By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja
Ahead of the February 26 national convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, there are underground moves by some powerful stakeholders in the party to foist a consensus candidature on members.
Tinubu only recently declared his presidential ambition during a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari.
His declaration of intent literally kick-started the 2023 presidential race as other interested politicians declared their ambitions.
Selection of delegates for the event, which is slated February 26, 2022, may be another source of crises in the party given the factionalisation of some state chapters.
In affected states like Kano, Kwara, Gombe and Zamfara, some camps are loyal to governors while others are led by some party chieftains.
Former governors of Borno and Benue states, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff and Sen George Akume were gathered to have kicked against consensus.
It was learned that some of those moving for consensus are elements of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, President Muhammadu Buhari’s former party.
“The concern among those of the CPC bloc is that with Mr President out of the way in 2023, the party would effectively be in the hands of those from the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN,” said a party source.
He said: “Both Akume and Shettima are seen as close allies of Tinubu. While Shettima has not come out to declare interest in the national chairmanship, Akume is strongly in the race. Nobody understands Tinubu’s joker.
“However, the major concern is even the presidential convention. It is feared that except the former Lagos governor is “tamed” at the national convention, it would be difficult doing so at the presidential convention. Interestingly, Tinubu is like a bone stuck to their necks. Swallowing it is not easy. Coughing it out is an uphill task”.
“It is a fraudulent arrangement. Let everybody go into the race and let the people decide. That is the minimum. Why are they afraid of an open contest?” he queried.
Recall that an ally of Tinubu and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal, had at a summit last Monday, in Abuja, said the Tinubu camp would prefer the option of direct primary.
He said Tinubu’s supporters will deliver the presidency to him through consensus, indirect or direct party primaries.
“We are neither offended nor threatened by whichever method the party chooses to adopt for the emergence of its presidential candidate. But of course, being democrats, we prefer a method that involves all the card-carrying members of the party,” he explained.
On his part, Sheriff said the convention is a family affair, adding that everyone should go to the field for the best candidate to emerge as chairman.
He also faulted what he described as sponsored reports insinuating that the chairmanship ticket has been zoned to the North Central.
Sheriff said: “We are many and anyone can be chairman but not everyone can lead this party.
All the people seeking to be chairman are qualified but only one person will emerge. It is a family thing and we will all go to the field. And party members will elect who they deem fit.
“The leaders as of today have not even constituted any committee. They have been meeting in the last four days. The party said they have not even sat on the matter. I strongly believe that those who are doing the permutations are afraid of the man called Ali Sheriff. That is why there is a fixation on me. They don’t want to go to the convention with Ali Sheriff. They are afraid.
“When the APC was formed, I was among the six people who sat first. I was the Chairman BoT of All Nigeria Peoples Party ,ANPP, and Ogbonnaya Onu was the chairman. Nobody has worked for APC more than me.
“My view is that we will get it (convention) right. I don’t think we will like to be in the opposition. All the fears that people have, we are talking to ourselves. I am optimistic that we will get it right by God’s grace”.
Also speaking, a chieftain of the party and immediate past Executive Director, Projects, at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, said he is not disturbed about reports that the chairmanship has been zoned to the North Central.
He said the office is currently being superintended by someone from the North-East, adding that nothing can change that.
“When people talk about zoning, I am never worried. The chairmanship of the APC is already in the North-East and it will remain there. Nothing will move it from there”, he declared.
Some chieftains of APC have risen in defence of Akume, saying the former Benue State governor is being attacked by opponents because of his pro-people agenda for the party.
Since his declaration, Akume has come under a series of attacks from unnamed political rivals who see him as Tinubu’s right-hand man in the race.
At a news conference in Abuja, the stakeholders who are members of the contact committee of the Akume Campaign Organization, said the minister is not a businessman.
Some of the chieftains who were led by the National Publicity Secretary of the defunct National Party of Nigeria NPN, Chief Simone Shango, include a former governor of Edo State, Prof Oserheimen Osunbor, a former Editor of Daily Times, Mallam Farouk Mohammed, former Editor, Daily Times and a former Minister of State, Niger Delta Affairs, Sam Ode. Others were the Publisher, Summit Newspapers, Chief Ray Murphy, governorship aspirant, Chief Terlumun Akputu, and Prof Terhemba Shija.
Reading a speech on behalf of the group, Mohammed said: “We have noticed that our principal, Senator George Akume, has been subjected to all manner of sponsored attacks.
“We believe the main reason for such hostility is because Akume is the aspirant to beat for the position of APC national chairman. By all accounts including the views of many party stakeholders and generality of Nigerians, Akume is the best aspirant for the job. Consequently, such attacks are not surprising.”
Meanwhile, the APC said it is excited over the removal of a compulsory clause on the direct primary in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill passed by the Senate last week.
National Youth Leader of the party, Ismaeel Ahmed, said the party believes that political parties should have options in selecting their candidates.
“The party’s position has always been that the National Assembly should allow political parties the option of choosing their candidates.”