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2023 Poll: Uncertainty, intrigues unsettle APC, PDP as govs eye Presidency

By Leo Sobechi, (Deputy Politics Editor) and Adamu Abuh, Abuja
30 January 2022   |   4:11 am
Countless meetings are being held in various spots in Abuja, the Federal Capital. From each of the meetings, heavyweight political actors emerge with despondency and furrowed faces.

Osinbajo, Atiku, Tinubu, Saraki, Okorocha, Kalu Strategise

Countless meetings are being held in various spots in Abuja, the Federal Capital. From each of the meetings, heavyweight political actors emerge with despondency and furrowed faces.
    
The build-up to the historic 2023 general elections in Nigeria is proving a very tough knot to untie. The fallouts of the 2020 #EndSARS protest, which activated the conversations over the Not-Too-Young-Run Law, as well as debates on electoral reforms, have combined to make the polity fluid.
  
In the two major political parties – the governing All Progressives Congress and opposition Peoples Democratic party (PDP) – the zoning convention, as well as mode of nominating standard bearers for election are not helping matters.

Wike’s Rally Against Old Guards
For instance, with the opposition PDP, the 13 governors elected on its platform have begun serious political bargain to throw up the party’s Presidential candidate from within their fold.
 
The governors appear ready to botch the presidential ambition of other aspirants including, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former president of the Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, among others is being threatened. But these aspirants have intensified consultations and campaigns.
  
Despite their determination to install one of them as President, the state chief executives, it was learnt, are beginning to encounter some problems in resolving the competing political interests among themselves ahead of the party’s Presidential primary election later this year.
  
Interestingly, 10 out of the 13 governors, including those of Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Enugu, Abia,Benue, Sokoto, Taraba, and Bauchi States, are on the last lap of their final terms in office, with the exception of  three others from Bayelsa, Oyo, and Edo. 
   
A source within the PDP Governors Forum, the umbrella body of the governors, disclosed that although none has indicated interest in the Presidential race, the issue of unity and political harmony has been a matter of collective concern. 
  
Governors Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State are frontliners believed to be interested in the Presidential race. 
   

Atiku. Photo/Facebook/Atiku Abubakar

Findings have also confirmed that the governors’ successful outing in conducting a peaceful national convention, which produced the Iyorchia Ayu-led National Working Committee (NWC) last December, has bolstered hope that the governors would pull off another stunt that would produce a Presidential candidate from among them.
   

Said the source: “As you can observe, the governors are completely in charge of the affairs of the party in terms of funding and putting the leadership in place. So, it will not be difficult for them to influence the party leadership to nominate any of them for the presidency when the time comes.”
  
However, it was gathered that forging similar unanimity on who to anoint has remained an issue, particularly when no decision has been taken on the contentious issue of zoning. 
   
It would be recalled that the Bala Mohammed committee recommended that the contest for the Presidency should be thrown open to all zones, but the nebulous stance has remained the only document in the party, even as the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) was yet to ratify it.
 
Meanwhile, key leaders of the PDP Governors’ Forum, including its chairman and Sokoto State governor, Tambuwal, the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike have been spearheading moves to keep the governors united ahead of the forthcoming Presidential primaries. 
 
But despite the emerging political scenario in the PDP Governors’ Forum, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, has sustained his political consultation and subtle campaigns across the country. 
  
The Atiku Abubakar Campaign Caretaker Committee led by Chief Raymond Dokpesi, maintains that Atiku remains the only one that can bring back the country on the path of unity and peace. 
   
Dokpesi told party stakeholders in Adamawa recently that Atiku Abubakar Presidency would restore the economic vibrancy of Nigeria 
   

Wike. Photo/ facebook/GovernorNyesomEzenwoWikeCON

Also, in declaring his ambition to contest the Presidential election last week, Saraki spoke about his capacity to restore security and safety to the country if elected president. 
  
He had posted on his facebook page, “Join me to make our communities safer and provide real opportunities for you and your families. I have a strong record of delivering and experience in making tough decisions.”

Feverish Manoeuvres In APC
Nonetheless, as the 2023 poll draws closer, intrigues and manoeuvres among APC bigwigs angling for the exalted seat is becoming feverish. Among those who have publicly declared interest to seek the party’s ticket are, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governors Dave Umahi and Yahaya Bello of Ebonyi and Kogi states, respectively, while Senators Orji Uzor Kalu and Owelle Rochas Okorocha have also informed their colleagues in the Senate.
 
Pressures are being piled on the Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo to take a plunge just as it is being speculated that the outgoing governor of Ekiti state, Dr Kayode Fayemi and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike and the former President Goodluck Jonathan may soon join the fray as the race heats up.
 
The APC gladiators and their supporters have been advancing reasons such as merit, competence and the need to adhere to power rotation from the North to the South to position themselves for the plum job.
 
Beyond the issue of power shift to the South is also the debate surrounding the need to micro zone the seat to the South South and South East geopolitical zones as against the South West geopolitical zone where the pendulum might swing to.
 
The likes of Okorocha, Umahi and Kalu insist that it would be fair and equitable to zone the presidency to the South East geopolitical zone, which had not tasted power since 1966 when Gen Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi held sway before he was assassinated in a military putch.
 
OkorochA, who led some factions of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to form the APC particularly warned the leadership of the party against picking a northern candidate for the 2023 presidential poll.
 
Those pushing for power shift to South East, argue that Ndigbo had not attained any other top seat since the exit of Alex Ekwueme and Ebitu Ukiwe who served as Vice President to President Shehu Shagari in the second republic and the military regime led by Gen Ibrahim Babangida over 30 years ago.
 
Amaechi who is said to have subterraneously reaching out to key stakeholders of the party , particularly in the North is also banking on the argument that the South South geopolitical zone which oils the country’s economy be allowed to complete Jonathan full two term tenure of 4 years each. 
 
There are also talks among a few members of the cabals surrounding President Buhari to reconsider Jonathan whose sense of magnanimity in ceding power without a single gun shot after his defeat at the poll in the 2015 poll.
 
Power brokers from the North argue that ceding power to Jonathan would easily pave the way for one of their own to regain power after 4 years as against 8 years of it is allowed to slip into the hands of any of the aspirants in the south east or South West geopolitical zones.

Pro-Tinubu, Osinbajo Camps Strategise
There had been war of words between Tinubu supporters and those of Osinbajo in recent time on the suitability of the duo to succeed President Buhari in the 2023 poll.
 
Tinubu, who shrugged off the question on his potential race with Osinbajo at the party primaries have already approached President Buhari for his blessing ahead of his formal declaration for the exalted seat.
 


Already, the National Coalition Group (NCG) led by Mr Fagbemi Opeyemi gave Osinbajo a 30 days ultimatum to declare interest to run for the Office of the President.
 
Warning against the danger of heading to the Presidential election with an experimental candidate, the group maintained that Osinbajo has the right of first refusal to lead the country in 2023. 
 
The group argued that Osinbajo is well prepared with deep knowledge and cerebral intelligence to succeed President Buhari.
 
The group said: “With you, a new Nigeria is possible. You are a tested and trusted hand, fully detribalized; we believe that you will deploy your ideas and best practices to lift the great expectations of Nigerians.
 
“It is important to note that 2023 Presidential contest would not be between Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and All Progressive Congress, APC, in a hypothetical sense, the election is between APC and the voters, thus; any mistake in the choice of candidate could have fatal consequences with possibilities of provoking voters’ apathy, protests or protest votes. Please declare!
 
“The issue of transition in Nigeria as of today is no longer about transfer of power from one civilian administration transitioning to another, what matters today are issues of development and people-focused leadership.
 
“Consequently, leading Nigeria from where President Muhammadu Buhari would stop in 2023 requires someone with a deep understanding of the present efforts being made by the President; someone with undoubted intellect, capacity and integrity. You are the person. Please declare!”
 
Dr Kayode Ajulo who is the Coordinator, Progressive Lawyers For Osinbajo (PYO), Dr Kayode Ajulo Tinubu speaking in the same vein asked Tinubu to shelve his presidential ambition by steping down for Osinbajo.
 
Reacting to reports of Tinubu’s visit to former President Ibrahim Babangida in Minna last week, to enlist Babangida’s support to achieve his objective, the right activist remarked that the ex-military president who had encountered such scenario in the past is in the best position to advise the former Lagos State Governor.
 

“It should be recalled that President Babangida in 2007 after signifying his interest to run for the office of the President, withdrew the bid for President Umaru Yar’adua on the ground that Yar’adua was his younger brother.
 

Osinbajo

“Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the political leader of Prof. Osinbajo. In fact, he was a major influence on how the VP got his present position and I am sure he’s proud of his numerous achievements. Asiwaju will do well to throw his weight behind the VP to become the next President”. Ajulo said.
 
A pro Tinubu group under the aegis of the Progressive Project (TPP), led by Mr. Jeffry Omoh, promised to mobilise delegates during the presidential primary based on patriotism, and not on “cash and carry basis.”
 
Tinubu, who remains unperturbed by the antics of his political adversaries says his track record of experience place him in good stead to lead the country.
 
“I don’t want to discuss individuals now. I must discuss myself. I have the confidence, vision and capacity to rule, build on the foundation of Mr. President, and turn Nigeria better. I’ve done that before in Lagos State. You’ve seen that experience and the capacity to turn things around and that is what we are doing,” Tinubu told reporters shortly after meeting with President Buhari on his ambition.
 
Penultimate week, hundreds of his supporters converged in Abuja to remind those angling for the presidency that they stand no chance against the former Lagos state governor and Jagaban of Borgu.
 
At the event chaired by the former governor of Borno state, Senator Kashim Shettima, they pointed at Tinubu yeoman’s role in the emergence of President Buhari as President in the 2015 poll to justify their position.
 

Shettima who chaired the event called for power shift to the south, adding that Tinubu deserves to take the place of President Buhari having paid his dues like no other person in the APC.
 
According to him: “In 2015, some aspirants with very huge war chest were itching to clinch the ticket of the APC, like the rock of gibraltar, Asiwaju and his progressive team stood solidly behind the candidature of Presidency Muhamadu Buhari. 
 
“My simple question distinguished ladies and gentlemen where were the new members of what I call: ‘The Buhari’s Church of Later Days Saints’ where were they? We knew where their political loyalty laid in that particular convention when President Muhamadu emerged as the presidential candidate of the APC. Where were they?  

“Some people say everything goes in politics, not everything goes in politics.We shall have minimal thresholds below which we won’t operate and the irreducible minimum is that after eight years of Presidency in the North, the logic, common sense, equity, justice and fairness demand that power should move to the Southern part of the country.
 
“And who is better qualified? Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu should be given the choice of first refusal. More than any other person, he has sacrificed more for this democracy, for the APC.
 
“He is a tested, accomplished and large-hearted leader who has invested his resources in building an extensive network of political mentees who have risen to the pick of their careers. He’s a leader of leaders. A mentor who has mentored some of the best hands in this country.”