Joshua Omoloye, Politics Editor, Abuja
Though frayed nerves among members of the All Progressive Congress (APC) may have been calmed with the announced zoning of executive positions to the six geopolitical zones, battle of wits may have just begun among gladiators in the ruling party.
Tension at the centre, the Buhari House APC national secretariat must have been diffused as persons aspiring for different positions now know their eligibility to vie for positions of interest.
But according to the timetable of events released by the party, activities now shift to the six geopolitical zones ahead of the March 14 zonal congresses and invariably, war of wits and supremacy have just started.
The battle accordingly is going to be a double edged sword for presidential and National Working Committee (NWC) position aspirants.
Every politics is said to be local, hence gladiators have to scheme and mobilize votes from their constituents.
Stiff battles are expected in the three zones of the southern part of the country because of APC zoning of presidential ticket to the South.
Presidential aspirants from the South West must strive to outdo one another to ensure their loyalists win national offices zoned to the South West.
As expected by party leadership, APC members in states of Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Lagos and Ekiti should arrive at an agreeable arrangement to micro – zone National Secretary, National Vice Chairman (South West), National Youth Leader and Deputy National Auditor positions among the states.
However, there is fear that APC in the South West may come out of the zonal congress more divided than united because of current supremacy crisis by party chieftains.
It is glaring that the National Leader of APC and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu no more enjoy the over – bearing influence he used to have in Yorubaland except in Osun State where his cousin, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola hold sway.
Former governor, Ibikunle Amosun still controls a sizeable number of Ogun State APC members and he is not in good term with Tinubu. Also, Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi will not give in for Tinubu to have his way. Even, Tinubu currently has rough shoulder with Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu.
In Lagos where Tinubu has his large army of followers, all could not be said to be well as minister of Interior Affairs, Rauf Aregbesola is ready to team up with APC renegades such as former governor, Akinwumi Ambode to decimate Tinubu’s influence in the congress.
Consequently, it will be difficult to produce consensus candidates for zonal positions of Secretary, Youth Leader, Organising Secretary, Women Leader and Special (Person’s Living with Disabilities) Leader.
Results of the zonal congress in South West may determine chances of Tinubu’s presidential ambition as his assumed antagonists are allegedly propping up Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo while Fayemi on the other hand is said to be nursing ambition.
In the South East in which agitation for power rotation is much intense, there will be no less tussle among presidential contenders like the Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, former Imo governor, Rochas Okorocha and former Abia governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, among others.
These gladiators which may include Science and Technology minister, Ogbonnaya Onu are to lock horns in electing; Deputy National Chairman (South), National Vice Chairman ( South East), National Treasurer, National Welfare Secretary and Deputy National Organising Secretary.
South East APC governors; Hope Uzodinma and David Umahi are ready to exert their influence with Aso Rock Villa in scheming for control of APC machinery in the region where there are other chieftains like former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Senator Andy Uba, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, Senator Osita Izunazo and the Director General, Voice of Nigeria, Chief Osita Okechukwu.
Another zone where serious political intrigues may play out is the South South from where came top government functionaries such as Transport Minister, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, Minister of State for Petroleum, Timpre Sylva, Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, Magnus Abbe, Cross River governor, Ben Ayade, Niger Delta Affairs minister, Goodwill Akpabio, Sen. Ita Enang , Secretary of APC Caretaker Committee, Sen. John Akpanudoedehe and former NNzpC boss, Ibe Kachiku.
Other gladiators in the zone include Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo – Agege and many serving senators.
Apart from Amaechi, Sylva, Emefiele who may be nursing presidential ambition or being propelled to run, majority of the chieftains are eyeing governorship positions of their states and are leaving no stone unturn to secure party structure now that it is certain APC may adopt direct mode of election for governorship primaries in states.
Positions zoned to the South South are; National Vice Chairman (South South), National Publicity Secretary, National Woman Leader, Deputy National Treasurer and Deputy National Welfare Secretary in addition to zonal positions.
Political observers will watch with keen interest how these positions will be shared among states of Edo, Delta, Rivers, Cross River, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom.
The presumed endorsement of Senator Abdullahi Adamu from Nasarawa State as consensus national chairmanship candidate of APC may threaten the relative cohesion in the North Central zone.
A former governor of Nasarawa State, Sen. Tanko Al- makura may fight the political battle of his life after presumably losing out of the chairmanship race by teeming up with loyal party leaders to contend control of APC machinery in the state. He will have the state governor, Abdullahi Sule and Senator Adamu to contend with.
All the five APC governors of Kogi, Kwara, Plateau, Niger and Nasarawa are power brokers in their states and are in good stead with other party chieftains except Kwara where there is sharp division between Governor Abdulrazak Abdulrahman’s faction and the minority few that are loyal to Information minister, Lai Mohammed.
Definitely, sharing of other positions like; National Vice Chairman (North Central), Deputy National Secretary, Deputy National Legal Adviser, Deputy National Publicity Secretary and statutory zonal positions will not be a tea party.
Coming to the North West, there will be power play in volatile states like Kano and Kaduna and less conflict in Kebbi, Katsina and Zamfara. While President Muhammadu Buhari may be a stabilizing factor in Katsina, Zamfara State governor, Matawalle faces a combined forces of his predecessor, Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Kabiru Marafa to contend with in controlling the soul of APC in Zamfara.
Governor Ganduje is enjoying fragile control in Kano while governor Nazir el- Rufai’s antagonists are mostly outside APC. Ganduje still have a running battle with former governor Ibrahim Shekarau
Though these governors are all members of the Progressive Governors Forum under the chairmanship of Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi, the governorship fraternity may be put to test in an attempt to have consensus candidates for, National Vice Chairman (North West), National Legal Adviser, National Organising Secretary, National Financial Secretary and Deputy National Youth Leader positions as well as other zonal officers.
Lastly, it will be a battle of relevance for former governors Ali Modu Sheriff and Sen. Kashim Shettima in Borno, Danjuma Goje, and Ibrahim Gaidam in Yobe, Bindo Jibrilla in Adamawa and Adamu Muazu in Bauchi etc.
Sitting governors, Babagana Zulum of Borno, Mai Mala Buni of Yobe, Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe are enjoying popularity in their states.
The Noth East zone will produce Deputy National Chairman (North), National Vice Chairman (North East), National Auditor, Deputy National Financial Secretary and Deputy National Women Leader.
In the expected battle of wits, sitting legislators particularly in the National Assembly have to go extra miles in ensuring return tickets to the hallowed chambers.
Governors in their respective APC controlled states no doubt may determine who returns back to Abuja.
Recall that the provision for compulsory direct primary mode for governorship election was allegedly imposed in the rejected Electoral Bill to whittle powers of state governors in deciding who gets what.
Now, the stage is set for the survival of the fittest politically.