Dare, said.
Mr. Tinubu recalled how Mr. Saraki disobeyed the APC to vie for the senate president position.
“It was a crass act of disloyalty showing that Saraki may have joined the APC on paper but has remained true to the malpractices and wrong aims of the reactionary PDP in his soul,” the statement said.
“If this nation is to have more than a fleeting chance of escaping the quagmire into which years of PDP misrule have taken us, we cannot allow these regressive elements to deploy their cunning tricks to divide and pit progressives against progressives.
“The alleged conspiracy is a figment. It takes at least two people to make a conspiracy. There has been no substantive communication between Asiwaju and Saraki since the latter decided to foul the integrity of the Senate and the party. To be truthful, I don’t think Saraki would care to hear what Asiwaju would have to say to him.
Mr. Tinubu counselled Mr. Saraki “to shelve his personal situation for the moment to concentrate on the people’s business. It would be a grave mistake and abuse of office for Saraki to directly or indirectly inject his personal matter into the (ministerial) approval process. Saraki should not link the approval of a single minister to his desire for extra-judicial treatment of his issues”.
The statement adds: “Other than voice this encouragement, Bola Tinubu will never say a negative word or lift a finger to forestall anyone’s approval before the Senate. For the record, the Buhari Presidency was brought to life by the votes of millions of Nigerians who desire change. Such a collective and historic achievement is not one that anyone who worked to bring it to life would easily seek to de-construct.
“If adhering to the decisions of the party, supporting the government’s progressive plank and working for the good of the people qualifies Tinubu for surveillance, then he will accept that.
“However, we know that any such surveillance is not from state security organs. Such activity would come from the insecurity agencies of the PDP and its mercenary allies elsewhere who would seek to fragment the true core of the APC so that they may scuttle the Buhari reform programme and return the nation to the misgovernance of the past. They hope to delude the APC into attacking itself. By so doing, they believe they can regain through stealth, the reins of government the people seized from them through elections. They seek to break the hearts and hopes of the people. Asiwaju Tinubu would never team with anyone to gain such an inhumane objective…
“Those who midwifed this garish tale gave birth not to truth but to lies intended to kill APC unity and to retard the Buhari administration’s strategic reform initiatives, as earlier outlined by our party manifesto. Given the potential for change that stands before us, we are now beginning to see the true nature of many people. There are those who truly want positive change so that we can break from the ways of a stolid past. Then there are those who speak of change with their mouths but never believe in it in their hearts. They came along with us for the ride or because no other political option availed itself at the operative time. Now given the chance to redeem themselves from their past political actions, they would rather return to the political morass from whence they came.
“Their wrong is a great wrong. Like the rest of us, Asiwaju Tinubu waited for the President to select his cabinet. The majority of the selections have been made. There is nothing to do but congratulate the appointees and pray for them. Their responsibilities are vast, the future of the nation now rests on their shoulders. The challenges before them are manifold and daunting. Those who want the best for Nigeria can only hope that these people succeed. The only intervention that Asiwaju Tinubu would make is one of encouragement. He would charge them to remain true to the progressive vision of the party and our President.’’
In his reaction Sunday, Mr. Saraki said he would not join issues with the former Lagos governor. He said he recognised Mr. Tinubu as one of those who contributed so much to the victory of the APC, but said such efforts were not exclusive to Mr. Tinubu.
“I have decided not to join issues with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. However, I know that most Nigerians are aware that there has been no meeting or communication between me and Asiwaju Tinubu since I was elected Senate President. Therefore, I do not see any basis for a newspaper to report that we are both plotting to oppose the President,” he said in a statement.
“I recognise Tinubu as one of the leaders of the APC who contributed so much to the victory of the party in the last election. Some other people also contributed and I believe the collective efforts made it possible for the first time in the history of our country for an opposition party to win the general elections.
“Let me state clearly that I remain a committed member of the APC and will do all in my powers to ensure the party fulfill its promises to bring positive changes into the country.
“Since my election as Senate President, my focus and efforts have been devoted to doing the job that I was elected to do by my constituents and my colleagues in the Senate. Twice, my colleagues have confirmed their support for me as the primus inter pares in the Senate.
“As I said in my speech when we resumed from our recess late September and in Ikenne over the weekend, the screening of ministerial nominees will be handled by me and my colleagues with all sense of responsibility and in adherence to the provision of the constitution. We will be fair to all and be guided by the interest of Nigeria. The screening will be devoid of sentiment and it is not an opportunity for anybody to settle scores. We are equally eager for us to make a positive difference in our polity and Nigerians will be able to judge us whether we acted in their best interest or not.”