2023: What Adamu’s emergence means for Tinubu’s ambition
INIOBONG IWOK (LAGOS), JAMES KWEN (ABUJA) AND CHURCHILL OKORO (BENIN)
The emergence of Abdullahi Adamu, a former governor of Nasarawa State, as the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has elicited a lot of permutations on the political scene, particularly in relation to the presidential ambition of Bola Tinubu.
There is the belief in some quarters that the APC, having Adamu, a Moslem from the North-central, would look towards having a Christian presidential candidate from the Southern region of the country.
On the other hand, there are those who say that Adamu and Tinubu have a cordial relationship cemented by their era as governors from 1999 to 2007, and may not want to lose the grip on power despite clamour for generational power shift.
Some observers say that as far as the battle for the APC presidential ticket is concerned, the Asiwaju of Lagos is ahead of many contenders, having made it clear that he is prepared for it, hence, being “a lifelong ambition.”
To demonstrate his seriousness, Tinubu was the first to approach President Muhammadu Buhari to tell him that he wanted to succeed him in 2023.
Though David Umahi, governor of Ebonyi State also visited Buhari for the same purpose, Tinubu went beyond that having had consultations with traditional rulers and other critical stakeholders.
The APC’s National leader is also the first presidential aspirant to parley the National Assembly Caucus of his party where he solicited their support and explained why it must be him.
At the meeting with the House of Representatives Caucus, Tinubu said he was one of the best products the party can sell in the upcoming general election as the other aspirants are not stable.
He said: “Most people have nothing to offer but questions and creating doubt. I am not here to be defensive. I am here to tell you that I am one of the best products that you can sell. I am the only one in the race that is most competent, most qualified to be your president come year 2023.
“I am the only one who has been through the tutelage of the National Assembly. I am the only one who has consistently been in one party. The others are not stable. Some of them are rolling stones.”
However, under the Adamu-led APC, Tinubu may have obstacles to his ambition if APC decides to do “religious balancing” as it did in 2015 when his vice presidential bid was thwarted by the rejection of a Moslem/Moslem ticket (Buhari/Tinubu).
There have been agitations for a Southern Christian President in 2023 as the incumbent, a Northern Moslem bows out on May 29 next year.
A group called, Nigeria Equity Group (NEG), had recently called for a President of Christian faith for the country in 2023 when it supported the position of the Southern Governors that the country’s next President should come from South.
Emeka Nwosu, chairman of the group, had said in the spirit of fairness and equity, Nigeria’s next president should be a Christian from the South, especially as President Muhammadu Buhari – a Muslim from the North – will finish his two-term of eight years by 2023.
“We wish to note and state clearly that the call for a Southern presidency in 2023 by the Southern Governors did not go far enough. We strongly believe that the only way to truly promote fairness and inclusion in our diverse and complex society, especially at this time of unprecedented national crisis, is for a power shift to a Southern Christian in 2023,” Nwosu had said.
A Chieftain of the party, who did not want his name in print, said APC, being a listening party, decided to zone its National Chairman to the North and gave it to a Moslem to pave way for the emergence of a Christian Southerner.
“The party wants to satisfy the cacophony of voices demanding for a Christian Southern President; that’s why it has not only zoned the National Chairman to North-central but ensure a Moslem emerged through consensus.
“This will however, affect the ambition of our leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu because being a Moslem, the party will not want to have both National Chairman and presidential candidate from the same faith for religious balancing,” the party stalwart said.
But another ranking member of the party also, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the APC presidential ticket may not be given on the basis of religion, citing the era of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was a Christian but most National Chairmen of his party were of the same faith with him.
The APC Chieftain also said Tinubu’s chances were still bright under Adamu as they were contemporaries who may have to protect their interest common.
“I don’t think APC presidential ticket is all about religion. Remember, Obasanjo was a Christian and many PDP Chairmen were from the same religion. Don’t forget also the bond that governors share both serving and former ones. The two (Adamu and Tinubu) belong to that group; if you like, call it cult- where members’ interest is paramount,” the source said.
A member of the party who spoke to BusinessDay on condition of anonymity, said: “President Muhammadu Buhari said he was going to shock Nigerians; now he has single-handedly installed Senator Adamu as the party chairman; be sure that he is going to anoint somebody nobody expected to emerge as APC candidate.”
According to the party man from North Central, “Adamu is a Moslem; it may be difficult to have a Moslem presidential candidate from the South. It is a dicey situation and many people are in for a shocker very soon.”
He also recalled that President Buhari had enjoined the new National Working Committee (NWC) members to promote internal democracy and equal opportunities and ensure that party primaries are not influenced by “highest bidders” going into the 2023 general election.
Political actors in Edo State told our correspondent that the allegiance of the new helmsman will be to the party and not to anyone.
Godwin Erhahon, pioneer state publicity secretary, Edo State chapter of the party told BusinessDay in Benin that the focus of the newly-elected chairman, Adamu, would be to stand for the party and unite them ahead of the general election.
According to him, Adamu will be more of the people’s chairman than a cabal chairman.
“He will be a bridge builder that will ensure there is no crack in the party from the likes of pro-Buhari and pro-Tinubu. He will stand for the party and do all he can to unite everyone.
“My first agenda for him is to bring on board his rivals in the chairmanship race, undertake visits to the various states of the federation as well as have a talk with the grassroots leadership of the party,” Erhahon said.
Speaking on what it means for the Ex-PDP member to lead the APC, the former chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) said: “No man who has left an old party for a new one would want the party he has left to succeed over the one he went to. Having left PDP for APC, if he now helps PDP to succeed, then he would have belittled himself.
“The first thing to do is for him to tell PDP that without him they will go nowhere. He has to ensure that APC wins. I believe he will work assiduously in APC than he did in his former party.”
Commenting on Bola Tinubu’s chances under the present APC leadership, Tony Abolo, a Benin-based communication expert said “since he is regarded as someone who can play the game, I think, he has a good chance under Adamu or anybody.
“Tinubu is fixated on his ambition and I don’t think he is bothered to look at who had emerged as the APC chairman because there seems to be an agenda somewhere. Tinubu’s chances have nothing to do with Adamu. But I think he will fight for the race irrespective of who leads the party.”
Abolo, however, said that Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, looks likely to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
“You can see that Buhari is playing the game while other aspirants are moving up and down. I think the anointed candidate of the President is Rotimi Amaechi, he seems more favored and that’s why he was turbaned by the Emir of Daura, Umar Faruk. While Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State may be his vice president,” he said.
Adamu emerged the APC chairman despite having seemingly unending cases with the nation’s number one anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The party had allocated the position of national chairman to the North-central geopolitical zone, based on a general framework that North and South would swap the national party offices they currently hold.
But with Adamu officially assuming office by receiving instruments of office from the immediate-past interim chairman of the party and Governor of Yobe State, Mala Buni, at the party’s national headquarters in Abuja Wednesday, the APC can now shift focus on the enormous task of retaining power in 2023.
The newly elected national chairman acknowledged the task ahead of him and other elected National Working Committee (NWC) executives, upon assumption of office when he said that members of the NWC and party members across the country must work round the clock for the APC to be successful in next year’s general elections.
According to him, “People are talking; APC does not have an incumbent on the ticket. We will have the honor of the integrity and the legacy of the current president on the ticket.
“We will work day and night. We have less than 12 months to face the general election. So, everybody should buckle up. The little I have heard about the President is that he has a complete allergy for failure. So, failure will not be in APC from today. We will work for success together. To my colleagues, if there is any issue, don’t begrudge me, let me know.”
For now, it is not yet clear what the emergence of Adamu as the national chairman of the APC means for the presidential aspiration of Tinubu.
Though it is obvious that Adamu was not Tinubu’s preferred candidate for the chairmanship position but had to bow to the President’s decision.
Observers say that it is part of the plan to cut Tinubu’s influence in the ruling party which would ultimately affect his chances of emerging as the party’s candidate in next year’s general elections.
Some pundits have however, said that Adamu’s emergence was not a threat to the presidential bid of Tinubu in 2023, because the former Lagos State governor still had his structures in place across the country and equally had his men in the new NWC of the party.
“Well, you may say that Adamu may not be Tinubu’s man because he is expected to be loyal to whoever put him there. But I can tell you that Tinubu knows this game more than anybody. Don’t forget that even the secretary and some men in the NWC are from the South West.
“His structure is there in the Southwest and across the North, where he has been building bridges. He always has his way of master strategy. I think he is more than serious with this presidential ambition,” political analyst, Wale Oti said.
Segun James, another pundit, has predicted that just like what transpired at the national convention; the APC may decide to adopt consensus arrangement to choose its presidential candidate, purposely to water down the chances of Tinubu emerging victorious in the primaries.
He further said that such a decision could lead to serious implosion in the APC that could be disastrous for the party in 2023.
“Adamu is not Tinubu’s man; he was supposed to be the President’s man. But if you look at the APC’s coming presidential primary, Tinubu may have a chance if they allow delegates to vote and elect the party candidate, but would they allow that?
“They may want a consensus presidential candidate again, and once the President does that, there may be a problem again. If that happens there may also be issues again, serious implosion I can tell you.
“So, that may be the end of the party, because Tinubu and his loyalists may leave the APC, because once the Southwest leaves, the party is gone. The votes of the North alone can’t give them president and APC does not exist in the South East; forget what they are saying there.”