By Emmanuel Aziken
The race for the 2023 presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC was this weekend entering the final stretch with the presidency and the party’s governors engaged in a battle of wits with one another in the battle to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s potential successor.
Also in close contest for the ticket are the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Despite the fact that 25 aspirants collected and returned the expression of interest and nomination forms, the race was this weekend narrowing down to four aspirants with Tinubu and Osinbajo prominent among the quartet.
The other two still walking in the shadows are the choices of the governors’ camp and that of the president. The identity of these two were beginning to emerge and are bound to crystalise in the days ahead.
Saturday Vanguard reports that following what was claimed as a coup in which they supposedly enthroned their choices at the last national convention as national officers, that the governors would do the same at the presidential convention.
The governors had according to reports reiterated their objective at a meeting in Dubai last month. With the notable exception of about three governors strongly backing Tinubu, the other governors are said to be pushing for the emergence of one of them as the president’s successor. As a way of balancing the move, they also want to produce the vice-presidential candidate from the camp of the governors.
With the majority of the party hierarchy still determined to push the ticket to the South, canvassers of Governor Kayode Fayemi were at the weekend basking in the euphoria of the permutation of the governors favouring the Ekiti State governor.
Besides Fayemi, the other governors who picked the APC presidential forms were David Umahi (Ebonyi), Ben Ayade (Cross River) and Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa).
Fayemi, who is the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF according to multiple sources is in alliance with a majority of the incumbent APC governors in his ambition. Governors Umahi and Ayade who are recent joiners are said to be a long shot from the ticket.
Badaru who had been embedded in the Fayemi camp shocked many when he obtained the party’s presidential forms days before the deadline. His action APC sources told Saturday Vanguard, was a move to check the Tinubu Camp which is believed to have inspired the aspiration of Senate President Ahmad Lawan.
“The Tinubu camp believes that if they don’t get it that his man Lawan should get it,” an APC source said in reiterating the bitter animosity between the Tinubu camp and rival Southwest aspirants, Fayemi and Osinbajo.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the entry of Lawan into the contest was what prompted the entry of Badaru into the race as a way of the Fayemi camp checking the Tinubu camp.
Besides, it was also gathered that the emergence of the two men, Lawan and Badaru, is also aimed at counterpoising the PDP should the opposition party produce a candidate from the North.
Willy-nilly, the presidency which has thrown up several dummies in the recent past, it was gathered, may be narrowing down its choice to a former cabinet member. Sources disclosed that Emeka Nwajiuba, a long time associate of President Buhari is seriously being favoured in what may be a shocker to the polity.
Nwajiuba who is from Imo State has partnered with Buhari since 2002 and has been an active player behind the scene in the Buhari government. Privately, he is also regarded as Buhari’s son. However, optimism of the president backing an Igbo as a successor against the cries of marginalization from that section of the polity is bound to upset permutations.
Saturday Vanguard reports that President Buhari had commended Nwajiuba for resigning his position even before his directive to presidential aspirants in his cabinet to step down.
Whether Nwajiuba or whoever the president desires, party leaders including some members of the National Executive Committee, NEC believe that the end game will be a battle between the president and the governors with the claim that the president will have his way.
“Buhari’s insistence on Abdullahi Adamu is not for nothing. The President has a national chairman who can look at the governors in the face and call off their bluff. Don’t forget what Oshiomhole did to Amosun, Ambode and Okorocha,” the source said in reference to the insistence of the immediate past national chairman’s opposition to the succession plans of the immediate past governors of Ogun, Lagos and Imo States.
“Abdullahi Adamu is more strong headed than Oshiomhole,” the party source said.
“All the president has to do is to call some of the northern governors and tell them this is what I want, and I don’t see any of them who will oppose him.”
Besides the president’s famed invicinbility in the North, the president’s ability to punish the outgoing and incumbent governors through the national chairman is there.
“Don’t forget many of the outgoing governors don’t want to court trouble as the party has the latitude to substitute any of their favoured successors or even the incumbent governors could be substituted even after the primaries next week,” the source said.
The prospects of Tinubu and Osinbajo despite their strength on ground it was gathered is seriously challenged by the lack of support from the presidency.
Should it be left to an open contest without the interference of the governors and the presidency, party sources say that Osinbajo and Tinubu could emerge as the real combatants.
Osinbajo has made strong entry into many of the Northern states and has surprisingly put Rotimi Amaechi into second place in Plateau State, a region that ordinarily should be the backyard for him given Governor Simon Lalong’s open support. Osinbajo is also doing very well in Benue State with former Senator Akaagerger marshalling his campaign.
Tinubu’s case despite his overwhelming network of support across the country, it was gathered, has not been helped by the increasing religious tension in the country.
“How do you balance the ticket for Tinubu,” a source in one of the rival presidential aspirants asked.
The prospects of Tinubu picking a Muslim running mate as speculated in the person of Senator Kashim Shettima is said not to sit well with his critics especially those in the Presidential Villa who in any case have hardly been disposed towards him.
Whatever, the permutations are expected to be settled in the next few days as the president makes his move. The ability of the governors to counter could then decide the way it goes.