With just few days to the presidential primary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to pick its flag bearer for the 2023 presidential election, there is growing uncertainty and concern over the aspiration of the South West to produce the candidate. Long before now, there had be insinuations about the plot to stop the region and particularly, it’s foremost candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, from clinching the ticket.
But as we move toward the ultimate decision and choice, the plot seems to thicken as nobody is sure where the political pendulum will swing. It appears that certain forces in the party and government are bent on stopping the South West and it’s candidates from fly the flag of the party. The late entry of Senate president Ahmed Lawan into the fray seems to point to culmination of the plot to deny the zone, which had earlier been tipped to produce the candidate for the party.
Of the three geopolitical zones in the South, the Southwest was regarded as the most favoured based on the gentleman agreement said to have been reached during the formation of the APC. This notion went on till recently when the party tactically threw the presidency open to the entire South. But there appears to be a U-turn by the party following comment by party chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, that the party has zoned the ticket, which explains the entrance of Lawan, and Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi, a close ally of President Buhari, who was the first to indicate interest.
This informed the array of aspirants from the South, who showed interests in the race from these zones. Despite this, the South West still remained confident that come rain come sunshine, it would bag the ticket. But the events unfolding right now indicate that no particular geopolitical zone could boast of being favoured.
From the huge number of aspirants in the party, it shows that virtually all the six zones in Nigeria have interests, which swelled the number of aspirants to over 25. Although some of them have backed out despite obtaining the N100 million nomination form, the numbers are still many with South West having about 10 names who are still strongly in the race.
What is worrisome to the leadership of the APC in the South West, is the fact that the North is now playing a hide and seek game, after the zone had been assured and they have met to reconcile the aspirants in the zone who had agreed to pursue their aspirations with caution, respect and mutual understanding of one another
The meeting of understanding engineered by the former governors of Osun and Ogun States, Chiefs Bisi Akande and Olusegun Osoba respectively, was able to trashed out the differences among the Southwest aspirants, who, it was said, were ready to watch the situation and to eventually agree on a consensus that would favour the most outstanding and most acceptable amongst them.
Those who have shown interests in the Zone and have obtained nomination forms are the National leader of the party, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, governor of Ekiti State, , former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Pastor Tunde Bakare, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Dimeji Bankole, Senator Ajayi Borroffice and the Managing Director of AFDB, Akinwunmi Adesina, who obtained the firm but declined to pursue it last week.
Although there isn’t much time on the sides of the aspirants who are doing their last minute consultations, it was learnt that there were underground moves for the contestants in the South West to be narrowed down, as some of them have been advised to back out to enable the region go into the battle with one voice and a formidable ground.
It was further argued that if this sense of unity is exhibited, it will show that the region would not be taken for granted and that it is ready for a real battle that would make the North understand that the zone has higher stake in the party and could not be intimidated.
Sources hinted that with the consultations going on amongst notable Southwest leaders, which cut across party lines, traditional rulers, opinion moulders, religious leaders, the aspirants must have been pruned down to two, Tinubu and Osinbajo.
It was learnt that though other aspirants would be playing along, Tinubu and Osinbajo remain the trump cards to be put up and their emergence stems from the argument of religion balance, and that if one is not acceptable, the other would be. It was also learnt by the Business Hallmark that Southwest leaders are displeased with the attitude of the North for deceiving the entire South on the issue of zoning.
It was said that should the North produce the presidential candidates in the two major notable political parties, there is the likelihood of the entire South coming together, the result of which no one can foretell for the future of Nigeria. From the look of things, both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress are at criss roads over zoning.
A member of the APC, Anjorin Olufowobi told BusinessHallmark that the PDP is not as guilty over zoning of the presidency as the APC, which had indicated at the beginning of the marriage that the Southwest would come after President Muhammadu Buhari. He argued that it was a great affront on the part of the North to believe that other zones in Nigeria don’t matter when it comes to leading the country and key positions
According to him “I think common sense shows that for equity and fair play, the south should produce the presidency after eight years of President Buhari.”
He pointed out that the emergence of the Senate President Ahmed Lawan, in the race from APC and which is widely believed that he would emerge the candidate of the party, with the amendment of the Electoral act on party primaries which to a large extent would go in his favor, should the party adopts one of the provisions in it.
The current Electoral Act (as amended) has no role for statutory delegates at the convention.
Statutory or “Super” 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.”
The provision in the Principal Act reads: “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rule the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting.
But the National Assembly lawmakers recently gave consideration to Section 84 of the Principal Act by deleting subsection (8) and inserting a new subsection (8) as follows: “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidates shall clearly outline in its constitution and rules the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting, in addition to statutory delegates already prescribed in the Constitution of the party.
It was argued that with the present amendment, which Deputy Senate president, Omo Age, sponsor of the amendment, said was a “great error of oversight”, and purportedly designed to give National Assembly leverage on Lawan’s aspiration with the large number of statutory delegates of past and present legislators that the amendment would allow, the plot may be complete. This will likely add about 4000 statutory delegates, but it is only Buhari who determine that now.
NASS seemed to have spewed in it’s stew by denying itself in the law the right to vote leaving such exclusively to elected delegates, who are just about 2000 nationwide.
As a political commentator stated “the recent move to amend the act again was part of the game plan of the North to suit their own selfish purposes and calculations, which Lawan in the house is representing”
He argued “this is why I found fault in the legislators at the National assembly from the South who go about chasing shadows without realizing that legislators at the National Assembly from the North are there for the common interest of the region, irrespective of their political affiliations.”
From what is happening in APC now, it is clear that Buhari must have thrown up his last joker which he started with the removal of Adam’s Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the Party, and the emergence of Lawan for the coveted post of the presidency.
Since Lawan came out unexpectedly, there had been speculations all over the country that the Senate President may have probably been the man President Buhari was referring to as his preferred candidate who he refused to mention for fear of his being eliminated.
It was even said that all the scheming President Buhari has been doing since the removal of Oshiomhole, with the planting of the National caretaker Extra Ordinary convention Committee, headed by Mai Mala Buni, the joker of the National Executive Council (NEC), relinquishing its power to the National Working Committee (NWC) to determine the running of the party for 90 days during which the primaries of the party would have ended, is to favour the North.
It was even said that the numerous aspirants that took the nomination forms was another strategy to undermine the ambitions of those in the South West and weakened the base for both Osinbajo and Tinubu believed to be strong contenders in the region.
One of the loyalists of Aregbesola in Osun State confided in the Business Hallmark that leaders of the party in the region at a meeting were angry that the legislators from the area never kicked at the amendment to the electoral act, which allows statutory delegates of all those elected to take part and vote in conventions, meetings of parties which would now boost the chances of the North.
Already unconfirmed reports say that the leader of the party Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his men are making moves to go to the Social Democratic Party (SDP). One of the die hard supporters of Tinubu in Ede Osun State, Alhaji Kabir Sadique said that he did not know how the planned arrangements of the North dictating to other zones would work.
“We are waiting for what would happen because the North is already dribbling everybody. We would go to the primary to see what would play out. All I know is that they can’t take us for a ride.”
Constitutional Lawyer, Kayode Ajulo who is the coordinator of the Progressives Lawyers for Yemi Osinbajo, believes that the North is not in any way a threat to the aspirations of those from the South west, especially vice President Osinbajo.
He said the presidential ticket to the Southwest is not negotiable.