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Intrigues await aspirants at APC, PDP presidential primaries

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Iyorchia Ayu PDP National chairman Abdullahi Adamu APC National Chairman

With the huge size of the presidential aspirants in the two main political parties in the country, observers have said that there would be plenty wheeling and dealing at the primaries scheduled for the end of this month May.

They also predict that the primaries would witness a moral equivalence of war in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will hold their presidential primaries between May 28 and 30, 2022.

Like in the past primaries since 1998, the gatherings would feature a lot of intrigues, and it is expected that it would be more intense this time around because of the variegated interests and the unique nature of the 2023 general election.

Observers also speak in tandem that it is going to be worse this time around with a retinue of aspirants jostling for the tickets of either of the parties.

In the APC where about 27 aspirants would be slugging it out, it is expected that money and subterfuge would be deployed in great measure to clinch the slot.

The party’s costly expression of interest and nomination forms have been generating controversy in the polity. Those who bought the forms would not be smiling on that day, except they indeed, as being rumoured, were sponsored by the party to create a false impression that the APC remained a popular vehicle to actualise presidential ambition.

There is also the story making the rounds about a compulsory “withdrawal letter” that aspirants were told to sign at the point of purchasing the form. The letter may be put to use at the event, where many of them would be forced to withdraw.

Rumours of a consensus option are also gaining ground. It is being said that the preferred presidential candidate would be foisted on the party in the manner that Abdullahi Adamu emerged as the national chairman of the party at the recent national convention.

Although majority of the aspirants are from the South, alleged plans to throw up Ahmed Lawan, Senate president, are afoot. The intrigue is expected to yield the desired fruit at the primary.

As always, Southern elements who have been parading themselves as serious contenders would be promised various positions, contracts and an unlimited access to the seat of power from 2023 in the event of the victory of the party.

Some of those who may prove “stubborn” may be coerced into submission with the mantra “party is supreme.”

For the People’s Democratic Party which has slated its presidential primary for May 29, the party is going in for the exercise with many aspirants already crest-fallen.

The decision of the leadership of the umbrella association to throw the ticket open against its own constitution that favours rotation/zoning is seen by many as the beginning of the intrigue that would culminate in the emergence of a Northern element as the party’s candidate.

Already, it is becoming clearer to many of the aspirants that their N40million has become a serious gamble, hence the alleged nocturnal moves by some of them to be considered as vice presidential candidate.

A political pundit who spoke with BusinessDay Sunday on condition of anonymity said that a whole lot of the aspirants may leave the venue of the primaries to a health facility because of the political horror they would witness that would agitate their minds and upset their blood pressure.

Observers say that the contest for the presidential ticket in the APC may be between the consensus candidate and Tinubu in the primary.

“I think there will be more intrigue in the next few days, some of them know they can’t go anywhere, they don’t have structure anywhere to win a presidential election or primary.

“But the fight for the APC ticket may be between the candidate backed by the Northern elders and leaders and PDP Southern governors. So, there won’t be coercion but intrigues with horse trading,” Kunle Okunade, a political analyst, said.

Okunade added that several aspirants in the presidential race would soon realise they cannot go far and join force with stronger aspirants.

According to him, “No aspirant at this stage would be coerced to step down but what will happen is negotiation and renegotiation, alignment and realignment by promoters of aspirants. Intrigues are part of politicking and it would occur till a candidate emerges at the primaries.”

The situation in the PDP may be almost similar scenarios; pundits believe that most of the aspirants may collapse into a consensus arrangement. They said that the aspirants from the South-East might adopt one aspirant, likewise the South-South and the North.

“I expect intrigues in the next few days, but where the challenge might be would be in the north with aspirants that have nursed life-long ambition of becoming president. At the end of the day, money might not be the deciding factor in the primaries,” Anayo Ezegwu, political analyst, said.

Ezegwu predicted that the presidential primaries of the two major political parties may not be predictable as many Nigerians may think.

According to him, “The forthcoming presidential primaries of the two major political parties in the country would be interesting. It will not be predictable as many Nigerians may think. But the most interesting of them all would be the APC primary because of the calibre of aspirants in the race.”

Idowu Omolegan, a public affair analyst and lawyer, said: “The coming party primaries will be marked by delegate-buying, financial inducements and manipulation by aspirants and their cliques. Forget about delegates looking at capacity, they are all there for what they can make and it will go to the highest bidder; ideologies will not count at this point; maybe, after the primaries we can start talking about ideologies, but for now, it’s about money, clique and caucuses.”

Presidential conventions since 1998

During the PDP’s 1998 Jos Convention for the 1999 Presidential election, aspirants from the three Southern geopolitical zones participated.

There was no micro-zoning or gifting of the party ticket to any region or tribe, aside from the fact that it was exclusively zoned to the South, while the North sat on the sidelines, having wielded power for nearly two decades; First Republic under Tafawa Balewa, Military rule and the Second Republic under Shehu Shagari (1st Oct 1979 to 29th May 1999).

In 2003, the then incumbent president, Olusegun Obasanjo of the South West ran for re-election. As both Southerners and Northerners fought, there was no zoning. Alex Ekwueme of the South East, Abubakar Rimi of the North West, and Barnabas Gemade of the North Central also contested the primaries with him.

Obasanjo received 2642 votes (75percent), Ekwueme received 611 votes (17percent), Rimi received 159 votes while 17 votes were cast for Gemade.

Rochas Okorocha of the South East finished a distant second to the winner, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the North West, in the PDP’s 2006 Presidential primaries.

The same thing happened in the PDP primaries in 2011, when Jonathan from the South-South defeated Atiku Abubakar from the North East. Jonathan also ran unchallenged in 2014 as the incumbent.

The PDP Presidential primaries were strictly zoned to the north for the 2019 election. The primary contenders were Atiku and Dankwambo (North East), Bukola Saraki and David Mark (North Central); Aminu Tambuwal and Rabiu Kwankwaso, Ahmed Markafi, Ibrahim Saminu Turaki and Sule Lamido (North West), with Atiku becoming the flag bearer.

The most recent incidence of zoning in the South was in 2017 for the PDP National Chairmanship. Candidates from the South-West and South-South competed, with the South-South emerging victorious.

Read also: 2023: Nine months enough to secure the nation for election – INEC

For the 2023 election, the PDP has now thrown the presidential ticket open, going against its constitution.

The current All Progressives Congress (APC) was registered as a political party in 2013, following the merger of the now defunct, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the new People’s Democratic Party (n-PDP).

The APC, which wrest power from the PDP in 2015, after 16 years in the saddle, has held two National Conventions for the nomination of Presidential candidate; in 2014 and 2018.

At the 2014 maiden Presidential Convention of APC held in Lagos, the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari contested against, the then Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, former Vice President Atiku, Imo State Governor at the time, Rochas Okorocha and the Publisher/Chairman Leadership Newspaper, the late Sam Nda-Isaiah.

At the end of the polls, Buhari won the APC Presidential ticket with 3,430 votes; Kwankwaso got 974 votes; Atiku polled 954 votes; Okorocha secured 624 votes, while Nda-Isaiah scored 10 votes and 16 voided votes were recorded.

The Chief Returning Officer for the election, Kayode Fayemi, who would later become Buhari’s Minister and now Governor of Ekiti State, declared the winner of the polls (Buhari).

There were also discreet attempts by some party leaders to pick a consensus candidate among the aspirants but that were unsuccessful as the five contenders preferred to go into real contest with the hope of securing victory.

As the former Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima recently disclosed, if not for the intervention of the former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, moneybags would have hijacked the process.

He said: “In 2015, some aspirants with very huge war chest were itching to clinch the ticket of the APC, like the rock of Gibraltar, Asiwaju and his progressive team stood solidly behind the candidate of Presidency Muhammadu Buhari.”

While Okorocha left to contest and won his second term as Governor of Imo State, Kwankwaso had vied for the Kano Central Senatorial District and won a seat in the Senate during the 8th National Assembly.

For the 2018 Convention ahead of the 2019 general election, Buhari contested alone via the direct mode of primary in which he scored about 15 million votes.