Twists, turns and myths of APC presidential election convention

  The just concluded special convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to pick its presidential candidate was like no other in the ruling party’s seven-year-old history. It was characterised by drama, twists, turns and even myths. In the first place, this primary was postponed a record six times. 

And just when Nigerians had readied themselves to the seemingly last date tweaking of Monday June 6, 2022, eagerly awaiting official unveiling of its presidential flagbearer, the date was pushed backwards, yet, yet, again to commence on Tuesday, June 7, 2022.  Tellingly, this happened to be the last possible date.  As it turned out, APC’s presidential primary did not end until well after 2 p.m. on June 8, giving it only a few hours to meet INEC’s deadline for submission of candidates’ particulars.

We all expected to see a consensus candidate which is what President Muhammadu Buhari and the party’s leadership were pushing for, hence the postponement upon postponement of the D-day, apparently to fish out a consensus flagbearer and also the high-level meetings. 

At a time, we were told that the governors had asked northern aspirants to step down for a southern candidate to emerge; that, they had pruned the number of aspirants to just five, from which a consensus candidate could be picked by Mr. President. Apparently, not everybody agreed. One aspirant, out of youthful exuberance, declared that there would be ‘’crisis’’ if his name was not on the ballot. 
Then, Chairman Abdullahi Adamu at a meeting with the National Working Committee members told them that Senate President Ahmed Lawan was the consensus candidate. He said that this decision followed consultation with President Buhari. I suspect that this was to be a privileged information, meant for the ears of the NWC members only; that is, it was not supposed to be let out to the public until after an official unveiling of Lawan in Mr. President’s presence. 

However, once it was let out to the public somehow, it drew the irk of many party faithful who for one reason or the other did not consider Lawan a popular choice. The outrage apparently forced Mr. President (who had enjoined the governors to allow him choose his successor) to make an about turn and declare in a press statement that he has “no anointed candidate”. That was how the consensus option failed and election became a must.
In a way, it can be argued that the eventual winner of APC’s presidential primary election, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has Adamu to thank in a way, for letting out Lawan’s name at the time he did. Supposing the candidate’s name was made known at the convention ground, after the preliminary welcome speeches and Mr. President as the last speaker said, ‘The leadership of our party, the National Working Committee led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu has conveyed to me the choice of Distinguished Senator Ahmed Lawan as the party’s consensus candidate.

I agree with this choice, I support it and I ask you our dear delegates to here and now affirm him as our flagbearer for the 2023 presidential election’, would the president have been openly opposed? Many believed that the senate president was Buhari’s choice as our president is known to make decisions at the last minute, so to say.  Remember that Lawan joined the race late, just as Abdullahi Adamu came in at the 11th hour to become the consensus candidate for the post of national chairman.

Even with the party forced to go into election, observers expected only the five aspirants pencilled down by the 13 northern APC governors (a powerful group) to slug it out at the ballot box, namely, Tinubu, Yemi Osinbajo, Rotimi Amaechi, Kayode Fayemi and Dave Umahi. Surprisingly, all the 23 persons who bought presidential nomination forms, including the 10 whom the screening committee had separated as not having much political weight to stand as the party’s presidential candidate were all allowed into the fray. Some of the aspirants were little known, many people were not even aware that some other aspirants were APC members.

It turned out to be the largest number of presidential aspirants contesting for a party’s ticket. The huge nomination fee of N100 million rather than deter, seemed to have attracted more aspirants. Looking deeper, I see that many joined the race because they believed somehow, that they would be anointed by President Buhari because of their closeness to him, as his ally. 
For particularly aspirants from the South-east, the impression they gave was that there was some kind of agreement that the presidency would be ceded to that part of our country and each believed he is close enough to Mr. President to be picked by him as his favoured candidate. Ikeobasi Mokelu talked about his relationship with Buhari dating way back before 2015 when he assumed office as president. 

Ogbonnaya Onu immediate past Minister of Science and Technology let it be known that he it was who paid for APC’s registration fee from his personal pocket. He had been with the ANPP, Buhari’s earlier party and one of those that merged to become, APC. Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state had been acquainted with Buhari from the days when they were both in ANPP and he has sustained that friendship to-date.

It was most probably the reason he decamped from PDP to APC months ago, believing that he would be favoured by Buhari to be his successor. Chibuike Amaechi from the Igbo-speaking part of the south south zone, most probably considered himself the most likely anointee  because he is the ‘poster boy’ of this administration, given his achievements as Transportation Minister especially in the rail transport sector; he had served Buhari twice as director-general of his campaign (2015, 2019) and delivered on both occasions as Buhari won the elections.

He sited the Transport University in Buhari’s home town of Daura and was conferred with a chieftaincy title (Dan Amana) by Buhari’s Emir.  Vice President Osibanjo considered to be Mr. President’s right-hand man as a loyal deputy, did not clinch the ticket.  Alas, all the long-standing personal friendships, political friendships, working relationships, over the years with Buhari came to nought as the president did not give them a nod. The friendships cum relationships turned out to be a myth somehow.

Yet another twist at this APC primary was stepping down of no less than five aspirants (including the only female one) for Tinubu. One had thought that the egos of Akpabio, Amosun and Fayemi would not allow them to forgo their ambitions for Tinubu. What about the high dramas in the run up to this primary? Central Bank of Nigeria boss, Godwin Emefiele reportedly purchasing the nomination form, challenging in court the provision that he should resign before contesting as an APC presidential aspirant? 

And the intrigues that former president Jonathan was going to be drafted in as the ultimate consensus candidate? Up until the last minute, so to speak, some still believed Jonathan would make it. Some people continued to protest with placards, demanding that he should be given the ticket as consensus candidate. Drama, twists, turns, demystified myths, we saw them all.
Ikeano writes via [email protected] 08033077519

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