For the first time since the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the South West geopolitical zone, and Bola Tinubu in particular, appears not to have a preferred candidate for the party’s national chairmanship race ahead of the February 26, 2022 national convention, LEADERSHIP Weekend finding have revealed.
Lagos, with a population of over 20 million citizens and a voter base of 6.5 million people has been the backbone of the South West politics and in recent elections, a must win for presidential candidates.
It was gathered that the ability of the state to set the political trend in the zone is now being threatened by challenges to Bola Tinubu’s dominance on several fronts, including smaller states from the region, whose leaders have continued to plant loyalists in the APC national executive without recourse to the former Lagos governor.
Party sources in Lagos hinted this paper that Tinubu is still consulting and is concentrating on his presidential ambition rather than placing loyalists in the executive committee of the APC.
Although the February 26 convention of the governing APC seems to be sacrosanct, LEADERSHIP Weekend checks showed that the bigwigs in South West political space have not really taken their stand on who to support to emerge as the party’s chairman in the convention.
A top APC stalwart in Lagos who did not want his name in print said, “You can see that without official pronouncement on zoning, it seems the position of chairman has been zoned to the North, especially the North Central geopolitical zone of the country, when you take into consideration those jostling for the position.
“The South West governors too have a role to play in this. Our leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has presidential ambition and he is going around the country consulting. There is still this internal friction within the party. I hope it will be resolved soon.
“Politics is about negotiation. Like I said no details yet of the zoning arrangement but very soon, we will know who takes what, then the negotiation and we will now know where to pitch our tent.’’
Tinubu, who has invested a lot of time, energy and resources building party structures across the South West, even handpicking governors of the six states of the region going back to the days of Action Congress of Nigeria, now has many of the same governors challenging his ambition.
While the APC is yet to zone party offices, a majority of candidates vying for the position of national chairman are from the northern region, with only George Akume, a former governor of Benue known to be close to Tinubu.
The number of aspirants seeking to contest the national chairman position of the APC swelled yesterday, with former governors of Borno, Imo and Benue States, Ali Modu Sheriff, Rochas Okorocha and George Akume, making their intentions clear.
And just at the time Tinubu needs a united Southwest to actualize his presidential ambition, a source who craved anonymity hinted that the Asiwaju of Lagos is having issues with some of his strong political allies, including the minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; the governors of Ondo and Ekiti States, Arakurin Rotimi Akeredolu and Kayode Fayemi respectively.
Others, the source hinted, are former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; former governor of Lagos State and minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; former governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode, and Femi Ojudu, a presidential adviser.
But the biggest obstacle may be the yet to be declared presidential ambition of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who was not only nominated by Tinubu as running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari, but also worked for Asiwaju as state Attorney General in Lagos.
Besides, the source hinted that some of these politicians are also eyeing the presidency, adding that though they are yet to throw in their hats, some people are already working for Osinbajo and Fayemi, among others.
Support groups for the vice president are also growing in number, with the launch of the Women Wing of the Osinbajo Grassroots Organisation (OGO) on Thursday.
The interim national coordinator of the OGO Women Wing, Hajia Idris Kuta, stated that regardless of his financial standing, the vice president possesses other invaluable qualities that are necessary to take the nation to higher heights.
Kuta said women are forces to reckon with because they have a lot to do with governance as managers of the home and nation builders.
As such, he said the organisation through the women will start mobilising for the presidential bid of Vice President Osinbajo.
The interim national publicity secretary of OGO, Yeye Bolanle Olatunde, said the coming together of the women wing was crucial considering that Prof Osinbajo himself places premium on them, and that women do not take the back seat politically.
“When it comes to election and mobilisation, we’re also at the forefront. Having the women wing inaugurated is a giant leap in this mission for the Vice President to Aso Rock.
Another support group endorsing Vice President Yemi Osinbajo ahead of the 2023 general election is a civic organisation operating under the aegis of Identify The Right Leader (ITRL).
OTRL yesterday endorsed Osinbajo for president, saying he is the right man to lead the country to the Promised Land.
The group declared their support for the vice president at a press briefing in Lagos after recently unveiling a 120-page impact assessment report on the programmes, policies and initiatives championed by Osinbajo.
Speaking at the conference, the director general of ITRL, Dayo Akintobi said, “We have realised that many Nigerians are not satisfied with their lots in life today, especially in light of the massive potential this country possessed which is barely scratched beyond the surface.’’
He noted that the country needs a true leader who can take the people out of many challenges.
“Of all the names that have been tipped as potential presidential aspirants, Osinbajo based on the impact of his actions in government has mostly affected the common man positively; hence, we recommend him to Nigerians,’’ he said.
Akintobi however said the vice president has not declared interest to contest or say anything publicly about his political future, noting that he does not want anybody to interpret the unveiling of the report as being tantamount to surreptitiously declaring the vice president is running.
Also speaking, the director of Strategy and spokesperson, ITRL, Dr Abimbola Oyarinu, said, “We recommend the Vice President to Nigerians as the best person to lead the country going forward because we realised that the number of people participating in voting leaders into offices keeps decreasing, and our objective is to galvanise and precipitate greater participation by Nigerians in the political process by bringing information and intelligence that they can use to make informed decisions about what to do during election times.
“We have completed our job as a group by identifying leaders irrespective of party affiliation or tribe who will be fit enough to lead the country to a greater height”.
In Lagos State however, a large number of the political elite are craving the mouthwatering prospects of producing the next president of Nigeria.
And except for some pockets of criticisms, there is nothing to suggest that the national leader of APC is losing grip of the state he won election twice as the governor.
In fact, his coming out to show interest in the 2023 presidential race has elicited so much excitement amongst political class in the state.
Showing their support for their leader, the APC in Lagos State has said its national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is qualified to be the president of Nigeria in 2023.
Giving reasons, the secretary of state chapter of the party, Lanre Ogunyemi, said Tinubu’s commitment, resourcefulness and pedigree put him in good stead to lead Nigeria.
Ogunyemi said the former governor has a right to aspire to be president in 2023, adding that it was left to Nigerians to accept him when the time comes.
Ogunyemi said, “Tinubu has all it takes to lead this country and he has all the fundamental rights as a Nigerian to aspire.
“It’s now left for Nigerians to accept or not. It’s now left for the party to decide who they want as the presidential candidate come 2023.’’
Also, national publicity secretary of Labour Party, Comrade Arabambi Abayomi said, “I believe very much strongly beyond all and every doubt that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has paid his dues in every which way on any scale and in any measure politically to make him highly qualified to seek to lead this country in the capacity of Mr President.
“Yes, as a proven competent and true politician, he is a fit presidential material. However, on the debit side is his suspected level of health challenges.
“It is incontestable that the office of Mr President is one that demands that the occupant should be 110 per cent fit and healthy beyond suspicion to any degree.”
Meanwhile, a former deputy national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, described the presidential ambition of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a huge joke.
George said his criticism of Tinubu’s presidential ambition was not borne out of vendetta or hatred for him as perceived in some quarters.
He said he meant well for the former governor of Lagos State and the country, adding however that there is the need to ask the right questions and scrutinise those who are seeking public office in the interest of the nation.
According to him, while all kinds of aspirants are already throwing their hats into the ring to be the president of the country come 2023, the way it should be in a democratic setting is that there must be the need to ask questions about the pedigree of such aspirants.
But Hon Mayowa Adebiyi, a chieftain of APC in Osun State, insisted that Tinubu remains a political institution whose personality cannot be undermined by any politician in the South West.
He noted that the APC leader, like he rightly pointed out while meeting President Muhammadu Buhari, has made many politicians and he is indeed a kingmaker.
He admonished the people of the region to give Tinubu support, saying he has what it takes to administer the country and make waves.
In Ekiti, the support base of the former Lagos State governor is fast spreading to all 177 wards and 16 local government areas of the state.
One of the APC aspirants in the state, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, is national chairman, Southwest Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 (SWAGA), which is one of the strong support groups rooting for the candidature of Senator Tinubu for 2023 presidential election in APC.
Adeyeye, who is a former minister of state for works, alongside other APC leaders last year toured all the wards and local government areas of the state to sell Tinubu’s ambition to the people.
Immediately after the conclusion of the statewide tour, APC SWAGA executives were inaugurated at state and local government levels.
Other APC leaders in the SWAGA train in Ekiti is the Senator representing Ekiti South, Tony Adeniyi; former House of Representative member and a son in-law to Tinubu, Oyetunde Ojo, and former members of the State House of Assembly, Femi Adeleye among others.
The Special Adviser to the president on political matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu was a Tinubu supporter until early this week.
The SWAGA boss, while declaring his intention to contest the June 18 governorship election in Ekiti State, described Tinubu as the best man to succeed President Buhari.
Adeyeye stated that the party and the people of the state in general would back Tinubu’s presidential aspiration, even as he warned against imposition of an unpopular candidate to fly the flag of the party.
He stated that Tinubu’s presidential ambition would bring goodness to Ekiti, especially if Ekiti people also elect him to govern the state after clinching the APC’s ticket.
“Our prayers are that Asiwaju Tinubu will be president and that you will make me the governor of Ekiti State. If this should happen, Ekiti will be better for it. With Tinubu and Adeyeye, it is more beneficial for Ekiti.”
Adeyeye said SWAGA is the most formidable political group in Ekiti APC, saying this is responsible for why others were afraid of direct primary.
“SWAGA offers an alternative platform if not for the group virtually all aggrieved APC members would have defected to PDP. SWAGA is popular, which is why they are scared of direct primary. It is only Adeyeye that can do it”.
More Chairmanship Candidates Emerge
Meanwhile, following the announcement of February 26, 2022 as the date for the party’s national convention, the number of aspirants seeking to contest the national chairman position of the APC is increasing by the day, with former governors of Borno and Benue States, Ali Modu Sheriff and George Akume, making their intentions clear yesterday.
Sheriff told journalists in Abuja that his ambition is to clinch the national chairman position of the governing party and not to hijack the party’s presidential ticket for the 2023 general polls.
He said he is the most qualified and competent among the aspirants who has what it takes to ensure that President Muhammadu Buhari hands over to an APC candidate in 2023.
Popularly referred to as SARS by his associates and friends, Sheriff boasted of having the magic wand to return the APC back on the right track and wriggle the party out of the crises it had been enmeshed in.
He clarified: “So, many insinuations are going around that Ali Modu Sheriff is not looking for chairmanship, he is looking to be presidential candidate. Please, I want to put it on record today, I am not looking for president. I am looking for a National Chairman so that I could lead a campaign like what we did in 2014 to make sure that our father and leader (Buhari) hands over power to another APC man as a President. If I want to be President, I am not afraid of anybody but I don’t want to be President but National Chairman.
“My mission is to transform the APC into a vehicle of greatness for Nigeria, to model the party to bring about a united Nigeria and collaborate with the government, supporting the achievement of technological greatness for the country.
My desire is to contribute immensely to the transformation of Nigeria using our party, the APC, as a tool to enthrone a better society for all and to make our people digitally inclined.
“I also intend to transform the party into a political institution for all, especially for the empowerment of youths and women for more political participation so that the party will be the party to beat in the next 50 years in the continent of Africa.
“Let me at this juncture commend the APC National Progressive Women for holding the just concluded conference, the first of its kind by any political party in Nigeria since this democratic dispensation”.
On why he thinks he is the best person for the chairmanship position, the former Borno governor said, “The APC under our leadership will collaborate with the federal government to ensure the continuity of the social investment programmes in the interest of all Nigerians at large, while working with the National Assembly to ensure necessary laws with legislative backings.
“We will also ensure resolution of all contending issues within the APC to ensure a united party ahead of the 2023 general elections so we can go into the contest as a united front.
“We will work to bring government at all levels closer to the people, and create a political institution where party administration and good governance will be taught, when I become APC next national chairman.
“The opposition and skeptics are boasting that our APC will be weakened at the end of President Muhamamadu Buhari’s tenure. For the APC to remain formidable and retain power, it requires a National Chairman who enjoys massive political goodwill across party lines with capacity to drive development at all levels.
“I am that man! With massive experience in political party administration, I am strategically placed, ahead of other aspirants with requisite goodwill, to lead our party, the APC to victory in the 2023 general election and beyond”.
In the same vein, former Benue State governor and current minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, George Akume, formally restated his intention to contest the national chairmanship position of the APC.
Akume who declared his ambition through some chieftains of the party promised to strongly encourage women to go all-out to occupy significant portions in the country’s political and governance spaces.
The APC chieftains noted that Akume currently stands out among all other aspirants in the chairmanship race based on his experience, capability, integrity and support among all interests.
The party chieftains are former national publicity secretary of National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Chief Simone Shango; former minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Barr Sam Ode; a governorship aspirant, Chief Ray Murphy; publisher of Summit Newspapers, Chief Terlumun Akputu; another governorship aspirant, Prof. Terhemba Shija, and Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, among others.
Shango who is chairman, contact committee and media group for Senator Akume’s campaign team, led The other prominent APC leaders and media personalities.
He said if elected, the Special Duties minister will work towards ensuring that APC becomes a model in political party administration in Nigeria
Flaunting a rich resume that cut across the civil service, public service and politics, the two time governor of Benue State said the party needs someone with his experience to address the myriad of challenges facing the APC and secure the electoral value of the ruling party in a post Mohammadu Buhari era.
To bolster confidence in APC, they said Akume will hold periodic Town Hall Interactive Sessions around the country and convey feedback to the APC Governments at all levels.
“Also, he will promote and participate in a robust social media communication scheme to feel the pulse of Nigerians, especially the youths and encourage the respective APC Governments to appropriately act on key issues raised. Senator George Akume will passionately see to the faithful implementation of APC’s Manifesto. Senator George Akume and Special Duties Minister believes the party needs someone with his vast experience to reposition APC to retain power in 2023”.
Sango insisted that APC needs Akume because his calm and focused disposition stands him out as a candidate to beat.
He said, “The calm, focused and foresighted, Distinguished Senator George Akume will bring his extensive experience and competences to bear on the job, by thinking and acting outside the box in prioritizing the tackling and solving of APC’s myriad problems.
“Senator George Akume is well placed to achieve these goals, having been two-term elected Governor of Benue State, three-term (12 years) Senator including as Chairman Senate Committee on Army, Senate Minority Leader, and currently, Minister of the Federal Republic, among others”
He said the emergence of Senator Akume will end the ongoing agitation of APC youths, adding that he will device credible strategy for inclusion of all stakeholder and vulnerable groups in the party.
He continued: “Senator George Akume will vigorously encourage women in general to strive to occupy significant portions of the political and governance Spaces.
“To bolster confidence in APC, Senator George Akume will hold periodic Town Hall Interactive Sessions around the country and convey feedback to the APC Governments at all levels. Also, he will promote and participate in a robust social media communication scheme to feel the pulse of Nigerians, especially the youths and encourage the respective APC Governments to appropriately act on key issues raised. Senator George Akume will passionately see to the faithful implementation of APC’s Manifesto”.