At a time when the second term of President Muhammadu Buhari has hardly begun, permutations for 2023 presidential election have continued to heat up the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, setting political interests against one another.
As matters stand in the party, these early maneuverings for the 2023 electoral contest may likely scuttle alleged ambition of APC national leader, Bola Tinubu, to pick the party’s ticket, barring any upset at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
However, overturning a presidential election result is unheard of in Nigeria which leaves pundits to believe that May 29 swearing in of Buhari for a second term is sacrosanct.
But what is uncertain is whether the usual opposition politics featuring the ruling party on the one hand and against the leading opposition party, will have any significant impact on the power play in the next four years.
Specifically, going by intrigues in the power circles in APC, the leading opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and the presidency, a clear pattern, pointing to attempts at stopping Tinubu, strong man of APC, appears to have taken center stage and will play out in the days ahead, it was further gathered.
Encapsulating the intrigues that have played out so far in the party, an APC party chieftain and member of the President Buhari’s campaign team in the last general election, said that his party members went into the last polls with 2023 permutations. “The electoral contest wasn’t about returning Buhari alone. It was approached either to further brighten Tinubu’s chances in 2023 or not,” the party chieftain told the newspaper in confidence. He further added that the power play is still ongoing and will greatly influence outcomes of state elections in Kogi State in November and Edo State next year; the National Assembly’s election of principal officers and various cases still ongoing at the election tribunals. “On his side, Tinubu enjoys the support of Adams Oshiomole, APC national chairman. Even though the presidency is wary of him, Mr President seems amenable to consulting with him on party matters,” the source added.
Part of the plans by Tinubu’s team is to consolidate hold on Kogi and Edo, given that unlike other states, their elections hold on separate dates. Having the two states in the APC kitty and in his camp while other state governors are either battling reelection or fighting to impose a successor will play to Tinubu’s plans, according to permutations.
Plans are already in motion as far as Edo is concerned on this matter. As gathered, there is ongoing rift between Godwin Obaseki, governor of the state and Oshiomhole’s supporters, who felt betrayed by the governor over the sharing of political largesse, and as such are routing for his deputy, Phillip Shuaibu to succeed him in the next elections.
In fact, it was further gathered that the supporters of the national chairman are now mounting pressure on him to dump Obaseki and pitch his tent with Shuaibu,
However, independent sources told the newspaper that attempts at getting Shuaibu, to turn against his principal failed. Shuaibu, like Obaseki were protégés of Oshiomole while he was governor. But going by what observers say is the governors achievements, especially in the areas of job creation, education and fast pace of industrialisation in the state, which has endeared him to notable citizens of the state. Shuaibu realised that upstaging Obaseki might be political suicide on his part and quickly rebuffed attempt to pitch him against his principal.
The pressures from his supporters may have put Oshiomhole in a dilemma as he is finding it difficult to go against the wishes of his supporters and as well to dump the governor, who observers say, has been very loyal to the chairman.
However, it was learnt that Tinubu will eventually broker peace as this will be to the interest of both Obaseki and his 2023 presidential ambition.
As also gathered, the governor’s travail is believed to have won him sympathies at the Benin Oba’s palace. Even opposition party chieftains now sympathise with Obaseki on the matter.
Principally, Raymond Dokpesi, PDP stalwart and chairman, DAAR Communications, is believed to be leading a new rapprochement with Obaseki on the matter. This development is said to have angered Oshiomhole and some national officers of APC.
Not a few people trace recent travails of the PDP chieftain to his new found closeness with Obaseki. As recalled, FCT’s development control recently bulldozed part of DAAR Communications office in Abuja over alleged infringement on the city’s master plan. This happened a few weeks after Dokpesi was arrested at the airport upon a recent return from a foreign trip.
In Kogi, tension is also high over alleged plans to deny Yahaya Bello of the APC party ticket upon which to run for second term in office. Tinubu and Oshiomole are fingered as the architect of the plan. “They are trying to get Bello’s allegiance,” explained another party source. According to the newspaper informer, a House of Representatives member from Lagos who contested party governorship primaries with Bello in 2015 contacted him on how to help midwife a meeting between Bello and Tinubu. “The governor’s response was simple, “If I meet Tinubu, I will prostrate for him because he is my leader. But I cannot have him dictate how things are done in Kogi,” the chieftain explained, quoting the state governor.
Last week, Bello paid a visit to Tinubu in his private residence in Abuja to seek the APC national leader’s support for his ambition. During the visit, Bello was said to have pledged his support not to only to see to the realization of the party’s push for the emergence of Lawan and Gbajabiamila as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives but also inform him of his desire to seek a second term and to get his blessing ahead of the party’s primary.
Wooing and winning over Bello to his camp might be herculean for Tinubu given that the Kogi governor is believed to be part of an inner presidential caucus comprising Ibikunle Amosun, outgoing governor of Ogun, Rochas Okorocha, outgoing governor of Imo State and Nasir El Rufai. Except for Bello and El-Rufai, the other two have been deeply resentful of Tinubu and Oshiomole on their handling of party matters at the national level. On different occasions at the villa, the quartet is known to have presented a joint position on party matters before President Buhari, especially leading to last general election.
At the governors’ level too, Tinubu and APC party hierarchy have other formidable oppositions even from Tinubu’s South West zone. Apart from Amosun who is outgoing, there is Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, alleged to have been suspended by the party on antiparty activities; Kayode Fayemi, governor of Ekiti State. While Osun State is still within the influence of Tinubu because of Gboyega Oyetola, the state governor and a relative of his, there is the thinking in the South West that most party chieftains will not be sorry if APC loses the state to PDP via a confirmation of Tribunal ruling giving the state to the opposition’s Ademola Adeleke, of the PDP by an Appeal Court Tribunal in a bid to whittle down Tinubu’s influence.
Those in Tinubu’s camp believe that the opposition notwithstanding, Buhari and the former Lagos State governor have a pact to have power shifted to the South West by 2023. “When that happens, it can be anybody’s game. Tinubu is as eligible to contest as anybody from the south of the country,” explained a former governor from the South West to the newspaper. According to the governor, politics remains a game of interest and it is too early to begin a fight for what is meant for 2023. “Interest might shift before then and you will find that most of the same people fighting him now will queue behind him (Tinubu),” the governor added.
Even if Oshiomole and Tinubu manage to quell the raging inferno of resentments from governors, what about the anger of senior lawmakers? Where does Tinubu’s ambition leave entrenched interests who want to see power remain in the North? The matter on the floor of the National Assembly is principally who heads both chambers come the 9th session. As usual, Tinubu’s hands have once again manifested in the two choices being proffered by the party. Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila, both senator and House of Reps members, respectively, are seen as Tinubu’s lackeys. Only recently, Yakubu Dogara, Speaker and Bukola Saraki, Senate President had taken on Tinubu openly, accusing him of inordinate ambition. Not a few observers see their anger as stemming from the plan to foist Lawan and Gbajabiamila on the NASS.
The newspaper reliably learnt that this assembly of oppositions from governors, lawmakers, party men and ministerial appointees may just be Tinubu’s political nemesis in the days ahead.