The consensus battle ahead

By Emmanuel Aziken

In the most audacious attempt at monetizing the country’s democracy, the All Progressives Congress, APC, last week, fixed the price for its presidential nomination and expression of interest forms at N100 million. 

The development practically fenced off the aspiration of many political actors. 

Also affected were the young who do not have the grace of having been born to any of the political tycoons who have steered the nation these past years.

However, it was no barrier to political godfathers themselves. What was supposed to be a disincentive has rather lured many more political actors into the fray. Indeed, the APC forms market may end up becoming the most profitable economic venture of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

So profitable has it been that a whopping $75,000 belonging to an unknown political trader allegedly disappeared from the national secretariat sometime last week.

Among those who showed interest in the APC presidential ticket after the N100 million forms were  announced was Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State.

After indicating his interest and purchasing the forms, he declared that he would not mind stepping down once President Muhammadu Buhari and the party urge him to so do. Another person who has shown interest is Senator Ibikunle Amosun who has, in the past, been labelled Buhari’s closest confidant from the South-West. 

Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State is also expected to formally declare after the sallah holidays. He had, in the past, been dubbed as the candidate of the governors. Though he has the majority of the governors behind him, he has, however, lost the momentum that he had months ago.

Senator Ken Nnamani, at the weekend, also formally declared. He added to the number from the South-East which includes Senator Chris Ngige, Senator Rochas Okorocha and Mr Emeka Nwajiuba. An attempt by Mr Rotimi Amaechi to incline himself towards the South-East has been firmly rebuffed as he is now left to wear the South-South toga. The prospects of Timipire Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum, remain in unchartered waters.

Multiplication of Aspirants and Tinubu

However, the large number of aspirants has not in any way removed the position of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the man to beat in the contest. For a man who declared the presidency as his life ambition, and with the machine available to him, it is no surprise, from outside, that the permutations on him remain almost unassailable.

For those in the camp of the former Lagos governor, it would be tempting to believe that the emergence of folks like Ayade, Nnamani and maybe Amosun could be seen as little bother.

After all, associates of the Jagaban could assure themselves that these recent day entrants do not have the political structure to rely on. Indeed, they may even believe that the increased number would help add verve to a game that they expect Tinubu to win. 

Meanwhile, sources have now revealed that any such optimism in the camp of Tinubu would be foolhardy as the deluge of aspirants is all part of the game to checkmate the National Leader.

After insisting on expressing his democratic right despite the body language of the system in Abuja that he should withdraw, the plan is to now use Tinubu’s own medicine against him.

In the first place, Tinubu is about to be relegated to the second place in the South-West with the possible emergence of Fayemi on Tuesday or Wednesday. With Ogun State now firmly in Osinbajo’s hands, Lagos firmly in Asiwaju’s grip, the remaining states apparently still open are Ekiti, Ondo and Osun.

Ekiti and Ondo are likely to go together for Fayemi while Osun, which ordinarily had been in the hands of Asiwaju, has a new power player in the person of Senator Iyiola Omisore, the National Secretary of the APC.

Given insinuations at the last National Convention where it was alleged that the Asiwaju Camp did not back Omisore’s bid for National Secretary until the last minute, the prospect of a hit back is not impossible. 

As one top APC member asked, how will Omisore forsake Fayemi who pushed for his nomination to support Tinubu?

Now, it is against the background of the deluge of aspirants that the party would impress it on all aspirants to come out with a consensus.

Nigerians would remember how Buhari insisted on the insertion of the consensus option while the Electoral Act was in the making and how Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila (a Tinubu ally) appeared to stonewall.

Somehow, whoever that consensus candidate is, would definitely not be Tinubu fitting in with the plot against the 2023 aspiration of the APC National Leader.

Tinubu, expectedly, would reject if the consensus candidate does not happen to be him. It is against that backdrop that all the other aspirants would be asked, in the interest of party unity, to step down, just as aspirants for various offices were made to step down during the National Convention. Indicative of this projection, Ayade has already showed his willingness to step down even before being asked.

At the end, it would likely leave two aspirants standing: the consensus candidate and Tinubu. It would now boil down to a straight battle in most probably a direct primary.

Willy-nilly, readers would remember the direct primary that was used against Akinwunmi Ambode when he was seeking re-election in 2015 in Lagos. Remodeling that at the national level, writing the result and announcing it while voters are still at the polls would not be difficult! That would indeed be the climax of the plot against the 2023 life ambition of Tinubu.

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