The crack between President Muhammadu Buhari's camp and the camp of former Lagos State Governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, has continued to widen as sources in the Presidency explained why Buhari would not support Tinubu's 2023 ambition.
According to Daily Trust, a member of the first family said there are efforts to convince the president to support a candidate who would protect his (Buhari's) interest when exiting the presidency in 2023.
"We believe that Tinubu will not protect Buhari's interest after his tenure, hence the need to look elsewhere. We are working hard to convince the president to support a candidate that would protect his interest after his tenure," the source, who sought not to be named, said.
Similarly, a cabinet member said: "The president is not interested in Tinubu's candidature because he is not convinced that Asiwaju is the right person to succeed him."
The last time the two leaders met was on January 7, 2020, when Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor, visited the State House, Abuja.
Multiple sources said all is not well between the duo.
After three attempts for the presidency, Buhari aligned with Tinubu and others to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013, leading to his victory.
After Buhari, however, took over, Tinubu was not seen around the presidency until 2018, when the politicking for the 2019 general elections commenced.
Since President Buhari's second term's commencement, the former Lagos State governor has only visited the president occasionally. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the president has been hosting top members of the party.
On Friday, he received three APC governors, Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa) and Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), who is the national caretaker committee chairman of the ruling party.
On Monday, he met with former Governor Gbenga Daniel and ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole.
On Tuesday, the president met with Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State.
Though Asiwaju is reportedly out of the country, his "distance from the Villa" is being interpreted in many quarters as a manifestation of a rift between his camp and President Buhari, with the 2023 presidential election as the bone of contention.
Before then, they held a similar closed-door meeting on November 2, 2018. But Tinubu declined to comment on the outcome of the conversation.
According to Daily Trust, as part of measures to whittle down the influence of Tinubu in the South-West, the ruling APC has continued to bring in people who are perceived to be opposed to the former Lagos State governor.
A former governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, whose second term bid in 2019 Tinubu worked against, was yesterday named a member of the party's contact and strategy committee.
Aside from Ambode, the party has harvested top shots in the South-West political zone, including a former deputy governor of Osun State, Iyiola Omisore; a former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, and former Speaker Bankole, among others.
There are reports that they were cajoled by the APC towards demystifying Tinubu ahead of 2023.
Talking about the relationship between Buhari and Tinubu, a source in the presidency said: "President Buhari has never had a cordial relationship with Asiwaju. He believes that the former governor of Lagos State should be used to achieve his ambition. After the 2015 elections, you will recall that Asiwaju was abandoned.
"He was brought close again before the 2019 elections. So, there is no need to worry about their relationship. It is the same scenario that is playing out," he said.
A ranking APC lawmaker also stated that the president was not happy with the South-West happenings even as he accused Tinubu of doing nothing visible to quench the rising agitations in the region.