Tinubu’s 2023 presidential ambition reason for supporting Buhari – Saraki

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Niyi Odebode, John Alechenu and Eniola Akinkuotu

Senate President Bukola Saraki has alleged that the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is only supporting President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election with the hope of succeeding the President in 2023.

Saraki made the allegation in a statement on Monday in response to an open letter written by Tinubu on Sunday.

Tinubu in his letter, released late on Sunday, had said the Senate President dumped the APC because of his presidential ambition and selfish quest for power rather than good governance.

But in a statement titled, ‘The Tinubu Rhetoric- My Response’, the Senate President said when Tinubu was appointed the head of the APC’s reconciliation committee, he (Tinubu) reached out to him and admitted that he was also not satisfied with Buhari’s performance but he would remain in the party so that he (Tinubu) could emerge President in 2023.

Saraki said Tinubu told him that he would support Buhari even if the President was on a stretcher.

Saraki added, “However, during those meetings, the point of disagreement between me and him was that while I expressed my worry that there was nothing on the ground to assure me that the administrative style and attitude would change in the next four years in a manner that would enable us to deliver the positive changes we promised to our people, he (Tinubu) expressed a strong opinion that he would rather ‘support a Buhari on the hospital stretcher’ to get a second term because in 2023, power will shift to the South-West.

“This Tinubu viewpoint was not only expressed to me but to several of my colleagues; so much for acting in national interest.

“It is clear that while my own decision is based on protecting collective, national interest, Tinubu will rather live with the identified inadequacies in the government for the sake of fulfilling and preserving his presidential ambition in 2023. This new position of Tinubu has only demonstrated inconsistency, particularly when one reviews his antecedent over the years.”

The Senate President said Tinubu was still sulking over the fact that he (Saraki) was one of those who opposed Tinubu’s bid to emerge as the running mate of Buhari in 2014.

Saraki said he had insisted that Buhari’s running mate should be a Christian for the sake of balance, a decision which he said angered Tinubu.

He added, “Again, let me reiterate my position that my uncertain and complex relationship with Tinubu has been continually defined by the event of 2014 when I and other leaders of the APC opposed the Muslim-Muslim ticket arrangement about to be foisted on the APC for the 2015 polls.

“It should be noted that he has not forgotten the fact that I took the bull by the horns and told him that in the interest of the country, he should accept the need for the party to present a balanced ticket for the 2015 general elections in terms of religion and geopolitical zones.

“Since that time he has been very active, plotting at every point to undermine me, within and outside the National Assembly.”

The Senate President said his decision to quit the APC was based on Buhari’s disrespect for the legislative arm of government and his allies.

He said the Buhari government expected the National Assembly to be a “rubber stamp.”

Saraki said even Tinubu had once criticised Buhari but had decided to change his mind for selfish reasons.

The Senate President said, “I can also vividly recall that he himself always expressed his displeasure with the style of the government and also mentioned that he had equally suffered disrespect from the same government which we all worked to put in office.”

Saraki said Tinubu had been using his newspaper to malign his character and settle scores.

He alleged that in one of such malicious stories, he (Saraki) was quoted to have said he would remain in the APC on the sole condition that he would be given an oil block and automatic ticket.

The Senate President added, “It is a surprise to me that Asiwaju Tinubu is still peddling the falsehood about the fact that my defection is about automatic ticket and sharing of resources.

“Members of the public will recall that when the issue of my decision to quit the APC came to the fore and many APC leaders were holding meetings with me, a newspaper owned by the same Tinubu published a false report about the promise of automatic ticket, oil block and other benefits.

“I immediately rebutted their claims and categorically stated that I never discussed any such personal and pecuniary benefits with anybody. My challenge that anybody who has contrary facts should come forward with them still remains open.”

 I have what it takes to contest against Buhari, Tambuwal tells Tinubu

Also on Monday, the Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, responded to the allegations against him by Tinubu.

Tinubu had also on Sunday alleged that Tambuwal left the APC because the party refused to grant his demand for automatic ticket in 2019.

But responding on the twitter handle of the Sokoto State Government, Tambuwal denied that he defected from the APC because he was not given automatic ticket.

He wrote, “If I wanted to, I could contest against President Buhari under the APC. I have what it takes to have contested against Mr President.”

“I adduced reasons of my defection to the PDP. The reasons are still on record. Automatic ticket by the APC is certainly not part of that. ”

The governor said he had given the people of Sokoto State the reasons he defected and automatic ticket was not among.

He stated, “Tinubu is confessing that there is no level playing field for all members of the APC; that there is no internal democracy in it and that some people were denied their right to internal democracy.”

“Tinubu tried to rock the boat when he was denied Buhari’s vice presidency. He thinks every other person could behave his way. If I wanted to contest under the APC as president, I could have done so and only the votes could have produced a winner.”

Saraki places personal ambition above national interest – APC

Meanwhile, the APC has accused Saraki of always putting his personal interest above that of the nation.

The accusation is contained in a statement signed by the APC National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, in Abuja, on Monday.

The party levelled the allegation against the Senate President in response to a hint by Saraki that he was considering a presidential run in 2019.

Nabena said Saraki would rather rule in hell than serve in paradise. He urged Nigerians to be weary of Saraki because his ambition would always supersede that of the country.

The statement read in part, “Nigerians should be wary of a man whose personal ambition will always supersede the interest of the majority and national interest as currently displayed in the National Assembly.

“While Saraki refuses to reconvene the National Assembly, the 2019 election budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission is dangerously delayed, an action deliberately taken to sabotage INEC’s ability to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections in 2019.

“While Saraki refuses to step down as Senate president as rightly demanded by the APC-dominated Senate, he is bent on foisting a PDP-minority in the upper legislative house.”

He added, “The only politics that Bukola Saraki plays is self, himself only and only himself. The interest and welfare of the people of Nigeria do not mean anything to him.

“Now it is the presidency Saraki wants. And we ask with what antecedents is he doing this? Conspiracy, blackmail, treachery and vaulting ambition which overleaps itself and falls on the other, as rightly captured by William Shakespeare. Bukola Saraki will rather rule in hell than serve in paradise.”

The APC reiterated its call on anti-graft agencies to check the use of stolen public funds to finance elections.

Nabena said, “We reiterate our position that the Nigerian electorate must have the opportunity to choose from candidates that can pass the integrity and anti-corruption test.

“Let us refresh our memory on some of Saraki’s corruption allegations: allegations of fraud which led to the collapse of the Saraki family-owned Société Générale Bank (Bukola Saraki who was director of the defunct bank was indicted over N1bn alleged to have been looted from the bank’s treasury).

“Misappropriation of Kwara State funds, disregard of government due process and conversion of state government assets into his and his cronies when he served as two-term governor of Kwara State.”

The statement further accused the Senate President of having a history of “betrayals; treachery and sabotage – family, political party (PDP, APC), Senate, and government.”

It further said Saraki was questioned by the police Special Fraud Unit over a N11bn financial scandal at the defunct Intercontinental Bank.

When contacted, the Special Adviser (Media) to the Senate President, Mr Yusuf Olaniyonu, said, “We won’t dignify him (Nabena) with a response.”

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