Despite the subtle clash of interests raging in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of its planned national congress scheduled to hold in June, it is unlikely that any members of the party would contest with President Muhammadu Buhari in the party’s primaries billed to be conducted later in the year.Buhari, who informed the APC National Executive Council (NEC) recently about his interest to seek reelection in the coming presidential election has been endorsed by the 24 governors of the party.The governors are said to have firm grip and control of the delegates that would vote during the presidential primary. This is an advantage ahead of the exercise for the incumbent against other contestants.
Some observers said the present situation presupposes that the coming APC presidential primary, if it holds, may not be as keenly contested as it was in December 2014, when aspirants like the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Kano governor and current Senator representing the state’s central senatorial district, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso; incumbent governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha and the Publisher, Leadership Newspapers Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah slugged it out with President Buhari and the Teslim Balogun Stadium Lagos State.
As a matter of fact, Buhari’s triumph over other presidential aspirants in the APC 2014 presidential primary was said to have been won at the instance and intervention of the APC National leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the incumbent Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who was then the governor of Rivers State.From all indications, either Atiku or Kwankwaso who had the wherewithal to pull delegates to their sides would have emerged victorious far ahead of Buhari if not for Tinubu, Amaechi and few others.
Buhari eventually defeated other presidential aspirants to emerge the flag bearer of his party in the 2015 presidential election by polling 3, 430 votes as against Kwankwaso’s 954 votes, Atiku’s 954 votes, Okorocha’s 624 votes and Nda-Isaiah’s 10 votes.
Three years down the line, a lot has changed in the party, as Atiku who would have remained a formidable opponent defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in a bid to actualise his presidential ambition.Atiku who is already making huge political relevance and progress from Buhari’s gaffe on the competency of Nigerian youths claimed that he was forced to dump the ruling party because it was yet to purge itself of arbitrariness and unconstitutional practices that was once the hallmark of the PDP.
Kwankwaso who has been ignominiously stripped of his control and influence of the Kano chapter of APC structure by his successor and former deputy, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, is alleged to be plotting to defect to the Social Democratic Party (SDP), to pursue his presidential ambition.It is unlikely if Kwankwaso, who had served as a two-term governor of Kano, erstwhile Minister of Defense during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo would stay back in the APC notwithstanding the fact that he was sighted during the party’s last parley at the Presidential Villa recently.
The prospects of the incumbent President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki taking a shot at the presidency next year on the APC platform looks bleak as he is being labeled an enemy within the party.Saraki has been facing rough deal in the ruling party since he became senate president against the desire of the APC leadership in June 2019. It is however being insinuated that he (Saraki) may return to the PDP to further his political interests.
Not even the likes of Kaduna governor, Nasir El-Rufai and his colleague in Borno, Kashim Shettima whose names were sometimes branded as possible successor of Buhari, when it appeared the president was not going to recover from his protracted ailment last year, have been able to stick out their necks or indicate interest to run for presidency next year on the APC platform.
Interestingly, Governor el-Rufai who paraded himself as Buhari’s core loyalist have joined the bandwagon of the Buhari second term orchestras, who are currently singing that the incumbent’s reelection agenda is in the overall interest of the APC and the stability of Nigeria.
The Chairman APC Governors Forum, Okorocha who spoke on behalf of his colleagues after a closed door meeting with the president at the Presidential villa recently explained the rationale for supporting Buhari’s return next year.According to him, “We came to welcome him back and to commend him for his boldness and courage to declare his intention to run for second term as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which we the 24 governors of the APC duly support.
“And we have come to encourage him that he must go ahead with his vision to rescue Nigeria from its present challenges.” The governors’ show of support came after they backtracked and threw their weight behind the president over his opinion against tenure elongation for the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) and party officials across the 36 states.
The governors are unlikely to reject the president’s endorsement of the former Edo governor, Adams Oshiomole as successor of Odigie-Oyegun during the coming National Convention of the party. Buhari also recently met behind closed doors with Tinubu in London with the aim to strategise towards achieving the second term ambition project.
Buhari, who also met with the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby in London justified his decision to go for a second term, saying, “I declared before leaving home because Nigerians were talking too much about whether I would run or not. So, I felt I should break the ice. We have many things to focus on, like security, agriculture, economy and anti-corruption crusade. We needed to concentrate on them, and politics should not be a distraction. The majority of Nigerians appreciate what we are doing, and that is why I am re-contesting,’’ Buhari told the archbishop.
Obasanjo, who joined forces with power brokers in the polity to ensure Buhari’s victory in the 2015 poll, has shifted his interested and he is currently opposed to a second term for the president.
The former president remains undaunted over his call on members of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) to be battle ready to take over power in 2019, while calling on Nigerians that have attained voting age to obtain their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) ahead of the poll and use it effectively to oust the president in the next general election.Speaking during the inauguration of the Oyo State Chapter of the movement, held last week in Ibadan, Obasanjo said it behooves on well meaning Nigerians to be ready to make sacrifice in the struggle to redeem Nigeria.
According to him, “Everybody must be determined to rescue Nigeria, it may not be easy. However the God who performed wonders sometime ago, will again perform wonders. We have (seen), in this country, where five political parties endorsed a single person and God was laughing and knew what he would do. If we are leaving everything to God, we must do our best. Get your PVCs and encourage others.”Obasanjo, whose recent open letter urging Buhari to drop his second term ambition is still sending shivers down the spine of the Buharists in the polity said that as founder of the movement, he would not neglect them when he is needed.
“Take note, they will threaten you, but don’t be discouraged. It is only cowards who run away from the war front. Having gone this far, I won’t leave you dry. Get your PVC. I don’t think anybody can threaten me again. Remember I have been to prison for an offence I do not know anything about,” he said.Oshiomole, also a staunch supporter of Buhari’s anti-graft campaign who is billed to midwife the presidential primaries towards the end of the year had openly told Obasanjo that he lacks the moral latitude to tell Buhari to retract his steps on his second term ambition.
From all indications, President Buhari stands a good chance of retaining power if he contests the next election having secured the approval and support of his party except some few disgruntled ones that are likely to be persuaded with time.He is however going to have issues in the elections over the spate of killings across the country, which is currently setting the nation along ethno-religious line.