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How APC presidential aspirants waited in vain for Buhari’s anointed candidate

LEKE BAIYEWU writes on the just concluded presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress, how the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), raised the hope of some aspirants with his revelation in January that he had a preferred candidate and he dashed expectation of the party members without a public disclosure of a name

Former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Wednesday became the presidential candidate of the ruling party for the 2023 general elections. His widely acclaimed political experience and expertise, perhaps, would have been consumed by the perceived indecisiveness of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), when all eyes were on him to declare his choice candidate at the best time.

The APC is a political party formed through the merger of parties and political associations, majorly the Action Congress of Nigeria, the Congress for Progressive Change and the All Nigerian Peoples Party, as well as factions of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and the Peoples Democratic Party known as the New PDP. Buhari had recognised and openly admitted that Tinubu, who came with the ACN bloc, spearheaded the victory of the new party in 2015 over the Peoples Democratic Party that had governed the country for 16 years.

The President seems to have kept his chosen successor in mind since January. In an exclusive interview with Channels Television on January 5, 2022, Buhari had expressed fears that his favourite might be “eliminated” if the person was made known. When asked about his favourite presidential candidate, Buhari had replied, “I won’t tell you my favourite for 2023. He may be eliminated if I mention (the name). I better keep it (a) secret.”

Buhari, who has a record of slow approach to critical issues, had delayed showing leadership and giving a guidance to the APC, its National Working Committee/National Executive Committee and the 23 presidential aspirants on the party’s platform until few hours to the Special National Convention of the APC held at the Eagle Square Abuja where the primary was held between Tuesday and Wednesday. Close watchers of events in the party noted that the party approached the exercise amidst confusion.

The presidential hopefuls in the APC included Tinubu; Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo; President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; Governors of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi; Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi; Kogi State, Yahaya Bello; Cross River State, Senator Ben Ayade; Jigawa State, Abubakar Badaru; and former Governors of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha; Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Zamfara State, Senator Ahmed Yerima; and a sitting Senator Ajayi Boroffice; former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani; and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole.

Others were former Ministers of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu; State for Education, Dr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; Serving Overseer, Citadel Global Community Church, Pastor Tunde Bakare; oil tycoon, Tein Jack-Rich; United States of America-based Pastor, Felix Nicholas; and the only female aspirant, Mrs Uju Ken-Ohanenye.

Just before voting started, nine aspirants had earlier stepped down, eight of whom asked their supporters to vote for Tinubu. They were Fayemi, Bankole, Amosun, Badaru, Boroffice, Nnamani, Akpabio and Ken-Ohanenye.

Nicholas, who also stepped down, rather asked his supporters to vote for Osinbajo.

However, Tinubu contested against 13 aspirants to secure votes from 2,340 delegates. At the end of the exercise, he garnered 1,271 votes to defeat Amaechi who polled 316 votes and Osinbajo who scored 235 votes and emerged second and third, respectively.

 

Matters arose as a result of the delayed move by the President to unify the party through consensus.

The National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, had announced Lawan as the consensus candidate of the party, a declaration that immediately split the NWC, with several members dismissing the claim and the Presidency dissociating Buhari from such.

Adamu’s declaration made northern governors to meet Buhari on Monday, when the President, according to his spokesman, Garba Shehu, said he had no preferred or anointed candidate.

There was also expression of anger and disappointment from aspirants from the South-East geopolitical zone, who took turns at the convention to criticise the kind of politics being played in the party, with one of them – Nwajiuba – failing to show up for the exercise. It is worthy of note that aspirants had criticised other geopolitical zones, especially the South-West, of marginalising the South-East that has never produced a president for the country. However, instead of them choosing a consensus candidate among themselves, they would rather write to Buhari to pick one of them, whereas the President had someone else in mind.

There are also those who feel Osinbajo, who many people have criticised for allegedly betraying Tinubu, his political godfather, would have suspended his presidential bid if Buhari had been clear on his choice candidate.

The Convener of Concerned Nigerians and public affairs analyst, Deji Adeyanju, said how Buhari handled the APC and the presidential primary confirmed his alleged failure in handling the affairs of the country. According to him, the President failed to show leadership as leader of the ruling party.

Adeyanju said, “The man has always been indecisive all his life, so what was people expecting? This is typical of him. This man was not ready for governance. This was a man who wanted to be president all his life, (who) came in (into power) and failed to form his cabinet for several months. People expected him to now, all of a sudden, change? When you are dealing with such a man, you should know what you are dealing with. This is a typical Buhari. And he is weak – he is extremely weak. The northern governors had their way because they were all working for Asiwaju, so they are the ones that have crowned the APC presidential candidate. They have out-witted Buhari; they have outplayed him and in my view, they have relegated him. It is simple: the governors have taken over the party.

“Buhari did not support anybody in this race. He did not. It was just typical of him; he was indecisive from the start to the finish. He allows those around him to be confused; to go and purchase forms. This is the way he has been running this country. That is why there is insecurity everywhere. That is why the economy is broken.”

A member of the House of Representatives, Babajimi Benson, also expressed his disappointment over Buhari’s failure to guide the APC on having a winning presidential candidate. According to the APC lawmaker from Lagos, the President ought to have reciprocated the support Tinubu gave to him (Buhari) to get into power.

However, a Professor of Political Science, Dauda Saleh, however, believes that Buhari was right by allowing the aspirants to test their popularity at the polls without endorsing or imposing any of them. He said Nigerians would have criticised the President if he had shown preference for any of the hopefuls.

Saleh said, “What Buhari did, as far as I am concerned, it was the right thing to do. He allowed a level playing field for all the aspirants to test their popularity. If he had insisted on picking a particular candidate, the same Nigerians would have also complained that he imposed a candidate on them. By the way, why can’t we play a simple democratic rule that aspirants should emerge from a free and fair competitive process? Is there anything wrong with that?

As far as I am concerned, the President did very well. I also give credit to the northern governors. At least, they demonstrated a sense of fairness and equity by agreeing that the presidency should go to the South.”

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