By Osmund Agbo
At last, the much anticipated national convention of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has come and gone. The party’s candidate for the 2023 presidential election also has finally emerged. Expectedly, the August assembly hosted at the Eagle Square in the nation’s capital, did not disappoint. It was action packed and delivered handsomely on its promise of Machiavellian plots, melodrama, intrigues, and yes, a free-for-all brawl. We will discuss a few of them in this piece.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his men dominated the entire time from start to finish. In the end, the Bullion King of Bourdillon and a typhoon-blasted general of many political wars polled 1,271 votes, representing about sixty per cent of the total votes cast to thrash and completely humble thirteen other presidential hopefuls. The first runner up was Rotimi Amaechi, the former minister of transportation who trailed far behind with 316 votes. Nigeria’s Vice-President and Tinubu’s protégé, Yemi Osinbajo, managed to garner 235 votes to finish a distant third.
The event witnessed lots of hard-nosed maneuvering and take-no-prisoners politicking, mostly subterranean but some still managed to spill out in the open. First was the pleasant surprise from the APC northern governors who insisted that power should rotate to the South in 2023, a position vehemently opposed by Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi State. In anger, the Governor was said to have stormed out of the venue of their meeting with his entourage. In the end, the man scored a total of 47 votes out of 63 delegates from his state. This meant that not even all the delegates from his beloved Kogi were intimidated enough, to the point of worrying about the possible blow-back of not falling in line.
The APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, came with a bag full of tricks. Never the one to be outdone, he flew a kite about a phantom consensus candidate in the person of Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President. He followed it up with a spurious claim that Senator Lawan already had President Buhari’s blessing and backing. Few moments later, his announcement was disputed by the party’s National Working Committee and disowned by the President himself who in a meeting with the governors, insisted that he didn’t anoint any of the candidates as his favorite. Many party men, aggrieved by his effrontery, called for Adamu’s head.
Leading up to the primary, there were lots of movements around the person of the distinguished senator from Yobe State. From all indications, it appeared that he was favored by the Aso Rock cabals allegedly led by the President’s almighty cousin, Mamman Daura, and Buhari’s Private Secretary, Sabiu ”Tunde” Yusuf. The two have never been enthused by the candidature of Asiwaju Tinubu and as a matter of fact, are intimidated by his stature. They looked for a malleable figure that would guarantee a hold onto power, long after Buhari is gone, even if by proxy. They seemed to be pleased with Lawan’s ”performance” in the red chamber and wished to maintain an even higher and continued mutually beneficial relationship with him as the President of the Federal Republic.
Apparently these power brokers were very much emboldened by the recent success in bulldozing their way through and installing their stooge as the party chair. We were reliably informed, however, that their first choice was Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, an idea that was said to have been hatched together with the Yobe State Governor and former caretaker chairman of APC, Mai Mala Buni. Governor Buni was seriously positioning to be Jonathan’s running mate.
The prospect of recruiting the former president was very appealing to the cabals for some self-serving reasons. The idea, however, was jettisoned when he started asking too many questions, the way that would make a master believe that his servant has all of a sudden grown wings to the extent that in the end, may prove difficult to put in check. The rug was finally pulled from under their feet when Asiwaju Tinubu’s camp refused to agree to any consensus arrangement where he was not guaranteed to become the candidate. Ahmad Lawan was a second option, but this time they overplayed their hands. Plots hardly materialize as perfectly as planned and oftentimes, they come with a twist.
As soon as Senator Lawan was thrown up, they wrote a different script and ordered the likes of Orji Uzo Kalu and few other of their minions to execute.
Orji Uzo Kalu, like the ever obedient serf, quickly dropped his own presidential bid, collected the script and ran with it. He then came back to the South-East, gathered his party men, ninety-nine per cent of whom are political jobbers with no conscience and played the script for them. He was quick to convince them how the cabals have anointed Lawan and why they should join the winning team. Of course, they didn’t need much convincing since these are men that stand on zero principle and only care about bank alerts. The fact that Tinubu seems to have deliberately ignored much of the South-East during his campaign handed them the excuse they didn’t even need.
Few bright spots
The insistence of northern APC governors that the party ticket should go to the South was a huge relief to so many. It was a little flicker of hope that maybe, and just maybe, all hope is not totally lost in the workability of this entity called Nigeria. With all that Nigeria has witnessed in the past seven years and a Northerner being at the helm going to eight years, it’s hard to justify how anyone that wishes Nigeria well would be advocating continued rule by another Northerner. History will forever remember these governors as heroes who stood up for Nigeria against unimaginable pressure from vested interests working overtime to dismember this country.
Prof. Osibajo’s address was quite inspiring and he certainly scored very high on elocution. The Vice President looked the part of a man with a clear vision of how to salvage a country standing on the edge of the precipice. He admonished the party delegates to vote wisely and do their part in creating a new Nigeria of their dreams. “You cannot wish the country well and vote for someone you do not believe in,” he cautioned.
Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu’s speech was laced with candor as he made the case of a Nigerian President of South-East extraction. He touched on the moral fabric of a nation that continues to disregard the genuine grievance of a big chunk of her population. It was well received, especially in the South-East, even if the former Abia State governor was expected to have done more before now, having been serving in Buhari’s administration for a while.
The biggest star of the night was indisputably Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The man weathered through a tsunami of opposition and betrayals to emerge as the party’s flag bearer. Just few days prior to the party convention, he suffered a few self-inflicted wounds with an unguarded and politically suicidal rant about how he got President Buhari elected. He gave the cabal the opportunity they were waiting for and of course, they seized and weaponized it. As fallout from that, many wrote Mr. Tinubu’s political obituary.
If governing Nigeria were to be a drama performance with many actors jostling for a role, one would have been highly stoked at the prospect of Bola Ahmed Tinubu snagging the chief protagonist spot. Even his biggest detractors would give it to the Jagaban of Borgu that he worked hard and has been auditioning for this part for a long time, much more than any other Nigerian politician in recent times. His reach is extensive; he commands a large following across the country and the man is reputed to possess a bottomless pocket even if acquired through questionable means. But that’s hardly the point of the 2023 presidential election.
The fact remains that 2023 is not about Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Muhammadu Buhari, APC, PDP or Labour Party. It’s about the thousands of Nigerians slaughtered everyday in cold blood by a garden variety of terror groups; the university students who are trapped in a cycle of industrial actions; the millions of out of school children; the 90 million Nigerians living daily in abject poverty. 2023 is about the continued existence of Nigeria as one nation. Sadly, the man that Nigerians watched as he took the center stage at Eagle Square few days ago, flipping through his speech with tremulous fingers and needing to be steadied to avoid tripping off the stairs neither possesses the bandwidth nor is he in the right state of health to address the daunting existential challenges that Nigeria is facing today. That to me, is the most troubling part of project 2023.
Dr. Agbo, a public affairs analyst is the coordinator of African Center for Transparency and Convener of Save Nigeria Project. Email: Eagleosmund@yahoo.com