2023 CAMPAIGN WATCH | THISDAYLIVE

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Editor May 6, 2022
Updated 2022/05/06 at 3:55 AM

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Across the Parties, the Game is On…

From all indications, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (APC), has finally thrown its presidential ticket open with the screening of its 17 presidential aspirants, last week, out of which two were disqualified. 

Chairman of the screening committee and former Senate President, David Mark, bluntly refused to name the two aspirants, who were disqualified and when asked if the party would be refunding the nomination fees paid by the disqualified aspirants, Mark said the party had no reason to refund. 

However, throwing the party’s ticket open would definitely not sit well with southerners, who are gunning for the party’s ticket. Led by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, the aspirants had based their position on the fact that states controlled by the PDP in the South have been sustaining the party as the ruling APC, has practically rendered the party comatose in many northern states.

While they have a very good point, it has been obvious from day one that the issue of zoning would always be a thorny one in the party going by the number of northerners, who have made their intentions known to battle for the ticket of the party. 

Former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, and former Speaker of the House of Representatives and current governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, are political heavyweights from the North that could not just be thrown under the political bus in the name of zoning. 

Some of them could abandon the party and go to other parties to realise their ambition. While there are no guarantees that they would win, they would further weaken the party and give the ruling APC more leeway.

Now, if those in support of zoning in the opposition PDP thought they were taking a cue from the ruling APC, perhaps, the words of the National Chairman of the party and former governor of Nassarawa State, Abdullahi Adamu, should be a jolt that even zoning is not done and dusted in the APC. 

Speaking last week, Adamu said a final decision on zoning of the presidential ticket of the APC had not been taken. He added that he could not preempt the party and said categorically that if the party had taken a decision on the issue. 

His words: “I am today privileged to be the chairman of the party. The party is greater than me. The party has not made a decision and I cannot preempt what the party’s decision will be.”

Whatever Adamu had in mind, when he said this would be better understood by the man himself. However, it seems, in principle, the party might have zoned its presidential ticket to the South as all the leading aspirants on the party are from the South. 

Notable among these were Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu; Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi; current Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi; Pastor Tunde Bakare, and former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun,  among others. 

Perhaps, Adamu was trying to encourage northerners to join the fray. But if the current realities were anything to go by, then, the presidential ticket of the APC would be going to the South, unless Adamu has other ideas. And no one can tell if he doesn’t have. 

FINALLY, BAKARE SET TO MAKE IT OFFICIAL

Barring any last minute changes, charismatic Pentecostal cleric and founder of the Citadel Global Community Church, Pastor Tunde Bakare, will officially declare his presidential ambition on Monday May 9th at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre, in Abuja. 

Sources from the camp of the lawyer-turned pastor told THISDAY he had already picked his Nomination and Expression of Interest forms and it could not be ascertained if these were paid for by friends and admirers or he picked up the bill by himself. One of his aides, who craved anonymity told this reporter over the weekend that, they were not sure if he would be picking up the form by himself but it had been paid for.

Last week, Bakare officially disengaged from the day to day running of the church to face his political ambition squarely as he did not want anything that would be a distraction to him and so as not to affect the running of the church. He is said to have also been meeting prominent northern leaders, albeit in secret to seek their support for his ambition. 

Apart from this, he has visited the Aso Rock Presidential Villa at least twice in the last couple of weeks, where he met with President Muhammadu Buhari. Though details of their meetings were not shared, even with his aides, not to talk of the media. 

A couple of weeks back, he was said to have also got a call from a prominent northern traditional ruler, who was said to have promised his support and also that of other top traditional leaders from the region.

It could not be ascertained or verified if the call from the northern monarch was instigated from the Presidency, but one thing that could not be argued is the very close relationship between Buhari and Bakare, which pre-dates the former’s presidency. 

Bakare was the Buhari’s running mate for the 2011 presidential election, which was the last of his previous three failed attempts to win the presidency. That time, Buhari ran on the platform of the now defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which later joined other legacy parties that formed the now ruling APC.

Bakare has not missed any opportunity to tell his compatriots that he would be the 16th president of the country after Buhari, who is the 15th. If many thought he was joking, his declaration next week would be a major step towards realising that ambition (others may call it prophesy).

It only remains to be seen how far he intends to go. But he surely means business. And that is why anyone who underrates Bakare in this contest does so at his or her own political risk. 

TINUBU 2023: WHEN LAGOS ‘RELOCATED’ TO SAUDI ARABIA

For the greater part of last week, almost the entire Lagos State governmental machinery joined a former governor of the state and presidential aspirant on the platform of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, for Umrah, the lesser hajj, in Saudi Arabia.

The delegation was led by the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, which had others like commissioners, special advisers as well as House members, who were Muslims.  In fact, video trending on social media saw one of them leading a prayer march for the success of Tinubu’s presidential ambition. 

Sources have now confirmed that it was not just officials, both elected and appointed, of Lagos State that went to Saudi Arabia. Among the contingent were those who were seeking one elective position or the other and wanted the endorsement or blessing of the strong man of Lagos politics. In fact, some of them were openly displaying their campaign posters in the Holy Land. 

While the ambition of their political godfather was dominating the political space, there is also a serious and rather vicious scheming for various elective positions in the state ahead of 2023. These positions included the three senatorial seats in the state, 20 House of Representatives slots as well as the state House of Assembly seats.

Words were making the rounds last week that Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, wife of the presidential aspirant and Senator currently representing Lagos Central Senatorial District, might not return to the Senate come 2023 with current Deputy Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, being pencilled down to replace her. 

In the same vein, the current Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat, might not be returning as deputy to Governor Babajide SanwoOlu. Hamzat, sources said, might emerge as the party’s candidate for Lagos West with the current Senator, Solomon Olalekan Adeola, popularly known as Yayi, already scheming to run for same seat but this time in his native Ogun State, where he wants to become the first senator to represent two senatorial districts in two different states. He wants to represent Ogun West Senatorial District.

It still a bit cloudy but things will definitely take shape  in the weeks ahead as various primary elections are billed to be done with by June as per the new Electoral Act.

…AND OSINBAJO FINDS HIS VOICE

Last week, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, said if he didn’t choose to contest for the presidency in order to succeed his boss, it would have amounted to betraying Nigerians. He said having served as acting president for cumulatively over seven months and gained the contacts he has, both locally and internationally, it would have been a great injustice if he hadn’t contested the 2023 presidential election. 

His words: “President Muhammadu Buhari, just out of his open-mindedness and his own generosity, ensured that I was given very serious responsibilities as vice-president and I also acted as president. In those capacities, I got to know so many things that most people will never come across, even people in government will never come across.

“I gained a lot of experience on that account. Now, the opportunity has come. With the experience that I have, the connection and contacts that I have, both locally and internationally, it will be a betrayal to the country not to accept to serve the country.”

He added that the experiences he had gained have put him in a good stead to run the affairs of the country and put them into use to save those who are dying of hunger and diseases. 

“Many people are dying for the country every day. If with all that has been given to me by the grace of God – all the experience – I now retire to Lagos or Ikenne to go and write my memoir, it would be a great injustice to this country. It will be great injustice to our country, that is why I have thrown my hat in the ring to ensure I make the best case for the position of President of Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

And, apparently responding to allegations that he betrayed his former political godfather and erstwhile governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, Osinbajo said he owed nobody any allegiance except the people of Nigeria and the oath of office he swore to defend. 

“After all I have learnt, if called upon to serve the nation, should I say No? I have decided that I will run for office. I have sworn an oath to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is an oath to our people, our children, and the future of Nigeria. I owe nobody else any allegiance outside the oath.”

Many supporters of Tinubu have accused the Vice-President of betraying the former governor of Lagos state by declaring to run for the presidency after Tinubu had also declared. However, many analysts have countered that Osinbajo had every right to contest, adding that as a sitting Vice-President, he has the first right of refusal to succeed his boss. 

WILL DOGARA BITE THE DUST AGAINST MOHAMMED?

Last week, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, had declared the seat of a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, vacant, claiming that the defection of Dogara from the opposition PDP, to the ruling APC, had rendered his election null and void. 

Dogara represents Dass, Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro Federal Constituency of Bauchi State. 

He was in the APC, when he emerged Speaker of the House of Representatives, at a time he and former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, pulled a fast one on the APC establishment to emerge Speaker and Senate President, respectively. Dogara was to return to the PDP and with the support of the current governor of the state, Bala Mohammed, he was able to come back to the House having joined Mohammed too to defeat former Governor Abubakar. 

Before the 2019 election that brought Mohammed in as the governor, there had been rumours that Dogara was moving back to the PDP and the rumours became a reality, when he was formally accepted back to the party on January 29, 2019. 

However, on July 23, 2020, Dogara, yet again, moved back to the ruling APC and he was taken to meet President Buhari in Aso Rock by the then caretaker chairman of the party, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, who claimed that the conditions that pushed Dogara out of the party in the first place had been resolved. 

Dogara had remained in the ruling APC then until the Abuja Federal High Court ruling. But his defection back to the APC in 2020 might not be unconnected to the local politics of Bauchi State, where he has fallen out with Mohammed, who is the current governor of the state. 

Rumours have it that Dogara might be eyeing Mohammed’s job and he was aware that there was no way he could wrest the PDP ticket from Mohammed next year even when Mohammed is also eyeing the PDP presidential ticket. Hence, the need to return to APC. Though he has appealed the judgment, it remains to be seen if he has not lost out of the power game in his native Bauchi State ahead of the 2023 elections. Mohammed is one ruthless politician, who does not take prisoners, when dealing with his political foes. And if the way he treated his erstwhile aides, when he sacked his whole cabinet late last year was anything to go by, Dogara, has a long battle in his hands.

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