|2023 CAMPAIGN WATCH|
Since its formation in 1998, no issue has troubled the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), like zoning ahead of the 2023 presidential election. The party seems, ironically, to have been boxed into a corner by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and vice versa, going by the assumption that the ruling party might have zoned its presidential ticket to the South.
In fact, the issue has become a moral one with many accusing the party of prioritising winning election over fairness and equity. And the argument of southern leaders of the party is tenable: it is indefensible that the presidency goes back to the North after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Yet, the argument of the likes of Aminu Tambuwal, the Sokoto State governor, and one of the arrowheads of anti-zoning in the PDP is also ensconced in merit. The argument is that there is no zoning in the party’s constitution and that the party must choose between playing the morality game or winning election. Besides, their argument that of PDP’s 16 years in power, the south spent over 13 years, cannot be discarded, nor the fact that the last PDP president was a southerner. Thus, either in terms of logic or strategy, the northern PDP has a case.
Yet, the likes of Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor, who has picked his presidential nomination form, want the South, especially, the South-south to be treated with fairness as the zone has been the one sustaining the party since the APC has practically overrun the North.
The party, as a result, set up a 37-man committee headed by the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, to find an amicable solution to the problem. The committee has come out that though zoning is one of the principles of the party, however, anyone who has interest in running for the presidency irrespective of where he or she comes from is free to pick the party’s nomination form.
Is Zoning Discarded?
In the ruling APC, the waiting game is on. Virtually everyone, who has picked the party’s presidential nomination form is looking at the body language of the president to know who his preferred candidate would be. The thinking is that the emergence of Senator Abdullahi Adamu, was to test the waters if the idea of consensus would work despite protestations. And it did. A member of the party, who did not want his name in print told THISDAY that the president would also try same format for the selection of the party’s presidential flagbearer.
And Amaechi ‘Runs’ into the Race
On Saturday, a former governor of Rivers State and current Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, joined the presidential race in Port-Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. Amaechi, however, caused a pleasant stir, when he ran around the stadium’s tartan tracks to prove that he was fit enough, not only for the race, but for the job. That, obviously, was a subliminal message sent to some quarters.
The occasion was not actually a declaration rally but a thanksgiving service organised by the Rivers State chapter of the ruling APC. Perhaps, Amaechi just used the opportunity to throw his hat into the ring. Declaring, Amaechi, who was speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly for eight years, has this to say:
“I stand before you today to declare my intention and submit my application to serve as your next President. My aspiration is not about fulfilling any ambition. I am contesting for the office, because I believe that it is my moral duty to give what I can in the service of my country.”
Amaechi is immensely qualified to run for the highest office in the land. He has massive experience in public service in the last 23 years, having served as speaker, governor and now a minister. Besides, he perfectly fits into the agitation that the presidency returns to the South and many believe he is actually an Igbo man, who happened to be born in Rivers State going his names. Above all, sources say he has very strong and influential friends and associates,who are ready to help in financial aspect of his campaign.
But despite his national stature, APC is not the most popular in Rivers State. That is one narration Amaechi has not been able to change for so long. Apart from this, many in South-south still believe he betrayed his ‘brother’, former President Goodluck Jonathan, by supporting and working for Buhari in 2015. How Amaechi deals with these remains to be seen. Beyond that, he has the gait and composure to try political luck at the highest level. After all, what would he have done if he did not shoot his shot?
At Last, Bakare Offers His Services!
Months, if not years, after telling whoever cared to listen that he was Number 16 on the presidential list, Pastor Tunde Bakare, founder of the Citadel Global Community Church, has finally declared his intention to run for the presidency come 2023. He did this during a virtual meeting with Nigerians in diaspora tagged ‘Unveiling Project 16 to Nigerians’. The theme of the virtual meeting was: ‘The Portrait of a New Nigeria’.
Speaking during the meeting, Bakare said North was being set against the South and Christians against Muslims in the build-up to the 2023 election. But said he remained the rallying point to restore order in the country.
While he has not really made much noise, Bakare is said to be a strong contender for the APC ticket and his closeness to President Buhari remains a strong asset. He has also played many critical but silent roles in stabilising the regime in those early days. There are talks in power circles that when President Buhari said he won’t disclose his preferred candidate so he would not be harmed, he might be referring to Bakare. Many have also been asking if he was a member of the ruling APC. He responded to this during an interview with THISDAY last October that he was a card-carrying and foundation member of the party.
Between Bello and Abiola’s Family Name
For some time now, the youthful Governor of Kogi State, Yahya Bello, has been telling everyone that he wanted to succeed President Buhari come 2023. In fact, he told Nigerians that he would like to replicate the success he has recorded so far in Kogi at the national level. And to show that he meant business. Bello, recently named a very strong campaign organisation. The organisation would be headed by the daughter of the late billionaire businessman and philanthropist, MKO Abiola, Mrs. Hafsat Abiola-Castelo, as Director-General.
Bello did not stop there. As if there were some templates he wanted to pick from the ‘Hope ‘93’ presidential campaign organisation of the late Abiola, he also appointed Senator Jonathan Zwingina, as the national coordinator of the campaign team while former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, was named the deputy national coordinator. Zwingina was head of Abiola’s ‘Hope ‘93’ campaign for the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Apparently wanting to justify her decision to work with Bello, Hafsat had claimed that he chose to accept Bello’s call to duty, because she saw same qualities of her late father in the Kogi governor. As expected, Hafsat has been receiving knocks for such comparison with her sister, Tundun, claiming she (Hafsat) was doing a great disservice to their late father’s larger than life name.
Beyond Abiola’s name, it remains to be seen how Bello would navigate the issue of zoning, as from all indications, the APC presidential candidate may likely come from the South and Bello is from the North Central. Apart from the issue of zoning, there are those, who can wager anything that his near eight years as governor of Kogi State have not really added much to the state in terms of positive development. But Bello seems determined to push his ambition to a logical conclusion.
Now, the Wike Challenge
When he appeared on a Channels Television programme recently and was asked why he was contesting, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, said it was because Nigeria is in trouble. For some time, the issue within the opposition PDP, has been whether the party would zone its presidential ticket to the North or the South. But it seems the APC might zoneits presidential ticket to the South as many southern leading lights in the PDP have also been canvassing for the party to also zone its own presidential ticket to the South.
And leading this charge has been the Rivers State governor, who accused some of his colleague governors of having abandoned the party at some point only to come back while he has always remained with the party despite persecutions. Those he was referring to included the current Sokoto State Governor and former Speaker of the House Representatives, Aminu Bello Tambuwal. Tambuwal had left the PDP to join the then opposition APC after serving as Speaker for four years on the platform of the PDP.
Thus, last week, Wike called on the larger PDP to treat the South-south with fairness, saying the zone was the pillar of the PDP. Whereas, Tambuwal has repeatedly told whoever cares to listen that the opposition PDP must be ready to either follow zoning or be interested in winning the 2023 Presidential election. And he has declared his presidential ambition just like Wike.
No doubt, the issue of zoning is a thorny one within the PDP with the party torn between the devil and the deep blue sea, it is aware of need for power to return to the South while not discountenancing the fact that the North is a factor in the power equation going by number of votes the region usually returns. Analysts believe that should both parties zone their presidential tickets to the South, PDP might not stand a good chance with power of incumbency firmly on the side of whoever APC picks as its candidate. On the other hand, those pushing their argument on the basis of fairness say power should return to the South after eight years of President Buhari.
It now remains to be seen if Wike can pull it through within the party and pick its presidential ticket. All fingers remain crossed or those pushing for a northern presidential flagbearer have their way with Wike only having his say.
…And Sanwo-Olu Gets the Nod!
A couple of weeks ago, a poser was raised on this page on when the current Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, would declare his second term ambition. Sources had told THISDAY that, the governor was actually waiting for a green light from the godfather of Lagos politics and one of the national leaders of APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Finally, the greenlight came recently and the governor was cleared to go for second term. There had been fears that the ‘Ambode treatment’ was awaiting SanwoOlu with many claiming his deputy, Femi Hamzat, could be pushed to replace him or another political greenhorn completely. But all these had been laid to rest with hints coming in lately that Sanwo-Olu might declare his second term ambition at the Eagle Square venue of the APC national convention.
A source close to Tinubu had also confirmed this to a national daily (not THISDAY) that,Sanwo-Olu was coming back. In February this year, Sanwo-Olu had taken his case to the people of Lagos State, when he declared that it was the people that would determine if he deserved second term or not.
His words: “It’s for the citizens to determine if we are good enough for the second term. What we are doing now is the work and what they will miss if they didn’t allow us for a second term to complete the job.”
Many had taken this to be a way of putting pressure on his political godfather, Tinubu, to make up his mind on whether he would be allowed to run for a second term or not. And now, the endorsement had come.
Going by the issues that have dogged his administration, Sanwo-Olu has performed beyond average. Just seventeen months into his administration in October 2020, the EndSars protests had rocked many cities in the southern part of the country with Lagos being the worst hit. The lowest point was when protesters were allegedly killed by soldiers at the Lekki toll gate,which led to outrage both within and outside the country. SanwoOlu had navigated this crisis fairly well even as many exonerated him on the basis of the fact that the issue was beyond him.
The COVID-19 pandemic had hit Lagos more than any other state in the country with the state daily toping list of positive cases and eventual casualties. There were also the security challenges that followed the lockdown. Once again, the governor navigated these creditably well with the way the state handled the crisis especially, the management of its isolation centres. If he wins the mandate of ‘Lagosians’ for another four years, he can only wish for a more crisis-free second term.
Can Obi Bring ‘Anambra’ to the Centre?
If there was one governor in Nigeria, believed to have left office with his integrity and credibility intact, it’s former governor of Anambra State and banker-turned politician, Peter Obi. He was the governor of Anambra State between 2006 and 2014 and succeeded by Chief Willie Obiano. Obi, before joining politics, was the managing director at Fidelity Bank.
As governor, Obi created a model in public administration and also blocked so many leakages and wastages in government to the extent that many labelled him a very ‘stingy governor’ due to his extremely frugal approach to management of public funds. Obi fixed roads and built schools and hospitals and set a standard in public administration that his successor simply found too much to replicate.
In 2019, Obi was named running mate to the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, himself a former Vice-President. Many hailed the choice as a good one with analysts permutating that while Atiku would be handling general governance and politics, Obi would be in charge of the economy as a former banker. They lost the election to the ruling APC.
Now, Obi has decided to go a step further as he declared his intention to run for the presidency himself come next year. Declaring at the Government House, Awka, the Anambra State capital, where he addressed traditional rulers and presidents-general of the 181 communities in the state, Obi said he was coming in to lead a Nigeria that would create jobs and attract foreign investments.
Beyond his immense qualification and well-off profile, perhaps, Obi’s candidacy can be used to answer the Igbo Question with many affirming that even if power should return to the South, it should go to the South-east as no Nigerian from that zone has served as president of the country since the late General Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, who was killed in a counter-coup in July 1966.
Zoning aside, many neutrals would readily say Obi is qualified to run for the presidency but the question remains: how far can he go?
The Fayose, Dino Tirade
Last week the rabble-rousing former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, picked the presidential nomination form and expression of interest of the PDP, believed to have been made possible by his friend and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike. And he made it clear that he was not in the race to step down for anyone. He also resigned his membership of the party’s zoning committee, claiming since he had become an aspirant and could not continue as a member of the committee again.
He also condemned the aspirations of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, stating the two should not have even come out to contest the PDP presidential nomination ticket. He added that the duo got what they did not bargain for in the APC and that was why they returned to the PDP.
In his characteristically cheap populism, Fayose headed to a popular local eatery in Abuja to have a taste of ‘amala’, a Nigerian pastry food made from cassava or yam. Pictures of Fayose devouring a plate of ‘amala’ immediately went viral and Senator Dino Melaye, a known ally of Atiku, took serious exception to Fayose’s utterances saying, the presidency was more than eating ‘amala’ and ‘ponmo’ (cow skin).
Melaye, in his very scathing remarks on Fayose, said, “Inebriated by several wraps of amala in Abuja, former governor Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, in his characteristic exuberance directed indecent and indecorous attacks at two serious contenders for the presidential ticket of the PDP, HE Atiku Abubakar and HE Bukola Saraki.
“Incidentally, the mauling of amala gained more publicity over the collection of the presidential nomination form, a pretentious exhibition of dinning with the masses. The issue before Nigerians now is not who can eat more but who can produce food. That is why the attempt to tar the achievements of Atiku Abubakar as former Vice-President and Bukola Saraki as former Senate President by Fayose would be discounted as the belching perfidy of a presidential gambler.”
On paper, it is obvious that Fayose cannot come near the duo of Atiku and Saraki in political stature and standing within the PDP. And perhaps, he has to attack the two political heavyweights in continuation of the proxy war over the zoning of the party’s presidential ticket. If so, Fayose will always have the likes of Dino to contend with.
A Distraction Called Ekweremadu!
A former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, is the last thing Enugu wants to talk about right now as the state projects into 2023. Unfortunately, this typically grasping political liability would not steer clear of the stage as events unfold. Almost four years ago, he came out to celebrate his 57th birthday and 16th year in the state, an occasion he seized to announce his exit from the senate, by which time he would have put some straight 20 years into the upper chamber of the legislature. Doing what? Nothing!
Yes, he is no longer returning to the senate, but he is not calling it quit yet. He also wants to be the governor of Enugu State, against the extant political tradition in the coal city. In Enugu, rotational governorship is taken very seriously, and from Enugu East to West and North, the three districts, had taken turns at the governorship and expected to start all over again with the East taking the next turn. But Ekweremadu would not take any of those. He would rather the rotation was jettisoned, because he wants to be governor.
Let’s even say the rotation is relaxed based on some ‘logical’ explanations, is Enugu made only for Ekweremadu, who had spent a whole 20 years in the senate? Even if the system beckons on him, he should turn it down if he had any shame or dignity at all. What could be so special about him that only one man would be senator for 20 years and still be gunning for the governorship, yet, without any stellar performance? He is just a distraction that Enugu should not pay any attention to. He is driven by the lust for power and security and definitely not service to the people.