Nigeria: Tinubu remains the man to beat in APC primaries

By Akin Irede
Posted on Monday, 16 May 2022 18:55

Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC National Leader (Photo: twitter)

As the countdown to the Nigeria's All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential primary begins, we take a look at the chances of major contenders.

On 20 April 2022, when Nigeria’s ruling party, the APC, announced that it would be selling its presidential forms at N100m ($240,000), the decision sent shock waves across the country with even the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had sold its presidential form at N40m ($96,000), condemning the move. Editorials written by major local newspapers also censured Nigeria’s ruling party for promoting money politics.

However, the APC insists that it did so in order to separate the contenders from the pretenders. The party argued that with the forms being sold for N100m, the number of aspirants, which was nine at the time, would reduce and only the serious ones would remain in the race. However, this strategy has failed as the number of aspirants has nearly quadrupled.

Declaration galore

Amid demands for the party to reduce the cost of the presidential form, a little known junior minister of education, Emeka Nwajiuba, who was not even in the race, announced that supporters had purchased the N100m form on his behalf and he agreed to contest. The next day, Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, waltzed into the APC head office in Abuja with his supporters to buy the form.

Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State also bought the form, while Senator Rochas Okorocha quickly followed suit, but claimed his supporters obtained the form for him. Others who have since purchased the forms include: Yemi Osinbajo (vice president); Bola Tinubu (Lagos godfather); Rotimi Amaechi (transportation minister); Tunde Bakare (an influential pastor); and Ken Nnamani (former Senate president).

I don’t believe in consensus. There should be a contest; you shouldn’t deny people the privilege of choosing who should be their leader. That is the essence of democracy.

Godswill Akpabio (minister of Niger Delta Affairs); Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa State governor); Godwin Emefiele (Central Bank Governor); Pastor Nicholas Felix; Senators Ibikunle Amosun and Ajayi Borofice; Ogbonnaya Onu (minister of science and technology); Ms. Unu Kennedy Onaneye; Dimeji Bankole (former speaker); and Sani Yerima (ex-governor) also purchased forms.

Others are Kayode Fayemi (governor of Ekiti State); Ahmad Lawan (Senate president); Timipre Sylva (junior oil minister); and Ben Ayade (Cross River State governor). Forms have also been purchased for Akinwunmi Adesina (president of the Africa Development Bank) and Goodluck Jonathan (former Nigeria president), even though they still have not shown commitment.

In all, at least 26 people have obtained the non-refundable form. Despite the large number of aspirants, however, less than five of the aspirants can win the primary, based on their own popularity.

7,800 delegates

Should the APC opt for the indirect method, 7,800 delegates will converge at the Eagle Square in Abuja on 30 May to elect the next presidential candidate of the party, according to a document obtained by northern based Daily Trust newspaper.

Tinubu also uses consensus in Lagos by imposing his anointed candidates, so Buhari should give him a taste of his medicine.

Kano has the largest number of delegates with 465. Katsina comes second with 384. Osun has 308 while Lagos and Oyo will have 304 and 292, respectively. Jigawa State (266); Niger (251); Ogun, (248); Nasarawa (245); Kaduna (234); Imo (236); Yobe (222); Kogi (222); Ekiti (216), Kebbi (213) and Bauchi (202). The remaining states have less than 200 delegates each. Bayelsa has the lowest number of representatives at just 79.

Tinubu remains ahead

The states with the highest number of delegates are Kano, Katsina, Lagos and Osun, which have a combined number of 1, 461 delegates (approximately 18% of the total number). Incidentally, governors in all these states have publicly endorsed Tinubu and have pledged their delegates. The governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, who controls 234 delegates, has also endorsed the Lagos godfather.

Described as a master strategist by his supporters, Tinubu has been a constant figure in the public space since he was elected governor of Lagos State in 1999. After leaving office in 2007, Tinubu built a formidable political empire across the southwest that made him the political leader of the region. His access to huge funds has also made him a force to reckon with. This is expected to give him an edge over other aspirants. So far, he is the only aspirant that has supporters across the country, having started his presidential race over three years ago.

However, Tinubu’s health challenge has remained a source of worry for the party leadership and he is being opposed by those close to Buhari because of his controversial reputation. The fact that he is a southern Muslim may also work against him because he may not easily find a strong Christian northerner as a running mate if he wins the party ticket.

Osinbajo’s challenge

A new entrant in party politics, Yemi Osinbajo has already commenced a nationwide tour, lobbying delegates. Many, however, say he started too late. Currently, he has only been endorsed publicly by Dapo Abiodun, the governor of Ogun State, where Osinbajo is also from.

Senator Amosun, the immediate past governor of Ogun State, is also contesting the presidency and will be expected to split the delegates’ votes at the primary. He also cannot match Tinubu’s financial power. Osinbajo will need Buhari’s support in order to defeat Tinubu, his former boss. Nevertheless, the fact that he is a Christian southerner may work to his advantage as he could easily be paired with a strong northern Muslim as running mate.

Governors, ministers in the race

At least eight governors and ministers are in the Presidential race. Governor Bello (Kogi), Governor Ayade (Cross River), Governor Umahi (Ebonyi), Governor Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Governor Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa) will all be expected to win the delegates in their respective states if they do not step down from the race ahead of the primary.

There should be a contest; you shouldn’t deny people the privilege of choosing who should be their leader. That is the essence of democracy.

Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of transportation, will also be expected to win over the delegates in Rivers State where he comes from. The minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, who is from Akwa Ibom State, is confident of winning the delegates in his state.

The splitting of the delegates’ votes is expected to be to Tinubu’s advantage, a development which he has described as “good for democracy”.

Consensus option?

With the growing number of aspirants, the party may be heading for a crisis, insiders say. President Muhammadu Buhari has on several occasions voiced his preference for the consensus method of primary.

This method involves the president endorsing one person and convincing others to step down for that person as was done during the national convention of the party where Senator Abdullahi Adamu emerged as the chairman of the party in March. Most of the aspirants are seeking this method, hoping the president will endorse them so they can have an easy pass.

However, Tinubu, who is clearly the strongest aspirant, has rejected this method. “My chances of winning the ticket are incredibly high and I am very confident. I am sure I can and I will win it. I want democracy. I am voting for democracy. One man, one vote,” he told supporters earlier in the week.

However, the electoral law says for a party to adopt the consensus method, all aspirants who step down must indicate this by writing a letter to the party. This means imposition of any candidate would also not be easy. Should the presidential primary be left to delegates, Tinubu remains the man to beat.

Speaking to The Africa Report, Adamu Garba, an APC presidential aspirant who recently dumped the party due to the high cost of the form, however says all signs indicate that the APC could adopt the consensus method and impose the presidential candidate.

“Tinubu has invested in the APC more than anyone. He has moved around and he has a lot of delegates on his side. Whether they will disenfranchise him or not is what we don’t know, but based on what I see, they are trying to force a consensus and once they do that, they disenfranchise people and that is why I decided to leave the APC.

Tinubu is at an advantage because he started quite early and has been able to make negotiations and has a lot of money.

“I don’t believe in consensus. There should be a contest; you shouldn’t deny people the privilege of choosing who should be their leader. That is the essence of democracy,” Garba says.

Activist Deji Adeyanju argues that Tinubu has the financial muscle to sway delegates to his side. Adeyanju, who is the Convener, Concerned Nigerians, says politics is fluid and could change.

“[…] Tinubu is at an advantage because he started quite early and has been able to make negotiations and has a lot of money. He has been making promises to governors and has publicly donated millions to different states, so it will depend on the ability of other aspirants to unite and then defeat him,” he says.

“The president should use the consensus method. Tinubu also uses consensus in Lagos by imposing his anointed candidates, so Buhari should give him a taste of his medicine,” he says.

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