The pre-election year in this country is always full of exciting events. We have witnessed quite a number of them since 1999 when these dispensations started. But these times the events have come out with a difference. The events have been fast-paced, roller-coasting in most of the political parties, leaving keen observers like us breathless, almost getting into a dizzying mode. The argument on where to throw the presidential ticket to was the beginning of the brouhaha. The two major parties, APC and the PDP, understandably took different approaches that now seem to be getting to a converging point. Will the presidential ticket be zoned or left open to all comers to contest?
The APC had earlier zoned it to the southern part of the country but had to back-pedal on seeing that the PDP is taking a more cautious approach to decide. The PDP had kept mute on zoning and had seen stronger candidates from northern parts of the country picking up the presidential nomination forms. This gave the PDP fewer alternatives but to proceed to primaries without unnecessarily harping on zoning. This scenario presents to the APC a fait accompli to also proceed to primaries without making a fuss about zoning. As matters stand now, the issue of zoning in both the PDP and the APC is dicey and the presidential ticket in both parties could go either way.
When the political parties opened their doors to prospective presidential candidates, the party headquarters were inundated with the hopefuls who were ready to pay the steep prices for the expression of interest and the actual form itself. Within the PDP, it has been a surfeit of northern candidates as front runners with those that have perennially been in the race such as the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, leading the pack. It is only lately that the southern candidates have started showing up with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State making a loud presence. But it is not the known faces in the PDP that are causing the excitement. Actually, it is the new entrants such as Mohammed Hayatu-Deen that are making the contest within the PDP more interesting. Hayatu-Deen is a famed economist and banker of legendary proportions having transformed a small savings bank into a megabank FSB International with branches in all the states’ capitals of the federation. His entrance into the race with a strong media presence is being watched with interest.
The APC’s N100 million price is verily acknowledged to be on the high side but the party’s explanation of keeping off unserious contenders seems to hold water. The large number of those who came out to pay that whopping sum vindicates the party. One wonders what number they would have ended up with had the price been much lower. Still, the party ended up with a hefty 25 aspirants, at the last count.
However, most of the initial entrants were coming from the southern parts of the country probably keeping to the earlier stance of the APC on zoning the ticket to that part of the country. Asiwaju Tinubu the party’s national leader is one of the earliest entrants and remains the aspirant to beat despite other strong contenders such as Yemi Osinbajo the Vice-President. However, in the last few days, as aspirants from the northern parts of the country have started showing up, the battle for the APC presidential ticket is becoming more exciting. In particular, the entrance of Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President into the race had made analysts recalibrate their viewpoints. He seems to be the ultimate dark horse that will give Tinubu a good run. A later entry Jack Rich, the oil mogul is also causing excitement within the APC.
Nonetheless, the jostling for the APC ticket becomes more intriguing for those whose names are touted as candidates, yet they remained aloof from the fray. One of the most touted names was that of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele. For months lavish adverts appeared in the media clamouring for his candidature. Some indistinguishable persons under the banner of an amorphous rice growers’ association even raised the N100 million to purchase the form for him. Much earlier I myself had written a column asking him to own up or shut up. It was obvious that he didn’t want to leave his perch in the CBN for the muddy waters of politicking, unless and until he was sure of the ticket.
The other touted candidate, who kept aloof, is former President Goodluck Jonathan. I still cannot fathom how a staid gentleman like him got into the web of some smart alecks. The joke even got as far as some Almajiri and Fulani groups raising N100 million to purchase the form for him. It is relieving that the kite flying his candidature collapsed. It will be more comforting for the former president to remain as an elder statesman than to be dragged back into the murky waters of partisanship.
It is yet early in the day in the nomination calendar to conclude who would emerge as the presidential candidate for the two parties. We hold our peace till then.