A former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima, has said this is the time for the North to support the presidential ambition of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, Shettima, who was one of the three governors of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) that collapsed into the APC at the time of the merger with other political parties ahead of the 2015 general elections, insisted that it is a payback time for Tinubu, who did a lot in actualising the long-time ambition of President Muhammadu Buhari, who defeated President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Buhari and Tinubu are believed to be the two most important men whose agreement to form the APC, in 2013, and subsequent collaboration led to the Buhari presidency.
The APC was formed following the merger of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), ANPP, a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP).
Shettima said Tinubu had supported President Buhari through thick and thin, and one good turn always deserves another.
He said that before supporting Buhari, the former Lagos State governor shelved his ambition and supported two presidential aspirants from the North – former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and a former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, at different times although he had all it took to also vie for the presidency.
“Buhari is immensely popular in the North. He has a cult-like followership of nearly 15 million people. But that never took him to the presidency until we had a handshake across the Niger with the West. Wrongly, he was assumed to be a northern’ hegemonist’, a provincial politician, even a religious bigot by some of our compatriots in the southern part of the country. It was the South-West political machine that repackaged and resold the Buhari brand to Nigerians in 2015.
“It is pertinent to mention that when former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was harassed, brutalised and chased out of the PDP, even some of our northern brothers were treating him as a pariah. It was Asiwaju Bola Tinubu that provided him with a sanctuary and platform to contest the 2007 presidential election.
“Again, four years later, he provided the same platform to another harassed northerner, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu to contest for the presidency under the ACN.
“Without the block support of the South-West, it would have been difficult for President Buhari to emerge as the candidate of the APC. Tinubu worked for Buhari in 2015 and in 2019. This is why some of us find it utterly disgusting when some of the folks who vigorously worked against Buhari’s ambition in 2014 have done some political somersaults and are now members of what I called Buharist Church of Latter Day Saints, hectoring down on us and liberally dropping the president’s name,” he said.
On whether there was a pact between Buhari and Tinubu before he supported the president’s ambition, Shettima, who has openly declared support for the Jagaban Borgu, said, “In my view, Asiwaju is sophisticated enough to understand that no one can rely on a futuristic political pact, four or eight years ahead. Even a week can be a long time in politics. No one can predict what could happen between now and 2023, let alone predict it as at 2015. In politics you can only guarantee something that is within your immediate reach.”