APC Convention: 22 governors, 2,322 delegates to determine fate of 23 aspirants
Officially, 23 aspirants are “jostling” for the ticket but the party has formally advised 10 of them to withdraw while more may also step down as we enter the business end of the process.
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A photo collage of former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, immediate past Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi and Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State (the big five aspirants)
Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will pick its flag bearer for the 2023 presidential election at its National Congress fixed for Abuja between Monday and Wednesday.
Officially, 23 aspirants are “jostling” for the ticket but the party has advised 10 of them to withdraw while more may also step down as we enter the business end of the process.
Uncertainty over delegates
Barely 72 hours to the special convention, the Federal High Court in Kano, on Friday, held that statutory delegates can participate in primaries of political parties in accordance with the Nigerian constitution.
The judge, A.M. Liman, while delivering judgement in a suit filed by Masijde El-Jibrin Gogowa, a legislative aide to Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Habibu Sani and Bilyaminu Shinkafi, said Section 223 of the Nigerian constitution and the APC constitution “allow statutory Delegation (sic) to vote at convention, congress or meeting.”
In the suit filed on May 24, the plaintiffs listed the Senate President, APC National Chairman, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as defendants.
However, the spokesperson of the APC, Felix Morka, told PREMIUM TIMES that the party will not comply with the court judgement because the APC was not joined in the suit.
With the elimination of statutory delegates and the refusal of the president to sign an amendment bill that would have reinstated the statutory delegates, only elected delegates, as provided in Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act, will pick the candidate.
Section 84(8) provides that “a political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rule the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress and meeting.”
The national delegates were elected three per local government/area. With 768 local governments and 6 area councils, 2,322 delegates will decide who will become the candidate of the ruling party.
This means that the governors who hold the structures of the party in their states will decide to a large extent who will become the candidate.
APC has 22 governors, and five of them were in the race until the reported withdrawal of Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa Saturday night. The others still in the race are Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, Dave Umahi of Ebonyi and Ben Ayade of Cross River.
APC national delegates
Breakdown of national delegates by states
Cross River 54
The hefty prices of interest and nomination forms did not deter the presidential aspirants as 28 of them picked the forms. The National Chairman of the party, Abdullahi Adamu, had argued that even the devil would not pay N100 million to cause mischief but events of the past couple of weeks have shown that Mr Adamu was wrong.
At the end of the process, 23 aspirants attended the screening exercise conducted by a panel headed by a former chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun. At the end of the screening, the panel recommended 13 aspirants for the primary and advised the 10 others to withdraw.
The 13 shortlisted are Mr Badaru, Akwa-Ibom State Governor Godwin Akpabio, immediate past Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi, former Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun, Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, Jack Rich, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, former Minister of Education (State) Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, former Minister of Science and Technology Ogbonnaya Onu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Mr Tinubu and Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi.
The panel advised that in the event that the 10 aspirants refuse to withdraw, they should be allowed to participate in the primary.
The new electoral law has outlawed arbitrary use of parties’ constitutions and guidelines to disqualify aspirants. Section 84(3) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that “A political party shall not impose nomination qualification or disqualification criteria, measures, or conditions on any aspirants or candidates for any election in its constitution, guideline or rules for nomination except as prescribed under section 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 177 and 187 of the constitution.”
And section 131 of the constitution provides that a person shall be qualified for election to the office of the president if:
a. He is a citizen of Nigeria by birth
b. Has attained the age of thirty-five years
c. He is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party, and
d. He has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.
The interpretation section of the constitution has defined school certificate level or equivalent as School Certificate or its equivalent” means
(a) a Secondary School Certificate or its equivalent, or Grade II Teacher’s Certificate, the City and Guilds Certificate; or
(b) education up to Secondary School Certificate level; or
(c) Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent and –
(i) service in the public or private sector in the Federation in any capacity acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for a minimum of ten years, and
(ii) attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for periods totalling up to a minimum of one year, and
(iii) the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and
(d) any other qualification acceptable by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The summary of the interpretation is that a primary school certificate holder with work experience, ability to read and write, and evidence of vocational training is eligible. Hence, parties are restricted from using any other criteria to disqualify aspirants.
In the event that the ruling party decides to adopt consensus, there is a restraint in section 84(9) of the electoral act, which provides that the party “that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate.”
However, the president can still instigate consensus using the same strategy adopted by most governors in the state, by anointing a candidate and urging the establishment to rally around the aspirant. Several governors have indicated that they will go wherever the president directs them.
Governors Badaru of Jigawa State, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and Babangana Zulum of Borno State publicly stated that they will move in the direction of the president.
Further, Mr Oyegun, while presenting the report of the screening committee to the national chairman, said 99 per cent of the aspirants agreed to a consensus but one of them did not agree.
How the regions may vote
The region has the largest voting capacity at the primary, with six of the seven states being governed by the APC. It can be projected that former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu will take Kano and Sokoto, while Kaduna and Jigawa are leaning toward former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. Despite Governor Badaru being in the race, he has disclosed that he will not contest against Mr Amaechi.
Former Governor of Zamfara, Sani Yerima is in the race, but Governor Matawalle is said to belong to the Tinubu camp. Katsina State, the state of President Muhammadu Buhari, has become some sort of pilgrimage for almost all the aspirants, both in PDP and APC.
While Governor Aminu Masari has been receiving all the aspirants, he is yet to indicate where the state may swing, perhaps due to respect for the President.
Kebbi State is key, however. Governor Atiku Bagudu is the Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum, and with five APC governors in the race, Mr Bagudu is keeping the cards very close to his heart.
APC controls three states in this region; Borno, Yobe and Gombe. The Senate President Ahmad Lawan is expected to take Yobe, while Borno, Bauchi and Adamawa are states that Mr Tinubu is formidable because of former Governor Kashim Shetima, former Speaker of the House of Representative, Yakubu Dogara, former EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, and disgraced former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal.
However, in Borno State, a senator, Ali Ndume, and former Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, are allies of Mr Amaechi and are also expected to get some votes for him.
If the promise of Governor Inuwa Yahaya is the yardstick, then Gombe State should go to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, while Taraba is open to all the aspirants.
Kwara and Nasarawa State may lean towards the former governor of Lagos State. Despite the ongoing cold relationship between Governor Abdulrahaman Abdulrasak and the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Mr Tinubu has a long relationship with Kwara State politics, where he was instrumental in dislodging the Saraki political dynasty.
Governor Abdulrahman has emerged as the de facto leader of the party in the state. Some of those that challenged his supremacy have decamped to the Social Democratic Party. Many of them are Mr Tinubu’s allies. But when Mr Tinubu visited the state, the atmosphere was carnival-like with the governor pledging to support him.
In Nasarawa, former Governor Tanko Almakura is a close ally of Mr Tinubu. This state will be dicey because the National Chairman, Abdulahi Adamu, is from there. But Mr Almakura has been moving across the country with Mr Tinubu.
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State is expected to take his state. Governor Simon Lalong has pledged the delegate of Plateau State to Mr Amaechi. Currently, Benue and Niger are still open.
In Ebonyi State, two aspirants are in the race, Governor Umahi and former Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu. The former is expected to take Ebonyi State while former Governor Orji Kalu is expected to deliver Abia State to Mr Lawan, whom he has endorsed.
In Imo State, there are also two aspirants, former Governor Rochas Okorocha and former Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba. Mr Okorocha, who is currently facing a serious battle with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), may struggle to get the delegates behind him.
Because there is a supremacy battle between Mr Okorocha and Uzodinma, if the governor is in control of the structure, then Mr Okorocha may not be in a good position to harvest the delegates and it is unknown if Mr Nwajiuba will take the votes. Mr Uzodinma is in the camp of Mr Lawan.
Ordinarily, former Senate President Ken Nnamani will be expected to take Enugu State while Anambra could be under the directive of Andy Uba and the Minister of Labour and Employment. Chris Ngige.
In Rivers State, there is a crisis in the party, between Magnus Abe’s faction and those loyal to Mr Amaechi. All things being equal, Mr Amaechi is expected to take this state, although Mr Abe, who is also running for the governorship ticket of the APC will like to give a good show by delivering delegates to Mr Tinubu, who he is supporting.
If Godwin Akpabio, a former Akwa-Ibom State Governor is able to unite the divided party in Akwa-Ibom, he should be able to take the state. Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River should be able to take his state.
In Edo State, former Governor Adams Oshiomhole is in control and is expected to deliver it to his old ally, Mr Tinubu.
Delta State is in the firm grip of the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, this state will go wherever the president goes. Mr Omo-Agege is a staunch supporter of Mr Buhari.
As for Bayelsa State and its 24 delegates, two individuals will direct the flow, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and David Lyon. Mr Sylva dropped out of the race due to the constraint posed by section 84(12) and the directive of the president that all appointees seeking elective offices should resign.
Mr Lyon was the elected governor during the last off-season governorship election until he was sacked by the court a day before his inauguration over discrepancies in the certificates of his deputy.
In all, Mr Amaehi should have the advantage in the South-south region – except in Edo State, where Mr Tinubu enjoys a good relationship with Mr Oshiomhole.
Earlier this month, former governors of Osun and Ogun State, Bisi Akande and Olusegun Osoba, tried to broker a consensus arrangement among the aspirants from the Southwest. However, the meeting ended in deadlock.
There are seven aspirants in the region. Four are from Ogun State: Mr Osinbajo, Mr Amosun, Tunde Bakare and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole. However, Governor Dapo Abiodun is said to favour the vice president.
On Thursday, Mr Tinubu was in Ogun State and he held nothing back when he reminded the delegates how he helped the governor, Mr Osinbajo and the president.
Mr Fayemi from Ekiti is expected to take Ekiti and Ondo states. Although Ajayi Borroffice is from Ondo State, he may not have the political clout to get the votes.
Lagos, Osun and Oyo States are the main strongholds of Mr Tinubu.
With this background, it is easier to separate the contenders and pretenders. According to Mr Fayemi, there are only five serious aspirants based on the campaign activities of the aspirants. Although Mr Fayemi did not name the aspirants, their identities are not difficult to uncover.
The Big Five
The former Governor of Lagos State (1999-2007) and senator in the Third Republic (1992-1993) was the first aspirant to throw his hat in the ring as far back as January. Mr Tinubu has been moving across the country, with the only break being during Ramadan when he went for the lesser hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Despite concerns about his health, he has been moving from one state to another, and his entourage has been impressive, with former Governor Kassim Shettima of Borno State one of the mainstays. There are also Messrs Almakura and Ribadu.
There are two major hurdles for Mr Tinubu. One is his age and health, which have always been controversial issues. Last year, he spent some time at a hospital in the UK.
Also, there is the issue of how to pick a running mate. Mr Tinubu, who is a Muslim from the South, would need Northern Christian to balance the ticket. That could cost him dearly in the North.
There are other issues facing Mr Tinibu including a suit filed by a group in the APC asking the court to disqualify him from the APC primary.
The immediate past Minister of Transportation is a major contender in the race. Mr Amaechi continues to rack endorsement from key states in the north. His campaign is focusing on security and infrastructure. To buttress that security aspect, Mr Amaechi has been visiting states in the company of the former Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, and a former Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba.
His major trouble will be his inability to unite the APC in his state, where they were barred from participating in the 2019 general election due to internal wrangling.
Mr Amaechi will have the leverage of being able to pick a zoning mate from any of the geopolitical zones in the north.
This is the first time Mr Osinbajo will be participating in a contested primary as an aspirant. He was tapped after the primary election in 2014 and the convention of 2018 was more or less ratification.
He will have to battle his ex-boss, Mr Tinubu, for the ticket and so far, Mr Buhari appears to be aloof. Most governors who are close to President Buhari appeared to have queued behind Mr Amaechi.
Other supporters like ex-senators Sola Adeyeye and Femi Ojodu are directing their battle toward Mr Tinubu.
“Tinubu has the structure, he has amassed the money and is already throwing it around left, right and centre, but the truth is that many are just fleecing him at the moment,” Mr Adeyeye said in an article.
In a rejoinder, Bashiru Ajibola, the senator representing Osun Central, countered the position of Adeyeye “While, I am not denying the astuteness of Professor Osinbajo as a legal scholar, to simply attribute his emergence as the Vice President to being “noticed” by the “Northern establishment” as a “genius” is to distort and deliberately falsify political development and history we all know and partook in.
The decision of the Redeem Christian Church of God to establish a department on politics and governance has not helped the vice president. Farouq Kperogi, a US-based university lecturer, had in an article accused Mr Osinbajo of ‘redeemization’.
The claims in the article have been debunked, however, the damages have been done.
The vice president will count on the experience of a former governor of Kano State, Kabir Gaya, in navigating the murky water of delegate election.
Mr Fayemi will count on his position as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to get the needed delegates on his side. Like most of the aspirants, he has been moving across the country and getting pledges from his colleagues.
His chances rest on the support from the governors. If they resolve to pledge to him, he may stand a chance.
Mr Lawan is the only aspirant from the Northeast, a region that is also yet to produce a president. However, his region is both a strength and a weakness for him.
The Peoples Democratic Party picking Atiku Abubakar as its candidate has strengthened the appeal of Mr Lawan as the ideal counter-balance. However, the party appears to be leaning in the direction of zoning to the south.
His structure is limited, as he has spent all his political career in the legislative arm.
Aside from these five contenders, many of the other aspirants could be referred to as pretenders with eyes perhaps set on other targets.
But the main super delegate remains President Buhari. His endorsement of any of the aspirants could tilt the race. However, there is the fear of what may happen after the primary if certain aspirants are left disgruntled.