The build up to the 2015 elections has unwrapped indications that the All Progressives Congress (APC) may witness a battle of political heavyweights such as former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, among others. The leading opposition party faces a litmus test that could make or mar its chances, if care is not taken on who emerges as its presidential flag bearer. A search for Dark Horse may not be a bad idea.
The unity and peace within the All Progressives Congress (APC) is under threat over who becomes its presidential candidate for the February poll as, intrigues, and suspense have become tools in the hands of its top chieftains.
APC is still yet to recover from the aftermath of its maiden convention, with its attendant problems, which include the defection of some of its chieftains to the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) while some are at the moment suspected of planning to do same in the days ahead.
Among those who have jumped the boat either before or after the June convention include, but not limited to, Chief Tom Ikimi (who threw the towel recently), Buba Marwa, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, Marcus Gundiri, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and a few others.
If what Ikimi said is anything to go by, some forces are hell bent in snatching the soul of the party from John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Executive Committee, who is accused of being loyal to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, because the former was reportedly the one that sponsored his election.
Ikimi, former chairman of the merger committee, in his statement announcing his withdrawal of membership, identified three groups: the Tinubu group, the governors group and presidential aspirants group from the North.
In his words, “Apart from the Tinubu group and the governors group, there is a third group of known presidential aspirants comprising in the main, General Muhamadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who are both northerners. The inclination of the party had always been to zone the presidency to the north. Some governors are now thinking otherwise and given the decisive role that they seek to play in the affairs of the party as well as the tendency to ignore the principle of internal party democracy, a monumental disaster looms large in the selection of the party’s presidential and vice presidential flag bearers later in the year.
“The construction of the new National Executive Committee through horse-trading by the governors and Tinubu has established a tool structure that is not in the interest of transparency or democracy. To whom will the newly installed national chairman be finally loyal to? Will it remain the NADECO/SDP comradeship that will drive his loyalty to Tinubu or the current governors’ ongoing tactics of dressing up the national chairman that may become the game clincher? Time will surely tell! How these known presidential aspirants will make their ways in the contest that may feature some governors is better imagined. Can Tinubu dare to ditch Buhari? I dey laf!”, a source said.
According to an insider account, the party is polarized over the presidential primaries and the fear of some is what becomes the fate of the party after the presidential candidate emerges.
“What Ikimi said is true to some extent. Don’t forget that he played prominent roles in the emergence of APC, but I disagree with what he is doing against the party which we all laboured to build. Our fear is what happens after the convention when our candidate must have emerged. Because every interest group is working at a cross purposes and intrigues, backstabbing and manipulations are on-going. Those who told us they were not interested in the presidential race before the merger have gone back on their words”, a party chieftain disclosed.
The source further explained that the presidential ambition of General Buhari and Tinubu may tear the party apart if care is not taken. According to him, both chieftains of the party are nursing presidential ambitions and they are both looking for a running-mate from each other’s zone.
Corroborating him, a source close to former military head of state disclosed that his group is planning to sponsor Gen Buhari for the election and their hope is to pick his running mate from the Southwest preferably, the outgoing Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi.
“General Buhari would emerge the presidential candidate of our party. I don’t expect anybody to come out from the north to run against him. How could Buhari come out and someone else would do the same and expect people to vote for him? If APC wants to win the next year election, Buhari who won 11 million votes in 2011 should be the candidate”, the source who is a member of the National Working Committee said.
On the speculated Muslim/Muslim ticket, the source said, “I am not aware of the so-called Muslim/Muslim ticket or Christian/Muslim ticket or Christian/Christian ticket; what I know is that after General Buhari might have emerged, we would pick his running-mate from the Southwest and a refined politician like Kayode Fayemi would be preferred.”
Some are arguing that General Buhari is too old for the race, the source faulted the argument when he cited the age of former President, Olusegun Obasanjo and that of President Goodluck Jonathan and said, “Although Obasanjo is older but he performed better than Jonathan).
He further explained that Tinubu group and the governors group too, are doing their own homeworks of how to beat the Buhari group but he said, “Buhari is unbeatable”. He, however, denied the allegation that Buhari has an alternative party in case he is not endorsed as the APC candidate.
Our source, however, identified former vice president, Atiku Abubakar as a big threat to Buhari’s ambition.
“Let me tell you, Governor Rabiu Kwankaso is not a threat to Buhari. His supporters have been telling us to persuade Buhari to step down for him but that would not happen. Buhari had sponsored some candidates as governors and senators before when we were in ANPP and CPC but they all betrayed him, This time around, he would not endorse anyone. Our concern is Atiku and with the modified open ballot recommended by the NWC, no money bags would be able to hijack the process.”
As stated by Ikimi, the permutation of many chieftains of the party is that the voting blocs of the Northwest and the Southwest would be used to snatch the victory from the PDP come 2015.
Both Buhari and Atiku camps are at each other’s throat over the presidential primaries. While the former is asking for automatic ticket for Buhari, the latter has vowed never to let the presidential candidate of the party emerge except through primaries. Interestingly, the Tinubu camp is supporting primaries.
It is widely believed within the party that with presidential primaries, Buhari might not be able to emerge the winner, since he has no money to woo delegates. More so, he has never participated in such an internal election while in the ANPP and the CPC.
Atiku says: “I think those canvassing for automatic ticket are scared of contest. There is nothing to be scared of in a contest in a democratic setting. How can you canvass for automatic ticket in a democratic process? There is thing like that. These are people who are afraid of contest.”
The fear in some quarters now is what happens if either Buhari or Atiku lose out at the primaries. Could the party afford losing either again? According to a national officer of the party, “The fear becomes real when we hear that both leaders have alternative parties to run to if they lose out. I was told the PDM is the alternative platform for Atiku while Buba Galadima, a political lieutenant of Buhari has registered a party, which could be given to Buhari in case he could not get the APC mandate to run.”
This is why some chieftains of the party are working behind the scene on what one of them called PLAN B. According to him, “We don’t want the primaries to scatter the party because the February general election is closer. We need to begin shopping for the dark horse, who would be acceptable to all camps as our candidate. We don’t want our efforts to be jeopadised hence the reason we are avoiding the media for undue publicity.
According to him, the party has some eminently qualified members who could successfully win not only the primaries but defeat President Goodluck Jonathan at the poll. Among those, he listed are the founder of LEADERSHIP Group, Sam Nda-Isaiah, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, Governor Kayode Fayemi, Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos, Rochas Okorocha of Imo state, and a few others.
Fortunately for the group, the party has disclosed that it has no zoning in its constitution, which means its presidential candidate could come from any zone of the Federation.
It would be recalled that the defunct NPN settled for Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1978 primaries at the expense of bigwigs who wanted to run as well. Of the votes cast, former President Shagari won 975, Maitama Sule 504, Adamu Ciroma 293, Dr Olusola Saraki 214, J.S Tarka 104 and Professor Iya Abubakar 92. With this result, Alhaji Shagari’score was 150 short of the 50 per cent of the vote required for outright nomination. So, there was a need for a re-run. But along the line Maitama Sule graciously stepped down for Shagari and he was declared the winner.
By Bayo Oladeji