Oluremi Tinubu, a Nigerian senator and wife of Bola Tinubu, on Monday revealed that she occasionally scolded her husband for his unwavering support for the All Progressives Congress-led administration, despite the way he was treated.
“I was hurt with, you know, what they did to my husband after the campaign,” Mrs. Tinubu said during an appearance on TV Continental’s ‘Your View’ in Lagos. “Occasionally I’ll chip in and say, you’re still helping out? Why are you helping out?”
But Mr. Tinubu, known as the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, would often reply: “This country matters to me most,” Mrs. Tinubu said.
The disclosure was perhaps the first direct confirmation that Mr. Tinubu felt betrayed by the APC administration after he helped the party come to power in 2015
Claims that Mr. Tinubu was abandoned by President Muhammadu Buhari after the 2015 elections have failed to ebb since they first started circulating after the principal officers of the National Assembly were elected.
All the critical offices, especially the Senate President and its deputy and House Speaker and its deputy, went to individuals who were not favoured by the APC.
The outcome is believed to have severely affected the party’s unity, as its fallout could still be felt nearly three years on.
The rumours were also echoed when Mr. Buhari named his cabinet. Political commentators said Mr. Tinubu was largely left out of that arrangement too.
Yet, Mr. Tinubu has denied any rift with the president, but has reprimanded some top administration officials and political leaders within his party for reasons which ranged from policy mishaps to allocation of spoils of politics.
At the peak of a nationwide fuel shortage in 2016, Mr. Tinubu pointedly criticised the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, as being insensitive to the suffering of the citizens.
About six months later in September, Mr. Tinubu cried out in the media that he had been shortchanged by the chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun, accusing him of injustice and repudiating his ‘national leader’ title.
But Mr. Tinubu did not openly go after Mr. Buhari, even though the president did not publicly intervene as the party’s internal crisis exacerbated.
Mrs. Tinubu said her husband was ‘trashed’ after the election, but that the politician “did not say anything.”
As his wife, however, Mrs. Tinubu said she felt nothing but sympathy for the “pain” her family went through to ensure APC’s victory in 2015.
Mr. Tinubu’s limited influence in the administration fuelled speculation that he might not back Mr. Buhari for re-election in 2019.
But Mr. Buhari has been carrying Mr. Tinubu along in recent weeks. The president invited the former Lagos governor to join his entourage to a meeting between African Union and European Union in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire in last November.
Earlier this month, the president named Mr. Tinubu to head a team that would help find a solution to the party’s multi-dimensional crises in several states across the country.
Mr. Tinubu’s media adviser, Tunde Rahman, said Mr. Buhari ensured he had Mr. Tinubu with him at most of the bilateral meetings he attended during the trip to Abidjan.
Mr. Rahman did not immediately respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ request seeking comments about whether or not Mrs. Tinubu’s statement reflected her husband’s feeling towards Mr. Buhari.
Even though she remained indecisive about her support for Mr. Buhari in 2019, Mrs. Tinubu maintained that the president is still loved by the citizens mostly for his “integrity.”
“When it comes to integrity, Buhari has it,” she said.
She noted her husband would have made a huge impact on the APC administration if he had been properly carried along, saying he had his exploits in Lagos to show.
“But they don’t want to give him credits,” she said.
Mrs. Tinubu’s comments were first echoed in 2016 when the president’s wife, Aisha, publicly accused him of abandoning those who worked to get him to the position.
Mrs. Buhari threatened that unless her husband retraced his steps, she might not back him for re-election in 2019.
An APC strategist, Ayo Akanji, said there was no basis for anyone to suggest that Mr. Tinubu was abandoned after the 2015 elections, and definitely not by Mr. Buhari.
“The claim that Mr. Tinubu was abandoned is incorrect to begin with,” Mr. Akanji told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Monday night. “He has critical roles to play in this government and he has been playing them to the best of his ability.”
Mr. Akanji said Mr. Tinubu nominated Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and several top administration officials, although many of them may not necessarily be cabinet members.
“The head of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Tunji Fowler, and the Secretary to the Government, Boss Mustapha, are key allies of Mr. Tinubu,” Mr. Akanji said. “These are just two positions which are individually far more consequential than some federal ministries.”
Mr. Tinubu, who was governor from 1999-2007, introduced Mr. Fowler to public service in 2005 when he named him the head of Lagos State board of internal revenue.
“Mr. President bestows a tremendous respect on Mr. Tinubu, which was the reason he asked him to come and head a committee that would settle the crisis within the party.”