By: Temidayo Akinsuyi
Ahead of the 2023 presidential election, some powerbrokers in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are already mounting pressure on Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, national leader of the party, to bury his rumoured presidential ambition in 2023 and queue behind Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Daily Independent has gathered.
Even though Tinubu is yet to declare whether he will run in 2023 or not, a lot of his supporters believe he is very much interested in the race and his silence is borne out of his desire not to distract the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is yet to mark two years of his second term in office.
However, some of his supporters have been launching several groups, both at home and in the diaspora, to rally support for his ambition, saying it is non-negotiable.
Also, some prominent Nigerians have also been canvassing support for Tinubu’s presidential ambition, saying he is the best man to succeed President Buhari in 2023. They include Babachir Lawal, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); elder statesman, Tanko Yakassai, Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, Chief Henry Ajomale and several others.
Daily Independent gathered that prominent leaders of APC have resolved to zone the position of national chairman to the North while the presidency will be zoned to the South, with many of them agreeing in principle that it will be unfair for the North to retain the position after President Buhari must have completed his eight years.
It was also learnt that many of the party leaders, especially in the Northern bloc of the country, are favourably disposed to Osinbajo taking over from Buhari based on his loyalty, commitment and deep knowledge of the programmes of the government, especially relating to the management of the economy.
According to a credible source in the party, “There is no doubt Asiwaju is interested in the 2023 presidential race. He has every right to do so and he is very qualified based on his record as a former senator, governor of Lagos for eight years and what he has been able to achieve nationally even after leaving office.
“But for many of us, we believe that if the presidency is zoned to the South and later micro-zoned to the South- West, the current vice president should be allowed to take over from the president. We have adduced so many reasons for this”.
“The first is that he has been tested before and he has proven that he has the expertise to manage the affairs of a diverse nation like Nigeria. We are all witnesses to what happened in 2017 when President Buhari was ill and the vice president presided over the affairs of the nation in acting capacity.
“That was a period when Nigeria was almost at the precipice with many groups in the country, especially the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), seeking self-determination. He was able to manage the situation very well to the admiration of the whole country and even the president commended him upon his return to the country.
“There are also other factors we are putting into consideration. Three of these factors are age, religion and his unblemished public record. The vice president is 63 now and will be 66 by 2023. He will be a blend between the younger and older generation and many youths already see him as one of their own.
“On the issue of religion, we all know the two major religions in this country are Islam and Christianity. It will be awkward if we allow another Muslim to take over from President Buhari in 2023. I doubt if that will be fair to our brothers in the Christian faith”.
“However, 2023 is still a long way from now and the president will not impose a successor. We the party leaders will also not do likewise. We can only appeal to the likes of Asiwaju and present these facts before him.
“One thing is certain, the APC presidential ticket will not be handed over to anyone on a platter of gold. At the end of the day, everyone will be asked to go to the field and test their strength. Whoever wins the party’s ticket, then good luck to him”, he said.
Speaking with our correspondent, a senior lawyer from the South-South, who is also a member of the APC, said he personally advised Tinubu to maintain his respect as national leader of the APC and support one of the boys he has mentored politically, especially Osinbajo whom he (Tinubu) nominated as running mate to Buhari in December 2014.
“We used to be very close and I have offered him advice in time past. I once advised him to remain as the party’s national leader and nominate one of his boys as president. A lot of people said Buhari has relegated him but I believe Osinbajo as a man of God and gentleman won’t do that. I said he will even have more influence in the government compared to what is happening now. But I believe he wasn’t receptive to the idea and we have not been talking again,” he said.