As the 2023 presidential election kicks off with parties now conducting elections to pick standard bearers, one party that has continued to attract intense attention is the governing All Progressives Party (APC). It is normal that the ruling party faces more challenges about how to pick its candidate where the incumbent is not seeking a return ticket having exhausted the constitutional limit.
During a transition like this, the intensity of contestation and complexity of intrigues can sometimes get to the breaking point for the ruling party.
One should therefore sympathizes with the APC at this time, even, as it is locked in a flux in the high octane of succession politics. With twenty-three aspirants jolting to win the ticket of the party, there is no doubt that the battle is going to be sulfuric, combustible and explosive.
In spite of the motley of characters pretending to be aspiring, simply because they could pay the one hundred million naira ticket fee, what seems to be too plain to ignore is that fact that the main contenders are about four of the lots. For me, the primary will revolve around Rotimi Amaechi, Kayode Fayemi, Yemi Osinbajo and Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Of these major contenders however, it seems, destiny is waiting for the youngest of them to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
Even as the days get closer, what is now apparent to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his fanatics is that he might not secure the ticket of the party, despite his dominant presence and larger-than-life posture. Nothing buttresses this position than his bare-knuckle but self-inflicting jibes that he threw in Ogun state on June 02, 2022.
Signs indicating all will not be too well with his campaign began to emerge when he ran through many northern states last week and he was told almost the same thing by almost all the governors he met, that, whomever the president supports and directs them to follow, they would follow. This practically devastated Asiwaju, irretrievably.
He had hoped naively that Buhari, who though, had not shown any commitment to him or to anyone, would stay neutral to allow the most “prepared” win. So, he had virtually become a traffic warder on the political streets of the northern states in the last one month. But all the hopes seemed to have collapsed with the choreographed answers he got whenever he went, including from the Borno state governor, whom many had thought was a forgone conclusion.
It was therefore an unexpected anti-climax when the president disclosed in a meeting with the progressive governors on June 1, 2022 that he would want to play a critical role in the selection of his successor. To many political observers, this was a major challenge for Asiwaju. This is because there was no doubt that Asiwaju and the president have not been best of friends since Buhari became president. Indeed, there had been instances when Asiwaju had had to publicly criticize the administration. One would even recall instances Chief Bisi Akande wrote bitter letters that clearly condemned Buhari and even asked him to resign at some point.
But, Asiwaju had another graver problem. He is not in the good books of most of the governors because of the annihilating politics he and Oshiomhole played going into 2019 election as part of his ultimate long-term plan to plant his sympathizers in all the states as governors, ahead of this day.
As a survival strategy, Asiwaju has been courting the national assembly and practically secured an alliance with them. In fact, the electoral law was amended to cure what Asiwaju thought could hinder him going into the election. So, many clauses were deliberately infused into the law to serve the political end of the NASS members and Asiwaju in particular.
Unfortunately, they were caught in their web of political conspiracy with the exclusion of statutory delegates from those eligible to vote at the convention. All their desperate effort to cure this grave self-infliction has been blocked by the president. As it stands now, the major electors at the primary will be national delegates who would have emerged from the political structure of the governors.
Worse still, to leave nothing to chances, the president seems to be interested in a consensus arrangement that will ensure a seamless process of candidate selection for the party.
So, when a frustrated Asiwaju spoke rather boisterously to the embarrassment of reasonable observers, it was obvious that he probably has gone for the broke. Much as his battalion of online supporters have tried to rationalize his intemperate speech, there is no doubt that it has caused an irredeemable damage that has eroded any possible clue for a makeup situation between him and Buhari.
For some unclear reason, the Tinubu supporters have made Osinbajo the focus of their acerbic campaigns and there seems to be the feeling that he is the only “real” challenge to Asiwaju’s passage. His sights generally irritates them and every of his steps is scrutinized bitterly.
Indeed, Osinbajo is a formidable figure in this contest. He has a lovable and easily ingratiating personality. His intelligence, charm and confidence can truly rankle a jealous competitor. Indeed, if the party ticket were to be decided directly by Nigerian generally, Osinbajo will be the undisputed winner of the ticket; however the politics of this particular primary election seems to be out of his pick for some factors beyond his control.
And this is understandable. Anywhere in the world, the primary election of any party is mainly a product of intense political horse-trading among the conclaves of party caucuses. In the Nigeria political environment, the governors of the ruling party are the most potent and dominant caucus. The National Assembly can sometimes provide a strong voice, but during a national election where their own political survival is at the local level, their ability to deploy their number to an advantage is grossly hampered.
In this particular instance, unfortunately, the NASS members have amputated and castrated themselves out of relevance. The Asiwaju factor, which Buhari usually tried hard to propitiate to, is, unfortunately now under a testy situation that only days can tell, if it has not completely lost its potency.
Consequently, those who would eventually decide who will be the party’s standard bearers are not those whose consideration would be the sartorial photogenicity of Professor Osinbajo or the monarchial carriage of Asiwaju, but cold power brokers who would negotiate to ensure their own continued relevance in the scheme of things.
According to analysts the ticket seems to be between Kayode Fayemi and Rotimi Amaechi. But the current political configuration of APC and the need to get the middle position may work for the former. According to some insiders, the two forces at play are the governors who want one of them to succeed the president and the inner circle of the president who seem to prefer Rotimi Amaechi for some obvious reasons.
Luckily for Kayode Fayemi, he also enjoys a good relationship with the so-called inner caucus of the Buhari administration. In fact, the Tinubu forces recognized this since 2016, when Fayemi led the political master stroke that produced Akeredolu in spite of all the machinations of Asiwaju to ensure Akeredolu never won the primary and the governorship election. Thereafter, the Tinubu forces started a barrage of media hostilities against Fayemi whom they first derided as a “traitor”, an “ingrate” and an “Akintola”, among other uncomplimentary expletives used to umbrage him then. All these they now direct at Osinbajo.
Similarly, Kayode Fayemi is a man personally loved by the president for his sound intellect, maturity and ability to build bridges and consensus among diverse interests. The president said this much in a speech he gave when Kayode Fayemi was quitting Buhari’s cabinet to re-contest for the Ekiti State governorship election in 2018.
Since becoming the Chairman of Governors’ Forum, Fayemi has steered the Forum from unhealthy acrimony and controversies that used to be its hallmark to that of potent policy peer-review platform that has worked cooperatively with the federal government on so many socioeconomic programmes. He has worked with uncommon maturity to ensure mutual respect between the federal government and the Forum without any major antagonism as it used to be.
What observers have come to the conclusion about is that Kayode Fayemi is the median candidate for all the converging factors. Being Yoruba will assuage the thirst of the South West and be easy to placate Asiwaju. His age, education, Teflon image and ability to build network will easily sell him across board. Even though there will be an initial shock and pushback, the emergence of Fayemi, will ultimately represent the finest hours of the political shift that the nation has been yearning for a long time.
Even those who have become so fanatical about some of the candidates will be easy to persuade to accept the compromised candidate because of his less problematic nature. It will be a ticket that the youths, the not too old, the old and many other interests can easily connect with.
Except if it is not God’s wish, it seems the Fayemi presidency has become inevitable. This will be Ekiti’s finest hour, even as we wait for the outcome of the APC convention over the next few days.