Tinubu, Osinbajo, Amaechi, Lawan, others battle for APC presidential ticket
It is an interesting but fierce battle as former political allies as well as foes are locked in a neck-and-neck race for the 2023 presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), FELIX NWANERI reports
After several postponements, the waiting game in the All Progressives Congress (APC) is over as delegates, numbering 2,340, will today elect the party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 election at a special national convention holding at the Eagle Square, Abuja. Expectedly, the build-up to the presidential primary election of the ruling party was not a tea party.
So far, the campaigns have been tensed as the aspirants criss-crossed the country, inundating party leaders, delegates, members, other relevant stakeholder and the citizenry with their respective programmes. No doubt, the shadow poll promises to be a battle of the titans given the personalities in the contest but for most party faithful, it is apprehension.
Besides the intrigues within the party, what many initially believed would be a “family affair” has turned to a test of political might among APC chieftains. While the gladiators for the APC presidential ticket left nothing to chance to actualise their respective ambitions, the belief in most political quarters is that today’s special national convention would be more than an exercise to elect a candidate.
This is due to the fact that a majority of those angling to fly the party’s flag in the 2023 presidential election see the contest as a fight to the finish.
Against this backdrop, it is expected that the outcome of the special national convention will not only determine, where the pendulum would swing in the battle for President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor, but the future of the APC.
A crowded race
Twenty-eight aspirants purchased the Nomination and Expression of Interest forms of the ruling party were purchased, but Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva and governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, failed to return their forms. Also, presidential forms purchased for former President Goodluck Jonathan and the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, by some groups, were not submitted.
Among those who returned their forms and were screened by the Presidential Screening Committee headed by a former national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu; former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani, former governor of Zamfara State, Sani Yerima and a former Minister of Information, Ikeobasi Mokelu. Also on the list are five incumbent governors – Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Ben Ayade (Cross River), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and (Jigawa). There are also four cabinet members of the present administration, who resigned to contest for the APC ticket.
They are Rotimi Ameachi (Transportation), Godswill Akpabio (Niger Delta Affairs), Ogbonnaya Onu (Science and Technology) and Emeka Nwajiuba (Minister of State for Education).
Equally in the contest are three serving senators – Ahmad Lawan (Senate President), Rochas Okorocha (Imo West), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun Central) and Ajayi Boroffice; a former Speaker, House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Tein Jack- Rich, Nicholas Nwagbo and Mrs. Uju Ohanenye (the only female aspirant).
Screening panel shortlists 13
Interestingly, the screening committee disqualified 10 out of 23 presidential hopefuls from participating in the special national convention. Odigie-Oyegun, who disclosed this while presenting his committee’s report to the APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, on Friday, said the panel would have further pruned the figure if not for the need to give opportunity to younger elements.
His words: “First, we had 23 aspirants that we interacted with. And my first comment is that we were very in occupant.
Those were 23 that presented themselves. We had a lot of others, prominent Nigerians both within and outside the country that had applied but for whatever reason, could not proceed with their applications. The point I want to make is the quality of the people that wants to govern this country.
“The second point I want to make is that, we were surprised at the active participation of the youthful members of the party. Some of whom really surprised us at to what they have accomplished in life, their understanding of the situation in this country and why they want to have the privilege of governing this country.
What was important was that they so believed in the country and the party that they were able to pay the sum that some of us considered princely handsome to participate in the process. And I think the party ought to path itself on the back for them. “Our report is basically simple and short.
I don’t want to beat about the bush. There were two aspects to it; the basic constitutional qualifications for you to aspire to be a president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That was simple and straight forward.
And on that basis, every single aspirant that presented himself qualified because it was basic and simple. “But we are a governing party and we are keen on continuing the process and replacing at the proper time with our president with yet another member of the party.
So, the ability to lead, background, experience and your understanding of the Nigerian situation, your ideas as to how issues, difficulties and problems can be addressed and how the country can be moved forward became a critical consideration.
It is on that basis who are you, what have you achieved, your understanding of the nation and things you can contribute to move the nation forward. “It was on the basis of that we made our final shortlist. I don’t list the names. I think I will leave that to you (Adamu).
We have a shortlist which brought the number down to 13. We could have cut it a little shorter. But we wanted a pedigree with a longer element to surface. For them to be seen or whether to be noticed, who knows? We hand them over to the party.
And it is for the party to decide who their preferred candidate will be. “It is also an opportunity to showcase the kind of people that exist within the party with their usefulness and kind of experience.
Let the world know that this is a party that cares for the young and a party when we say the young can aspire, we really mean it. And this has been showcase in the report that we have written.”
There is no doubt that APC presidential primary election has been characterized by machinations. Initial arrangement would have seen 7,800 delegates electing the presidential candidate, however, the party’s Working Committee (NWC) opted for ad-hoc delegates; three delegates elected from each of the country’s 774 local government areas and six Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja (totaling 2,340).
The Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) has no role for statutory delegates at the convention, which explains the party’s choice of adhoc delegates. Statutory delegates are elected councillors, local government chairmen and their vice, party chairmen in the 774 LGAs and six Abuja area councils, state and federal lawmakers, governors and their deputies, president and vice president, NWC members, state party chairmen and secretaries.
A breakdown of the composition ad hoc delegates shows that the North has 1,257 while the South has 1,068.
A further breakdown of the figures according to geopolitical zones shows that the North-West with seven states and 121 local councils has 558 delegates; South-West with six states and 137 councils – 411 delegates; South-South with six states and 123 councils – 369 delegates; North Central with six and 121 councils (FCT inclusive) – 363 delegates; North-East with six states and 112 councils – 336 delegates and South-East with five states and 96 councils – 288 delegates.
North/South battle for ticket
On paper, the APC presidential ticket should go Southern Nigeria, which has 19 out of the 23 aspirants in the race given that President Buhari, who hails from the North would be serving out his second term by 2023. That makes it eight years of APC presidency by the North.
The southern aspirants are Tinubu, Osinbajo, Umahi, Fayemi, Ayade, Borrofice, Amosun, Okorocha, Nnamani, Bankole, Onu, Akpabio, Amaechi, Nwajiuba, Bakare, Nwagbo, Mokelu and Ohanenye and Jack- Rich.
Most of these aspirants insist on the zoning arrangement between the country’s two geographical divides, which took effect from 1999, with Nigeria’s return to civil rule. However, emerging developments within the ruling party indicate the odds favour the four northern aspirants – Lawan, Bello, Badaru and Yerima.
Some say the North seems not disposed to relinquish power after Buhari. The present democratic dispensation would be 24 years old by 2023 and the power rotation arrangement, though not constitutional, has seen the South had the presidency for 14 years through Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (South-West, 1999-2007) and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (South-South, 2010-2015).
For the North, it would have been in power for 10 years by the time Buhari completes his second term in 2023 (2015-2023) as that the ruling party risks losing the presidential poll if it fields a candidate from the South.
It would be recalled that some APC chieftains led by Chief Sam Nkire, had during their purchase of the Nomination and Expression of Interest forms for Lawan, said that no APC southern presidential candidate can defeat a northern PDP presidential candidate in 2023.
A party source, who corroborated this position, told New Telegraph that “there is pressure on the leadership of the party to produce its presidential candidate from the North if it is serious about retaining power in 2023.
The opposition party is of the opinion that winning is more paramount than zoning, which informed why the APC is equally thinking along that line as the belief is that it is only a northerner can match Atiku.”
The source added: “Zoning or not, North or South, nobody will foreclose anything on where the presidential ticket will go to because nothing is cast on stone. What matters most Nigerians at the moment is a president who will stabilize the country.
“Insecurity is further accentuating poverty in the North and that explains why some people and groups in the region are calling on Buhari to resign as president. All the region is in interested at the moment is stability. But when it comes to making choices, I don’t think the North is going to make a shift from the APC.
“The people of the region would be guided by interest, when taking decision on who becomes the next president. And it will interest you to know that North is more ready for progressive politics ahead of 2023. So, the consensus of most people in the region is that Nigeria needs a president, who will ensure security and development.” he said.
On the insistence by most members of the APC from the South that their region should produce the party’s presidential candidate, another source told New Telegraph that the North will foist its preferred aspirant of southern extraction on the party if the region’s bid to retain power beyond 2023 fails.
The source said this plan is in line with northern APC chieftains strategy to ensure that they decide whoever succeeds President Buhari, whether a northerner or southerner.
According to him, the plot is aimed at ensuring that whoever emerges as the next president protects the interest of the North post-2023.
Whereas some chieftains of the APC canvassed for adoption of the consensus option in electing the party’s presidential candidate, the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) at its meeting in April, adopted the indirect primary mode for the nomination of all its candidates for the 2023 elections.
In an indirect primary election, party members elect delegates, who in turn, elect the party’s candidates on their behalf, whereas a consensus arrangement entails party leaders agreeing on who becomes the flag bearer without much input from members.
Stressing the need to avoid the rancour usually associated with the indirect primary election, advocates of the consensus option cited the recent national convention of the APC at which almost all members of the Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC as well as zonal officers emerged through consensus.
While Tinubu’s camp has persistently opposed calls for a consensus arrangement, there is no doubt that some of the aspirants are open to it.
Okorocha, who is in agreement with the move, however noted that the consensus can only be achieved by ensuring that all the aspirants are allowed to reach such agreement. “Consensus is needed, but consensus is that some of us must agree that is what is meant by consensus.
There must be a platform where all of us can agree and to say listen, let’s look at what other party is doing and who can really match the other party and most importantly who can cut across this nation,” he said.
As it stands, the ruling party is unlikely to rescind its position on adoption of the indirect primary mode given that it does not have the luxury of time but given that politics is a game of the possible, nothing should be foreclosed as last minute surprises cannot be ruled out.
However, there was a word of caution by the Odigie-Oyegun committee on the push for consensus. The panel advised the leadership of the party not be afraid for a contested primary if anybody insists on the contest. This advice was based on what the panel described as insistence of one of the aspirants on an open contest.
“On the issue of consensus, it is a pleasant surprise that 98 to 99 per cent of the aspirants agreed that the party is supreme, and that whatever the party finally decides with proper consultation, they will likely accept. We had only one exception who said yes, he will accept consensus so long as it is built on him.
“So, I think it is a point that needs to be made and emphasize. So, that gives you a lot of leeway in the days and hours ahead to trim down even more drastically. But, finally we think you should not be afraid for a contested primary if anybody insists on the contest.” Odigie-Oyegun told Adamu.
Buhari and choice of candidate
Despite the intrigues and horsetrading that characterized the build-up to the APC presidential primary election, there was also apprehension over who President Buhari is likely to endorse.
Several names have been touted but the President has kept his choice to himself even when he pleaded with the 22 APC governors under the aegis of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) to support him in choosing a successor capable of driving his vision and ideals of the party.
Addressing the governors, the APC National Chairman (Adamu) and other government officials at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday last week, the President, who urged the governors to ensure the emergence of a presidential candidate that would reflect all the party’s values and virtues, also vowed to provide a stronger leadership that would improve the electoral fortunes of the APC at the forthcoming general election.
“In a few days, the party will be holding its convention during which primaries would take place to pick the presidential flag bearer for the 2023 general election.
This is a very significant process and its outcome should prove to the world the positive quality of the APC regarding democratic principles, culture as well as leadership.
“As we approach the convention, I appeal to all of you to allow our interests to converge, our focus to remain on the changing dynamics of our environment, the expectations of our citizens and the global community.
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.
“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 will fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023.”
According to a release by Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, the PGF Chairman and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, who responded on behalf of his colleagues, said the party must build on the successes of its recent elective convention, and the primaries conducted so far, “and come up with a candidate who will walk in the footsteps of patriotism and love for the country, which Mr. President has shown.”
No doubt, most of the APC presidential aspirants can match each other strength for strength, but to most members of the party and analysts, it will take more that personality, financial strength and even control of party structure to emerge the standard bearer of the ruling party.