The real game-plans in APC on 2023 presidency
ACN Versus APC battles resurrecting?
For the All Progressives Congress, APC, Nigeria’s ruling political party, the doomsday, which many people had foretold, seems to be here, and President Buhari may be its last leader for the country. Events of last week have brought all the simmering fire in the party into an inferno, and the cracks which had been plastered with clay have burst open.
The much-expected declaration for the presidency by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is now history but its earth-shaking reverberations will remain for a long time. Its immediate impact and consequence is the implosion in the APC, which has tried to manage the situation deftly for too long with some measure of success.
A flurry of other declarations for the top job have since followed, by the likes of Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state, and former governor of Abia who is now senate Chief Whip — Orji Uzor Kalu.
There are others waiting in the wings, such as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is favoured by the party leadership, and Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state, and chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, who seems to have lost out.
This new development has pitched Tinubu, the national leader of the party, against his protégé and Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who is being backed by powerful northern groups in the APC, which has divided the South west and also the party, as Tinubu is very strong and popular among party members.
A further regional division was introduced last week in the equation, when the National Assembly caucus of North central zone of the party threw its weight behind Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state for the office, further complicating an already complex situation for the party.
However, it is believed by most observers that Governor Bello is only grand-standing and may be angling for the vice presidential position of the ticket which is likely to go to the South west. So his declaration may be just a bargaining chip which will hopefully make party leaders to negotiate with him to step down.
Tinubu had met the President on Monday, January 10, after the Bauchi wedding party of Governor Bala Mohammed. Insiders in the party hinted that the move by governors to adopt consensus candidate for the convention was a deliberate ploy to shut out Tinubu, who many of them do not want to succeed the president, preferring rather to have one of them.
Generally, it is believed that Tinubu will win an open contest at the convention whether direct or indirect primary. So all hands are on deck to ensure that it does not happen; hence the reluctance of the party’s Caretaker executive to hold the convention. It was being speculated last week that the Caretaker committee is even proposing a further shift of the convention to June.
However, what is playing out is that the APC is no longer the party of the three major camps that came together to form the new party, but has been hijacked by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) faction, which is President Buhari’s party.
The three musketeers that run the party, Governors Mai Mala Bunu of Yobe state, who is Caretaker chairman, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi and Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa states respectively; and more importantly, Mallam Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and minister of Justice, are members of CPC and Buhari’s confidants.
Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ forum, Mr. Salisu Lukman, said last week, that the Caretaker committee led by Mala Bunu has betrayed Buhari, stressing that some people in the party are working against holding the convention and using their positions to frustrate the party for what is widely considered their personal political end.
This also introduces another division in the party, which is among the governors. Before now, it was believed that the governors were together as a team but a rift seems to have emerged between the CPC and ACN factions. While the ACN, which is the Tinubu faction wants to impose its own candidate, the CPC also wants to produce a successor to Buhari even from another region.
Governor Bunu’s legitimacy as chairman is also tenuous and a subject of legal uncertainty. The Supreme Court had in the election petition against Governor Akeredolu of Ondo state, by a split decision of four to three, dismissed the petition of PDP candidate Jegede, because the chairman, Bunu was not joined as respondent; which has sparked debate in the party whether he can hold the two executive offices of the governor and chairman of the party.
In over 23 states, including Lagos and Kano, its major political strongholds, the party is in disarray with several factions and dozens of court cases, and all these have to do with 2023 and who dominates the party after Buhari.
A serious hurdle for the party to scale is the national convention to elect new party executives and the mode of election. Although this may not have direct reference to the successor to Buhari, however, the zoning of party offices gives clear indication and direction to the likely zone that will produce the next presidential candidate of the party, and the party officers, particularly the chairman, plays important role in who emerges as the flag bearer.
Initially, the Caretaker committee led by Governor Bunu, was put in place specifically to conduct the national convention after six months, which was the constitutional tenure of the committee. But the committee kept elongating its tenure by adding new briefs to its duty, such as producing new membership register, and reconciling aggrieved members, which has remained a tall order
Convention date had been fixed and postponed severally. The last postponement was in November, which shifted the date from December to February, as if it will never come. Now, with the new date in sight, all hell seems to be let loose, as another postponement may sound the death knell of the party. President Buhari’s dilemma now is the adoption and choice of consensus candidate.
The Caretaker committee does not want to leave anything to chance; Tinubu has enough war chest to sway some governors and their delegates at individual and personal level in any contest. So, the committee has decided to do away with election altogether to ensure that their preferred outcome is achieved, even against the president’s best wish.
This explains the controversy over the electoral amendment bill vetoed by President Buhari on December 19, 2021. Section 78 of the Bill and the clause on direct primary, which was not originally part of the bill, was promoted and inserted by the Speaker of the lower chamber to checkmate the dominance of governors and caretaker committee in deciding the party candidates.
However, pressure from the governors and the committee, who saw through the gambit, forced the president, who had initially expressed support for it after visits by heads of the two chambers of the NASS, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, and Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, respectively, suddenly developed cold feet and vetoed it.
The Electoral Bill was another area of division between the CPC and ACN. The direct primary clause was seen as ACN’s attempt to pull the rug under the party’s feet, which the CPC naturally opposed. Tinubu’s mistake was to allow the governors to impose one of them as the Caretaker chairman of CPC tendency, after the ouster of elected chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole.
Oshiomhole’s election as party chairman was perceived as a major power shift in the party in favour of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the party, and a key merger partner of Buhari. He is an acolyte of Tinubu and his headship of the party raised alarm bell for most stakeholders in the party toward 2023.
Oshiohmole himself did not help matters as his bungling of the 2019 primaries in several states particularly, Zamfara and Rivers, sealed his fate and handed the governors, and Tinubu’s enemies, with the ammunition to oust him. But the coup would have failed without the president’s act of commission or omission.
The Publicity Secretary of the APC in Lagos, Seye Oladejo said as far as they are concerned, there won’t be any clash between the two.
He said what Tinubu has done in showing interest and declaring his intention to President Buhari, was in response to calls by Nigerians and those who meant well for the country, that he should contest to lead Nigeria to a country that would be emulated over the world.
He argued that though he has always been a king maker, “there is nothing wrong in a kingmaker becoming King to actualise his dreams.”
In his own reaction, a former senator for Rivers South East Senatorial District Senator Magnus Abe said that Tinibu is capable, as he has always been a promoter of excellence, who places capacity and competence above loyalty and “who paved the way for what Lagos State is today.”
He also believed that age should not be Tinubu’s barrier to become the President.
Also, the chairman of APC in Lagos State Mr Cornelius Ojelabi, saw Tinubu’s open declaration when he met President Buhari, as a welcome development, saying that he believed the declaration would not stop there, “he would continue to intensify his consultations.”
While, Osinbajo is yet to declare his intention openly, there were several organisations openly rooting for him to come out.
The organizations have spread their tentacles across the country and as well consulting for him.
The Osinbajo team also met with Organised Private Sector, which has declared that he is well-equipped intellectually than any known and current aspirants for the task ahead of Nigeria both financially and otherwise.
The Group’s spokesman Alhaji Abdulrahman Farouk said “with Osinbajo, the Nigeria’s organized private sector has much basis for optimism about 2023 economic turn-around”
One of the governors, strongly with Osinbajo, and working for his being picked as a consensus candidate, governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Sule, believed that he is competent and sellable.
“He has proved his competence when the President was away on medical treatment abroad.”
Other groups working underground for Osinbajo are the Opinion leaders group a Unit of the Progressive Project (TPP), Arewa consensus Assemby and the United Nigeria Ambassador pointed out that Tinubu’s declaration would not change their minds.
But the Chairman of one of the groups, Shettima Abba Gana said what Tinubu did was a democracy at play. “Bola Tinubu wants to run, we want our man Osinbajo to run too. Democracy can’t be for only one aspirant, as such Tinubu is welcome.”
The Osinbajo Grassroots organisation has gone further than others with their recent visit to the former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, to solicit his support for Osinbajo where the former military leader declared the vice President as the type of person needed at this time to steer the affairs of Nigeria.
Meanwhile Tinubu despite his stand, is facing some criticism, as a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olabode George, former Minister of Education, Ezekwesili, Chief Alex Ogbonnia of the Ohanaeze and elder statesman Tanko Yakasai have spoken about his declaration.
Bode George said that Tinubu is not the type needed by Nigeria, saying he has no credibility to rule, while, Ezekwesili said that Nigerians would be mobilized to resist leaders like Tinubu, “as far as we are concerned, the era of incompetence in governance is over in Nigeria. Tinubu should realise that money would fail in 2023.”
Also the former spokesman for former President Goodluck Jonathan and social critic, Reno Omokri has said that Tinubu needs to be careful about Osinbajo who is playing hide-and-seek with him.
He said the present attitude and silence of Osinbajo “translate to a man who said he was not going to farm, but gathering hoe, cutlass and seeds.”
According to him Osinbajo has not declared but has a lot of people working for him, he argued.
As calculations presently stand, the heat is on, inside the APC more than ever before because Tinubu’s open declaration. Though Nigerian politicians have way of wriggling out of any political cobweb, the current dilemma seems far more complicated that pundits would have envisaged.