The year 2023 may still be years away but the permutation and combination for the Presidential election have already started. One of the big unknowns in the All Progressive Congress (APC) is how the battle for the soul of the party will play out during the 2023 Presidential election. Already, there is a rumor that the powers that be in APC are bent on scuttling the Presidential ambition of the National Leader of the APC, Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
It is against this background that the failure of President Buhari to extend the appointment of Babatunde Fowler a Protégé of Bola Tinubu as the Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), is causing unease in Tinubu’s camp. This may be an indication that the power brokers in the APC that are opposed to Tinubu’s Presidential ambition are already putting measures in place to checkmate him.
The announcement of the dumping of Mr. Fowler came hours after his tenure expired. Mr. Fowler was appointed in 2015. In place of Babatunde Fowler, President Buhari has appointed Muhammad Nami, a tax consultant, as the new head of the revenue agency. The fact that Mr. Nami who has no proven record of success in revenue generation could be made the Chairman of FIRS says a lot about the Nigerian Presidency.
Recall that Mr. Fowler recently had a disagreement with the almighty Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Mr. Abba Kyari on some tax issues and dwindling internally generated revenue after setting record highs. Also, there was a series of corruption allegations against Babatunde Fowler as the Chairman of FIRS, Mr. Fowler, was found to have overseen recruitment exercises in violation of Nigeria’s rules of public advertisement.
Chairman of FIRS, Babatunde Fowler, got the nod to the board based on the evidence that the total internally generated tax revenue increased perhaps, several-fold under his re-engineering under Tinubu as the Lagos State governor. They deserve some credit for that. But what tarnished him and Tinubu’s integrity was taking full control of the revenue being generated in Lagos state for years. It amounted to virtual paralysis in many sectors that needed urgent infrastructural development in Lagos.
What Tinubu is in Lagos, Bukola Saraki was in Kwara State. These men quietly constructed a political dynasty that is undermining good governance in their states and Nigeria. This is part of what the opposition within the APC to Tinubu is afraid of.
The opposition to Tinubu is afraid that allowing the political structure of the Bola Tinubu to get superbly sophisticated, with loyalties and ties that cut across Southwestern Nigeria and the APC federal government will make him unstable before 2023 election.
It is Asiwaju’s modus operandi and the sheer scale and long-term implications of expanding his political structure with Babatunde Fowler, as the Chairman of FIRS, that pushed Tinubu’ s opponent to strike first. Mr. Babatunde Fowler has been directed to hand over to the most senior director on the board, who will take charge, until confirmation of the new board by the Senate.
You can now understand the panic in Tinubu’s camp. How will Tinubu and his boys respond? What role is any did Tinubu’s suspected competitors play? Is the Kaduna State governor, El-Rufai part of the plot to cripple Tinubu before the 2023 APC Presidential primaries? Who is with Bola Tinubu and who is against him.
While political pundits are integrating, and differentiating the equations of the 2023 political permutation, former vociferous Senator Shehu Sani is already denying having anything to do with his alleged role as the Coordinators in the North West for Bola Tinubu’ s 2023 Presidential Campaign. In a twitter response to the question by Jackson Ude a former Director of Strategy/Communication under President Goodluck Jonathan on f the alleged role as coordinator, Senator Shehu Sani wrote, “I’m definitely NOT”
Though Senator Shehu Sani has lost some steam and credibility, the response with “NOT” in all caps indicates that the challenge Bola Tinubu will face in the bid to actualize his presidential ambition will be many. The panic in Tinubu’s camp also stems from the fact that his political ground in the southwest is still shaky.
The fact that Mr. Fowler could be dumped in such a manner and replaced little known Mr. Nami is embarrassing to Tinubu and his boys. How they respond to this apparent smack in the face and an attempt to cripple his presidential ambition even before it kicks off remains to be seen.