With VP in, presidential race finally takes shape


  • Intrigues tear Aso Rock apart over Buhari’s successor
  • President’s loyalists queue behind Osinbajo, Amaechi, Tinubu
  • Dark horse may emerge
  • PDP’s political, ex-military chiefs mull Obi-Tambuwal ticket
  • Saraki hinges PDP victory on consensus candidate
  • Consensus talk not northern agenda, says Senate ex-president

Developments in the past 1 8 0 – 2 4 0 hours within the All Progressives Congress (APC) have, in bold relief, painted the colour and picture of the race for the presidential ticket of the ruling political party for the 2023 general elections. This is because two powerful members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet declared their interest to succeed him.

Transport Minister Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi at the weekend in Port- Harcourt, Rivers State made his public declaration while on Monday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stylishly entered the race.

Suddenly, political fireworks were ignited and hidden facts started surfacing through actions and uttetances of political actors. In the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a chieftain, Tunde Akogun, hinted that its power brokers were working on a Peter Obi-Aminu Tambuwal ticket.

Also in the PDP and elsewhere in other opposition parties, presidential interest and ambitions have been declared. They include former Vice President Atiku Abukakar, erstwhile Senate President Bukola Saraki, Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed, all in the PDP; civil society activist Omoyele Sowore, and Kingsley Moghalu among others.

Sowore, a former president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and publisher of Sahara Reporters, is running on the platform of African Action Congress (AAC). Akogun hinted that Saraki, also a former Kwara State governor, is among those brokering the deal for the PDP to field former Anambra Governor Obi and current Sokoto helmsman Tambuwal for the 2023 electoral battle.

Atiku has pladged to step down for and support a PDP ticket helmed by a Southeast candidate and not one headed by anybody from another region. Others in the race from outside the region are Atiku himself, Saraki, Tambuwal, Bala and Zayyad Hayatudeen (all North); Rivers helmsman Nyesom Wike, Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel and Ovation magazine publisher Dele Momodu (all South South) as well as maverick Ekiti PDP supremo Ayodele Fayose (Southwest). Before Amaechi and Osinbajo, former Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and Kogi’s current helmsman Yahaya Bello had publicly declared in the APC.

Also in the race on the platform of the ruling party are Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi, Senate Chief Whip Orji Uzor Kalu and former Lagos State helmsman Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is among the party’s three frontrunners including Osinbajo and Amaechi.

APC is yet to release its election timetable and schedule of activities but some of the aspirants like Tinubu, Osinbajo and Amaechi are consulting with its stakeholders and other influential Nigerians outside the party.

There has been name dropping by some aspirants’ aides and confidants indicating the purported closeness of their principals to the Presidency. But the Presidency has remained silent since the body language of Buhari does not openly show his preference for anyone.

Buhari may not have given his blessing to any of the aspirants but feelers from the grapevine indicate that power brokers within the Aso Rock Villa have preferences among the contenders. Although First Lady, Mrs Aishat Buhari, is not actively involved in Villa politicking, her influence cannot be underestimated.

She was reportedly an associate of Kogi State Governor Bello but is believed to have recently tilted towards Amaechi . Her running battle with one of Buhari’s uncles, Mamman Daura, it was suspected, forced her into leaving the Villa for Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

For this reason, her interest is not tilting towards the preferences of other members of the presidency cabal. Kaduna Governor Nasir El- Rufai who until lately lost favour with the Villa over APC national leadership politics and outcome of its convention was a force to reckon with.

He is said now to be a supporter of Tinubu within the kitchen cabinet. With his influence waning, it is doubtful if he can successfully pull through a Tinubu presidency project.

Attorney General of the Federation and Justice minister, Abubakar Malami, to many people is the defacto leader of the cabal. He took charge after the demise of Malam Abba Kyari, former Chief of Staff to Buhari, and he has been the pipeline through which most actions of the government are dished out.

While it may be difficult to pinpoint whose side Malami is tilting, it is obvious that he will not only support but strive to actualize Buhari’s choice. National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, is a close associate of Buhari and his emergence as party supremo has enlisted him into the cabal.

Some allege that his emergence as Buhari’s preferred national chairman against all odds, point to his assigned mission in the party. Amaechi has been a close ally of the President, since and even ahead of 2015.

His financial contributions to Buhari’s emergence in the 2014 APC primary, subsequent campaign as well as in 2019 cannot be over- emphasized 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 projects.

His conferment this year with a traditional title in Buhari’s hometown, Daura is significant. This among others is eliciting opinions suggestive of his preference by the cabal. Bureaucrats within the Presidency are not left out in the powerplay 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 Presidency project. He came to the Presidency as one of Tinubu’s political benefactors but he fell out with his former boss and openly professes that the best choice for the job is Osinbajo.

“The groundwork for Monday’s declaration by Osinbajo started over a year ago. Vee Pee was just looking for an auspicious time to make his declaration,” said a source close to Ojudu.

“Did you think the Vice President just woke up and decided he would join the race? “He is a member of the Federal Cabinet and next in rank to the President who is working closely with President Buhari on the driver’s seat. Who then is most qualified to continue and complete the programmes and policies of the administration, than Prof. Osinbajo?”

Considering the influence of the cabal, the race for the APC presidential ticket could be said to have been trimmed down to Amaechi, Osinbajo and Tinubu. But given the odds against the former governor of Lagos, there are fears among his supporters that he might be edged out of the race, probably forcing him to pull his structure out of the APC to a smaller party.

They are saying that throwing up Osinbajo at a time like this could be a grand plot to decimate Tinubu’s chances in the Southwest.

A source said efforts are on by some Osinbajo loyalists in the cabal to use anti-Tinubu APC leaders in the Southwest zone to do the legwork for the vice president who is believed to have no political structure of his own. Ekiti and Ondo Governors Kayode Fayemi and Rotimi Akeredolu as well as former Ogun helmsman Ibikunle Amosun, and disgruntled APC forces in Oyo State led by an erstwhile C o m m u n i c a t i o n s minister, Adebayo Shittu, are being wooed to work for Osinbajo. Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun will be automatically drafted into the Osinbajo project.

Ojudu, it was learnt, was commissioned to woo Information minister Lai Mohammed and a former governor of Lagos, Akinwumi Ambode, in the new southwest agenda.

Across the north, Tinubu’s allies are not reckoned with too much in the Villa. Kano helmsman Abdullahi Ganduje, former Borno governor, Kashim Shettima and a past chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Abdul Mumuni, may have fallen out with the Presidency.

Also, Tinubu’s acceptability among APC governors cannot be said to be total as the house is divided with most of them being careful not to go against the wish of the Presidency.

It is believed that a most of them) are not on his side except a few like Ganduje as well as Tinubu’s nephew and Osun State Governor Gboyega Oyetola, his Nasarawa and Imo counterparts, Abdullahi Sule and Hope Uzodinma. The Trumpet gathered that Tinubu had wanted the meeting with the APC states’ helmsmen to hold in his Abuja residence but they insisted it must be held at Kebbi Governor’s Lodge.

Kebbi helmsman Atiku Bagudu is the chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum. Tinubu’s reception, it was learnt, was reluctantly accepted by the governors who may have not forgiven him for rejecting their plea to consider Ambode for a second term in Lagos.

A source said Ambode approached the APC Governors Forum to help beg Tinubu to allow him a second term. Bagudu reportedly begged Tinubu but the latter went ahead and replaced e Ambode with Babajide Sanwo-Olu. If Tinubu loses the APC race, he may leave the party amid rumours that his associates are holding alliance talks with a few parties such as the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

He was said to be nurturing the idea of retuning to being a regional leader by winning most southwest states through another party. It is the opinion of some members of the party that Tinubu should play the big(ger) boy by greenlighting Osinbajo’s aspiration and supporting him the way he did for the latter to emerge Vice President ahead of 2015. An erstwhile Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters to two former Presidents, Senator Mohammed Abbah Aji, urged the national leader of APC to support Osinbajo who he said has a solid support base in the north as well as thriving circles of influential supporters across the south which makes him more capable of winning the 2023 presidential contest than any other candidate.

He described Tinubu as a great party leader who should feel vindicated that the good idea brought forward in the person of Osinbajo has continued to flourish. Aji, a member of the pro-Osinbajo Progressive Consolidation Group (PCG) that has been active since mid2021, applauded the spontaneous nationwide celebrations that greeted Osinbajo’s declaration for the 2023 presidency.

“I have been in politics since the early 80s and I can tell you that the Nigerian electorate is now much wiser, discerning and sophisticated than what you had in the past; the spontaneous rallies are a show of strength, asserting the power of the real people and it’s a strong pointer to Professor Osinbajo’s very bright chances for ultimate electoral victory,” he said.

“Asiwaju is a great leader of our party and his role in bringing about an Osinbajo Vice Presidency has been vindicated; having performed creditably, impressing President Buhari and millions of Nigerians.

“As a leader, when you bring a great idea, you should allow such to grow and Vice President Osinbajo’s declaration for the 2023 presidency is a reflection of very sound growth and the next step is for him to assume the Presidency in 2023.”

However, persons who understand Buhari said the President’s disposition might not be towards any of the three leading APC aspirants. One remarked: “All the jostling may end up as a huge joke 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 moves to outsmart one another continues among the power blocs within the Presidency continue, it is hoped that an acceptable candidate will emerge as APC presidential standard bearer.”

Meanwhile, Saraki has said the quest by some presidential aspirants of PDP to form a united front ahead of the 2023 general elections is for the party to wrest power from APC. Saraki said this informed their decision to canvass a consensus candidate among the aspirants.

The presidential hopeful spoke while briefing journalists after a meeting with Tambuwal, Bala Mohammed and Bayelsa Governor Douye Diri at Government House in Yenagoa. Saraki stressed that as an opposition party, the PDP could not wrest power from APC if the party was not united.

He said Nigeria’s overall interest superseded individual ambitions and that was why they embarked on the mission to consult Diri and other critical stakeholders on how to reach a consensus on the party’s candidate in next year’s presidential election.

Describing the PDP as the only hope to rebuild and reposition the country, Saraki noted that Nigeria was in bad shape and needed to be salvaged from the bad governance of the APC adding that despite the propaganda of the ruling party, Nigerians were going through difficult times under the APC and that the only solution was for the PDP to retake power at the centre.

His words: “Our appeal to Nigerians is that we feel your pains, the hardship and insecurity. That is why our ambition is to return this country to PDP and make your lives better. We have come to seek your support as we approach 2023. We have spoken very well and feel encouraged by the governor’s words.

Let us start now in building those blocks that will ensure that PDP will make Nigeria a better place.” He thanked Diri for the warm reception and for his words of encouragement.

Diri urged the PDP to forge a united front if the party wants to win the forthcoming election. Diri insisted that the party must not be factionalised due to individual ambition, but rather forge a common front to pursue victory at the 2023 presidential election.

Diri, who promised to work for the success of the party at the polls, commended the aspirants for putting their individual interests aside for the good of the party, adding: “There is no other way than unity of purpose of the PDP. We must realise that we are an opposition party.

We are not a party in power and cannot afford to be factionalised and fractionalised due to individual ambition. Thank God for implanting this in the minds of these senior citizens of our party.

“I think this is the first time in Nigeria that presidential aspirants are coming together to talk about the unity of the party and forge a way forward. One thing that I will assure you is that the Bayelsa State chapter is prepared to work for the unity of our party, to take over governance and give Nigerians what we were giving them before the party in power came into office and destroyed the things we built in 16 years.”

However, Saraki has said the negotiations among some presidential aspirants of PDP on the possibility of producing a consensus candidate should not be equated to agitating for a northern president.

Rather than considering such a patriotic effort as northern agenda, he said the aspirants are being driven by national interest aimed at a united Nigeria. Saraki made this clarification after four presidential aspirants of the party; himself, Bala, Tambuwal and businessman, Muhammad HayatuDeen met with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi at his Enugu State Lodge in Abuja.

Emphasizing that series of consultations being made across the country by the consensus team was not a northern agenda Saraki said “when we started about three weeks ago, most of the aspirants we had then were mainly in the north. We were talking to the aspirants across the country, The Trumpet gathered.

Now, because more people have come out in the South and we are all going to meet. “All the aspirants are going to meet. We are talking about Nigeria. We are not talking about the northern aspirants or southern aspirants.

“I have good news that already, moves are being made by the aspirants in the South to meet and eventually all we all meet and see one consensus, that consensus is a Nigerian that represent all the groups.

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“So, I just want to be clear about that, and be reassured it is not about just issue of a northern consensus, not at all, it’s a consensus for the PDP and one Nigeria.”

He said the meeting with the Enugu governor was fruitful adding that the four aspirants were consulting other governors and stakeholders on possibility of producing an acceptable candidate capable of winning election for the party.

Ugwuanyi urged the aspirants to uphold principles of justice, equity and fairness in arriving at a consensus candidate.

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