Bob Marley was right, in ‘Talkin Blues’ he advised – never make a politician grant you a favour, they would always want to control you forever. The build-up to the recently concluded presidential primaries of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC has just proved that Bola Ahmed Tinubu, cashed in on his political investments to clinch the party’s presidential ticket.
Twenty-three aspirants went to Eagle Square, but Tinubu breasted the tape with 1,271 delegates votes to beat his closest rival, ex-transport minister Rotimi Amaechi. He left several aspirants with zero votes. Only those who were wise and saw the handwriting on the wall deferred to him rather than face electoral defeat.
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Those who stepped down at the venue include the only female presidential aspirant of the 2023 race, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye who described herself as a barrister. She stepped down for Tinubu after watching Godswill Akpabio, ex-Niger Delta Minister step down, followed by Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State, Dimeji Bankole, one-time speaker, House of Representatives, Ajayi Boroffice, senator Ondo North and the only northern governor in the race, Muhammad Badaru of Jigawa State who said he was bowing to the consensus of northern governors even though he was not the only northern governor in the race. There was Yahaya Bello of Kogi State who waited to the very end.
Looking at the APC delegates’ conference and the step-down syndrome, it is obvious that the Nigerian presidency is a huge joke and that most of those ogling the presidency absolutely have no plan for the top job.
In all, seven APC members carried their ploy to Eagle Square only to step down for Bola Tinubu. Hours to the convention, Fayemi had narrowed serious candidates to five. Obviously, he did not count himself in and could not carry the leverage of being the leader of the once-influential governor’s forum. Ibikunle Amosun, former Ogun State governor, stepped down. Dimeji Bankole emerged from political Siberia only to throw in the towel at Eagle Square.
While others showed up, Emeka Nwajiuba, a former Minister of State for Education was conspicuously absent at the venue. No reasons were given for his absence. These last-minute defections cleared the coast for Tinubu who clinched the party’s ticket. Trailing him at a distant second was Rotimi Amaechi, former Rivers State governor and until lately the minister of Transportation. Amaechi polled 316 votes. Incumbent Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, came a distant third with 235 electoral votes.
Lawan Ahmed, the president of the Senate came fourth with 152 votes while Yahaya Bello and Nweze David Umahi polled 47 and 38 votes respectively. All the others, with the exception of Ken Nnamani, one-time Senate president who withdrew from the race had zero or no significant vote. These include Tunde Bakare, a Pentecostal pastor who had boasted on the altar of God that he has been anointed Nigeria’s 16th president in the spirit realm. Bakare, a lawyer leads the Latter Rain Assembly in Lagos.
It did not stop a dozen or so praise-singers from welcoming him back to his base in Lagos. It was a serial shellacking for a man who was once Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate in the 2011 presidential race that they both lost woefully.
With a zero vote was Tein Jack Rich, described as an entrepreneur. The verbose governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade garnered 37 votes, one-time party chairman and lately science and technology minister, Ogbonnaya Onu, scored one vote. Onu had promised that Nigeria would manufacture its own pencils with him as technology minister. He left without fulfilling that promise.
Rochas Okorocha, former Imo State Governor, barely changed his detention clothes before showing up at Eagle Square. He was a guest of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission where he faces corruption investigations. He tried to sway delegates with his knowledge of Hausa and Igbo. It did not win him a single vote. He would have to return to answer to his corruption investigations as a veteran of the agency.
Two South East contestants, Nicholas Felix Nwagbo and one-time minister, Ikeobasi Mokelu, both scored zero, while their counterpart, Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, scored 38 votes.
The scores from Eagle Square hardly shocked political pundits. Bola Tinubu has been sowing seeds for his presidential ambition since he returned to politics and won the governorship of Lagos State. After two terms he has remained the state’s kingmaker with a political dynasty spread across the southwestern part of Nigeria.
He got a tacit last-minute endorsement from APC northern governors who stamped their authority on a skewed zoning formula that seems to exclude the South East. Tinubu claimed to have made Buhari president with his alliance. He also claimed to have installed the governor of Ogun State and nominated Prof Osinbajo as vice president.
Tinubu appeared incensed by Osinbajo’s intransigence and initially ignored him after winning the party’s ticket. He later paid him a courtesy visit. His supporters believe Osinbajo has buried his political career by not stepping down. Watchers of events in Aso Rock point to Osinbajo’s parallel exclusive Christian enclave at the Presidential Villa as the last straw that broke his ambition. Nigeria is a religious nation in spite of its constitutional secularity.
Nigerian politicians know how to recycle themselves back to relevance. The N100 million expression of interest form is an investment that each of the presidential aspirants hopes would yield dividends. There is presumed, a jostling for positions already and favour from the winner. Politicians know that if they play their cards right, as the saying goes; they might save their horses.
If the APC manages to continue in office beyond 2023, many of these political brigands would end up with plum positions. To show how calculative politicians are, Godswill Akpabio, who stepped down at Eagle Square, claims to have won a senatorial seat in Akwa Ibom. The Independent National Electoral Commission does not agree with that abracadabra. Nigerian politicians do not believe in the finality of an umpire’s whistle, they have found a way to win through the courts.
The APC presidential losers have sown on fertile grounds and they hope to reap bountifully, if their party ‘wins’. They have returned home, poised more than ever to swing the votes in the favour of their party. If that fails, they would cross the floor, after all, most of the bigwigs in the APC today were at one time or the other members of the opposing PDP. The only thing the electorate are good at doing, is fighting themselves and where possible even killing for their tormentors.