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How Fayemi, Akpabio, Tambuwal, others wasted over N1bn on flippant presidential ambitions

TUNDE AJAJA examines the practice of politicians and their associates spending millions to buy presidential forms only to pull out of the race at the last minute

At any time in Nigeria’s history, whether in the years of economic boom or now that a whopping 16.82 per cent inflation rate has eroded the value of the naira, N100m is a lot of money.

Thus, when the ruling All Progressives Congress pegged its presidential forms at that sum, the outrage that greeted the announcement was somewhat understandable, especially in a country that has earned the reputation of being the poverty capital of the world, and where the minimum wage is a paltry N30,000 per month.

Clearly, there is a lot N100m can do in a depressed economy like Nigeria’s. That sum, for example, can pay the salaries of 3,333 workers on the minimum wage.

In the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, the N40m it sold its presidential forms can also pay the salaries of 1,333 workers on the minimum wage.

It may not be misplaced, after all, to examine the eventual waste it translates to when aspirants who paid such humongous amounts pulled out of the race or stepped down for others.

During the presidential primary of the APC, which was held on Tuesday and Wednesday, seven aspirants stepped down for a national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, while one aspirant stepped down for the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. Tinubu eventually won the election, scoring 1,271 out of the 2,340 votes.

Aspirants who stepped down during the primary were Dr Kayode Fayemi, Governor Abubakar Badaru, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Mr Dimeji Bankole, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, Dr Nicholas Felix and Ms Uju Kennedy Ohanenye, while Dr Emeka Nwajiuba did not show up at the event.

Each of the aspirants paid N100m, save for Ohanenye, who only paid the N30m specified for female aspirants by the party. From this alone, the APC got a bonus of N830m.

In addition to this, various groups bought forms for former President Goodluck Jonathan; President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva; and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele. Some of the forms were not returned, while those who did abandoned the process.

In all, the bonus in the party’s purse spiked to N1.23bn.

In the PDP, on the day of the presidential primary, an aspirant and former Managing Director of FSB International Bank, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, withdrew from the race; former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, dumped the party for the Labour Party after obtaining the forms; and shortly before voting started, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, also an aspirant, stepped down for Atiku Abubakar, who eventually won the party’s ticket. Thus, their N80m became a waste, literally.

That brings the total amount wasted, literally, by aspirants and associates in the two parties to N1.35bn. This is independent of the millions of naira some aspirants spent on chartered flights to ‘consult’ delegates across the country.

Some of the APC aspirants, who left the race for others, are captured below:

Akpabio: The former governor of Akwa Ibom State and immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs was the first aspirant to step down for another that evening. While giving his speech, a moment afforded all the aspirants, Akpabio highlighted some of the many projects he executed in his state as a two-term governor. He even boasted that his vision for the state and impact earned him the ‘Uncommon Transformation’ slogan. He promised to deploy same if voted as the candidate. Added to that, he promised a three-point agenda of security, unity and the economy. However, his final words caught many unawares, saying, “I have seen a man who is older than me and was the first visioner in governance and that man enabled us to have good governance and development in Lagos State. I don’t have to be President to make things happen. I will join the next President to turn the boys in Nigeria into men, and therefore, I doff my hat and urge you that as I withdraw now, vote for Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu. Thank you and God bless you.” That was the end of his speech and the touted ambition.

Amosun: A former governor of Ogun State and senator representing Ogun Central in the Senate was the second aspirant to step down during the primary. He said in his speech that he presented himself to be the President of Nigeria because he knew he had the wherewithal and the private and public sectors experience to govern the country. He went ahead to speak on how he would tackle insecurity, revive the economy, tackle unemployment, improve the education sector, boost power generation to 15,000 megawatts in one year and 30,000MW in two years, etc. His speech on what he “planned” to do was reassuring. However, he concluded, “I can go on and on, but having said these, I thank my brother (Akpabio) that just spoke. In the spirit of consensus building, supremacy of our party and most importantly to hearken to the call of Mr President and our people back home, I want to urge all my supporters and those who believe in me that we have somebody that can do the job; we will all rally round him to do the job. He’s no stranger to me, we have been together for quite some time, and that is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. With your support, he will take Nigeria to greater heights.” Again, that was end of it.

Fayemi: The governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum was the third aspirant to follow suit. Touted as one of the foremost aspirants, his speech reaffirmed his preparedness and ability to deliver. He spoke on the need for unity, improved security, economy, social security and addressing poverty inequality, corruption and impunity. He also highlighted the need to empower women, provide jobs for the youth and ensure that the security agencies were well funded. However, as he appreciated the northern governors for agreeing with the South to produce the candidate of the party, he dropped the bombshell, “I have come to a difficult but necessary decision, which is that we must vote for the most appropriate person at this time to do this job. I am prepared to sacrifice my ambition; I am a young man, I still have a long time ahead of me, and one person I have worked with in the trenches of democratic struggle, a mentor, an elder, a supporter and great fighter for democracy and Nigeria that I will love to recommend to all my supporters and delegates is my elder brother, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I am not doing him a favour; for me it’s a duty of care for Nigeria. I know he will do the job well and we shall support him.”

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