Chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are in frenzy over the choice of the party’s presidential flag bearer as major stakeholders engage in horse-trading ahead of the national convention of the party slated for June 6, 7 and 8.
President Muhammadu Buhari while addressing a meeting of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) on Tuesday had asked the 22 governors of the party to support his bid to pick his own successor.
“In keeping with the established internal policies of the party and as we approach the convention in a few days, therefore, I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor, who would fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023,” he told the governors during the short meeting.
Sources at the meeting said the president left the attendees in the dark regarding who his preferred choice was, creating confusion among the ranks of governors and other chieftains of the party.
Since the meeting with Buhari, the APC governors are locked in a series of meetings first with the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and among themselves with the intent of aligning their position towards agreeing on a consensus arrangement.
Daily Trust gathered that the primary interest of most of the governors is to have the next president emerge from their crop though that position is being countered by those pushing the candidacy of persons that are not governors at present.
Five sitting governors are in the race for the party’s ticket. They are Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Ben Ayade (Cross River) and Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa).
But despite the number of the governors in the race, the majority of their colleagues are rooting for candidates from outside their crops.
With Buhari finally declaring interest in who succeeds him, after months of waiting and speculations, the permutations are said to be changing with stakeholders holding meetings to strategise on how to win the president’s endorsement for their candidates.
Presidential aides and members of the president’s family are said to be lobbied by all aspirants to help market them to the president before he takes a final decision on the matter.
Insider sources said Buhari was weighing options with support from a small team of persons close to him led by his nephew, Malam Mamman Daura.
But the intense lobby, Daily Trust gathered, is polarising the Presidency and persons close to the president who are pitching their tents in the camps of different aspirants.
There were speculations on Wednesday from different camps with promoters who were upbeat about Buhari’s endorsement of their respective principals.
Sources in the power cycle in Abuja made claims and counter-claims about having the nod of the president for the ticket.
A section of the Presidency rooting for erstwhile Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, was said to be hopeful that with the exit of former President Goodluck Jonathan from the race, the coast was now clear for their man.
Daily Trust gathered that Amaechi’s men at the Presidency, who had paired him up with a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, were making last minute push for the former Rivers governor who twice headed Buhari’s presidential campaign. Amaechi is known to be close to the influential Personal Assistant of the president, Sabiu Abdullahi (alias Tunde).
But a chieftain of the APC close to a former Lagos State Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said they were hopeful of the Buhari’s endorsement as they were assured by persons close to the president.
At least two persons close to the president are known to be rooting for Tinubu. They are Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Special Duties, Alhaji Yau Darazo. Darazo had participated in Tinubu’s campaign trips to some states including the last trip to Cross River on Wednesday.
Tinubu is also believed to have the majority of the APC governors on his side.
The campaign team of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has also remained hopeful of the president’s endorsement and counting on some powerful persons in the presidency for the final push.
The Osinbajo team is said to be buoyed by recent warming up to the vice president by the president’s nephew, Sabiu Abdullahi.
Promoters of the Senate President Ahmad Lawan were also confident that their man would get the coveted support of the president.
Lawan’s aspiration is said to be having the backing of Buhari’s older nephew Mamman Daura.
As of the time of filing this report, party caucuses, groups of governors and campaign structures were holding different meetings ahead of Buhari’s return to the country on Friday. The president is expected to meet again with the governors and other stakeholders to unveil his preferred choice on his return.
The ruling party’s major dilemma, according to insiders, was how to navigate the tight rope of tabling an acceptable candidate without having an implosion within its ranks.