By EHICHIOYA EZOMON
Going into the Caucus and NEC meetings of the All Progressives Congress on Monday and Tuesday last week in Abuja, some governors literally endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari as the sole candidate of the party in the 2019 elections.
Although a motion for the adoption of the candidacy of the President “was deferred for now,” according to House Speaker Yakubu Dogara, various state chapters have declared supports for Buhari and their governors for 2019. Implying the pipers (governors) dictating the tunes of the APC state leaders.
But days before the Abuja parleys, Chief Bisi Akande, maiden Acting Chairman of the APC, suggested that, as Buhari had not confirmed a second-term desire, the presidential primaries should not be restrictive, but profit all aspirants across the country. Ordinarily, President Buhari, as the incumbent, should exercise a right of first refusal (ROFR or RFR). And consenting to trigger this rule of engagement would effectively shut out other aspirants.
Interpreted, the Akande opinion means there’s no zoning of the presidency, usually between the North and the South, in the APC, just as the party did in 2015, and in the end, General Buhari (then aliased ‘GMB’) triumphed over former Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, former Vice President Atiku Abukakar, Imo State Governor RochasOkorocha and the Publisher of the Leadership Newspapers, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, in that order.
That open contest, featuring four aspirants from the North and one from the South, prevented a post-election divide, and guaranteed a united front for the poll that the APC won, for Buhari to assume power as President after prior attempts in 2003, 2007 and 2011.
n the light of Akande’s proposal, some possible scenarios need to be considered, depending on whether President Buhari will grab the opportunity for a second term in office. Thus, the primaries may resemble a one-way contest, as majority of the APC governors, lawmakers, ministers, and others, who tagged on his coattail to gain the positions they occupy currently, would not go against him.
And if Buhari is not running, the field would be clear for these presumed aspirants (all Northerners, as no Southern members have indicated interest in the race): Atiku, Kwankwaso; Senate President Bukola Saraki; Governors Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi); and Senator Adamu Aliero (former governor of Kebbi).
Interestingly, Atiku, Kwankwaso, Saraki and Tambuwal may have their ambition cut out for them, as they reportedly weigh the prospect of returning to the PDP, whose members have publicly boasted they were working to get them back. And both sides (the wooed and wooers) have allegedly exchanged messages in that regard.
State-wise, Atiku, Kwankwaso, el-Rufai, Shettima and Ganduje have power brokers to contend with in their home bases to launch their dreams. Atiku and Governor JibrillaBindow (Adamawa) were allegedly on opposite sides before the primaries for the 2015 polls, but they teamed up later to win for the APC.
But with the reported Adamawa APC’s endorsement of President Buhari and the governor for second terms in 2019, Bindow seems to have carved his own path, thus undercutting Atiku’s acknowledged strong backing of the party in the state.
Early in the year, the supremacy battle between Senator Kwankwaso and Governor Ganduje spread from Kano to Katsina, where their supporters clashed at a ceremony. So, both are primed to cancel out each other’s ambition for 2019. Ditto for Governor Bagudu and Senator Aliero, with the former quoted as saying, “If President Buhari is not running, I will not sacrifice my ambition,” and the latter simply declaring, “I am interested” in the race.
In Kaduna, Governor el-Rufai has his Nemesis in Senator ShehuSani, who is ready to invite the “hyaenas and jackals” to prevent him from returning to the Government House for a second term, and the “lions and tigers” to ensure he doesn’t get to the Aso Rock gates in 2019.
Governor Shettima has a “bull in a china shop” in the former National Chairman of the PDP and governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, whose rumoured desire to defect to the APC has cost more than disquiet in the Maiduguri power centre, and across the state.
Governors Tambuwal and Yari are not known to have some godfathers or political enemies breathing down their necks. But that does not stop them from looking over their shoulders. Surely, the statement by Senator MagatakardaWamakko, former governor of Sokoto State, that he would support President Buhari for a second term, could upset Tambuwal’s presidential bid.
Senator Saraki, in his own right, is both a godfather and powerbroker, who determines who rules in his homestead, Kwara State, and as such, has absolute support of his base in whatever position he goes for.
The posers: Will the APC, once again, shun pressures from many quarters, some of which have started drumming, “No Vacancy in Aso Rock” and throw open the primaries? Or toe the opposition Peoples Democratic Party’s “shutdown” of Governor AyodeleFayose’s aspiration, and “ban” other members from aspiring to the highest office, and present President Buhari as the sole candidate of the party for 2019?
You betcha, the waiting won’t be long!
Mr.Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.