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2015: Anxiety in APC over presidential ticket

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From all indications, President Goodluck Jonathan may emerge the sole
contender for the PDP presidential ticket in the 2015 election. In the
rival APC, it is a different ball game altogether as a legion of
aspirants are engaged in a titanic battle for the ticket, leading to
intrigues and intricacies  that have  created anxiety over the
presidential ticket.

Last week, the All Progressive Party (APC) conducted its ward
congresses aimed at electing officials that would lead the opposition
party at the ward level. Media reports had indicated that the
exercises were either postponed or cancelled in some of the places due
to alleged irregularities. It was in apparent reference to the
‘flawed’ APC ward congresses that President Goodluck Jonathan, during
the South-East PDP rally at Enugu last Friday, said the PDP was more
democratic because it would not cancel ward congresses across the
states without considering the wish of its members. After the ward
congresses, the APC is expected to move to the next level by
conducting its local government and state congresses which are
expected to climax into the zonal and national convention, where
substantive national executives are expected to emerge.

But in spite of fact that the APC is yet to resolve issues to do its
congresses, the scramble for the presidential ticket of the party
seems to have begun in earnest, with all the major aspirants engaging
in horse-trading and scheming to fly the party’s presidential flag in
next year’s presidential election. What seems to have drawn public
attention and debate is the touted Muslim-Muslim ticket in which
former Head of State and chieftain of the APC, General Muhammadu
Buhari, is said to be planning to pick former Lagos State Governor and
national leader of the party, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, as his
running mate.

Apart from Buhari, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former
Minister of Defence and Kano State Governor, Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso,
Governors Rochas Okorocha of Imo and Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos
among others are said to be having discussions with their political
associates and supporters across the country as possible bearers of
the APC presidential ticket in 2015 to slug it out with President
Goodluck Jonathan who is likely to fly the ticket of the ruling
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Interim National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai
Mohammed, declined comments on who is likely to get the ticket, saying
talking about the presidential ticket of the party now amounts to
putting the cart before the horse. Speaking on the likelihood of
getting a candidate for the party on consensus rather than
presidential primaries, and which may go the way of General Buhari,
the national publicity secretary of the Conference of Nigerian
Political Parties (CNPP) and chieftain of the APC, Osita Okechukwu
said the speculation and reports of who the presidential candidate of
the party would be will be a surprise if the formation of APC, in the
first instance, is anything to go.

‘The context emanates from the truism that the registration of APC on
July 31, 2013, an outcome of the first consummation of merger of major
political parties in the annals of our political history, has set the
stage to propel our fledgling democracy to the zenith of liberal
democracy. Naturally, pundits and minders of the PDP are speculating
and making all manner of permutations on the ticket of the APC,
especially when the party draws large followership from the two
prominent electoral zones – North-West and South-West.

‘There is no day, to the best of my knowledge, that the leadership of
the APC met to pencil down any ticket, therefore, the report about
General  Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu ticket is mere permutation and
speculation. The APC leadership is presently preoccupied with nursing
the new baby; a task that is tremendous, for the new baby has many
fathers. We cannot dismiss the truth that the duo are the pillars of
our great party and Buhari can be dubbed the de facto candidate.
However, we have a constitution which stipulates the modalities for
the emergence of party executives, councillors, legislators, governors
and presidential candidates. At present, consensus and direct
primaries are adopted in electing party ward executives,’ Okechukwu
said.

He, however, said that Buhari remains a popular candidate due to his
wide acceptability and respect among the leadership and followership
of APC.  He said: ‘On pairing with Asiwaju in the presidential ticket,
given the toxic nature of the sensibilities surrounding religion, one
can say that going by hindsight that what led to the failure of the
Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressives
Change (CPC) alliance prior to 2011 presidential election was the
search for Christian pair. With a wider platform one does not see this
as a problem now, when we search from South-East, South-West to
South-South.’

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Another chieftain of the party and former Deputy National Secretary of
the defunct CPC, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, said Buhari stands out among
those rumoured to be interested in the Presidential ticket of the APC
due to the huge followership he enjoys especially in the northern
states of the country.

‘Remember that General Buhari scored 12 million votes in the 2011
presidential election despite the fact that the election was massively
rigged in favour of President Jonathan. I cannot see any other
candidate being speculated as capable of holding the North in order to
face the PDP. So if the APC makes the mistake of fielding a candidate
that will not strike a chord with the huge voting population and the
very political conscious masses in the North, then it would be a
fundamental mistake that will surely lead to the crushing defeat for
the APC in the election by PDP. This is not the time to experiment
with political nonentities and untested hands in the presidential
race.

‘Despite all the negative campaign of lies being peddled by PDP
against General Buhari, he is the last man standing. His nomination
will surely destabilize and disorient the PDP and President Jonathan.
All the APC need do is to pick a good running mate for Buhari. The
running mates that can possibly enhance the aspiration of the APC
include Governors Raji Fashola, Adams Oshiomhole, Rotimi Amaechi and
Rochas Okorocha. I cannot see the magic that will make the PDP win in
the South-West. The PDP will not win the North-West, North-East and
North-Central. The PDP may win minimally in the South-East and
South-South, but not enough to satisfy the requirement to win a
presidential race as stipulated in the Constitution,’ Okoi said.

Asked about the alternative option for the party if General Buhari
decides not to contest the party’s ticket, he said: ‘I do not believe
that General Buhari should not contest. However, if he decides not to
contest there are alternatives: Fashola, Okorocha, Amaechi and
Oshiomhole. These are good materials for the presidential seats.’
Three senior party officials of the party who insisted on not being
quoted said though  majority of party members seem to favour Buhari to
get the ticket, some loyalists of Atiku Abubakar have been contacting
party leaders and other members to shore up support for the former
Vice President. A senior party official who was a leading member of
one of the defunct parties in the North said Atiku has personally
opened ‘channels of high level talks’ with some of us to convince us
of his wide acceptability across the country.

Buhari/Tinubu ticket: Although General Buhari is yet to make a
categorical statement over his intention to contest the 2015
presidential ticket of the APC, many believe that he still has his
eyes on the seat. His cordial political relationship with Asiwaju
Ahmed Bola Tinubu has given rise to speculations that Buhari might be
contemplating the former Lagos state governor as his running mate, a
development that has raised controversy over the issue of having a
Muslim-Muslim ticket.

Should Buhari decide to shelve the idea of contesting, which many
within the APC hierarchy are expecting him to, most analysts believe
he would throw his weight behind Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano
State. But this seems very unlikely as the former Head of State is
believed to be interested in running. But should he decide to run,
many analysts say it would be a political suicide mission for him to
adopt Tinubu (a Muslim from the south) as his running mate. A
chieftain of the party who wouldn’t want to be mentioned confided in
Sunday Trust that Buhari is actually mooting the idea of having Tinubu
as his running mate. ‘Those who are selling the idea are mostly
supporters of Buhari and Tinubu’, said the source. Many believe that
it would serve Buhari better if he jettisons his idea of picking
Buhari to opt for either Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State or
Rochas Okorocha of Imo state, both of whom are Christians from the
South-South and South-East respectively.

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Atiku: A formidable candidate, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar is
said to be making wide consultations across the geopolitical zones of
the country in order to actualize his presidential ambition on the
ticket of the APC.  His perceived presidential ambition
notwithstanding, Atiku’s media aide, Garba Shehu, said his boss was
not in any discussion with anybody concerning the presidential contest
in the APC. ‘He (Atiku) believes you first of all have to build the
party, without which there can’t be a contest,’ Shehu said.

Kwankwaso:   Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano state is said not
to be taking anything to chance should Buhari decide not to support
him. Many see Kwankwaso as a strong contender for the APC presidential
ticket, especially if he eventually gets the endorsement of General
Buhari who has a wider support from the north. But analysts say the
success or otherwise of his option would largely depend on his choice
of a running mate.

Nuhu Ribadu:  Former presidential candidate of the defunct Action
Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Malam Nuhu Ribadu is also believed to be an
aspirant for the presidential ticket of the APC opposed to a
Muslim-Muslim ticket. Although he too has not officially declared his
intention he is said to be making wide consultations which include the
choice of a likely running mate.

Sam Nda-Isaiah:   Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, founder of Leadership newspaper
who is also jostling for the APC presidential ticket is a Christian
from Niger State in North-Central Nigeria. If he secures the ticket,
he would need to choose a vice presidential candidate from among the
Muslims in the South.

For now the presidential aspirants appear to be engaged in a hide and
seek over their interest in the APC presidential ticket as well as the
choices of their running mates.

For instance, General Buhari is yet to either confirm nor deny his
interest even though his foot soldiers are flying his kite. The same
goes for Atiku Abubakar who in spite of his wide consultations from
the zones is yet to either deny or confirm his interest.

Nuhu Ribadu also said in a previous interview with Sunday Trust that
at the moment he is making consultations on how to build the party
structures, saying that he is yet to make up his mind on contesting
the APC presidential ticket.

In the final analysis, many believe that the cracks that are already
visible on the wall of the opposition APC may get even deeper if the
party fails to properly handle the issue of its presidential ticket.
An analyst said: ‘PDP would certainly not sit down and watch the APC;
it must continue to fight’ Others also say that having labelled the
APC as an Islamic party or a sectional party, the adoption of a
Muslim-Muslim ticket would only help in confirming that and providing
the ruling party with the opportunity to out-campaign the rival party.

APC chieftain, Chief Fani-Kayode expressed the fears that a
Muslim-Muslim candidate for 2015 would be the party’s recipe for
disaster. In his article titled: ‘A strange Dream for Muslim-Muslim
ticket’, the former Aviation minister said it would be insensitive to
Christians to field Muslim president and a vice president for the 2015
election, saying :’Our party must have both a Christian and a Muslim
on the ticket if we want to be taken seriously in the Presidential
election. I implore those that think otherwise to sit down and think
this through properly.’

But in response, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and
member APC, Nasir el-Rufai, insisted that the party’s choice of
presidential candidate would not be dictated by religion.

‘APC will present an integrity-competence ticket not religion.
Politics and governance are not to be mixed or dictated to by any
religion,’ Mr el-Rufai said. The APC will present to Nigerians the
best persons with the integrity, capacity and competence to create
jobs, fight corruption and rebuild our nation without discrimination’,
el- Rufai said.

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