By Sulaimon Ajibade
Ahead of the next general elections, there is a lot of politicking among political parties in Nigeria as they all try to fix the jigsaw puzzle which sets up the list of final contenders for the presidential polls.
In the meantime, the party primaries take centre stage and that is where each powerhouse is supposed to shuffle their varied mix of cards in a bid to come up with that joker – the leading candidate who eventually wins the presidential ticket as one who will serve as the party flag bearer for each party at the main polls.
With less than one year exactly to the main elections, the drama is expected to be much further heightened within the ruling party – the All Progressive Congress (APC), especially because of the prevalent belief in this clime, that the incumbent party always enjoys certain advantages, due to the leading position they occupy.
Naturally, they would seem to be the focus and darling of everyone’s attraction because of their pivotal role and the fact they have the sitting President who serves more like a midwife delivering the next set of elections.
The conversation around the whole power play within the ruling party has been especially interesting on a public platform like Twitter, where you can be assured of raw and unabashed feedback – also fast becoming a place where you could easily get an inkling into the thoughts of a good part of the voting populace – young and old alike.
I recently read a tweet the other day from a Twitter user @femitobadt. “Seriously, I always wonder why Fashola hasn’t declared his presidential intentions after achieving so much as a governor. Don’t we need someone like him???” (Sic) he wrote.
This was in response to seeing another of the myriad of candidates declare, and this blew up into a conversation that went on for hours on Twitter, making Fashola trend.
Another user @AdaMbano_ opined: “With so many individuals fighting for the APC Presidential ticket, I’m surprised no one has mentioned Babajide Raji Fashola.”
Well, such is the peculiarity of the so-called drama around the throne which APC occupies at the moment.
In the same vein, one must give credit to the main opposition – the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – as they continue to up the ante with their internal permutations, equally geared towards fielding that candidate strong enough to wrest power from the ruling party.
As of the last count, they have had at least seventeen candidates declare their interest in contesting the presidential primaries on their platform, with two disqualified making it fifteen for now. All in the same bid to return the former powerhouse to Aso Rock – a place we must remember that they occupied for straight sixteen years – the first four terms in the current democratic dispensation Nigeria has run since 1999.
Our focus here though beams the searchlight on the ruling party – the APC and all the shenanigans involved in selecting the presidential flag bearer for the party. It has so far been a very interesting race with at least twenty-three candidates having declared their interest in replacing President Muhammadu Buhari as the next president of the country. Although the front runners remain the former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the current vice president Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
The others are senators and some current serving ministers, some of whom have previously served as governors. They include the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi , Minister of Labour , Chris Ngige, former governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu and several others who have held significant positions.
We cannot afford to forget that there is also the clause in the electoral Act which allows for the choice of a consensus candidate if it is something a party chooses to adopt without rancour or contest. The ruling party APC incidentally has fixed its primaries for May 30 and 31, as INEC earlier indicated that parties pick their presidential candidates on or before June 3. The million-dollar question now remains, which candidate is strong enough, credible, and fitting for the job amongst all of these candidates who have declared their interest so far or even those who might yet declare. Interestingly, a wise man recently said the kind of candidate who would fix Nigeria’s problems effectively is someone who doesn’t crave power yet has the competence to do the job based on experience and know-how.
The person would fit the delicate balance of being a proper party man and also a technocrat, able to navigate party politics even while being competent enough to capably occupy the office of the President of the Federal Republic.
At this juncture, it becomes pertinent to note that that ruling party might just have that “hidden silver bullet” in their armoury – a candidate who fits all of these earlier mentioned criteria and one who could easily come through as a consensus, everyone could agree to. Hidden in the sense that he hasn’t even declared an interest, but that again fits that part of him, not craving power.
Step in Babatunde Raji Fashola, two-term former governor of Lagos state, former minister of Power, Works, and Housing and currently serving as Minister of Works and Housing in the Federal cabinet. If there is anything these former and current positions have in common, it is that they are very complex models to navigate. It is virtually common knowledge that if you can govern Lagos successfully, you can easily take on the behemoth called Nigeria.
Having been in charge of three very pivotal ministries at once, especially with the ministry of power in the same equation, it can be one of the most tasking and challenging positions anyone serving in the Federal cabinet can find themselves. Yet he has acquitted himself quite well, and even now while in charge of the ministry of works and housing, his achievements are more than laudable.
This is a man who seeks to get the job done no matter what. He knows his numbers, employs the right expertise, and is individually savvy enough to know how to navigate tricky paths and ultimately deliver the goal.
Like everyone else, he comes with his baggage, but compared to the same field of candidates as is currently the reality within the APC, he stands heads and shoulders above the rest when it comes to experience, technical expertise, successful antecedents, and a high trust plus capability quotient. It is a bit strange that he hasn’t thrown his hat in the ring but that is in keeping consistent with his ethos; he would rather think about how to get the job done than crave power merely for the sake of it.
If there is someone who might tick all the boxes for the ruling party and also be able to pull off the challenge of winning the elections with great acceptance from the voting electorate, it would be Babatunde Raji Fashola.
If the ruling party knows what is best for it, and in all truth, they are in an extreme need of someone who can unite the field, appeal to everyone’s better angels, and be competent enough to execute the job of being president of such a complicated terrain like Nigeria and most importantly be relatable enough as a candidate to win the elections and secure the mandate. The party bigwigs, therefore, have a job on their hands to convince this man to join the race because he represents their best shot at winning the elections in 2023.
To have a fighting chance, APC may need to appeal to Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola to declare for the presidency.
•Ajibade lives in Lagos