The Tinubu-Buhari Cold War Is Becoming A Hot War By Farooq A. Kperogi
Buhari has so far studiously refrained from asking voters to vote for Tinubu. He raises Tinubu’s hands on the campaign trail, but it’s as a mere ritual political gesture that he is required to perform. He also raises the hands of other APC candidates. But he has so far not directly solicited votes for Tinubu.
In a November 10, 2022, interview with Premium Times on the so-called currency redesign, which has gone viral in the last few days, Buhari justified the currency redesign by gratuitously invoking the specter of unscrupulous moneybags who use thugs to win elections, which many people, including
Tinubu’s people, understood as an indirect attack on Tinubu.
“Nigerians should vote for whoever they like from whichever party. Nobody will be allowed to mobilize resources and thugs to intimidate people in any constituency,” Buhari said in what seems like a sneaky barb at Tinubu who infamously uses money and thugs to win elections, including elections that Buhari has benefited from. “This is what I want to go down into Nigerian history for.”
Of course, when Premium Times’ reporter pushed him to speak on his support for Tinubu, he uttered platitudinous, half-hearted, mealy-mouthed praises of Tinubu and Lagos and said, “the party was lucky to get [Tinubu to] accept to be its candidate.” We all know it wasn’t the party that got Tinubu to accept to be its candidate; it was Tinubu who fought tooth and nail against the machinations of Buhari and his cabal to become the party’s candidate.
In the aftermath of the renewed attention to and intra-party criticisms of Buhari’s failure to publicly urge his supporters to vote for Tinubu, Buhari’s associates organized a charade in Bauchi. During the APC presidential campaign in Bauchi, Buhari was asked to speak in support of Tinubu. Then, suddenly, the microphone mysteriously developed a malfunction—or there was a power cut—and Buhari left the venue of the campaign in a faux huff. It seemed all carefully choreographed.
Being the aggressively wily and perceptive political fox that Tinubu is, he has sensed all the Machiavellian political mischief that’s afoot. And he has had enough. So, he threw another pugilistic rhetorical blow at Buhari and his cabal in Abeokuta—and in the Yoruba language. When he is drowning and is fighting for his political life, Tinubu cries in Yoruba. English has no capacity to carry the full weight of his fury.
Unfortunately for Tinubu, his avoidably self-inflicted reputational injury in the Muslim North by his inability to recite the first chapter of the Qur’an is eroding his support. Salafi clerics in the Hausaphone Muslim North who used to preach that a vote for the Tinubu-Shettima Muslim-Muslim ticket was a jihad in the service of Islam have gone quiet. They can’t justify calling someone who can’t recite the fatiha a Muslim. In fact, the clerics have become objects of ridicule now.
This was completely preventable political self-harm. All he needed to do was continue being seen praying in mosques and going to Mecca for hajj. No one ever asks Muslims, not least wealthy ones like Tinubu, to justify their claims to their faith by reciting verses of the Qur’an. Most northern Muslim elites, including Buhari, know next to nothing about their religion. But it’s sufficient that they are seen in public performing the rituals of the religion.
Tinubu would have benefitted from having northern Muslims in his inner circle. They would have advised him against attempting to recite the fatiha that he has obviously lost because he doesn’t use.
The only silver lining in the cloud of political troubles for Tinubu in the Muslim North, which he needs to have a fighting chance, is that almost all APC governors in the region are solidly behind him for two reasons. The first is the embarrassment of betraying him after he stood with them in the 2015 and 2019 elections. Nasir El-Rufai is the arrowhead of this sentiment. He thinks it would be a treachery for the history books should the entire Muslim North forsake Tinubu.
The second reason is more selfish. Should Atiku Abubakar win the election, the dreams of another northern Muslim from the northern governors’ ranks becoming a president would be perpetually deferred. Even though Atiku has said he would do only one term, it would be almost impossible for another Muslim to succeed him after four years.
It remains to be seen if the support of the governors can reverse Tinubu’s lost ground in the Muslim North. But the fight is on, and it’s just getting started!
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