By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor & Dapo Akinrefon, LAGOS
The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Labour Party, LP, are having a handful in the composition of their presidential campaign councils.
According to the timeline of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, parties are free to begin campaigns for the February 25, 2023 presidential poll on September 28, 2022.
Currently, none of the parties has announced a comprehensive campaign council. The APC and PDP have, however, announced skeletal teams, with APC leaders telling Vanguard, yesterday that the full team will announced, next week.
Dr Yinusa Tanko, spokesman of the LP told Vanguard that presidential candidate of the LP, Mr. Peter Obi, and some top leaders are out of the country.
“When they return, the issue will be sorted out,” he said.
APC presidential campaign council ready next week – Sources
Barring further adjustments, the Presidential Campaign Council of the APC will be ready next week, ahead of the September 28 official kick-off date of the presidential campaigns, a top party leader told Vanguard, weekend.
“The team is almost ready. We are taking our time to accommodate all interests in the party and in the country at large. We don’t want to take anything for granted. The council will be ready in time before the commencement of the presidential campaigns on September 28,” the APC leader disclosed.
Recently, APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the party hierarchy announced Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, as director-general of the campaign, and former Edo State Governor and APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as deputy director-general.
Other members named so far include: Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo (Campaign spokesman); Mr. Dele Alake (Director, Strategic Communication); Mr. Bayo Onanuga (Director of Media and Publicity); Lanre Issa-Onilu (Deputy Director of Communication Strategy); Hannatu Musawa (Deputy Director of Public Affairs); Kehinde Bamigbetan (Deputy Director of Media Relations); Modibbo Kawu (Deputy Director of Publicity); Mohammed Bulama (in charge of multimedia); and Seun Olufemi-White (Deputy Director, new media) among others.
Party sources said issues raised by the Tinubu/Shettima Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket were yet to die down.
“We are making efforts to carry everybody along. We are reaching out to presidential aspirants and stakeholders across the country, especially the South-East. We will do serious campaigns in the South-East,” one of the sources said.
Indeed, the APC is yet to get all her presidential aspirants on the same page. Of the 22 men and one woman who sought the APC ticket last June, no fewer than 10 have declared their unalloyed support for Tinubu. They include Senator Godswill Akpabio; Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; Mr. Dimeji Bankole; Governor Mohammed Badaru of Jigawa; Senator Ahmad Sani; Senator Ajayi Boroffice; Senate President Ahmad Lawan, and Mrs Uju Ohanaenye.
Apart from Lawan, the other eight stepped down for Tinubu at the presidential primaries. Governor Dave Umahi last week said he wished his party would win the presidential poll amid the waves being made by Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party in the South-East.
Since the APC presidential primaries most of the other aspirants have been reticent. One of the aspirants, Mr. Nicholas Felix, who stepped down for Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the primaries tried to summon a meeting of the aspirants, penultimate week but cancelled it when it became obvious many of them would not attend.
Other aspirants are Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu, Chief Emeka Nwajiuba (who was absent at the primaries), Chief Rotimi Amaechi, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Governor Ben Ayade, Senator Ken Nnamani, and Mr Tein Jack-Rich.
Atiku, Wike, PDP at crossroads
In the PDP, the frosty relationship between its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Governor Nyesom Wike is stalling the announcement of its campaign council.
Vanguard gathered that Atiku and the PDP are at crossroads over their inability to accommodate Wike and his team in the campaign council.
A former member of the National Working Committee, NWC, who spoke under anonymity, told Vanguard that the PDP candidate and the party are waiting for who will bell the cat.
The source said: “We are at a standstill now because Wike will not agree with the Atiku camp. We do not know the next step Wike will take.
In the South-West, Governor Seyi Makinde is solidly behind Wike, but the question now is who will bell the cat behind Atiku and the PDP? While the party will go ahead nominating members of the council, Wike is holding on to his next line of action. For now, we are at a standstill and we want to see who will bell the cat.
“The day Atiku announces members of the campaign council, crisis will erupt because we know they will shut out Wike and his team.
What will happen, for instance, in the South-West since we have two PDP governors is that Atiku and his team may use the Osun governor-elect, Senator Ademola Adeleke as their arrow-head over and above Governor Seyi Makinde.”
Another source, who spoke to Vanguard in confidence, said: “Wike and his team are not happy with the developments in the PDP.”
How Atiku-Okowa ticket emerged to thwart Wike
Meanwhile, fresh facts on the emergence of the Atiku –Okowa presidential ticket and the role of the Wike-led camp in truncating the zoning of the presidential ticket to the South-East have emerged.
Party sources said that ahead of the 2023 presidential primaries there was a quiet plan to cede the presidency to the South-East with Peter Obi and Anyim Pius Anyim among the South-East contenders being positioned by party elders.
Atiku, after his 2019 loss, it was gathered, was considering passing over the 2023 campaign and was believed to be positioning Obi for support.
Joining Atiku in backing Obi as running mate in 2019 were Governor Okowa, Governor Godwin Obaseki and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
According to the permutations, Saraki would have been running mate to Obi.
It was based on this permutation that Senator Okowa, it was gathered, was preparing himself for a return to the Senate with a principal office in view.
Backing Anyim were Governor Aminu Tambuwal and his political soul-mate, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha. Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State was also in this camp. Tambuwal, it was gathered, would serve as Anyim’s running mate that would have seen two former presiding officers of the National Assembly running on a joint ticket.
The Atiku-led coalition in the bid to strengthen Obi had proposed that the National Secretary of the party that was zoned to the South-East would come from Anambra State.
However, it was at that point that the Governor Wike camp which was also preparing for the presidency entered the fray and upturned the proposal and brought forward Senator Samuel Anyanwu.
A source, familiar with how it played out, said: “Remember that Peter Obi, Ihedioha, and Achike Udenwa refused and asked that the position of secretary should go to the appropriate place mentioned, but Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Okezie Ikpeazu refused.
“Of course you know that they are the only two governors of the PDP in the South-East, their choice will not be easy to reject,” one source informed at the weekend.
The Wike camp was able to take the slot from Peter Obi because of the two sitting governors from the zone were aligned to the Rivers State governor.
That move, it was gathered, was the beginning of the distress that Obi faced from his brother governors from the South-East.
Initially, Atiku was said not to be enthusiastic towards running in 2023 but pressures were mounted on him through friends led by two former senators, one from the South-South and another from Bauchi State. A popular broadcast mogul was also in the shadows urging Atiku to run.
“After 2019, Oga had exhausted much of his money and he was not really inclined towards running again, but we kept on mounting pressure on him that he was the only one who could stop Wike,” the source involved in the process said on Sunday.
Besides fighting off Obi, the Wike camp also was able to pre-empt the Governor Sam Ortom led committee from zoning the presidency to the South-East or North-East as many party enthusiasts had envisaged.
“You can see that Ortom is part of Wike’s camp and the whole plot was to throw it open so that Wike can come in and that was what they did exactly,” the source revealed.
Meanwhile, the attitude of the South-East governors frustrated several party elders.
Okowa, who hosted the Southern Governors retreat where the resolution for a Southern presidential candidate was adopted, was also said to have become frustrated by the antics of his fellow Southern governors, especially given his own soft spot for Obi.
It was about this time that Okowa now appeared to form a partnership with Atiku and dumped his senate bid to work with Atiku for the 2023 presidency.
The act of the Wike camp, it was gathered underscored the reason none of the South-South governors, including Obaseki who he (Wike) chaired his campaign refused to back him even when it came to the issue of vice-presidential slot.
Another source, privy to the development, said: “You would remember that initially no PDP governor was backing Atiku, but things changed when they realised that the only person who could stop Wike was Atiku and that was why they gravitated towards him. If you don’t know, there were also signs that Atiku had encouraged Obi to run, but all that changed with the attitude of the Wike camp.’
“That is why you should not blame Atiku for the zoning issue or even Okowa as having betrayed the South.”