By Sarafa Ibrahim
For many, 2023 is a lot 42 months away but for politicians, it’s just a matter of days to come. And, whispers and intrigues of politicians interested in succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari when his constitutionally allowed two-term limit lapsed, are gradually building up.
At the forefront are chieftains of All Progressives Congress (APC) from Southwest who are banking on power to shift to the South when Buhari conclude his 8 years tenure. In Nigeria, there is an unwritten power shift arrangements that encourages rotation of the Presidency between the South and North. And, with Buhari’s tenure running out in 2023, politicians in the South are gearing up to take over from him.
Scramble for support and edge in securing the APC ticket is unsettling long-standing political bond and may pair godfather and godsons’ in a stringent contest. According to sources, no fewer than six candidates from Southwest are believed to be in the race to succeed Buhari and are rallying their structures to place themselves in pole position for the APC ticket.
Interestingly, a source shared, is that a former Lagos state governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu “have most of his political benefactors, or simply to say, godsons’ as rivals for APC ticket in the zone.” Those who are perceived to be in the tussle for the APC ticket along with Tinubu are incumbent Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibajo; Ekiti state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; former Ogun state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; and two other former Lagos state governor, Messrs Babatunde Fashola and Akinwumi Ambode.
Except for Amosun, the four other contenders are known to have passed through Tinubu’s political tutelage and had at various times, served under the former Lagos state governor. The perception shared by many observers is that wherever the pendulum swings in the end, it’s most unlikely that the dimension of the political structure of APC in Southwest would remain the same.
“It’s a general knowledge that (Asiwaju) Tinubu have long desired the Presidency and he would have had his chance in 2015 but missed it to religion considerations,” Adekunle Isiaka, a 400-level Political Science student at Olabisi Onabanjo University, pointed out, adding that “when it seemed he has the chance in 2023, he has most of his ‘boys’ to contend with for the APC ticket. It’s a serious scenario yet to unfold and I hope it is well managed so that it will be a win for the Yorubas in the end.”
From feelers with the APC, Tinubu is a man to beat as he is perceived to commands outsize support base and we’ll maintained network of structures in the Southwest, influencing the conclusion of some observers that he’s a candidate that his several rivals will have to get through in order to claim 2023 APC ticket and have the chance to succeed Buhari. But that doesn’t mean he would have an easy ride considering the array of contenders he’s likely to battle the APC ticket with.
One of such is the vice president, Yemi Osibajo, who is seen as wielding much influence in APC due to his current position. Osibajo rattled permutations four years ago when he was nominated as Buhari’s running mate and his stock has soared considerably among members and supporters of the APC.
It was learnt that Osibajo maximized the opportunity availed to his position to raise his own structure, however, stealthy. Someone knowledgeable with happenings in the APC hinted on how deep Osinbajo have silently “swelled his support base in the party, especially in the Southwest,” insinuating that this contributed to the onslaught the number two citizen faced recently.
Few weeks after inauguration for second term, Osibajo’s continued influence in the government came under attack after a series of reorganisation carried out by the president took away some of the activities he supervised during first term. Even his allies are not spared, typically obvious from the rounds of query and media spotlights on the activities of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) boss, Babatunde Fowler, who is rumoured to be one of the strong backer of the Vice President’s bid in 2023.
But Osibajo isn’t the only one with growing acceptance in the APC and a likely candidate of the party for the 2023 presidential race. A former governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Fashola and the Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi, are two choices that could spring surprises. Both candidates enjoyed some level of confidence of the ‘cabals’ and are speculated to be counting on such scale of supports to pick the top seat.
Even at that, they have a big hurdle to scale for Buhari’s endorsement. Insiders detailed how much trust Buhari has in a former governor of Ogun state, Ibikunle Amosun, which go as far back as their time in the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and would favour his choice above any other. “Amosun and Baba (Buhari) have come a long way and if a decision is eventually reached for power to return to Southwest, Buhari would prefer him going by the kind of trust and confidence they have built over years,” an APC chieftain from North central zone of the country told Sahel Standard on a condition of anonymity.
“You would notice that appointments to Ogun state have been favouring Amosun camp despite the reservation of some interests in APC from that zone, who at any given opportunity, try to remind the president of the former governor’s open opposition to the party in the state governorship election,” he added, but noting that “Baba (Buhari) don’t usually give such talk the attention those who bring it to him wanted.”
A last joker, a source hinted, is the immediate past governor of Lagos state, Akinwumi Ambode, who is been propped by some interests in the party to take a short at the Presidency in 2023. Ambode fell out with Tinubu and failed in his bid to return to office for second term. But his exit from office is yet to placate the forces against him, which the source, linked to the sustain campaign to ‘rubbish’ Ambode’s tenure as Lagos state governor.
As intrigue intensifies and polticians deploy their tricks to get the job done, some pundits have weighed the bearing of the separate push for power to return to Southwest and can’t stop thinking of the result that lurk. After all, there is no written agreement on power rotation.