The growing number of presidential aspirants from the South West in the All Progressives Congress (APC) is threatening the chances of the zone to pick the ticket of the ruling party.
The aspirants from the zone include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (Ogun), former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole (Ogun), Senator Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (Lagos) and the chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti).
Daily Trust reports that the five South West aspirants are expected to battle other presidential aspirants from other zones for the party’s ticket at the primary slated May 30/June 1.
The ruling party has not zoned its presidential ticket to any part of the country but since President Muhammadu Buhari hails from North West, there are expectations that the southern part of the country will pick the party ticket for the 2023 general election.
While there are contenders from South East and South South for the APC’s presidential ticket, those from the South West do not appear ready to back out from the race.
Most of those that declared for the coveted seat have continued with their consultations amid wrangling by their neighbours.
Sources said the aspirants’ confidence stems from the historic alliance between the defunct CPC and the ACN, two political parties that led to the formation of the ruling APC with the support of a section of PDP and APGA ahead of the 2015 general elections.
However, there are fears that Tinubu, Osinbajo, Fayemi, Amosun, among others have their supporters among the delegates from the zone and the implication is that at the end of the day, this might reduce the chances of the South West.
The South East geopolitical zone has seven aspirants including David Umahi (Ebonyi), Dr Chris Ngige (Anambra), Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba (Imo), Orji Uzo Kalu (Abia), Senator Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Ihechukwu Dallas Chima (Abia) and Usman Iwu (Imo).
So far, only three persons have indicated interest from the South South including Ben Ayade (Cross River), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) and Mr Tein Jack-Rich (Rivers).
The North Central has two; Yahaya Bello (Kogi) and Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim (Kwara). The only person from the North East is Adamu Garba II (Adamawa).
Daily Trust reports no aspirant has indicated interest from the North West.
The South West delegates
Daily Trust had recently reported that the South West geopolitical zone has 1,568 delegates that would participate in the primaries.
They are part of the 7,800 delegates from the six geopolitical zones of the country.
In terms of numerical voters’ strength, the South West comes second after the North West geopolitical zone, which has a total of 1,924 delegates.
Pundits who spoke to our correspondents said at the national convention, the five aspirants from the South West are expected to battle for delegates from their zone, even though very few of the delegates might likely vote for aspirants from other zones.
However, they told the Daily Trust that Tinubu and Osinbajo are the clear contenders from the area.
Sources said Gov. Fayemi has not shown commitment to be taken seriously in the race even though he has started consultations while Amosun and Bankole are expected to reduce Osinbajo’s overwhelming votes in Ogun State.
One of our sources said early permutations favoured Tinubu to win majority of the votes from the South West.
The national leader of APC is expected to have bloc votes from Lagos and Osun states, as well as over 60% from Oyo State. He is also expected to get substantial votes from delegates from Ekiti and Ondo states.
This, however, could not be independently verified even as watchers of happenings in the region said the serious aspirants are deploying technology, poll experts and the body language of community, religious and traditional leaders in shaping their expectation and strength in the race. Osinbajo, it was learnt is primed to get bloc votes from Ogun delegates following his endorsement by Governor Dapo Abiodun and critical stakeholders from his state of origin.
He is expected to have a fair showing in Oyo State where delegates loyal to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Local Content, Senator Teslim Kolawole Folarin, are backing his ambition.
The Professor of Law, who is expected to struggle for delegate votes in Lagos, is expected not to do too poorly in Osun with the support of the camp loyal to Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola.
However, if Fayemi makes it to the primary, Ekiti delegates are expected to queue behind the governor, jeopardising Osinbajo’s chances in the state.
Analysts predict a split vote in Ondo State for Osinbajo and Tinubu, especially if Fayemi, a bosom friend of the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, fails to mount a serious challenge in the coming days.
Daily Trust, however, gathered that Osinbajo and Tinubu are banking on support from the North, where no major aspirant has shown interest in picking the party’s ticket.
Our role is tailored towards parties’ decisions – Afenifere
Contacted to comment on the implications of having many aspirants from their zone, the spokesperson of Afenifere, Comrade Jare Ajayi said the pan-Yoruba sociocultural group will allow political parties to determine their affairs because they are the umbrella body for all Yorubas.
On his part, a former minister, Adeseye Ogunlewe, said the expression of interest by five aspirants from the zone is not a threat to one of them picking the ticket.
“Let’s wait for them to pick the forms first. We can begin to assess their chances after that,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Director-General of Tinubu Support Group Management Council, Abdulmumin Jibrin, said the former Lagos state governor will be the major beneficiary of many aspirants in the race.
“In APC, the only beneficiary of many aspirants contesting for the office of president is Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Please we want more and more aspirants to contest. The more aspirants in the race, the wider the victory margin for BAT,” he said. A constitutional lawyer and Coordinator, Progressive Lawyers For Osinbajo, Dr Kayode Ajulo, said that the position of the VP as the flag bearer of the APC is secured.
Ajulo said Osinbajo is not a regional aspirant but the most credible aspirant appealing to all regions in the country.
“His acceptability transcends religious, tribal and political lines. No one can ignore the fact that Prof. Osinbajo is the most credible aspirant of the APC and none of the people who have shown interest can match him.
“Most of them pick the presidential form to not contest but to either negotiate, keep their status in government or maintain their relevance. It will be surprising to many Nigerians that most of these aspirants will queue behind PYO before the party primaries,” he said.
‘Aspirants require wider acceptability’
Our correspondents report beyond scrambling for delegates in the South West, the aspirants must have to go poaching in the remaining five regions.
For instance, the documents in our possession showed that the North Central had 1,278 delegates, followed by the North East with 1, 212 delegates while the South East with 838 had the least delegates for the primary. Also, 53 delegates are going to come from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
We should strive for a national president
Three activists, Mohammad Al-Amin, Mic Collins and Ade Babalola said what Nigeria needed was a national leader.
“The delegates should strongly deemphasise the region or religion of the aspirants and go for the best,” Al-Amin said.
“It will be suicidal to have a regional president…I mean a president who will go to the Villa with the notion that it was his people that were instrumental to his emergence,” Collins said, while Babalola said even if the delegates voted along insignificant parameters, “Nigerians should come together and vote for a candidate that will solve their woes, irrespective of the political party he would come from.”