Nigeria News

NIGERIA: A Visit and Its Implications

 For Femi Fani-Kayode, it has been a busy week. Or perhaps, one can say he has been busy in the last two weeks. First was his vehement opposition to his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its rumoured idea of fielding Muslims as both presidential and vice-presidential candidates. It is debatable if the leaders of the party are paying him any attention. But when he visited the Presidential Villa earlier in the week, some people paid attention. Fani-Kayode, a former minister of aviation and also former presidential spokesperson, was actually returning to a familiar venue. Shortly after former President Olusegun Obasanjo won his second and final term in office in 2003, he had appointed Fani-Kayode as his Special Assistant on Public Affairs.

His vitriolic attacks on anyone that criticised the president made the then substantive presidential spokesperson, Remi Oyo, green with envy. In 2004, Fani-Kayode turned his gift of the garb against celebrated writer, late Professor Chinua Achebe, when the later rejected the National Honour he was given in protest against the political brigandage in his home state, Anambra.

Fani-Kayode in recent times  has been one of the most vicious critics of  president Goodluck Jonathan, the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, and anyone associated with them. He once described the party as a “sinking ship” and the president as being visionless. He has never allowed any chance, since he dumped the PDP for the APC, to pass without giving it to the PDP and its leaders. But times have changed and situations and circumstances are different. Until his sudden visit to President earlier in the week, no one would have thought that there was any meeting of minds between the two.

But when he was spotted at the Villa earlier in the week, the controversial ex-minister known for his hash and unsparing  tongue had this explanation..

“This is a presidential villa, the president is a president of Nigeria every single person in this country that is a Nigerian is entitled to come here from time to time, when the doors are open to come and pay their respect to the wonderful people that are here as a Nigerian I have done that today and I’m delighted to be here. I have always believed that every Nigerian, regardless of the side of the political divide they belong, and as a Nigerian myself, I have believed that we disagree on an issue from time to time. The most important thing is for us to be able to resolve these issues (and) come together to move this country forward. And I think every right thinking responsible person should be able to do that. They should also be able to come to the villa from time to time to see how they can help to move the country forward.”

Fani-Kayode’s visit to the Presidential Villa has left many wondering if it would not be a matter of time before he returns home to his former party, the PDP. Many were not ready for him to make a former declaration. During the week (what a week it has been for the Osun-born politician!), an online news portal had reported that Fani-Kayode had indeed decamped to the PDP. This has forced the man to come out and say he has not decamped. But he added a caveat. Hear him:

“The step that I will take will be made known to Nigerians at the right time. The most important thing, and I think you are fully aware of this, is that I cannot and I will not be associated with a situation whereby any group of people is promoting a religion above another. I think all of us have gone past the stage of religious politics in this country. We must treat the Muslim community with utmost respect and we must treat the Christian community in the same way and even the non-religious.” There is a  faint hint here for the discerning, that there is more to it that just Muslim/Muslim ticket which at best is still a rumour. The bigger reason may well be something deeper. Knowing Fani Kayode for who he is, it may not be long before the real reasons come to light.

And that was his last major public position before the much publicised visit to the president. The rumour mill had been agog over the possibility of a Buhari/Tinubu ticket for the 2015 presidential poll. Many had criticised the APC, if this was truly the case, as being not sensitive in terms of religious balance. Fani-Kayode was the only notable APC stalwart who condemned this. He had to this to say on the possibility.

“Presenting a Muslim/Muslim ticket for the 2015 Presidential election ticket, no matter how cleverly rationalised, defended or justified in the pursuit of an ideal or in the name of “political correctness”, will be a terrible insult to the 80 million Christians that are part and parcel of this country and it would result in their voting, en masse, for another party.” He was not done. “The last notable Christian-Christian ticket was Awolowo-Umeadi in 1979 and the last notable Muslim-Muslim ticket was Abiola-Kingibe in 1993. You can figure out the rest. But let the optimists know that reality always trounces wishful hope in political contests.”

The only semblance of repudiation of this rumour was from the party’s national image maker, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who said there was no truism in the rumour that the party would be fielding both General Mohammadu Buhari and Senator Bola Tinubu as presidential and vice-presidential candidates respectively. He said the party had not given those tickets to anyone for that matter.

Now the tongues are wagging. The political scene is on overdrive. Will Fani-Kayode go back to that “sinking ship”? That is the one million dollar question. But one thing is certain: If Fani-Kayode goes back to the PDP, it will be a telling blow on the psyche of APC, not because of loss of electoral value, but the prestige of the party.  It is doubtful if Fani Kayode has any electoral value beyond his one vote. While in  APC, his caustic tongue surely did cause PDP some worries. Imagine him switching to PDP and then turning his tongue on APC? He cannot rally any body around a message. Should he eventually move to his former party, it will further buttress a view held by some that those who left PDP for APC in that season of defection are finding out the hard way, that reality is different from perception. They may belong to APC but deep inside them, they know where their hearts belong. Perhaps, another visit to the Villa by another opposition  party ‘chieftain’ will convince them.

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