The All Progressive Congress, APC, will, today, begin the process of picking its Presidential flag bearer in Abuja, at its two-day national convention. Already, a screening committee, headed by former National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, has screened 23 presidential aspirants eying the number one office in the land. Oyegun and members of his committee, in their wisdom, felt the number was too unwieldy and has reduced it by 10. About 2,340 delegates are already in Abuja to pick the presidential candidate of the APC. However, there is going to be just one super delegate that would determine the fate of the 13 contenders vying for the plum job. That super delegate is President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari, a few days ago, met governors elected on the platform of the party on the need for them to allow him to pick the person that would take over from him. “In keeping with the established internal policies of the Party and as we approach the Convention in a few days, I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the Governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor, who would fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023,” the president said at the meeting, which was also attended by the APC National Chairman, Abdulahi Adamu.
At the meeting with the governors, Buhari also stated the factors he would consider in choosing and supporting a presidential candidate among the aspirants 13 seeking to fly the APC flag to be someone with national appeal that would be able to lead the party to victory in next year’s general election. “Our objective must be the victory of our party and our choice of candidate must be someone who would give the Nigerian masses a sense of victory and confidence even before the elections,” he said. The president left for Spain a few hours after the meeting with the governors, who later convened another meeting on their own to deliberate on the request by the President.
The President’s request was clear and direct. ‘I will like to choose who succeeds me’. The governors, who, in their wisdom, felt they should assist the President in his choice, could not, however, agree on any names to be recommended to the President after several meetings.
The decision by Buhari to show more than a passing interest in who succeeds him has also rankled another major stakeholder in the Party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who felt that the body language from the man from Daura may not be in his favour and has been calling for a level-playing field for the aspirants to test their popularity at the convention. During his meeting with delegates from Ogun State last Thursday, Tinubu threw a jab at Buhari, Osinbajo and even the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, for allegedly working against his ambition.
“If not for me that led the war front, Buhari would not have emerged. He contested first, second and third times, but lost. He even said on television that he would not contest again. But I went to his home in Katsina, I told him you would contest and win, but ‘you would not joke with Yoruba matters. Since he has emerged, I have not been appointed minister. I didn’t get a contract. This time, it’s the Yoruba’s turn and in Yorubaland, it’s my tenure.”
Referring to Abiodun in his remarks, Tinubu said, “This one sitting behind me here, could not have become governor without me. We were at the stadium, they tore all his posters. Even the party flag, they didn’t want to hand it over to him, I was the one who brought it. If he wants to meet God at the right place, he must know that he would not have become governor without God and me.” The jab directed at Abiodun might be due to his tacit support of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, an indigene of the state, who is also in the race for President.
The direct attack on Buhari and Abiodun has sent jitters down the spine of the leadership of the party as they are now in a tight corner on how to handle Tinubu, a very strong pillar in the party. The statement by the national chairman of the party of possible disciplinary measures against Tinubu was simply a stunt as 11 northern governors of the party have also issued a joint statement calling on the party to respect zoning by allowing the south to produce its presidential candidate.
Aside that, Buhari has also met APC aspirants where he directed them to consult and reach out so that the party could have a consensus presidential candidate. If you have been around politicians for some time, you would know that to be a tall order!
The decision to serve as the Super Delegate in picking the APC presidential candidate would not be the first time Buhari would be using such a style to have his way in the party. A few months ago, he did that successfully with his choice of Abdullahi Adamu as the national chairman of the APC. Whether his choice of presidential candidate will go down well with other aspirants is yet to be seen as there are speculations that some of the aspirants, including Tinubu, have a Plan B.
The desire by Buhari to have a say in who succeeds him is also not a new thing in Nigeria as former President Olusegun Obasanjo was fully involved in the process that threw up Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as his successor in 2007. In a field with many retired generals and more popular and better-resourced governors, a then little-known Governor Yar’Adua of Katsina State, who didn’t even aspire to be president won 75% of the 4,007 valid votes cast at the PDP primaries on 17 December 2006. Yar’Adua was Obasanjo’s parting project, for whom no means, fair or foul, was deemed too little or too much. Obasanjo not only rammed his project through the throat of his party but of the country, as Yar’Adua got 24.6 million votes in the general election and the runner up candidate turned out to be Buhari, who got 6.6 million votes.
It is based on this premise that anyone close to the President could be the lucky pick that is fuelling the hopes of a sizeable number of aspirants who collected and submitted the N100 million APC presidential nomination forms. Most of the aspirants in this category know that given the state of play today, their chance of emerging as APC’s candidate on their own is very slim. But being anointed by Buhari can magically transform their fortunes, the same way Obasanjo transformed Yar’Adua’s.
Already, Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, recently gave credence to the fact that many state governors, as well as their delegates, will follow and support whoever Buhari anoints, irrespective of the level of competence of the other APC presidential aspirants and the strength of their manifestos.
Zulum while receiving the campaign team of Rotimi Ameachi, led by the aspirant’s campaign director-general, Ali Ndume, said Borno State delegates have no preferred aspirant at the moment but that the delegates would vote for any credible candidate based on the preference of the president and their convictions.
“Borno State delegates will vote based on their conscience. But again, our leader, Muhammadu Buhari, is very important in this political equation. We are still waiting for him to tell us what to do and we will follow. His advice is very important so we have to wait for his advice.
However, an acolyte of Tinubu who is also the National Vice Chairman of the Party, Salisu Lukman, has written an open letter to the President to reconsider his stand on anointing any of the aspirants but he should instead, ensure a free, fair and credible convention where the standard-bearer of the party would emerge. “As a party, APC must be able to demonstrate much more sensitivity to the challenges of national unity by ensuring that the eventual standard-bearer for the 2023 presidential election embodies commitment to equity and justice as the underlying principles sustaining the corporate existence of Nigeria as a united country. “It is important therefore, to caution our party that we must keep faith with basic tenets of democracy as our major campaign message to Nigerians for the 2023 elections. This was eloquently highlighted in Your Excellency’s message to our Progressive Governors when you stated that “the key to electoral successes is the ability to hold consultations and for members to put the nation above other interests”. The temptation for leaders to choose their successors is democratically risky and very costly. If, in 2013/2014, Your Excellency, could submit yourself to internal democratic process, it is important that your successor also follows the same process,” he noted.
Many of Tinubu’s foot soldiers are said to be working on actualising a Plan B should Buhari eventually decide not to anoint him. The probability of Tinubu contesting the 2023 presidential election on the platform of another party may not be visible as the six-day extension the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, granted to political parties to submit names of their flag bearers for the coming general elections ends on Friday, June 10. But he could play the ‘spoiler’ in the party.
The APC super delegate is yet to speak and when he does, all other delegates are expected to fall in line to actualise his desire for the party and the nation. It is yet to be seen whether his choice will tally with that of the aspirants, if they agree to step down for one another and pick a consensus candidate. Buhari knew, even before asking them, that it would be a difficult scenario and he may have to act as the Super delegate to save the day.
Whether his choice will be in tandem with the wishes and aspirations of millions of Nigerians who are already tired of years of misgovernance and are generally desirous of a younger, more energetic, focused and competent leader remains to be seen.
For the landlord of Lagos, I have no sympathy for him, as the bitter pill he has been forcing down the throat of many politicians in the state since 1999 is now about to be dished for him at the federal level. Let him enjoy it for once.
See you next week.