2023 CAMPAIGN WATCH
Last week, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), held its first National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, since the emergence of the Senator Abdullahi-led executive of the party almost a month ago. Two major decisions came from the meeting.
First was the pegging of the cost of the party’s presidential nomination form at N100 millionand the second was that the NEC ceded its powers to the National Working Committee(NWC), of the party for a period of 90 days. The implication of this was that decisions that would have ordinarily needed the approval of the NEC could now be handled by the NWC.
This was a massive political masterstroke from the party’s establishment as this decision would have big ramifications on how the party goes about its thorny presidential primaries. The two major tendencies within the party are those for consensus arrangement and those who want direct primaries.
Sources have told THISDAY that the way Senator Adamu emerged as the national chair of the party was a dress rehearsal for the presidential primaries with President Muhammadu Buhari, possibly indicating his preferred candidate a few days to the presidential primaries. It remains to be seen how this will pan out. But the ceding of the powers of the NEC to the NWC is an indication that things will become clearer in the weeks ahead.
However, in a move that unsettled some presidential aspirants in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice-Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), and elder statesman, Professor Ango Abdullahi, had announced that former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and current governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, had emerged as the two consensus candidates of the North for the PDP presidential ticket.
Abdullahi said he was carrying instruction given him by former military president, Ibrahim Babangida.
“The former president encouraged the aspirants to have a resolution within themselves and come up with one candidate, which they reported back to him after some days and asked him to go ahead and pick one out of the four. General Babangida on his part opted for inclusion, through wider consultation and assigned me to design criteria and carry out the necessary consultations with elders and leaders across the three geopolitical zones of the North.”
He said the process was conducted in three stages. In the first phase, the opinions of six distinguished persons each from the three geopolitical zones were sought with regards to each of the four aspirants. He also explained that each of the zonal delegates was allocated two votes to choose the first and second choice making a total of 36 votes overall. According to Abdullahi, the outcome of that consultation was as follows:
“Seven votes for the candidate (A) Aminu Waziri; 10 votes for the candidate (B) Bala Mohammed; 10 votes for the candidate (C) A-B Saraki; and five votes for the candidate (D), M Hayatu-Deen. For this exercise, it is hereby resolved that Governor Bala Mohammad from the North-east and former Senate President Bukola Saraki from the North-central be presented as the northern consensus candidates for the moment.
“The successful aspirants are hereby urged to work together to make allowance for further consultations to foster understanding among themselves, and the PDP community to ensure a rancour-free primary election in which all eligible candidates would be free to exercise their rights. We sincerely commend the sportsmanship and statesmanship exhibited throughout the exercise by all those involved and urge continuous cooperation and teamwork to ensure victory for the party.”
However, as expected, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, said he never presented himself for any exercise so there was no way he could have been allocated any votes. Also, from the camp of the Sokoto State governor, Waziri Tambuwal, who is also vying for the ticket and had subjected himself to the arrangement, the reaction was swift and strong-worded, denying not being part of the decision.
Former Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido, also called on all members of the party in the northern states to ignore the outcome of the consensus.
“Having widely consulted party leaders across the 19 northern states and FCT, it is hereby stated to our teeming party members and the general public that what was reported in the media is only the personal opinion of those who issued the statement and not the position of the PDP members in the North.”
Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, in a statement by his campaign office, also said the process of arriving at a consensus candidate had collapsed.
“The candidates involved could not reach a compromise amongst themselves, resulting in the decision of our principal, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, and Governor Aminu Tambuwal to discontinue the process,” the statement added, describing the committee constituted by Abdullahi as completely faceless and the evaluation criteria subjective.”
From all indications, there is no way, either from the South or the North, the PDP will be able to present a consensus candidate before its presidential primaries. Therefore, all roads lead to presidential convention venue.
Amosun’s Glittering Political Odyssey
Senator Ibikunle Amosun, former governor of Ogun State and one of the closest confidants of President Muhammadu Buhari, is set to join the presidential race. Though details of his announcement were initially kept under the wraps, feelers came out last week that he would be declaring, after the Ramadan, precisely May 5.
Amosun is an old political horse, who has been around for some time and he is one of the very few politicians of southern extraction, whose relationship with Buhari dates well before the present political dispensation. Though he had his political fingers burnt the last time, when his preferred candidate for the Ogun governorship, Adekunle Akinlade, was outsmarted and the incumbent, Dapo Abiodun, picked the ticket of the ruling APC, and went on to win the governorship election proper.
Even that setback has not taken anything away from Amosun’s political profile as he has kept his structure intact in the state, more so as the senator currently representing Ogun Central Senatorial district.
While he will definitely have a battle on his hands for the APC presidential ticket, the fact remains that Amosun has the requisite experience and pedigree to aspire for the highest office in the land. His records as two-term governor of his home state speak for themselves but his greatest asset is the fact that he has hands-on experience as an administrator and successful accountant before venturing into politics.
Perhaps, this is what has given him the courage to take tough decisions that even neutrals might be asking if he considered the political implications before taking such decisions. One of such was the demolition of the house of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and many other prominent indigenes of the state for development sake. But before doing that, he had to demolish his own house too to show that there was nothing personal in the decision. Perhaps, such toughness will become handy at the presidential level.
As bright as his chances are, there are some snags though. One of this is religion which, despite calls for its de-emphasis, will still play a major role in 2023. Another one is whether he has enough resources to prosecute a successful presidential bid going by the purse strings of some of the leading aspirants, although as a successful accountant, he is rich and wealthy.
Beyond these snags, however, the immense qualifications of Amosun to run for the highest office in the land remain unquestionable.
With One Eye on Ekiti 2022, Fayemi Bids for Presidency
A couple of weeks back, Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said he would make his political intentions as related to the 2023 presidential contest known after the fasting period. And not just the Christian fasting, which ended a couple of weeks back, but also the Muslim Ramadan, which is due to end in a few days.
Governor Fayemi might be playing the correct politics of religion, because while he was saying this, his foot soldiers were putting finishing touches to his declaration with the campaign tagged ‘The Nigerian Project’. In fact, campaign memorabilia had been produced and even a formal gathering had been held to test waters.
In the same vein, Fayemi was at the presidential villa a couple of weeks ago with sources saying he was there to inform President Buhari of his intention to contest the APC ticket and also seek his (Buhari’s) blessings. The information was, however, not correct, because he told Buhari a long time ago about his aspiration and like the president had told others, he encouraged him to go and run.
Beyond 2023, though, there is still the small matter of the gubernatorial election in his state coming up in June, where his successor as governor would emerge. It is needless saying Fayemi would do everything possible to ensure that his anointed candidate, Biodun Oyebanji, wins the race. He has the candidate of the opposition PDP, Bisi Kolawole, and that of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Segun Oni, to contend with. But the greater challengeis coming from within his party. While many of his aides and supporters will not admit this, the dust generated by the highly disputed governorship primaries is yet to clear.
The initial brickbats might have stopped, the fact remains that those who lost out during the controversial primaries have yet to join the rest of the party in campaigning for Oyebanji. Heavyweights in the party like Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District, are yet to instruct their followers to work for Oyebanji. And there is no way Fayemi will be able to pull any weight at the centre if he is not able to deliver Ekiti to APC come June this year.
Therefore, he has his job cut out. While planning his presidential bid, he dares not take his eyes off the coming governorship election in Ekiti. But take the Ekiti gubernatorial ‘distraction’ out of the way, Fayemi is young, vibrant and has what it takes to run for the Presidency and with the war of attrition from the camps of the two leading contenders from the Southwest, Tinubu and Osinbajo, perhaps, he might be a game changer. Fingers crossed.
Will Hayatudeen Be PDP’s Middle Ground Joker?
For years, if not decades, Mohammed Hayatudeen, former banker and someone that could qualify for the elder statesman tag, was never part of the political process even if he had held public offices in the past. But the Borno State-born technocrat has stepped out of his bureaucratic shell and wants to be President of the Republic.
Give it to the 68 year-old Hayatudeen. He is immensely qualified. If his resume is anything to go by, then one can conveniently say he has paid his dues in every sector he has worked. His career started when he honed his boardroom skills in principal investments and project finance at Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (later New Nigeria Development Corporation), which was, as at that time, Nigeria’s largest industrial holding firm at the time with investments in different sectors of the economy with its hands on so many economic pies.
He was later to become the conglomerate’s Group Chief Executive and he was the man to ensure that there was direction, effective leadership and vibe for the group’s over 140 subsidiaries. He later became the president and chief executive officer of FSB International Bank which was the then almost moribund Federal Savings Bank. He not only saved the bank, he turned it into a profit-making outfit. He was later to set up Alpine Group which was a project development outfit and was responsible for some landmark projects across the country.
Now, Hayatudeen is stepping into the soap box. He wants to be President of the country on the platform of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP. But party the is mired in the zoning controversy. The party’s chieftains from the South like Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State are vehemently saying the party has to zone its ticket to the South. They have a point. But the flipside is if the party wants to pander to the emotions of zoning or actually working to win election. The thinking in some quarters is that if a northerner picks the ticket of the PDP and the ruling APC zones its own to the South, northern voters may vote along ethnic and religious lines.
However, there is also the small issue of the so-called Professor Ango Abdullahi ‘screening committee’ which had picked former Senate President Bukola Saraki and Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State as the north’s consensus aspirants for the PDP ticket. Hayatudeen, like other aspirants which include Governor Tambuwal of Sokoto State and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, has dissociated himself from the so-called endorsement.
If PDP chooses to throw the ticket open, as it is likely to do, and the country decides to look beyond career politicians for the highest office in the land, perhaps, Hayatudeen might be the joker. But it is still morning yet on creation day.
Amaechi’s Joker in the Pack
When there was the unfortunate incident of bandits attack on a Kaduna-Abuja train service late last month, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, ruffled not a few feathers,when he told newsmen on national television that the disaster would have been averted if the memo he submitted to the Federal Executive Council (FEC), for a digital security protection for the rail line had been approved. Some even accused the former minister of playing to the gallery by trying to extricate himself from an incident that was not only an indictment on the federal government in the management of the security situation in the country but also a public relations disaster for the government.
Even if he was playing to the gallery, only few can take away the credit due Amaechi in the way he has handled the transportation sector since he was assigned that portfolio in 2015. Arguably one of the few positives that can be taken away from the near disaster of the last seven years, is the massive improvement in the transport sector, especially, the rail sub-sector. And the credit goes to the former governor of Rivers State.
It was, therefore, not surprising when he announced his intention to run for the presidency come 2023. The fact that many initially did not take his ambition seriously is fast comingback to be a massive plus for Amaechi. Many might have forgotten that he was the director-general of the Buhari Campaign Organisation in 2015 and 2019. And the way he handled the assignment could be assessed going by the success of these assignments. This is a massive experience that even a billion dollars cannot buy.
He also has extensive political networks in the country and sources told THISDAY that he was part of the high-level political brinksmanship that brought the current National Chairman of the ruling APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, to office. The emergence of Adamu could be described as being against the run of play going by the fact that many, including some APC governors, had thought that Tanko Al-Makura was the candidate to beat.
Twenty-four hours is too long in politics. Therefore, it will be improbable to say that Amaechi is the candidate to beat. He has massive job in his hands to be accepted across religious, ethnic and political divides. But anyone who underrates him does so at a big political peril.