2023 PRESIDENCY: State of the play

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Tinubu, Bello, Osinbajo lead in APC

Uba Group

Atiku, Wike, Obi top PDP chart

No-zoning stance upsets political calculations

BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, TIMOTHY AGBOR AND JACOB BRIGHT

Not more than 12 individuals are considered serious contenders for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, The Point has learnt. This is in spite of the fact that as many as 42 aspirants had, in the last three weeks, purchased both the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms across the 18 political parties.

In the All Progressives Congress alone, 28 aspirants bought the forms, making this presidential election season the most crowded in the history of Nigeria’s democracy. The party has fixed May 23 for the screening of these aspirants even as a quarter of them have reportedly withdrawn from the race.

In the Peoples Democratic Party, while 17 aspirants bought the presidential forms, only 15 scaled the rigorous screening, headed by former Senate President, David Mark.

As the race stands today in the APC, not more than eight aspirants are serious contenders, according to The Point’s investigations.

Those thrown up by our correspondents’ painstaking findings, through widely spread questionnaires and impeccable sources within the party, include, in no particular order, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, youthful Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello; former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu; Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; former Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi; former Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu; Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi; Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, and former Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun.

For the PDP, the race is between about five people: Former Senate President Bukola Saraki, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, and former Senate President and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim.

A South-South chieftain of the PDP told The Point on the condition of anonymity that the party’s “no-zoning option has changed the game completely.”

“”I would say Governor Yahaya Bello is better placed to clinch the party ticket. First of all, he is young and the greatest problem facing Nigeria today is insecurity. Of all the governors, the only person that has been able to secure his state, a state that shares borders with almost 10 states, is Governor Yahaya Bello. He has been able to curtail these criminals. If we are able to arrest the insecurity in the country today, then half of our problems are solved. That is why they keep on making him head of the security committees of major projects

“In fact, it is a game changer,” he said.

He explained that the failure of the Southern Governors to realise their demand for the Presidency to be ceded to the South by the two major parties had diminished the chances of the South East Zone.

“If I may speak on the PDP and of course in strict confidence, I would say the no-zoning option of the party is a game changer. Many people rushed into the race on the assumption that it would be zoned to their region and so enhance their chances. But as you can see, that move has greatly diminished the chances of aspirants from the South East.

“First, politics is about numbers. Only Kano, Kaduna and Katsina can effectively equate the five South East states of Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu. And you have to factor in the instability rocking the region. Life is important and nobody wants to risk his life just because he wants to deliver the zone. How many millions of votes can you legitimately expect? Maybe two or two and a half million votes. So it was a wise decision by the PDP. And remember, the party has produced only Yar’Adua, which is two and a half years out of 16 years.

“Now, if you put this into context, I will say, sincerely, the major contenders in PDP are Saraki, that man is moving deftly; Atiku, who is well known and has the capacity; Obi who is well loved across board but his political base is an issue and former SGF, Anyim Pius Anyim. Governor Wike of Rivers State has performed well in Rivers State, he would be a better material for the Senate than running for the presidency. It is not that he doesn’t have the money to prosecute campaigns and all that, but acceptance by the people matters a lot.”

The source then x-rayed the APC and submitted that “the fear of an upset by the APC as a result of the position of PDP has also changed the configuration for APC”.

He said, “Had the PDP not jettisoned its zoning arrangement, the APC would have also looked towards the South. But now that it has chosen to toe the steps of PDP in that regard, look forward to northern aspirants performing very well. If I may just name some, I think you can watch out for the Vice President, the Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello, Tinubu, the Senate President, Lawan, Rotimi Amaechi, Ogbonnaya Onu and David Umahi. I mean people who nursed ambition from day one, not those who were begged to contest. And of course, the aspirants of APC from the South East also have what is challenging those of the PDP to contend with,” he said.

“CBN"

A PDP chieftain, who has just been screened for the senatorial election limited the presidential race in the PDP to Atiku, Peter Obi and Wike. He said Saraki was popular but that he had no distinct zonal base.

“A PDP chieftain, who has just been screened for the senatorial election, limited the presidential race in the PDP to Atiku, Peter Obi and Wike. He said Saraki was popular but that he had no distinct zonal base

The aspirant, however, singled out Yahaya Bello as someone to watch out for in the ruling party.

According to him, the only person that could give the Kogi Governor a headache because of his financial war chest, is Tinubu.

“Of all the about five serious contenders, now that the race has been thrown open, the only person I see giving that young chap of Kogi a headache is Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu). A number of people have been touting VP Osinbajo but I can bet that his structure does not go beyond the Redeemed Church. Forget about Twitter analysts who have no membership cards. The rate at which the popularity of the Kogi State Governor is growing across the zones is not something a serious party would ignore,” the PDP chieftain, who asked not to be named, said.

On his part, political analyst, Kingsley Daniel, said, “In APC, I can tell you that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is very committed to the cause and seriously wants to realise his life ambition to become Nigeria’s President. He has very bright chances of achieving this.

“Among all the aspirants in the APC, Tinubu has shown that he was not told to run or that circumstances pushed him into the race. He has nurtured this ambition for a very long time and I feel he has thrown everything into the ring to come out victorious at the end.”

Daniel also named former two time governor of Rivers State and immediate past Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi as another aspirant with very bright chances of clinching the APC ticket.

He said, “Rotimi Amaechi’s coming into the race shook the party because of his political weight. Remember he stood behind President Buhari in 2015 against his brother, Jonathan, throwing all he had to make sure Jonathan’s administration came to an end in that election.

“His kind of politics is what the north likes. And you may want to ask me what his kind of politics is? He doesn’t betray. He comes out plain if he wants to support you and this has truly attracted the northern support for him.”

“In the PDP, the ticket seems to be for former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. He is the one who will decide who picks the ticket and if he eventually becomes the party’s standard bearer, his choice of a running mate will definitely determine his victory or failure at the polls. I’m not to advise him on who he chooses because that is not my responsibility, however, he will certainly have to contend with Buhari’s anointing for the North’s votes, as such, he will definitely need a majority vote from the South to get into the Villa,” he added.

Another social and political analyst, Bethel Benjamin, said, “In APC, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is the man to beat. He stands tall above all the aspirants with his loyalty to his boss, President Buhari. Osinbajo did what Atiku could not do; total loyalty to the President. Buhari will be glad to hand power over to him, so that makes his chances bright. And for PDP, I think Peter Obi has the brightest chances of picking the party’s ticket and equally winning the election. What do I mean? The clamour for a South East Igbo President is gaining weight and grounds. Go out and do a vox pop, you will notice that a large number of Nigerians believe we should try the Igbo and they believe Obi is the answer to our numerous problems.”

In separate telephone interviews with The Point, Nigerians who x-rayed the remaining presidential aspirants in the race said money, political structure and antecedents would play major roles in the decision of who would carry the day.

A legal practitioner, Abiodun Williams, said, “One thing that I have seen in this presidential race is that our politics has been monetised and this monetisation is going to prevent us from getting the candidates who really have the love of the people at heart to emerge, probably due to financial constraints.

“Considering the chances of the people in the race, it appears that before you can aspire to the highest elective offices in this country, you must have been involved in government, one way or the other. With the people presently in the race, I can narrow it down to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, giving his political network, giving his patronage, and his political boys.

“Many people rushed into the race on the assumption that it would be zoned to their region and so enhance their chances. But as you can see, that move has greatly diminished the chances of aspirants from the South East

“If not Tinubu, I will look at the direction of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo because of his incumbent political position and financial capacity. In the same vein, I can also look at Rotimi Amaechi having chances and probably the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan.”

He added, “For the PDP, I see Atiku clinching that ticket with either Peter Obi or Governor Nyesom Wike becoming his vice presidential candidate. I see Atiku as the candidate to beat because like I said, Nigerian politics has been monetised and he has the money and the political network. Looking at it from the money aspect, since Nigerian politics has been highly monetised, it’s only Atiku Abubakar that has that deep pocket to run a presidential race in Nigeria. That’s all that I see.

“Then, if you see Governor Wike, he may have little money but he doesn’t have the deep political network. If you also look at this tribal issue of him coming from the South and some can even say he is an Igbo. We can’t remove all these indices. If I really have my way to choose, I would have chosen Peter Obi because he is an excellent candidate. But, where is he going to get the money? Then, look at his background too, coupled with what is happening in the East presently.”

In his opinion, Barrister Hassan Onuwoji said Governor Yahaya Bello stands a better chance of clinching the APC ticket, judging by his young age, his uncommon political strategy and performance in office as the Governor of Kogi State.

He said Atiku had a higher stake in PDP because of his financial muscle.

Onuwoji said, “I would say Governor Yahaya Bello is better placed to clinch the party ticket. First of all, he is young and the greatest problem facing Nigeria today is insecurity. Of all the governors, the only person that has been able to secure his state, a state that shares borders with almost 10 states, is Governor Yahaya Bello. He has been able to curtail these criminals. If we are able to arrest the insecurity in the country today, then half of our problems are solved. That is why they keep on making him head of the security committees of major projects. He has also shown that it is possible to manage diversity and forge unity in any society. He has done it in Kogi. What about his gender sensitive nature? Who else, as a governor, reserves all positions of vice chairmen in all local governments in his state for women? These show that he is ready and willing. He has the women, the youths behind him. No party would ignore that, too.”
Another legal practitioner, Naheem Adekilekun, contended that Tinubu would be favoured in APC because of his wide political structure, adding that the chances were between Atiku and Obi in the PDP.

“There are key players in the contest and there are jokers. In APC, Tinubu and Osinbajo are serious. Tinubu stands a better chance because he has a wider spread and he is widely accepted. With Osinbajo being the Vice President, I don’t think he can match Tinubu’s political stamina. Others like Ahmad Lawan, Rotimi Amaechi are jokers because the presidential contest is not won by the amount of money you have. Ahmad Lawan represented his constituency and even became the Senate President but nobody can say he possesses political relevance when compared to Tinubu.

“Tinubu has been out of government since 2003 and up till now, he is a kingmaker, a major player in the country.”

Lending his voice to the subject about who the main contenders are in the APC and PDP, and how they stand, political analyst, Fred Aigbadumah, said they (politicians) were all on the same bandwagon.

He noted that there was something propelling the candidates to come out in such numbers, especially in the APC, to contest for its sole ticket.

“There must be something behind the number of people that are turning out, willing to contend for the sole presidential ticket of the APC. So, I can’t categorically tell you that this is a preferable candidate or a credible candidate. They are on the same bandwagon,” he said.

Aigbadumah said the main contenders should have come from the South East where Rochas Okorocha, Ogbonaya Onu and Ken Nnamani are from. According to him, power should go to the South East to demonstrate equity, fairness and justice.