Throwback: Yahaya Bello’s Arrogant Defiance Against Tinubu’s Ambition & APC’s Southern Strategy [Video]

by Ohepo Ohepo

In the buildup to the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC) faced a significant internal challenge that brought regional dynamics and personal political ambitions into sharp focus. At the heart of this turmoil was Yahaya Bello, the then-Governor of Kogi State, whose aspirations for the presidency led him to starkly oppose the party’s strategic decision to zone the presidential ticket to the South.

The Bureau Newspaper recalls that the APC’s decision to favour a southern candidate was aimed at fostering national cohesion and ensuring equitable representation of the geopolitical regions. This move was supported by a cadre of influential northern politicians within the party, including Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, Kashim Shettima, and Tanko Almakura. Their support was crucial in aligning the party towards a unified approach to retaining the presidency by promoting Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a seasoned politician from the South, as the consensus candidate.

However, Yahaya Bello stood as a lone dissenting voice against this tide. His refusal to support Tinubu was not just a mere disagreement but a blatant defiance that highlighted his ambition over the party’s collective strategy. Bello’s decision to enter the race not only fragmented the party’s unity but also posed a direct challenge to Tinubu’s candidature, which many saw as an essential step towards maintaining APC’s dominance in Nigerian politics.

This internal party conflict reached its zenith during the primaries, where Bello’s participation was viewed as an act of defiance that undermined the APC’s efforts to present a united front. His candidature was perceived as an attempt to dilute Tinubu’s support base, which inevitably led to a reduced margin of victory for Tinubu in the primaries. Despite Tinubu’s eventual win, Bello’s actions left a lasting impression of discord within the party ranks.

Amidst these political manoeuvres, Bello’s tenure as governor was under intense scrutiny from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Initially, he was accused of diverting 20 billion Naira of state funds, a figure that startlingly rose to over 84 billion Naira as investigations deepened. These allegations painted a grim picture of financial mismanagement and corruption, which starkly contrasted with his presidential ambitions.

The dual narrative of Bello’s political rebellion against his party’s strategic interests and his legal battles with corruption charges encapsulated a period of intense political drama and controversy for the APC. This episode in Nigerian political history serves as a critical reflection point on the challenges of managing internal party democracy, regional sentiments, and the overarching quest for political power against a backdrop of public accountability and governance.

The 2023 elections served as both a test of party unity and integrity as well as a competition for national leadership for the APC . As a result, Yahaya Bello’s story of arrogance continues to be an important one in the history of Nigerian politics, illustrating the complex dance that must be performed between individual ambition and group political strategy in order to achieve political dominance.

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