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2023: Who Wins APC Presidential Ticket?
The final lap of the race to pick the presidential flagbearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) starts tomorrow in Abuja. The party has screened its 23 presidential aspirants during the week and 10 of them were earlier reported to have been disqualified from partaking in the primary election by the Screening Committee.
But the leadership of the party soon disagreed with the recommendations of the John Odigie Oyegun chaired committee and announced that it will be allowing all the aspirants to have their day at the primary election. With that, the stage was set for all 23 aspirants to test their acceptability among chieftains and members of the party ahead of the 2023 general elections.
But dramatic developments yesterday altered the entire dynamics of the race. Eleven Northern APC governors and leaders informed President Muhammadu Buhari of their decision to back power shift to the South. Based on their advisory, Jigawa State Governor, Mohammed Badaru, withdrew from the race. It is not clear if Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello and former Zamfara State Governor, Ahmed Yerima – the other Northerners in the race would follow the Badaru lead.
Others currently in the race for the ticket are former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, ex-Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, Governor Kayode Fayemi, ex-Minister of State for education, Emeka Nwajiuba, ex-Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, former Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi and former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.
Others include ex-Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Ikeobasi Mokelu, former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, Felix Nicholas, Senator Robert Borrofice, Tein Jack Rich and Uju Ken Ohanenye.
Among those reportedly left to slug it out for the presidential ticket of the ruling party, analyst are saying the obvious front runners include Tinubu, Osibajo, Lawan and Amaechi.
Of all aspirants, only one will emerge as the flagbearer at the end of the political hostilities on Tuesday. This piece examines how the aspirants stand; their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their 2023 general elections prospects, were they to emerge as their party’s candidate.
He is the incumbent Vice-President of the country. He hails from Ogun State in the Southwest geo-political zone. He is known to have had political tutelage under Tinubu, who he served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice for eight years in Lagos State. His emergence as running mate in 2015 was also down to his being favoured by Tinubu for the position following opposition to what would have been a Muslim-Muslim Buhari-Tinubu ticket. Osinbajo declared his intention to succeed Buhari on April 11, 2022.
Being the current Vice President is a plus for him. It gives him ample opportunities to make contacts and improve on networks built up over the last seven years. His supporters are also citing the fact that he served as Acting President for a couple of months. Earlier, he was the Buhari administration’s front man for some welfare and development initiatives. He was later stripped of most of his powers as these programmes were transferred to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs at the start of the second term in 2019.
He is an articulate speaker who is a senior pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) – one of Nigeria’s largest Pentecostal congregations. He has embarked on nationwide consultations to sell his aspiration to delegates and critical stakeholders and is believed to have the backing of some governors and professionals under the platform of The Progressive Project (TPP). Some of his promoters are also touting the possibility of his being the preferred candidate of President Buhari.
The Vice President does not have the political structure required for the race. And the refusal of Buhari to endorse a successor is not working in his favour. Except for his home state – Ogun, where he is expected to put up a good showing following alleged support for him by the governor, Osibajo may not enjoy the support of the Southwest geopolitical zone where his political godfather Tinubu holds sway.
He will still have the likes of Tinubu and former governor Amosun to contend with in his native Ogun, especially with the presence of many protégées of the former Lagos governor on the state’s political scene. His chances in Ondo State are bleak with his friend, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu supporting Tinubu. He may also not be able to take delegates away from Ekiti Governor Fayemi who is in the race and Tinubu who enjoys a cult following in the state. Oyo does not look good for him because APC governorship candidate, Teslim Folarin, has declared that state’s 99 delegates are for Tinubu. Osun is a no-go area.
But Osinbajo may garner some votes in Nasarawa State where Governor Abdullahi Sule is said to have some sympathy for him. But sources in the state say there are other factors that will decide how the delegates will vote. “We may have a situation where each delegate will vote according to the dictates of his or her leader,” a source said.
Analysts say the Ikenne-born politician’s best hope of emerging flagbearer lies in winning Buhari’s endorsement, but that may just turn out to be a pipe dream, considering his strained relationship with some northern elements over the removal of the erstwhile Director-General of the Department of State Security (DSS), Lawal Daura, while Buhari was away on leave vacation. Political watchers say the Vice President is yet to be forgiven by this close group around Buhari who may be bent on taking their pound of flesh.
As a presidential candidate, Osibajo will find it difficult to rally support in the Southwest zone. This will work against the APC and favour the PDP in the zone. He does not have any known support base or structure in the Southeast and South-south to wrestle with the PDP. He is also likely to flounder in the northern zones during the general election.
His coming into the race gave the strongest indication that the ruling party may not respect the power rotation principle reached at its formation between the north and the south. Supporters of his aspiration argue that the APC needs a northern candidate to keep PDP out of power.
But all of that has now been called into question with the resolution of the 11 Northern governors backing power shift.
A three-time member of the House of Representatives, Lawan’s emergence as President of the 9th Senate has enhanced his political clout and reach. But it has also led to rumblings in a section of Yobe State who grumble that he’s done overtime having been in the National Assembly since 1999.
He has the support of some members of the National Assembly and his governor, Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State and his Imo State counterpart, Hope Uzodinma. He has also been backed vociferously by Senate Minority Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu. He is said to be hoping on being endorsed by the President. Aside that, there were assumptions that he may be backed by some northern governors and leaders largely on ethnic grounds.
He cannot boast of visible political structure outside his home state. He is not seen as a potential presidential candidate in the south. In 2015, he was supported by Tinubu, once President Buhari had indicated he preferred him to lead the legislative arm. But he was easily out-manouvered by former Kwara State governor, Bukola Saraki. It would take the concerted efforts of the former Lagos governor and other key APC leaders to push him over the line in 2019.
His name may not win him delegates across the country. His best hope of becoming flagbearer, again, revolves round the hope that Buhari would endorse him. But the pro-zoning agitation is still his major albatross as this could make delegates from the South defy all entreaties and vote against his candidacy. In any event, the decision of the 11 Northern governors has cut the ground from beneath him.
Also with the President not assenting to the Electoral Act 2022 Amendment Bill, only 2,340 adhoc delegates will participate in the exercise. The implication of this for Lawan’s ambition is huge as his chances are weakened without the statutory delegates. Also likely to work against him is the perception that the National Assembly under him hasn’t been outstanding. Many have derided it as a rubberstamp only too willing to do the bidding of the Executive.
With sentiments in the South decidedly against another Northerner taking over from Buhari who would have spent eight years in office by next year, a Lawan candidacy would go down like a lead balloon. He would be faced with impossible task of explaining why the APC reneged on power rotation – leading to crushing electoral defeat not only in The Southwest, but also in the Southeast where the push for Igbo presidency has been quite aggressive this time around. His prospects are no better in the South-south zone where he would be confronted by similar sentiments.]
BOLA AHMED TINUBU
The former Lagos State governor is no doubt the foremost runner in the race. Tinubu parades intimidating political credentials with a network that cuts across several political tendencies. He was first aspirant to formally declare his intention to be president. He is one man with a strong passion and conviction to change the political, economic and socio-cultural narratives of the country. Also, no other aspirant has gone round as much states as him to woo delegates.
He is a much talked about aspirant seen by many as the man APC needs to confront PDP’s Abubakar Atiku in 2023. His antecedents in Lagos State where he was governor for eight years, the institutional structures he built for the emergence of a new city state, his strong analytical mind and sense of judgement and ability to discover, nurture and promote potential are some of his virtues that even his political foes cannot deny. His rich private sector background as a high flier in Exxon Mobil, a multinational oil giant, and Delloite and Touche, an international accounting firm, prepared him as an all-round manager which explained his success in his turn-around management of Lagos state.
Tinubu has the political structure required for the task ahead. He is visible politically in every state of the country, with over 5,000 different support groups rooting for his ambition. Majority of delegates in Ondo state are expected to vote for him with Governor Akeredolu leading the pack. Several support groups in the state working for the aspiration of Tinubu in the state. He will pocket all the votes of delegates in Lagos State. This needs little or no explanation. He has been the undisputable godfather of the state’s politics since 2003.
He will garner more votes than anybody else in Oyo State on account of his age-long politics of inclusion. His allies and loyalists are on hand to ensure he wins the state. The delegates in Osun State are mainly his for the asking with Governor Gboyega Oyetola in charge. Tinubu will share the votes of delegates in Ogun with Osinbajo and Amosun. In Ekiti, delegates would be shared between state governor Fayemi, Tinubu and Osinbajo. However, the governor is expected to have the bulk of the votes in the state.
Tinubu will do well in Adamawa where he has key backers in the likes of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, former EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, and many others. In spite of faulting some statement credited to Tinubu recently, Lawal says he is still committed to seeing the former Lagos governor emerge as candidate. Bauchi State APC is rooting for him and analysts say the former Lagos governor looks good to get ample votes from delegates in Gombe and Taraba States.
Borno is practically for him with former governor, Senator Kashim Shettima leading his squad. He may not do too well in Yobe State, being the home state of Lawan and Buni. Amidst permutations that the delegates in the Southeast will be shared between Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State and Lawan, pundits and party sources say Tinubu will still garner sizeable votes in the region owing to his many years of relationship with some of the leading chieftains of the party in the region.
Tinubu is very popular in Nasarawa State where he has some foot soldiers helping with his campaign. He is expected to slug it out with Amaechi and Osinbajo for the votes of the delegates. His support base is equally huge in Niger State where the governor, Abubakar Sani-Bello is an ardent supporter. The presence and leadership of Minister of Special Duties, Senator George Akume, in Benue APC assures him of the support of the delegates from the state. His recent warm reception in Kwara is a pointer to another state where he is quite strong.
Katsina State looks very good for him with Governor Aminu Masari seen as one of his staunch supporters. He just concluded a triumphant visit to Kano where he received the enthusiastic endorsement of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and state delegates. He equally has reasons to be positive about Kaduna State. Sokoto is another safe zone for Tinubu. His relationship with Senator Aliyu Wammako, is long and enduring and expected to translate into votes for him.
Most analysts agree he’s in pole position to clinch the presidential ticket in an open, free and fair contest, barring any unforeseen development before or during the primary election.
Among issues that have been raised against Tinubu is that he is old at 70. There is also the suggestion that certain vested interests are not keen on him winning the party’s ticket. He has also lost some of his old associates who for their own reasons have chosen to move on to new friends. He countered the claim that he is too old at 70 by saying that the job of a President calls for mental alertness and that he is not only mentally sound he is also as fit as a fiddle for the job.
Tinubu’s candidacy would galvanise nationwide support for the ruling party and energise voter turnout in the Southwest base. He may not help APC takeover the Southeast or South-South, but his ability to keep his stronghold means the party can reprise its electoral victories of 2015 and 2019 if it can manage a majority in the North while keeping hold of the Southwest, the bastion of support for the party.
In the North, he is as popular as he is in the Southwest that is eagerly waiting for him to emerge. Voters in the North will reward him for standing firmly with Buhari , leading to the defeat of an incumbent President, the first if its kind in Nigeria. Pundits see a man who has worked very hard building bridges for this project. He is widely seen as the best choice for the ruling party.
The former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibike Amaechi, is a presidential aspirant to watch. He is leaving no stone unturned to succeed Buhari. But pundits say he will have to do much more to win the ticket. He has traversed the length and breadth of the country seeking the support of party chieftains and delegates for his dream to come through. Also, the tempo of his campaign slowed down after he had to resign his position in Buhari’s cabinet, given the impression that he was not prepared to contest the election without his ministerial garb.
Amaechi has been Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly for eight years, Chairman of Forum of Speakers for eight years, two-term governor, Chairman of NGF for eight years, twice Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation and minister for almost eight years. He tells anybody who cares to listen that he’s the most qualified and equipped aspirant to lead a post-Buhari era.
Amaechi will naturally win the votes from his native Rivers and do well in neighbouring Bayelsa State following the withdrawal of Timipre Sylva from the contest. He is also known to be strong in Kaduna State on account of his friendship with Governor El Rufai and Buhari.
But his strongest base up north appears to be Plateau State where his ties with Governor Solomon Lalong go back to their days as Speakers. He is also known to have supported the governor’s electoral efforts in past. Lalong pointedly referred to this during the former minister’s recent visit to Jos, when he said it was time for him to reap from his investment.
He presides over a River State APC that is split down the middle because of his long-running feud with erstwhile ally, Senator Magnus Abe. That rift denied the party a candidate at the 2019 governorship election.
His standing in the Southeast is not impressive and he will struggle to win delegate votes in the zone. And in the Southwest, he will lose woefully in the zone as no governor, leader or chieftain of the APC is known to be identifying with him.
Amaechi has tried to bandy his close ties to the president as an advantage in the race. He even was turbaned Dan Ammanar in Buhari’s hometown of Daura. So, even though the delegates’ counts wouldn’t make him the frontrunner, he would be hoping that a presidential anointing tilts the race in his favour.
GENERAL ELECTION PROSPECTS
It’s hard to see how an Amaechi candidacy helps APC to retain power. His political spread cannot guarantee victory for the party. Even in his home state, incumbent Nyesom Wike is giving him no breathing space. Part of this war of attrition has seen the ex-minister entangled in the report of a panel of inquiry set up to probe his administration’s sale of the state-owned turbines.
Amaechi is currently in court to overturn the report of the panel which he claims was politically-motivated. This week would be crucial as the Supreme Court would rule whether the Rivers State government was in the right in setting up the panel. If the court upholds the indictment, it would be a blow to Amaechi’s bid.
Apart from not being able pull through his succession plan in 2015, APC has been virtually neutralized as a force in the state. Not just that, his former Secretary for Government Abe, has become an implacable foe, locked in mortal combat with the former minister.
The former minister isn’t going to enthuse Southwest voters neither is he going to snatch his South-South base which is a PDP stronghold. We can also say the same thing for the Southeast which would be frustrated that its strong push for the presidency hasn’t been accepted by the two leading parties. He will be easily demolished by the PDP.
JOHN KAYODE FAYEMI
Fayemi, who governs Ekiti state is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). JKF is another contender for the coveted ticket. Another protégée of Tinubu’s, he is not seen by pundits as a contender to bet on.
As NGF chairman, two-term governor and former minister, Fayemi has built up an impressive network of political contacts across the country. Some analysts say he should not be underrated because he has been central to most happenings in the party in the last two years. Naturally, he is expected to win most of the votes in his state. He controls the structure from the ward to state level. But the visible imprints of Tinubu in Ekiti APC would cost him some delegates’ support.
He doesn’t have visible political structures outside his state and no governor is openly backing his aspiration. He is not being touted as Buhari’s preferred candidate. Even in the southwest zone, the political strength of Fayemi is limited to his home state.
With Atiku as PDP candidate, Fayemi would be a lightweight. He would also have to work hard to rally the Southwest to produce the sort of fervor Tinubu does among his supporters. Again, he, like most other APC aspirants, would struggle to make inroads in the Southeast and South-South zones.
The former Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajuiba, is another aspirant to watch. He was the first to obtain the nomination forms and the first to return them. A well-connected member of the inner caucus of President Buhari’s defunct Congress for Positive Change (CPC), sources within the Presidency said that Nwajuiba is one of the few Southeastern leaders that have the ears of the president. Some even refer to him as “Buhari’s son.”
The former member of the House of Representatives is also leveraging on the influence of the Forum of Former Members of the House to reach out not only to the delegates but to other crucial organs of the party.
Described by some party faithful as the dark horse in the presidential race, the politician’s albatross is the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU). Many have derided is decision to run saying the never-ending strike wasn’t the best advertisement for his problem-solving abilities.
Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, started his presidential bid early, almost two years ago, when the agitation for power shift was intense and no Northerner contender dared toy with the idea.
He championed the position that zoning wasn’t in the constitution of the ruling party. He stuck to this position despite other Northern politicians taking the position that zoning was based on some gentleman’s agreement.
The governor has framed his aspiration by targeting young voters at the presidential election. He has actually done a lot to woo his targeted audience. He has also trumpeted his efforts at empowering women with strategic positions in his cabinet and campaign structure.
Bello used his assignment under the Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Committee as Chairman of the Mobilisation and Sensitisation Committee of the just concluded membership registration and revalidation exercise to sell his aspiration to party faithful.
The tenacity with which he has been pursuing his ambition has won him the hearts of many party members, mostly youth, women and physically-challenged persons.
Another strong point is his closeness and loyalty to Buhari which would win him points with the president’s inner circle.
However, he lacks political structures and alliances outside his home state and that will count against him in the race. Also, it reamians to be seen whether the decision of Buhari and APC governors would affect his resolve to present him self for the contest beginning tomorrow.
The General Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church, Lagos, Pastor Tunde Bakare, a fierce preacher, came into the political limelight following his series of critical and down to earth sermons and the courage to speak truth to power.
In 2011, his nomination as running mate to Buhari as then presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Positive Change (CPC) became his major inroad to the political arena. Though qualified and competent to effectively carry out the responsibilities of the office of the president, Bakare lacks the structure and network to deliver him the ticket.
The lawyer turned clergyman and now politician is seen more in the media than reaching out to delegates who are the determinant factors of who gets what at the primary. Though he claims he had a divine mandate of becoming the 16th President of the country, earthly delegates in Abuja are set to give him a reality check.
Amosun’s biggest claim to fame in the ruling party is being one of the closest Southwest politicians to Buhari. In the politics of his home state, he is not a pushover. His current face-off with Governor Dapo Abiodun leaves him without home support. He is no threat to the leading contenders. He does not look anywhere near the presidential ticket and his candidacy will leave the APC trailing other parties in the presidential election.
Ogbonnaya Onu, a founding member of the APC and ex-Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, is one of the aspirants from the Southeast. Highly respected by Buhari, the 70-year-old presidential hopeful may be banking on President’s endorsement as consensus candidate. But he is most unlikely to get it as he lacks the required political structure needed for the task.
Dimeji Bankole, former Speaker of the sixth House of Representatives, whose bid for the Ogun State governorship seat fell flat at the last polls, is obviously not a serious contender in the race. He is considered to be one of the pretenders who are in the race for another motive.
Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, was the first aspirant from the Southeast to declare for the presidency. He joined the race immediately after Tinubu’s declaration. Though he has a good record of performance as a state governor, he’s a political paperweight at national level.
Coming from a zone with the lowest number of elected delegates for the convention, pundits rate him low and suggest that his bid is for relevance.
With his ongoing trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), The two-term former governor of Imo is definitely no longer in pole position to make anything worthwhile out of his presidential ambition. Also, the current face-off between him and governor of his home state, Hope Uzodinma, makes his aspiration a non-starter.
Rochas Okorocha remains the most colourful aspirant from the Southeast. In the whole pack he is something of a serial contestant. This attempt is his fourth. He is a great philanthropist whose kind gestures spread across the country and even nations of Africa. He may be going to the convention without a single delegate from his home state because the governor has openly cast his lot with Lawan.
Her courage to play where angels fear to tread, singles out Uju Kennedy, the only female aspirant in the race for the APC presidential ticket. She may not be going any further than the media mention she has enjoyed since joining the race.
A political neophyte, what Uju has in courage she lacks in political credentials. Not known to have occupied any political office, the lawyer turned politician may find it difficult to secure the support of both the statutory and elected delegates at the shadow election of May 29 to become Nigeria’s first female presidential aspirant.
The presence of the youngest presidential aspirant has given a boost to the “Not Too Young To Run Act”. Though relatively unknown, Felix, a US-based pastor may have only succeeded in putting his name on the country’s political map. But for him to emerge APC candidate he would need to pull a miracle that would rate the eighth wonder in the world.
Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani’s, attempt at occupying the country’s highest office is seen by many as another race to nowhere. He lost his bid to become Deputy National Chairman of the party at the March 26 APC national convention of the party; many expect his presidential aspiration to suffer a similar defeat come May 28.
Aside from the fanfare that greeted the submission of his nomination forms in Abuja, Nnamani has disappeared from the radar. Observers say the former number three man is basing his aspiration on possible zoning of the presidency to the Southeast by the party.
The emergence of Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, in the race for the APC ticket would not have been taken seriously but for the whopping N100 million payment for the nomination form. A man not known for frivolities, many are yet to understand his game plan.
Some of his critics said the need to remain politically relevant may be the driving force. Having served as a senator and two-term governor, Ayade may be in the presidential race for negotiation and continued relevance post 2023.