By OBINNA EZUGWU
As the long awaited special convention of the All Progressives Congress(APC) begins today, Monday, at the Eagle Square, Abuja, there are strong indications that Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former Lagos governor, may how blown his chances of emerging candidate as the party leadership has resolved to punish him.
This followed his comment last week on how President Buhari would never have become president without his contribution, a statement that has provoked angst across the country, which the party has vowed to punish.
Also with the push for a consensus candidate, there is yet no clear indication about who President Muhammadu Buhari is backing as his successor.
The president had on Tuesday, May 31, given the strongest indication yet that he was interested in anointing a candidate when he hosted governors of the party at the State House, Abuja before jetting out to Spain for a three-day state visit.
In a 12-point statement delivered during the meeting with the governors, Buhari argued that it was only fair that the governors allowed him to choose his successor since they were allowed the same privilege in their respective states.
“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,” Buhari had said.
“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,” Buhari had said.
“I wish to assure you that the consultation process shall continue to ensure that all aspirants and stakeholders would be brought on board right through to the convention. This would also ensure that any anxiety occasioned by different factors are effectively brought under control and that our party emerges stronger.”
The Nigerian leader who had first indicated in an interview Arise Tv in January, that he had a candidate he wanted to succeed him, but had insisted that he would not disclose the person’s identity in order not to expose him to danger, has, one year after, continued to keep sealed lips, as the party’s aspirants go into the presidential primary with everyone guessing.
Few weeks ago, many had sworn that Goodluck Jonathan, whom he defeated in 2015 to emerge president after a bitterly contested election, both of whom remarkably later became good friends, was the man for the job. The speculation was further heightened when a Fulani group bought the ruling party’s presidential nomination forms for the former president, and amid controversies over his eligibility, a Federal High court sitting in Yenegoa, capital of his home state of Bayelsa, declared that he is eligible to contest.
Jonathan, it had emerged, was strongly backed by Mamman Daura, the president’s influential uncle. However, having failed to turn up for the party’s screening of presidential aspirants, as confirmed by Chief John Oyegun, former national chairman of the party who chaired the screening committee, many now believe that the Jonathan option is effectively out of the cards.
Other hopefuls hinted at however, remain in the race, one of whom is Rotimi Amaechi, former governor of Rivers State who recently resigned from office as minister of transportation to pursue his presidential ambition.
Amaechi, who has been suspiciously quiet of late, had heavily funded Buhari’s campaign in the lead up to 2015 polls. Indeed, according to several sources, the president’s campaign received a huge boost when Amaechi then a governor of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) defected to the emergent APC as part of the crop of new-PDP governors whose decision to abandon the party for the APC effectively delivered final nail to then ruling party’s coffin.
But Amaechi, who has since remained close to the president, according to recent revelations, had also funded Buhari’s original party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and ahead of the party’s presidential primary, many suggest he could be the man the president is backing for the job.
Yet, nobody knows for certain. Ibikunle Amosun has also been suggested as possible Buhari candidate. And there are also other names in the mix, one of which is Emeka Nwajiuba, former minister of state for education, a relatively unknown gentleman who has been in the president’s political camp for the better part of the last two decades.
Still, there are Yemi Osibanjo, the country’s vice president; Kayode Fayemi, whom the president had preferred to be his running mate in 2015, but former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu opted to nominate only Osinbajo. Also worth of mention is Ogbonnaya Onu, former minister of science and technology who is also a long term political ally of the president.
Many agree that the president and his henchmen are averse to the idea of a Bola Tinubu president, but the influential former Lagos governor cannot yet be counted out in the race yet, as there are fresh indications that he is pushing strong going into the primaries, even as the late entrant of Ahmad Lawan, senate president who is from Northeast, and the continued pushed of Yahaya Bello, Kogi State governor for the APC ticket, has left many pondering if there is a possibility of the ticket going north.
As for Tinubu, however, his ill-advised remarks about how Buhari could not have become president but for his support in 2015, may have obliterated his chances.
An apparently frustrated Tinubu had while addressing party delegates in Abeokuta, Ogun State on Thursday, said Buhari had lost presidential elections several times, shed tears and decided he won’t run for president again, but he went to Kaduna to convince him to run and that he would support him provided that he factor in the interest of his Yoruba people.
But Abdullahi Adamu, the party’s national chairman, has express strong disapproval of the comments. Speaking on Arise TV at the weekend, he said the party may punish Tinubu over the remarks
In a subsequent interview on BBC Hausa on Sunday morning, Adamu delivered a scathing condemnation of Tinubu, noting that “An ethical person won’t do what he did” while vowing that he won’t go unpunished.
“Even someone who’s drunk won’t do this unless he intended it,” Adamu said. “We won’t let it go unpunished”… “it is the height of lack of etiquette… We must teach him a lesson. If this damages his ambition, he should have himself to blame.”
Many would consider Bello’s bid to be a joke taken too far, given his record in Kogi, but the governor who is in many ways Buhari’s political son, has continued to confidently and aggressively campaign for the top job. He had refused to join fellow northern governors in their call for power shift to the South on Saturday, with his name and signature missing from the statement issued by northern APC governors backing power shift to the south in 2023.
The disqualification of 10 aspirants by the screening committee had led fresh anxiety in the party about the likely hopefuls. Specifically, those who made the list of the 13, according to list circulated at the weekend include Bola Tinubu; Rotimi Amaechi, Yemi Osinbajo; David Umahi, governor of Ebonyi State; Yahaya Bello, his Kogi State counterpart; Ahmad Lawan, senate president and Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti governor.
Others who also made the cut are Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, former minister of science and technology; Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, former minister of state for education; Senator Ibikunle Amosun, former Ogun State governor; Badaru Abubakar, governor of Jigawa State; Godswill Akpabio, former minister of Niger Delta affairs and Mr. Tein Jack-Rich, an oil mogul.
Meanwhile, among the 10 aspirants said to have been excluded from the recommended list are Rochas Okorocha, former Imo State governor who is battling corruption cases; Pastor Tunde Bakare; Ben Ayade, governor of Cross River State; Sani Yerima, former governor of Zamfara State; former Minister of Information and Culture, Ikeobasi Mokelu and former Speaker of the house of representatives, Dimeji Bankole.
Others are, U.S-based Pastor, Felix Nicholas; the only APC female aspirant, Uju Ken-Ohanenye and Ken Nnamani, former president of the senate.
Meanwhile, the northern APC governors’ call to zone the position to the south is the strongest indication yet that the north is interested in ceding power to the south in 2023, and had prompted the withdrawal of Jigawa State governor, Badaru Abubakar from the presidential race, even if Ahmad Lawan and Bello have refused to back out.
President Buhari who hosted all the aspirants in Abuja on Saturday, was reported to have also hinted at backing power shift to the south, but his stance remains unclear, amid suggestions that the north could have something going. The meeting with Buhari on Saturday, which many believed would eventually mark the unveiling of the president’s preferred candidate, ended with even more confusion.
Buhari who had assured that had his own candidate, told the aspirants to consult among themselves and choose a formidable candidate before the party’s presidential primary today, Monday, a near impossible task given the ambition of many of them.
Femi Adesina, Seniorspecial adviser to the president on media and publicity, who conveyed his principal’s words in a statement issued on Saturday evening, said he asked the aspirants to consult among themselves and bring a formidable candidate, a scenario that is very unlikely to happen.
“Without prejudice to your qualifications, I urge all of you to hold consultation among yourselves and with the party, with a view to building a consensus in a manner that will help the party to reduce the number of aspirants, bring up a formidable candidate and scale down the anxiety of party members,” Buhari was quoted as saying by his spokesman.
According to Adesina, the President said the meeting was the second in a series of consultation with party stakeholders to ensure that the unity and cohesion of the APC were sustained and to provide direction.
Recalling the consultation he had with stakeholders “that would help the electoral fortunes of our party, beginning with the state governors. This is the second in the series and I still look forward to meeting with party stakeholders. These steps are being taken to ensure that the unity and cohesion of the party are sustained and to provide direction.”
Noting the forthcoming presidential primary that would midwife the emergence of one candidate to fly the party’s flag in next year’s presidential Election, Buhari said he was aware that there was anxiety among party members about the outcome of the process.
The President was further quoted as stating, “Given these circumstances, I charge you to recognise the importance of the stability and unity of the party, which cannot be overemphasized.
“Similarly, I wish to remind you that our choice of flag bearer must be formidable, appealing to the electorate across the board, and should command such ability to unify the country and the capacity to address our critical challenges.
“Ahead of the convention, the party machinery has screened and found all aspirants eminently qualified. Recognising this fact, the screening committee has, among others, recommended that consensus building through consultation be intensified.
“Without prejudice to your qualifications, I urge all of you to hold consultation among yourselves and with the party, with a view to building a consensus in a manner that will help the party reduce the number of aspirants, bring up a formidable candidate and scale down the anxiety of party members.”
The President assured attendees that in the interest of the nation and the party, he would continue to provide effective leadership during the transition processes and ongoing consultation “until we successfully make the choice on the candidate that will fly the flag of our party for the presidential election and make the party stronger. I seek your support in this all-important responsibility.”
Earlier, National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, had promised that all stakeholders would be reached in the consultation process.Responding on behalf of the aspirants, Onu, Badaru and Osinbajo, thanked the President for his leadership and guidance, pledging that they would hold the consultation as counselled “for the unity and strength of our party, the APC.”
Those who attended the meeting included Tinubu; an ex-Zamfara State governor, Ahmad Yarima; former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha; former Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun; and Senate President, Ahmed Lawan.
Others are governors Yahaya Bello (Kogi), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Ben Ayade (Cross River); former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Goodwill Akpabio, former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Onu; , Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; and businessman, Tein Jack-Rich.
The Secretary of the APC, Senator Iyiola Omisore; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; and Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, also attended the meeting.