As the race for the 2023 Presidential election gathers momentum, with juggernauts and gladiators across the political aisle rallying their camps and geo – political regions for the intrigues ahead. We look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the declared aspirants in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as the party gets set for its presidential primaries slated for May.
Since the turn of the year, the Nigerian political space has experienced a swell in activities as projected contenders for the Presidential candidatures of major political parties openly declare their ambitions to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. The curtain of the theatre was allegedly opened by the January 10th declaration of the self styled national leader of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. After then it has been a flurry of declarations and endorsements, with names such as David Umahi, Governor of Ebonyi state, Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Anyim Pius Anyim, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Rotimi Amaechi, Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra state; Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, founder of New Nigeria Group, Dele Momodu, chairman of Ovation media group, Alhaji Bala Mohammed, governor of Bauchi state; Chief Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers state; Udom Emmanuel, governor of Akwa Ibom state; Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, governor of Sokoto state and Ayodele Fayose, among others have been resounding in the media as they join the trend, which has culminated with the much expected declaration of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Osinbajo’s entry into the race after keeping mum for a long time while speculations of his intention saturated the political climate has brought about new permutations and even divisions in the ruling party, particularly in the South West where most analysts have projected would produce the ticket of the APC, even though the party has not expressly micro – zoned or made such declaration, instead apparently opting to zone it to the broader Southern region, if the election of the new chairman of the party from the North Central is anything to go by. Especially because the North under President Muhammadu Buhari has completed two terms in office, automatically setting in motion the unwritten rule of zoning, that has underlined Nigeria’s politics, particularly the Presidential selection since the country’s return to democracy in 1999 points to the ticket oscillating south this time around.
In 2013, the formation of the APC saw various political parties, camps and tendencies coming together in merger to subsequently dislodge in 2015, the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and enthroning the APC led administration of Muhammadu Buhari. Feelings in the ruling party and even beyond is that Buhari, a northerner should be succeeded by a Southerner or even a Southern Christian which advocates says will further the cause of stability and sense of justice in the system. That in 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian from the South became President and was succeeded by the short lived reign of Umar Musa Yar’adua, a Muslim from the North who was subsequently succeeded by Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the South – South, who lost the 2015 election to Buhari, a Muslim from the North and that the pattern should continue.
However, others particularly in the APC, have opposed the contention, saying that the PDP and the APC are two two different political parties and that such blanket equations are preposterous and that given the mounting challenges of economy and insecurity in the country, the best man should lead and that merit should be the overriding principle. It is in this cacophony, intrigues and uncertainty that aspirants in the ruling party have emerged to stake their claims and try out their luck for the party’s ticket.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Tinubu also known as Jagaban, is the self styled national leader of the APC, and was instrumental to the formation and eventual ascendance of the ruling party in 2015. The former Lagos Governor was initially supposed to be the Vice President candidate of the formative APC on a joint ticket with Muhammadu Buhari after the party’s 2014 presidential primaries , but had to drop his ambition after forces in the fold opposed him on the ground that a Muslim Muslim ticket is a taboo in a multi – religious society like Nigeria. Conceding to their position, Tinubu tapped his Attorney General and minister of Justice when he was governor for the position, purportedly alloted to the ACN tendency of the new mega party. With the ensuing administration coming to an end, this political enigma and generalissimo of the South West, once again is seeking to directly exercise power again, this time around at the federal level, as President of the country.
Tinubu also known as the lion of Bourdillon has enjoyed unprecedented influence in the post – 2015 dispensation, through his allies and close associates that have occupied juicy position in the Buhari administration, such as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Minister of Youths and Sports, Sunday Dare, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Babafemi Ojudu, Abiodun Faleke, the chairman of the senate committee on finance, the Special adviser to the President on political matters, Babafemi Ojudu among others. Tinubu was also instrumental to the emergence of Ahmed Lawan as Senate President and is known to be unsparring in supporting the ambitions of other political stakeholders.
He is reputed to have the financial war chest and extensive political network to prosecute his current ambition. He has been endorsed for the top job by some Northern stakeholders including Governor of Kano state, Abdullahi Ganduje, Governor Babagana Zulum and his predecessor, Kashim Shettima, Governor of Niger state, Abubakar Bello, the Emir of Katsina among others. Sensing the importance of the North to his ambition, Tinubu has intensified his rapprochement with stakeholders from the region in the hope of winning their support and inheriting Buhari’s serial 12 million bloc vote from the region. While Tinubu has also gotten legislators from the region to back his quest, the actual import will only be determined by time. In The South West which remains his stronghold, Tinubu despite the whole wranglings engendered by the 2023 politicking, has continued to maintain a fair hold under the broad banner of the SouthWest Agenda.
While Jagaban has been a domineering figure in the emergent APC, it has also stirred up forces against him. As factions and tendencies in the fold have been suspicious of his every move. As seen in the controversial removal of his ally, Adams Oshiomhole as national chairman of the APC in 2020 and in the revalidation and re registration exercise ordered by the succeeding Caretaker and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) allegedly to whittle down his influence on the party. Even before his official declaration, the age factor has weighed heavily against him as more younger elements in the party have considered him to old and frail to succeed a old president that has left the party in a difficult and controversial position with rising prices and worsening insecurity. Both former presidents and elder statement such as Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babaginda and others have denounced any attempt by older politicians to succeed Buhari.
Speaking early this year, IBB reiterated his position saying, Nigeria’s ideal and President must not be an old person like him and must be a very good communicator. Who should be able to engage people on any issue concerning the country.
The former Lagos Governor is not known for these qualities and attributes, even though he claims to be a graduate of a University in the US city of Chicago. He has also been embroiled in controversies and PR fiasco including his spectacular public gaffe.
Also, Tinubu is a Muslim from the Southern region, the same religion as Buhari who is coming to the end of his tenure, with agitations in certain quarters is that it is more proper for him to be succeeded by a Christian from the South which seems to have been the pattern since 1999, when Obasanjo, a Christian from the South was succeeded by Umar Yar’adua, a Muslim from the north and subsequently Goodluck Jonathan a Christian from the South alternately.
Tinubu’s hold on the SouthWest has been shaky of lately as the politics of 2023 gathers momentum especially with some of his proteges expressing both openly and covertly interest in the race. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo recently declared his interest for the race after months of speculations, and former minister of power and the current governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi who is also rumored to be interested in the race is said to be preparing to also to throw his hat in the ring purportedly after the Ramadan season. Others like former governor Amosun of Ogun state are reportedly also interested. The ambitions of these proteges or younger generation aspirants have been tearing the ACN tendency of the APC apart, as more younger and progressive elements in the Tinubu fold have been backing the quest of the Vice President, leading to fracturing and new permutations in the South West.
Speaking before Osinbajo official declaration, the Special adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on political affairs, Babafemi Ojudu said Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo is a better candidate when compared with the former Lagos governor, adding that he will not work with someone he does not believe in.
When asked if he will fall in line if President Buhari supports Tinubu, Ojudu said: “Never. Take that from me, write it down today, I will go back to the farm. If I don’t believe in you I will not work for/with you.
“We are still waiting for Osinbajo to come and tell us if he is running. I personally will want him to do so, but he has not come out, so we will wait, and there is still time.
“If I support Osinbajo, he deserves to be supported… I see the way he works, day and night, committed, not asking for things for himself, committed to the people, committed to Nigeria and well educated.
“He can stand his anywhere in the world, comfortable with the young and the old, conformable with new technology and always coming out with solutions to problems. I mean, it doesn’t cost me anything to align with such a person.
“What am I looking for in life? I’m looking for a better society, a society where everybody can realise themselves. I’m looking for a society where some people will not pile all of a country’s resources into their accounts.
“So if I see somebody who has all of those attributes, I have the right to support that kind of person, so if Osinbajo declares tomorrow that he is running, I will have no apology I will support him, and I will work for him.”
After months of uncertainty, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday, April 11, joined the race to succeed the incumbent as President of Nigeria. Osinbajo who was former attorney general and minister of justice for Lagos when Tinubu was governor, succeeded to the Vice Presidency after he was nominated to the VP ticket by the former after wranglings in the ruling party prevented him from taking up the position. After two terms as Vice President, and having enjoyed the spoils of office, he has decided he wants the plum job for himself. Before his declaration there have been mixed signals in the media as to his plans for 2023 particularly with Tinubu January 10 declaration to vie for the greatest prize of his political career. By throwing his hat into the ring, Osinbajo has not only put to rest speculations about his interest to contest the ticket of the APC but has also set up a battle with his political mentor at the party’s impending presidential primaries.
While there has been clamour for someone who can put an end to Nigeria’s persistent and seemingly intractable problems, Vice President Osibanjo, who is a professor of law and widely known to posses the intellectual dexterity and calm mien has come to be seeing as the man Nigeria needs to restore sanity and order to the system. He has also been known to be loyal to President Buhari despite his affiliation to the Tinubu led ACN tendencies in the ruling party displaying high degree of tact. It is this seeming loyalty that has endeared him with some in the northern establishment, particularly at the President’s home state of Katsina.
Speaking in December last year, when members of the Progressive Consolidation Group paid him, the Emir of Daura, Dr Umar Umar reportedly described the vice president as a noble man who keeps his promises and a trustworthy person who has so much patience and knows what to do at any given time. Similarly, during his recent 65th birthday, Buhari described Osinbajo as a loyal and patriotic deputy. The President had in a message conveyed through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, extolled Osinbajo’s virtues, as a man of many parts who has also displayed clear resourcefulness, loyalty and dedication to duty.
“President Buhari notes the worthy contributions of the Vice President to the development of the country as a lawyer, scholar, administrator and pastor, working selflessly and sacrificially to bring government closer to the people, and placing the people at the centre of governance by regularly advocating policies that support human development.
“As the lawyer and scholar turns 65, the President affirms that his loyalty and dedication to duty have been most exemplary, especially in supervising the economy, which involves regular interface with heads of public and private institutions, and other government structures to ensure synergy and harmony that put the welfare and wellbeing of all Nigerians first’’, the letter had read
Recalled that during one of President Buhari medical vacations in which he handed the affairs of the country to Osinbajo, who proved himself, taking some hard decisions, that have made some to believe that he would be more effective if he had the free reign as President to exercise his intellectual and political dexterity in dealing with issues and solving national problems. He also not only enjoys the seeming confidence of his principal but also governors elected on the platform of the APC.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in his usual style was impressive with words in his declaration and his admirers and supporters have jumped on it with great euphoria that their man has made the long expected stand but his path is still fraught with uncertainties.
Since the ascendancy of APC on the national scene, Osinbajo has navigated the political terrain with great tact and diplomacy balancing factional politics that underlines the the uneasy relationship of the APC merger and the requisite unity in the executive power. Joining the race in which the likes of Tinubu are contenders means going against forces that have feed and nurtured him. While these contenders are gladiators and juggernauts with powerful bottom up political structures, some of which have served and are still serving his purpose among others. Most of those that have been goading the Vice President to throw his hat into the ring are mostly civil societies, youths and student groups, that may not even be party members or even delegates, and have little or no influence on party primaries, when push comes to shove.
While Tinubu his political mentor seems to be waxing strong, going from meetings to meetings in consultations with stakeholders across the country and beyond, his age and health challenge and even his religion poised great obstacle to his ambition as opponents have seized on it to drag him to the mud. Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, the presidency has alternated between Muslim and Christian presidents as observed above.
Some political analysts opine that if this master political strategist estimates that the odds before his ambition seems insurmountable he may be forced to play Osinbajo as his trump card, thus, ceding his structures to support his protégé which will without doubt unite his seemingly fragmented fold with a common sense of purpose, even enhancing his political stature, and project his power power and relevance in the post 2023 dispensation. If Tinubu decides do so powerful blocs and levers in the party, will be force to toe the script, even making room for a possible consensus candidate.
While at the moment, it remains unclear, how Osinbajo intends to grab the ruling party’s ticket at the party’s forthcoming convention, especially against the likes of Tinubu who over time has increased his influence in the APC. According to some analysts, if the old man chooses to stick to his gun and play out his luck at the party’s primary and factional tendencies in APC play out, the VPs ambition ambition may turn out to be nothing but a pipe dream as he lacks the deep pocket and structures. Similarly, he will be standing on the achievements of the Buhari’s administration, which means that he will be inheriting a legacy of failed promises, whether on the economic front, or on the security front, which will not sound palatable with some of the stakeholders in the fold who feel the Buhari government has failed in its entirety and that the country needs something new. There are also those, particularly from the north who see the Vice President as a religious bigot who is unfit to wield the highest and most noble office in the land. Despite Osinbajo’s efforts to endear himself with the northern establishment through his numerous noticeable visits to the region, such sentiments will likely play against him and jeopardize his chances.
Even before he officially declared for the Presidency, Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of Transportation was widely expected to throw his hat into the ring especially after he was recently turbaned as the Dan Amana of Daura, the homestead of President Muhammadu Buhari. Popularly referred as the lion of Obima, Amaechi who served as Governor of Rivers State between 2007 – 2015 was part of the new PDP that broke away from the former ruling party under his fellow kinsman, Goodluck Jonathan to merge with defunct legacy parties of CPC, ANPP, ACN and a faction of APGA, to form the APC in 2014. He subsequently went on to make huge contributions to the fortunes of the nascent party as Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council in 2015 and also in 2019.
Amaechi is from the southern part of Nigeria where the ruling party will presumably zone its presidential ticket this time around after eight years in the north under the incumbent. Amaechi was a very visible face in the early days of the administration saddled with delivering the new government’s transportation policies, which includes the construction of new rail lines, ports and road projects.
The former Governor who is apparently liked by the President and was also recently given the title of Dan Amana of Daura in Katsina state which means “the trusted one” and symbolizes somewhat of an acceptance by the northern elites, and some analyst even believe that by that endorsement he has outsmarted some contenders, that the title, the trusted one means a lot for his political image as he bids for the presidency. While with his new status, he may seem like Buhari’s favourite candidate among the host of aspirants jostling for the ticket, particularly as the President during an interview with Arise TV had revealed that he did not want to disclose his preferred candidate in other for him not to be eliminated.
While the turbaning of Amaechi as Dan Amana of Daura unveils him as another major contender for the presidential ticket of the party, he will no doubt be confronting formidable odds. One of which is that he is from the same South South zone as immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan and the geo-political region has contributed relatively little to the fortunes of the party. Even in his home state of Rivers, the APC does not hold sway, and has been embroiled in a fractious and fratricidal battle for predominance. The only state that the APC holds executive power in the region is Cross Rivers state with the 2020 defection of Governor Ben Ayade from the PDP to the ruling party.
Also the minister has also been entangled in a controversy over a purported leaked audio tape released by Goodluck Jonathan’s ex-aide, Reno Omokri, in which he allegedly flayed his Principal as a dumb person, and that Olusegun Obasanjo was Nigeria’s best president. After he was threatened with the release of more clips, the minister put an end to his hitherto media engagement pattern. Amaechi reportedly said, “The President is not listening to anybody. He doesn’t care. You can write anything you want. The President doesn’t care. Does he read?” So as the political wrangling intensifies with the air thicker with suspicion these tools could come in handy to further dampen his chances.
While the South West seems outstanding in the quest to succeed the incumbent, the dynamics and intricacies of politics has thrown up new permutations in the party both in the South West and across the country. Analysts opine that even before the deluge of open declarations by aspirants in the fold, forces have been hostile to the ambitions of certain juggernauts and even regions, and oppose an pre – 2015 gentlemanly agreement, that in any ensuing fall out in the lead up to the presidential primaries, the Amaechi who has endeared himself with the northern establishment even earning him the title of Dan Amana of Daura, may be the chief beneficiary of the ensuing intrigues and high horse trading.
While the clamour has been for a more younger person to succeed the Presidency in 2023, and Amaechi has been flaunted as a possible option because of his age and seeming competence which he has displayed as minister of transportation and one time Chairman of the Nigerian governors forum, but when compared with other youthful contenders in the party such as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Ibrahim Bello Dauda, Rochas Okorocha among others his chances looks slimmer. His chances is further threatened by the agitations for Igbo Presidency, because though an Igbo by ethnicity, he is not from the Southeast, which would make other contenders for the party’s ticket hostile to his ambition. The politics of geopolitical regions means that his aspiration is seeing by the Southwesterners as separate from the Igbo/ Southeast agitation for presidency.
Those from the Southeast region interested in the ticket include Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, the Chief whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Senator Rochas Okorocha among others.
Both the Southwest and Southeast regions are convinced that they possess a natural right to assume the presidency in 2023, while the Southeast is staking its claim on the strength of the zoning principle that has underlined Nigeria’s politics since 1999, the Southwest on its contributions to the fortunes of the ruling party and contemporary Nigerian politics.
In the north also, there are chieftains of the party who are convinced that it is the turn of the Southwest and specifically Mr Tinubu, given his contribution and that of the Southwest to the current fate of the party. Some even go as far as alleging an agreement between President Buhari and the self styled national leader of the party. Observers opine that even if Tinubu fail to overcome the mounting odds before him, he will back his younger protégé, the Vice President, who is also from the southwest over Amaechi and co.
While Amaechi’s enthronement as the Dan Amana of Daura should ordinarily have been a huge endorsement for a Southerner, however observers believe that the title doesn’t necessarily mean an express endorsement by the Northern elites as the national leader of the APC also holds the title of Jagaban of Borgu emirate in Niger state, also in the North. And both Tinubu and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo have also been lauded by the Katsina Emir, Alhaji Umar Faruq for their support to Buhari and his administration.
Ibrahim Bello Dauda
He came into the race from virtually no where, for he has not been a regular face on the media or visible in the direct exercise of state power, whether on the federal or state level. For though a Buhari man whose assignments have demanded he operated behind the scene but he seems to have become the herald of a new movement for a Nigeria based on fairness, equity and honesty with his catch word, “Nigeria First”. His words have been resounding across board like the biblical John the baptist.
Dr Dauda has been a longtime ally of President Muhammadu Buhari since his days in the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and has been in the APC caucus and strongly involved in the activities of the APC support groups since the ascendancy of the party in 2015, so he understands the internal working of the party including the key power points and brokers.
He is young and vibrant, and possesses the right political gospel and impressive oratorical prowess that is stirring the base of the party.
He is loved by the youths and other marginalized segments, who who see in him someone who can grapple head on with Nigeria’s multi – headed security and economic challenges.
He also possess high educational experiences of service in the private sector which he has held up as necessary for the exercise of such high office in the digital age, which observers say rivals that of vice president Yemi Osinbajo, they include the Institute of Professional managers and administrators of Nigeria, Institute of Management Consultants, Institute of Management Specialists, Institute of Management Accountants. He is even a member of the world institute of Nuclear security.
Despite his eloquent and admirable messages and use of words, Dauda is from the northeast state of Borno, while the party is presumably zoning the ticket to the South, thought the party has officially denounced it. Also, he does not possess the deep pocket when compared with other contenders like Bola Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi, Yahaya Bello and others who have superintended over the treasuries of states or big departments of government, and can muster the funds to buy over the delegates at the impending party primaries.
Speaking recently to news men he said, “I am an advocate of zoning but I have always asked this question, how has zoning fared. If zoning has really worked we won’t be having agitations and insecurity that we have today.
Speaking further he, “In the constitution of the APC and Nigeria, nowhere is zoning written. It is only a gentlemanly agreement. The party can only diplomatically negotiate it but they cannot impose it.
Also, though he has held high offices in the party organizations and political structures he has not presided over formal state power, either at the state or federal government. But according to him, such should’t matter has many of those with the alleged experiences have failed to rescue the country.
As the political game gathers momentum, with seemingly endless intrigues and uncertainties as juggernauts and geo-political forces battle for pre-eminence, no one can say definitely who will pick the party’s ticket, particularly as Tinubu fights to shrug off of oppositions and mounting odds and Osinbajo tags along hoping to benefit from any possible fallout. While it is not yet definitely clear if the north would hand the ticket to the South, with the clamour for the rule of merit, observers opine that Dauda, a northerner from the north east, who is young, vibrant, knowledgeable with a pan – African outlook and strong receptiveness in the ruling party as a member of the support groups directorate of APC Presidential Campaign Office in 2019. And national secretary of the APC women and youth campaign team. Dauda has been putting up a formidable team and movement with cross country endorsements from the Buhari Support Organization to Northern Christian youths and even Niger/Delta militant groups and coalitions, which some observers see as decisive and could decide last minute horse trading and deal making especially if there is a revolt against zoning in the fold.
While Dauda has had a smooth sailing since his declaration as his youthfulness, knowledgeableness and unrivalled charisma has attracted people to him, he will have to contend against other youthful and knowledgeable aspirants like Yemi Osinbajo, Rotimi Amaechi, Yahaya Bello and others, who have since the beginning of this administration have been visible face on the media as they exercise the mandates of their office.
Also his message of progressive and radical changes may not seat well with the more conservative element of the party who want Nigeria to progress gradually and see some of the established names as more steady hands.
To be continued…………………
By Dr Tom Ohikere, former commissioner for information, Kogi state, you can reach him on firstname.lastname@example.org