After seven years atop Nigeria’s political power, there is no doubt that the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) is at a cross road. The party is challenged by how to succeed itself after President Muhammadu Buhari dismounts from the horse on may 29, 2023. As the party holds much awaited special convention to elect its Presidential candidate, the challenges to the party and the delegates are many. For the party, it has to do with what method to adopt: Consensus, compromise or indirect election.
And, with what obtained penultimate weekend, when the opposition Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) primary that produced former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as winner, Nigerians are waiting to see whether APC, which promised change, would also witness dollar bazaar.
All eyes would be on the former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is the Atiku equivalent in APC, the incumbent Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and immediate past Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi, as well as the former Minister of Niger Delta and former uncommon governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio.
There is also the wave-making Ebonyi State governor, David Nweze Umahi, who said he became a billionaire at 25, as well as the former Managing Director of Fairplus Transport Company and incumbent governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. These are the moneymen of APC.
As such, the greatest task facing APC seems to be how to handle the plethora of Presidential aspirants from the Southern of the country. The Southwest caucus of APC insists that there was an agreement during the merger process that after President Buhari, a person from Southwest should be supported to become President.
While some members of the Southwest caucus claim the agreement was not targeted at any individual, supporters of Tinubu, insist that the bargain with Tinubu came up after Buhari rejected the Muslim/Muslim ticket proposal.
These claims and counter-claims that have become the crux of the power tussle within APC, has led to more Presidential aspirants from the Southwest. Out of the six states making up the zone, only Osun and Oyo have no aspirant in the race, just as Ogun has three aspirants, namely, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Pastor Tunde Bakare and Senator Ibikunle Amosun. Ekiti and Ondo have one aspirant each, Governor Kayode Fayemi and Senator Robert Ajayi Borofice, respectively.
While the Southwest aspirants jostle for the APC ticket, the South-South and Southeast also claim that fairness demands that a person from their zone should succeed Buhari since former President Obasanjo and Osinbajo served as President and Vice President respectively, from the zone for 16 cumulative years.
From South-South, former Ministers Amaechi and Akpabio are in the race, while Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and Governor Umahi, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Ike Mokelu and Emeka Nwajiuba are running for the ticket from Southeast.
It could be deduced that the claims by the various geopolitical zones, especially the lack of unanimity among the aspirants on where the Presidential candidate should be selected, have made the situation very tense. Within the Southwest for instance, Tinubu’s supporters see Vice President Osinbajo as, not only an obstacle to Tinubu’s journey to the Presidency, but also as a betrayer of the Southwest contract with President Buhari.
Peradventure that Vice President, Osinbajo is chosen as consensus candidate, some APC chieftains believe that the Tinubu political machinery would move against the party even to the extent entering into a possible political deal with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and PDP.
Conversely, some younger elements in the party, especially state governors under the aegis of Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), contend that Tinubu should take a deserved rest from active politics, stressing that it amounts to political greed for him (Tinubu) to be contesting among his political minion.
Although the former Lagos State governor told journalists that he has no (political) son old enough to challenge him for the APC ticket, both Osinbajo and Fayemi have never relented in their consultations among stakeholders to be given the APC Presidential ticket.
Despite the tension being generated by the struggle for the Presidential ticket from Southwest, aspirants from South-South and Southeast maintain that after 16 years as President and Vice President of the country, Southwest should leave the space and support aspirants from either South-South or Southeast.
APC insiders claim that it was based on the division within the South that some Presidential aspirants like Governor Yahaya Bello, Governor Abubakar Badaru, Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Senator Sani Yerima, joined the Presidential race.
BUT while the Presidential aspirants rushed to obtain the N100million nomination forms, some pastoralists, farmers, traders and artisans from the Northern part of the country contributed various amounts to pick the Presidential nomination form for former President Goodluck Jonathan to join the race.
The Coalition of Northern Groups that purchased the forms explained that after nearly eight years he left the Presidency, they discovered that Dr. Jonathan had the masses’ interest at heart. They named the Almajirai Schools, health facilities as well as infrastructure projects undertaken by the former President as what they need. Not long ago, it should be noted, some bandits that were apprehended by law enforcement agencies confessed that they went into banditry and criminal abduction for ransom, because they do not have skills to earn a decent living, particularly after their cows were rustled.
Apart from the reasons advanced by the Coalition of Northern Groups that purchased Presidential nomination forms for Dr. Jonathan, the international community, including Britain, Germany, US, France, Canada, Italy and Spain were also said to be worried by the rhetoric trailing the build up to the 2023 General Elections.
The G8 develop countries are said to be concerned that unless the 2023 Presidential poll produces a peacemaker and nationalist, Nigeria could implode, giving rise to more refugee problems in Africa, thereby heightening illegal migration.
Signs that APC was taking the post-Buhari era politics serious emerged recently when the class captain of Non-Career Diplomats visited the country and donated an 18-seater bus to the party’s National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, at the National Secretariat of the party in Abuja.
The non-career diplomats said they were in the country to donate the bus as part of the logistic support to ensure that APC triumphs during the 2023 Presidential poll. Captain of the Non-Career Diplomats, Chief Nwannebuike Ominyi, who briefed journalists after the presentation, said the gesture was to support the party’s preparations towards electioneering. Ambassador Ominyi, who is also the Nigerian High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Zambia, explained that the Non-Career Diplomats would always show support for the party ahead of the 2023 polls. He added that apart from the 18-Seater bus made by Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing IVM) Company, Nnewi, Nigeria; the group will always come to the assistance of the party.
“We know that at this particular time, when the party is going through electioneering processes, the National Working Committee (NWC) would need logistics support. It is in that spirit that we brought our own token of 18-Seater bus made by Innoson Motors to support the party.
“Our interest is obvious, to continue producing the President that will lead the country forward,” Ambassador Ominyi declared. He was accompanied to the APC headquarters by the former Chief of Army Staff and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Benin Republic, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai (retd.) and other non-career ambassadors.
Buhari Shows Interest
ALSO, during a meeting with APC governors, President Buhari charged the governors to join hands with him to execute his succession plan, adding: “Our objective must be the victory of our party and our choice of candidate must be someone who would give the Nigerian masses a sense of victory and confidence, even before the elections.” But, no sooner had the President made the remarks than some party chieftains started speculating that the President must have either Vice President Osinbajo or Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu in mind. But, the fact that the President stressed that the candidate must be “someone who would give the Nigerian masses a sense of victory and confidence, even before the elections,” also reminded Nigerians of Jonathan and those who bought the nomination forms for him.
Checks revealed that former President Jonathan’s name started making the rounds after some notable leaders from the North reminded President Buhari that apart from Jonathan, no other Southern leader could hold the country together.
They recalled how Chief Obasanjo’s decision to hand over power to the North in 1979 paved the way for his emergence as civilian President in 1999, adding that Jonathan demonstrated similar patriotism by conceding defeat even before collation of results was concluded in 2015 Presidential poll.
Said a source familiar with the plan to adopt a compromise candidate by the Presidency: “It is the same way former President Goodluck Jonathan placed a call to Baba Buhari in 2015 that the President has decided to select his preferred candidate for the 2023 Presidential election.
“The President has the support of some powerful world leaders. The entire project is to preserve the corporate existence and stability of Nigerian. None of those currently fighting for the APC ticket has demonstrated high level of patriotism and lack of desperation for power like Jonathan.”
It was also gathered that while immediate past Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi, was being considered for the coveted post, the Supreme Court judgment on the Rivers State Panel of Enquiry report dampened his chances. Former Akwa Ibom State governor and immediate past Minister for Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, who is the other Presidential aspirant from South-South is said to be burdened by alleged misappropriation of N108billion.
On the part of the immediate past Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, the fact of his decision to surrender his Presidential ticket in 1999 for Chief Olu Falae and Umaru Shinkafi, made him highly rated, even as his age was said to be a limiting factor.
Given that zoning the Presidency to the South after President Buhari’s eight years seems the best patriotic step to take in the interest of fairness, equity and justice, the emphasis is, however, on who could win it for APC, especially after Alhaji Atiku Abubakar emerged as PDP’s standard bearer.
Those who believe that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan could be President Buhari’s dark horse argue that having defeated Atiku for the PDP ticket in 2011, Jonathan would find it easy to trounce the Wazirin Adamawa again, particularly given the corruption perception around the PDP standard bearer.
For the first time, President Buhari has come out to boldly state his intention to have the final say on who flies the APC flag for the 2023 Presidential election. At the meeting with governors before his trip to Spain, the President had stated: “In keeping with the established internal policies of the party, and as we approach the convention in a few days, therefore, I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor, who would fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023.” The President did not stop there: He made it clear that he was resolved to play the hardball by showing strong leadership, which he describes as “a compelling need” to ensure that APC retains power at the centre by winning the Presidential poll.
His words: “Our objective must be the victory of our party and our choice of candidate must be someone who would give the Nigerian masses a sense of victory and confidence even before the elections.”
Alluding to the freedom exercised by state governors in choosing their successors, Buhari demanded, “I solicit the reciprocity of the governors in picking my own successor.”
But, given that Dr. Jonathan did not attend the screening exercise, it is left to be seen who among the 23 aspirants meets the criteria outlined by the President when he said, the candidate “must reflect all the values and virtues of the party.”
At the end of the day, whether it is the reticent Onu, or cerebral Osinbajo, rambunctious Amaechi, pliable Lawan or even the absentee Jonathan, it is obvious that APC needs good luck as it holds its special convention to elect a Presidential candidate that “can give Nigerians a sense of victory and confidence before the 2023 election.”