By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor, Dayo Johnson, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Shina Abubakar, Rotimi Ojomoyela & Ademola Adegbite
AHEAD of the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, governors elected on the platform of the party are divided over the aspirations of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Supporters of the duo were locked in claims and counter-claims, yesterday, over who has more support among APC governors. Dismissing as balderdash claims that Osinbajo is a threat to the aspiration of Tinubu, a two-time governor of Lagos and National Leader of APC, his supporters said he has the backing of 13 of the 22 APC governors and support of delegates from non- APC states.
Countering, supporters of Osinbajo said the Vice President enjoys the backing of 14 APC governors, especially from the North, and would shock his opponents.
In the South-West, where APC has five governors, Sunday Vanguard learned that three are for Tinubu, one for Osinbajo and another is undecided.
Meanwhile, the National Coordinator of the South-West Agenda for Asiwaju, SWAGA, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, has boasted that Tinubu is the candidate to beat in the APC presidential race because he is the most experienced and front runner.
Asked if the consensus arrangement won’t hurt Tinubu, Adeyeye said: “Consensus is provided for in the Constitution but will only work where all the candidates agree.”
Another staunch supporter of Tinubu downplayed Osinbajo’s threat to the former Lagos governor, saying: “We don’t believe Vice President Osinbajo is a threat to Asiwaju Tinubu’s presidential ambition. There is no convincing proof of people asking Osinbajo to declare. President Buhari is a critical factor. There is no indication that President Buhari is backing or will support Osinbajo who, as acting President, sacked his cousin when he was on his sick bed in London.
“Going for the presidency is not mere grammar. Where is his support base? Where is the structure? In Ikenne, Ogun State, Osinbajo does not know his Ward Chairman. How many party people does he know even in Lagos? He is not a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council, GAC. If he is formidable, he will be a member of the GAC. What has he used the position of the Vice President to do for the South-West?
“Tinubu has fought many battles even against the military. Osinbajo has not fought any battle. Tinubu was behind the Local Government battle he fought in Lagos as Attorney General. He has not learned the ropes. He may have the support of two governors. What does that amount to?
“In APC, Tinubu has the support of 12 APC governors who are solidly behind him and almost all the South-West states apart from Ekiti. But if Governor Kayode Fayemi is not contesting, Ekiti will go for Tinubu.
“Ogun State may be split between Tinubu and Osinbajo. Edo State, parts of Delta and Rivers are for Tinubu. He has been catering for states without APC governors. You will be shocked that Katsina, Sokoto, Borno, Anambra, Cross River and Akwa Ibom states will go for Tinubu, who is a good negotiator and strategist.”
13 APC governors’re behind Osinbajo — VP supporter
Countering, a supporter of Osinbajo, who said he may declare for the presidency this week precisely by Wednesday, boasted that Osinbajo would shock those who are underrating him.Said the source: “The VP will shock many people. All things being equal he will declare his intention this week, latest Wednesday.
“Vice President Osinbajo has been waiting for President Buhari’s greenlight. He has got that now. Osinbajo is working silently and has the support of 13 to 14 APC governors. Two South-East governors and one South-West governor and many northern governors have sympathy for Osinbajo.
“The governors are sponsoring his activities and most of the meetings are held in the governors’ lodges. The governors are supporting him because the Vice President has age and experience on his side. He has been part of this government, so they believe he will consolidate on the achievements of President Buhari.”
Support groups speak
Speaking on Osinbajo’s perceived threat to Tinubu’s ambition, Mr. Tolu Babaleye, Director-General of Ondo State Network for Bola Tinubu, said: “We at Tinubu Support Group, Ondo State are not scared of Osinbajo, Emefiele or Amaechi joining the presidential race.
“This is democracy and the more the merrier. Their joining will only present the delegates that will vote at the primary with more options.
“We believe that Tinubu will win because he has worked and has a clear goal of what he wants to achieve if elected as President.
“He has been planning for this for close to 25 years and knows what he is out to achieve and what that office entails.
“Nigerians in APC during the primary will not want to toy with the future of the party by electing any other person as these people are not as prepared as Tinubu and are even afraid of the contest and hence they are busy looking for endorsement.
“As for us in Tinubu camp, our principal is prepared for the primary and he is good to go. On the contrary, Osinbajo, Emefiele and Amaechi are the ones that are afraid of the profile and preparedness of Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
Reacting, Adeyeye said: “I don’t react to speculation, I have not seen any move. Up till now, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has not made his interest known. Until he does, nothing to say for now.
“The speculation has been on for a while now, social media is awash with the speculation and the Vice President has not told anyone, neither has he gone public with any interest. The rumored ambition exists only in the realm of speculation and I don’t react to speculation. “The same applied to others in our great party rumored to be interested in the office of the President but they are yet to come out with it. The only person that has gone public with his interest in the race is the Governor of Kogi State, Mr Yahaya Bello.”
On his part, Dr Ayo Owoade, Director General, Osun, Bola Ahmed Tinubu Our Choice 2023 (BATOC 23), said: “We are not bothered by anyone declaring intention for the Presidency. We are in a democracy and everyone has the constitutional right to express interest and even contest for the office but for us, we are for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.“The former Lagos State Governor has paid his dues before this democratic dispensation with his struggles with NADECO, his re-engineering of Lagos government and his continuous engagement in the nation’s political process, so he has the capacity and ability to confront anyone.
“Concerning Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, we believe that considering the impact Asiwaju Tinubu had in his life, he may not declare for the presidency and if he does, we are battle ready for anyone.”
‘APC ticket not a Yoruba affair’
However, former Minister of Communication, and, chieftain of the APC, Mr Adebayo Shittu, said the battle for the APC ticket and the presidency are not a Yoruba affair alone as many party chieftains across the country are vying for the exalted post.
“Osinbajo has the right like any other interested person. At the appropriate time, party members will decide who gets the ticket. And mind you, it is not even only in Yorubaland alone. There will be competition across the country. I only hope the party will allow a proper primary election to hold. That is my hope,” Shittu said.
In like manner, former Chief Whip of the Oyo State House of Assembly and a chieftain of the APC, Mr. Abiodun Adigun-Hammed, said: “All I want is the best for this country. The President must come from the South. That is what we have been clamouring for. Let southerners come on board. Whoever gets the ticket from this zone will get our support. Whoever is taking over from President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 must be a southerner.”
Meanwhile, the Coordinator for Senator Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (SABAT) in Osun State, Wole Alawode, said every other intending aspirant should be wary of Tinubu and not the other way round.
“Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is a product of the Bola Tinubu school of politics, so for us, we are not afraid of anyone coming forward to show interest in the presidency. We have been around for a long time and the Tinubu project is universal, though, every other person with interest should not be discouraged from doing so. But they should know that Asiwaju is the one to beat,” Alawode said.
“We are not into rivalry with anyone. The space is wide for anyone with intent to contest but whoever is coming on board must realise that Asiwaju’s acceptability and project cannot be compromised.”