By Ehichioya Ezomon
BARELY a week to the primaries of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2023 polls, the intrigues presaging the processes of choosing the presidential candidate linger in the party.
Actually, the undercurrents in the APC don’t inspire confidence that the party will conduct free, fair, transparent and credible primaries to pick its standard bearer for the general election.
This doubt is reinforced by the scheming that preceded the March 2022 National Convention of the APC that produced a “consensus” candidate at the behest of President Muhammadu Buhari, who browbeat the powerful state governors on the party’s platform.
A likely scenario is happening, with the power brokers playing hide-and-seek over zoning of the presidential slot to Southern Nigeria that looked like a fait accompli a few weeks ago.
Now, without a clear-cut statement by the APC on zoning, some Northern aspirants have begun to show real interest in the presidency, thus muddying further the political waters in the party.
Interestingly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seems a step ahead of the APC, with its bold declaration of the presidency open to all Nigerians irrespective of geopolitical zones, North or South or sections of the country.
This has greatly reduced the political temperature in the PDP that faces a Herculean task of wresting power from the APC it accused of running the country aground in just seven years in power.
Meanwhile, there’s an unprecedented number of aspirants angling to be president on the platform of the APC, with many of them posturing as pretenders rather than contenders for the post.
Their un-seriousness is shown in various forms: multiple aspirants from one state; obtaining N100 million Expression of Interest (EoI) and nomination forms without canvassing for primary votes; acquiring additional nomination forms for either governorship or senatorial position; and dropping from the race, with flimsy excuses, when faced with losing the presidency and their ministerial seats.
For instance, Ogun State, which had produced a military Head of State, an elected President, an undeclared winner of the Presidency, a Head of an Interim National Government, and an incumbent Vice President, has thrown up several aspirants ready for the primaries in Abuja May 30 and 31.
In practical terms, the presidential aspirants from Ogun outnumber those from each of the six-geopolitical zones, with four aspirants from the entire Northern Nigeria; five from the South-South; six from the South-East; and eight from the South-West.
As polity watchers query, why would an aspirant spend a princely N100 million to secure the APC nomination forms and abstain from canvassing for votes to pick the party flagbearer?
That simply is shaping out to be a “presidential fraud” by political merchants either “cajoled” or “forced” into the race, to front for others or serve as spoilers, or merely on ego trips, scheming to add the prefix, “former presidential aspirant,” to their résumé.
Some aspirants, not wanting to put all their eggs in one basket, have obtained nomination forms for the presidency and governorship or senatorial position, and appeared or will appear for screening accordingly. But will they also participate at both primaries?
Will former governor of Edo State and National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, who has obtained the presidential and senatorial forms, and presented himself for screening for Senate, also appear for screening for the presidency and contest at the primaries for both positions, in that order?
Ditto for Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade (and other aspirants), who have obtained the combined N120 million nomination forms for the positions of president and senator.
While Lawan, a long-time lawmaker, represents Yobe North in the Senate, Oshiomhole aims to represent Edo North, and Ayade, who rounds-off his two-term as governor in May 2023, attempts to represent Cross River North in the National Assembly.
Ironically, unlike Oshiomhole, who appeared physically at the senatorial screening for APC aspirants, other wily politicians, aspiring for the presidency they are certain or unsure of securing the ticket, have devised a strategy of having proxies or “stand-ins” for the lower position of governor or senator.
If they fail to pick the presidential ticket, they’d promptly urge the proxies (for the lower position of governor or senator) to “step down” for them during the window of substitution of candidates offered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Presidential aspirants appearing for screening and/or attending the primaries for governor or senator is an exhibition of the greed in politicians, who, in some cases, are outsmarted by their stand-ins refusing to step down from the positions they’re propped up for.
It’s time politicians showed some level of character and credibility, such as displayed by former governor of Abia State Orji Uzor Kalu, and Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.
Kalu, the Senate Chief Whip, and an early bird for the presidency, made zoning of the APC ticket to the South-East a pre-condition for him to contest. But sensing that the seat would elude the South-East on the APC pedestal, he withdrew his aspiration, and settled for re-election into the Senate.
A greedy politician in Kalu’s position would have pursued the presidential and senatorial seats, knowing that they’ve no chance of securing the presidential ticket.
Kudos to Ganduje, who, faced with exodus from the APC on his watch in Kano, dropped his aspiration for Senate to represent Kano North, currently occupied by Barau Jubrin.
Jubrin, chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriation, who hails from Ganduje’s senatorial zone, was reportedly “a member of the influential G-7 faction that challenged Ganduje’s control of the APC structure in Kano,” resulting in the mass defection of members to the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) that is sweeping Kano.
The country and particularly the APC, needs more Gandujes, who can sacrifice their ambitions “for the overall interest of the party.”
The process of the presidential primary is dicey for the APC. The party should stand on the principles it espouses, and conduct free, fair, transparent and credible polls, to weed out the “political fraudsters” from the field of aspirants.
This would allow for emergence of the APC flagbearer among three serious and promising contenders: the National Leader of the APC and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; and former minister of transport and former governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
The APC has one week to answer the crucial question that will determine its prospects in the 2023 general election, and future as a viable party that outlives a single administration it birthed in 2015.
Mr Ezomon, journalist and media consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.