By Bayo Fasunwon
The race for the Presidential ticket of the APC heats up. As at the last count, about twenty aspirants are assuring their various supporters, reaching out to delegates, and insisting that they would eventually become the flagbearer of the ruling party. The frenzy stems from the Nigeria electoral system which seems to presuppose that the flagbearer of the ruling party has the highest probability of coming into the shoes of the outgoing President. To many, President Jonathan’s exit was an exception rather than being a continuous possibility, especially at a time when political office holders are being recycled.
The APC nightmare was borne out many issues. Firstly, was the principled zoning of the elective position of the President to the South. That had pitched the South West against the South East. While the South West aspirants had hinged their claims on the fact that they founded the political party, and that the South East had not voted for the party in past elections, coupled with the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari took over from a South-south President, the South East had objected and argued that they had been marginalized since 1999, and even Dr Jonathan Goodluck was not from the zone and could not have in any way used their slot. The zoning system, and President Buhari’s first intention to leave the game open is therefore the cause of the party’s dilemma now. This had opened doors to many aspirants on which an ex-ray of potential would be attempted.
The foremost contender in the presidential race, and one who had made his intentions known years earlier is Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT). The fearless voice that spoke against the military after the June 12, 1993 annulment had also taken up the Federal Government during the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo, and won against all odds. A former Senator of the Federal Republic, with vast experience and international appeal has a wide appeal and acceptance in almost all the geopolitical zones of the country. One of his selling points remains the fact that he is the brain behind the formation of the All Progressive Congress, and had encouraged retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari (PMB)in to lace his hanging boots, contest for President, and the latter eventually won. Thus, BAT has an Eagle eye for recognizing talents, building them, and installing them in power against all odds. It is therefore no surprise that he could point to people in power across the six geo-political zones that have benefited from his political sagacity, influence and power. However, his sweetest fruits remain the saddest.
His prowess of installing and removing men in power has pitched him against many. These are of the opinion that if he becomes President, internal democracy would crumble. This is one of the fears of member of his party. However, given his immense contributions and sacrifice to the party, BAT is not battling an eyelid in insisting that he deserves the position. The opposition parties also would not need a man in power who could sustain his party in power for so long as he did in Lagos State. Finally, shopping for a Christian running mate from the North becomes a river that may be difficult to cross if he emerges as the Presidential Candidate of the party.
The Starboy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (PYO), a dedicated loyalist to his bosses – BAT and PMB – at one time and the other – is another vibrant contender from the Southwest. He had distinguished himself in academics and risen to the position of Professor of Law, and his intellectual sagacity had helped Lagos State and Nigeria, saving them from both internal and international embarrassment. Given that PMB had showered encomiums on him as being dependable and his dynamic leadership anytime he acts as the President, many Nigerians, given his age, proficiency and dynamism, had endeared him to any Nigerians, especially the youth. However, being in charge of the economic team of the President, and a core member of PMB’s administration, the economic downturn of the nation, insecurity and hunger are negatives against his national acceptance if he emerges as the Presidential candidate of the APC. There is also a conspiracy theory which suggests that PYO may not be a stronger candidate than BAT. However, if he is able to gain the support of the President, and party members, his political strength would be in leaps and bounds.
Chukwuemeka Nwajuba (CN), Chief Rochas Anaya Okorocha (RAO), Ken Nnamani and Chief Rotimi Amaechi (CRA) are the main contenders from the South East. While CN is the first entrant into the contest, his performance as the Minister of State for Education has left a bitter taste in the mouth of the University students, staff and parents. His comments on the ASUU strike had been void of diplomacy and understanding of the major issues of the impasse. Often times, he had come off as an arrogant and unskillful negotiator in times of crises. Nigeria may not want such as a leader. Unfortunately, RAO may be technically out of the race for now.
CRA on the other hand, apart from his unending battles with Governor Wike of Rivers State is a man who had done well in his ministerial duties, and had brought the dividends of democracy to his people. The delegates from the South East may give him their votes, but if Wike’s experience is anything to go by, he may not clinch the ticket. Given the emergence of Abubakar Atiku and the voting strength of the South East, and the threat of election boycott, the APC may be wary of picking their Presidential candidate from that zone. This therefore affects the chances of the contestants from the zone. However, if the suspicions about PMB’s preference for Atiku is true, the weaker vessels may become the delicate representatives of the party.
Contrary to the expectations that the North would not present Presidential candidates, Senator Ahmad Lawana and Muhammed Badaru Abubakar are in the race to win. The duo would hope that a division of votes between the contenders from the South and the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the PDP Presidential candidate can give them the edge of being elected to run against their Northern compatriots, for the sake of APC winning the Presidential election.
The issue therefore for this duo is not where they come from, but winning elections. For any of the candidates to emerge from the South, then contestants such as Nicholas Felix, Nweze David Umahi, , Tunde Bakare, Ibikunle Amosun, Oladimeji Sabon Bankole, John Kayode Fayemi, Godswill Obot Akpabio, Rochas Anayo Okorocha, Yahaya Bello, Tein Jack-Rich, Christopher Onu, Ben Ayade, and Ikeobasi Mokelu must of a necessity embrace Aminu Tambuwal’s political calculations and step down for those who can really win the elections
The most deciding factor on who emerges however remains PMB, who had insisted that he anoints a preferred ‘successor’. Whoever he decides to anoint may change the voting patterns (that is others still refuse to step down) during the primary elections. The question however arises as to whether PMB could be trusted. It has not been in the nature of politicians from the Northern part of the country to relinquish power to those from the Southern part of the nation. With the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the flagbearer of the PDP, there is the suspicion that PMB would still desire that power remains in the North.
If that stands true, then a formidable opponent that can withstand Abubakar Atiku at the polls may not be his choice. Already, there seems to be fears in certain quarters that a BAT Presidency may prove too powerful and uncontrollable, hence the need to shop for someone who may be a figurehead President while the Northern elites still call the shots. This suspicion therefore may lead to the disintegration of the party and even Nigeria if confirmed by the actions and inactions of PMB. Party defections in Nigeria has shown that ethnic loyalty takes precedence over party loyalty. At this time, the loyalty of PMB is a great determinizing factor with regards to who would lead the party to the presidential electoral war.