The die is cast for the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) as D-Day is just around the corner. The race for the presidential ticket of the party, ahead of the 2023 General Election is now at its climax and in the next two to three days, a clear winner would have emerged as the party’s flagbearer .
THEWILL can authoritatively report that unless the unexpected happens, the much-anticipated APC presidential primary, which is now scheduled to take place between Monday, June 6 and Wednesday, June 8, 2022 in Abuja, after a series of postponements, political scheming and permutations, is going to be a two-horse race.
THE TWO-HORSE RACE
At the time of filing this report, THEWILL checks show the race for the APC presidential ticket in the 2023 General Election had finally been narrowed down to the duo of the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who is a top contender from the South, and Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, believed to be the poster boy of some powerful northern clique to match Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who is also from the North. A third contender, with a great hope of stepping into the shoes of his master for the sake of continuity, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, surprisingly dropped from the radar at the last minute.
OTHER ASPIRANTS IN FLIGHT OF FANCY
No fewer than 20 aspirants had earlier been screened by the APC Presidential Screening Committee led by a former Governor of Edo State and former National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, for the contest, with the leading aspirants expressing the hope of clinching the ticket at the Presidential Convention. The already screened aspirants include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Senator Ahmad Lawan; Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State; Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State; Pastor Tunde Bakare; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; a female aspirant, Mrs Uju Ken-Ohanenye; Mr Tein Jack Rich; Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Senator Rochas Okorocha.
Others include a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; former Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu; former Minister of Information, Ikeobasi Mokelu; Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State; former Governor of Zamfara State, Sani Yerima; immediate past Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; a former presidential candidate, Nicholas Felix; Senator Ajayi Boroffice and former Senate President, Ken Nnamani.
The leading aspirants have also been going round the country to mobilse support for their aspirations and wooing the various states’ delegates for their cause. The party, however, came up with a sucker punch on Friday, June 3, when the APC Presidential Screening Committee chairman, Oyegun, announced the disqualification of 10 of the screened aspirants from participating in the presidential primary.
The aspirants cleared to participate in the primary are: Abubakar Badaru, Godswill Akpabio, Rotimi Amaechi, Ibikunle Amosun, Yahaya Bello, Kayode Fayemi, Jack-Rich Tein, Ahmad Lawan, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, Christopher Onu, Yemi Osinbajo, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Dave Umahi. This is believed to be in line with the instruction earlier given by President MuhammaduBuhari that the list of the aspirants be pruned to 10 names.
BUHARI TO ‘ANOINT’ SUCCESSOR
However, despite the initial confidence exuded by quite a few of the leading aspirants, especially Asiwaju Tinubu and VP Osinbajo, among others, THEWILL gathered that the three-day presidential primary in Abuja is expected to result in shocking outcomes.
While the hopes of some of the leading aspirants have already been dashed, the highpoint of the APC presidential primary will be the emergence of the ‘anointed’ candidate of the party’s leader, President Buhari, who had earlier pleaded with the APC governors to allow him to choose his successor. The President, as previously reported exclusively by this newspaper, had earlier instructed the party’s national chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, to narrow the number of aspirants down to 10 to enable him make his choice.
DOUBTS OVER TINUBU’S CHANCES
Indications have also emerged that despite touting and flaunting himself as the most qualified aspirant to match Atiku Abubakar of the PDP at the poll and succeed President Buhari in 2023, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s chances have also dimmed significantly. Apart from the fact that he appears not to be in the good books of the ‘Aso Rock cabals’ as he has severally been shown the red flag, Tinubu may have also sealed his fate by his careless and arrogant outburst last Thursday in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, where he said that he was the one who made Buhari president and that the incumbent governor of the state, Dapo Abiodun, wouldn’t have dreamt of becoming a governor without his support.
A political miscalculation, according to observers of the event, Tinubu may have committed a big blunder that may not only put paid to his chances of becoming the number 1 citizen of Nigeria, come 2023, he may have also inadvertently thrown himself into a bigger problem.
THE PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY
THEWILL investigation has however revealed that the highly cerebral event may just be an anointing ceremony in which President Buhari will anoint either Amaechi or Lawan as his preferred presidential candidate of the APC, while the other aspirants would be asked to respect the party’s decision on a consensus candidate with the several delegates left with no choice than to toe the party’s line. This newspaper gathered that while the eight southern governors in the party, three of them – Governors Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Ben Ayade of Cross River State and David Umahi of Ebonyi State – who are among the 19 presidential aspirants of the party, have unanimously resolved that the top position should go to not only the South, but also one of their own, a governor, either former or serving, some northern elements in the party are strongly rooting for Lawan, a northerner from Yobe State in North-West geopolitical zone of the country.
CONSENSUS, ZONING UNSETTLE ASPIRANTS, STAKEHOLDERS
All these developments are coming even as APC’s zoning and the much flaunted but controversial consensus arrangements continue to unsettle both the aspirants and other stakeholders in the party. Already, nine northern governors are said to have joined their southern counterparts in the push for a southern candidate as they believe that a strong candidate from the South could also match PDP’s Atiku Abubakar in the big battle ahead. They also believe that the zoning arrangement, which the party dearly subscribes to, but is about to be jettisoned for political expediency, must be respected. To these nine governors, it is the turn of the South to produce the presidential candidate of the ruling APC.
The governors, according to a source close to the development, are Governors Babagana Zulum of Borno State; Simeon Lalong of Plateau State; Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State and Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State.
Others are Governors Aminu Masari of Katsina State; Abubakar Bello of Niger State; AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State; Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State.
WHO THE CAP FITS: BETWEEN AMAECHI AND LAWAN
Fifty-six year-old Rotimi Amaechi is from Rivers State in the South-South geopolitical zone of the country. A former Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly for two terms, between 1999 and 2007, he was also a two-term governor of the state between 2007 and 2015.
Amaechi, who was the Minister of Transportation between 2015 and May 2022, is believed to be highly favoured by President Buhari. His Dan Amanar Daura (the trusted son of Daura)’s honour by Buhari’s kinsmen in Katsina is an indication of how much he is loved in the North.
The Director-General of the Buhari-Osinbajo Presidential Campaign Committee in the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections, Amaechi is believed to have met the benchmark of outstanding service as a minister as he also fits the bridge between the old and younger generations. At 56, the immediate past Minister of Transportation is seen as being capable of birthing the much-vaunted generational shift in Nigeria’s political leadership. As a hybrid of Igbo extraction (South-East and South-South), he is seen to fit into the President’s calculation of giving the presidential ticket to the South-East coupled with his outstanding performances, especially in the infrastructure development of the country.
Sixty-two year-old Ahmad Lawan is from a minority tribe in Yobe State in the North-East geopolitical zone of the country. One of the longest -serving members of the National Assembly, Lawan was a Member, House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007; Member, Nigerian Senate from 2007 till date and he became the Senate President in 2019, a position he occupies till date.
Senator Lawan is one of the poster boys of the North, who is quite popular in the National Assembly as one of the longest-serving members. He is believed to have the capacity to mobilise support from lawmakers in both chambers to his cause as the Senate President.
Lawan’s candidacy is being promoted by a powerful clique around the President, who argue that he is the party’s best chance at taking on and defeating Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in next year’s presidential election.