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Buhari’s ‘indifference’ unsettles APC, others, as permutations favour VP, Amaechi, Tinubu

By Edward Adamidenyo (Deputy Editor) and Tunde Joshua (Politics Editor)

  • Unease over President’s body language
  • ’He hasn’t anointed any candidate’
  • Abiola joins PRP for the presidential race
  • PDP rakes in N680m from 17 aspirants, Obi,
  • Tambuwal, Anyim, others intensify consultations

With the visit of the governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, on Thursday to President Muhammadu Buhari to inform him of his intention to contest the presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the race is gathering momentum.

Before Fayemi, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Transport minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi; former Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and Kogi helmsman Yahaya Bello had publicly declared their bids. The ambitions of Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi, Senate Chip Whip Orji Uzor Kalu and former Lagos State helmsman Bola Ahmed Tinubu, though mentioned, are yet to be formally declared.

Amid permutations favourable to the three major contenders, name dropping by people close to the aspirants indicating the purported closeness of their principals to the Presidency is rife. But the Presidency has remained silent since the body language of President Buhari does not portend his preference for anyone. And although Buhari may not have given his blessings g to any of the aspirants, feelers from the grapevine say that power brokers within the Aso Rock Villa have preferences among the contenders The Trumpet gathered.

Many political observers and policy makers are not comfortable with the lack of clarity on where the interest of the President is tilting among the aspirants, especially those regarded as the major ones This has created room for speculations as to who is the anointed candidate whom Buhari wants to hand over the APC administration to in 2023.

A major factor that serves as a pointer to Buhari’s interest is the power play within the Aso Rock Villa, otherwise known as ‘The Cabal.’ But the Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami to many people is the de facto leader of the cabal. He took charge after the demise of the former Chief of Staff to Buhari, the late Malam Abba Kyari, and he has been the pipeline through which most actions of the government are being dished out.

While it may be difficult to pinpoint on whose side Malami is, it is obvious that he will not only support Buhari’s choice but work it out. The National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, is a close associate of Buhari and his emergence for the role has enlisted him into the cabal. His emergence as Buhari’s preferred candidate against all odds speaks volumes and his assigned mission in the party cannot be doubted.

As aforementioned, there are various permutations in favour of the three leading aspirants amid speculations that a dark horse might emerge owing to Buhari’s alleged indifference. Among those considered as influencers is the First Lady, Mrs Aishat Buhari, who was close to Yahaya Bello but now one of the major backers of Amaechi. Alhough she is currently in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, sources said that her associates are already enlisted on the Amaechi-for-president project. Her influence might look insignificant to some people who see Buhari as unperturbed by such lobby from a wife.

Amaechi has been a close ally of Buhari and his financial contributions to the president’s emergence in the 2014 APC primary, subsequent campaign as well as in 2019 cannot be over-emphasised or underestimated. The former governor of Rivers is a key minister involved in driving the policies and programmes of the Buhari government, particularly the rail networks, many of which are in the north.

These make him a trusted one. His conferment a few months ago with a traditional title in Buhari’s hometown, Daura is significant and seen by many as an indication that the cabal preference scale is tilting towards him. He is also seen as an ideal one to fulfil three roles: a southern Christian to run with a northern Muslim, an Igbo presidency and compensation for the South South not completing the unwritten eight-year tenure under Jonathan unlike Obasanjo and Buhari. Amaechi is also seen as capable of handling the Niger Delta and Biafran unrests as well as garnering South South and South East votes.

Bureaucrats within the Presidency are not left out in the power play as most of them are rooting for Osinbajo to emerge as APC candidate. Political Adviser to the President, Babafemi Ojudu, is believed to be the arrowhead of the Osinbajo-for-President project. He came to the Presidency as one of Tinubu’s political benefactors but he fell out with his former boss and openly profess that the Vice President is the best choice to succeed Buhari.

Permutations favouring Prof. Osinbajo include his academic qualifications (especially legal erudition) , ability to garner South West as a Yoruba votes if he gets the APC ticket, a Christian to run with a northern Muslim for balance as well as his incumbency as the vice president which should ordinary give him the right of first refusal to succeed Buhari. Tinubu equally has some permutations in his favour.

As the party’s ‘National Leader,’ he is regarded as the APC’s most powerful politician after Buhari. However, certain erstwhile powerful forces in Aso Rock backing some of the aspirants may have lost out in the powerplay within Buhari’s kitchen cabinet.

Kaduna Governor Nasir El- Rufai who until lately lost favour with the Villa over APC national leadership tussle and outcome of its convention was a force to reckon with. He is now a staunch projector of Tinubu within the kitchen cabinet. With his influence waning, it is doubtful if he can successfully pull through the Tinubu presidency project.

However, Tinubu also has other strengths such as his political structure in the high population Lagos State, in fact, the Southwest as a Yoruba as well in the core north as a Muslim. But the Islamic card is seen as a double-edged sword for Tinubu if he does not play it well. There are strong speculations that he believes in a Muslim-Muslim ticket helmed by him winning the presidency as Yoruba Christians will vote for him due to ethnic solidarity.

He is said to have in the past sought to run with Atiku and Buhari who are Muslims. He allegedly cited the victorious Abiola-Kingibe MuslimMuslim ticket in the annulled 1993 elections and the Buhari-Idiagbon (Muslim-Muslim) regime that was welcomed by Nigerians after the coup that that brought it to power.

However, critics of the Muslim-Muslim ticket say that the times have changed and that the ethnoreligious fault lines have deepened since the voided 1993 elections. Some have also accused Tinubu of religious arrogance and insensitivity although his wife is a Christian.

But some pro-Tinubu people believe that they can clinch the presidency with Southwest and core Muslim North votes, arguing that South South, South East and Middle Belt/North Central ballots won’t significantly affect his religious and Yoruba advantage.

Tinubu’s age and health as well as the opposition of the umbrella Yoruba socio-cultural group Afeniifere to his bid are also counted against him. The presidential ambition of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele, though still in the realm of speculation, is difficult to just dismiss with his position in the financial system.

Another name in the APC race to succeed Buhari is Science and Technology Minister Ogbonnaya. He was a stalwart of Buhari’s defunct CPC as its national chairman. However, persons close to and who understand Buhari said the President’s disposition might not be towards any of the names or aspirants being touted and bandied about. One said: “All those jostling may end up as huge jokes as President Buhari that we know might spring surprises.

He may not have his preference among any of these ones as he may prop up a dark horse. “You should be guided by what happened with the choice of the APC national chairman. Look at how the President’s men just raised Senator Abdullahi Adamu and the leading contenders were compelled to step down from the race. “So, you should not overrule any possibility.

The game is not over until it is over. “While the game to outsmart one another continues among the power blocs within the Presidency, it is hoped that an acceptable candidate will emerge as APC presidential standard-bearer.” Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) to run for the presidency in 2023. He is the eldest son of the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, who is presumed to have won the annuled June 12, 1993 presidential election.

Abiola was formally accepted into the party on Thursday at its national secretariat in Abuja by Falalu Bello, its National Chairman. Receiving him, Bello said: “I formally welcome you into our fold. Your antecedents speak volumes.” Earlier, Abiola said: “Today makes my formal inroad after 27 years, back into politics. I particularly picked to come back into politics through the PRP for some good reasons. “I have gone back to the history of Nigeria to look at the party that truly represents Nigeria.

I have gone back and I have found out that the oldest living party is the PRP; it still holds those ideals of what Nigeria and democratic practice should be like. “The PRP is a party that was started by the people and truly for the people. It is a party that has shown first, as its priority, internal democracy. “I have come back to PRP to show Nigerians that not too long ago, we did things in the right way and the new entities that have come together nowadays forget that there was a Nigeria that did things right.

“I am one that believes in an equal opportunity be it employment, be it business, equally in politics and I believe this party represents all of these. “Everybody should have equal opportunity, irrespective of age, religion and ethnicity and that is represented here.” Expressing concern over the low participation of youths in politics, he said: “We have a youth population that has been caught out of the system, the political process.

“The first thing I want to do is to disrupt the political process, to disabuse the minds of the youth about godfatherism. “The way to do this is to give the true owners of Nigeria, that is, the 18 to 36 years age group that makes up over 75 per cent of the population, an opportunity for their voices to be heard and their numbers to count.”

He said PRP is the only party that could give youths such an opportunity to make their numbers count. His father was an influential politician who took the political landscape by storm in 1993 when he ran for the presidency on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP.

In what many thought was a political blitz, Alhaji Abiola won on the first ballot securing popular votes in the North and South of Nigeria after promising to banish poverty by driving down the cost of food, goods and services. He was however arrested and imprisoned after the military junta at the time headed by General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the elections.

Abiola later died while in custody in controversial circumstances. The entrance of Kola into the presidential race could rekindle old memories among Nigerians who still believe the family was unjustly denied the opportunity to rule Africa’s most populous country. On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has earned N680 million from sale of Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms to 17 presidential aspirants.

Those who had previously collected forms included former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; erstwhile Senate President Bukola Saraki, and former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi. Another former Senate President and erstwhile Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim; industrialist Mazi Sam Ohuambuwa, medical doctor Nwachukwu Anankwenze, media icon Dele Momodu, Cosmos Chukwudi Ndukwe and the only woman in the race, Olivier Diana Tariela, have also done the needful.

Governors Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto State), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), and Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) as well as a former Ekiti helmsman Ayodele Fayose and businessman Hayatu Deen Mohammed are also in the PDP presidential ticket race. Each of them paid the total sum of N40 million to obtain the forms which will enable them to participate in the PDP presidential primary election which holds between May 28 and 29.

Read Also: Yoruba groups to support pro-restructuring presidential candidate in 2023

Meanwhile, in the last 48 hours, some of the aspirants continue consultations with different organs and stakeholders within the party Saraki, Anyim, Obi, Bala Mohammed, Tambuwal, Udom Emmanuel and others have been consulting caucuses of the party in both chambers of the National Assembly, members of the Board of Trustees (BoT), forum of former minsters as well as some incumbent governors. Also, the PDP’s National Working Committee (NWC) has been receiving aspirants who came to present their intention to seek the party’s presidential ticket.

On Tuesday, Bala Mohammed canvassed the support of his former minister-colleagues under PDP administrations, particularly that of former President Goodluck Jonathan. He told the former ministers that he wants to deploy his wealth of experience as a journalist, lawmaker, minister and a state governor to in administering the country.

Mohammed said he will not be a sectional leader or religious bigot, but unify all sections of the country. “I want to be a president of all Nigerians, “ he said. He was at the PDP secretariat on Wednesday to inform the NWC of his intention and later met with members of the BoT.

Mohammed noted that he is not the best of the 17 presidential aspirants but has what it takes to lead. He, though, promised to work with anyone that emerges as the party’s candidate. Before him, Anyim was before the NWC where he presented a blueprint of his mission to “rescue the country from the misrule” of the APC. Saraki also engaged members of the BoT.

Emmanuel while meeting with members of PDP House of Representatives Caucus said he has the capacity to create wealth and strengthen the nation’s currency. Emmanuel said that tackling Nigeria problems is not rocket science but right leadership adopting right policies and decisions.

He stressed that with right leadership, Nigeria has no reason to go through the challenges it was currently going through. He remarked: “The problem we have in Nigeria today is that we don’t have leaders who can create money. If you don’t how to create money, you will not know how to run an economy.” He added that Nigeria needed a leader who can create wealth, which he said he had demonstrated in Akwa Ibom State by venturing into airlines and other businesses.

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