From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The recent panic button pressed by the Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari that most of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential aspirants are still traumatised, confirmed the graveyard peace and volcano threatening to erupt in the ruling party ahead of next year’s presidential election.
She had while speaking as a special guest at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Armed Forces Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Centre (AFPTSDC), chided the politicians that lost primary elections recently and had become almost inconsolable.
The first lady also lamented that some of the aspirants have even made themselves unreachable by switching off their phones. “Failing election for three times was a big blow to every contestant but those that have contested for just yesterday, a simple primary election, are still living in a traumatic condition. I tried to console them, I tried to talk to them, some of them have switched off their phones up till today, just because of a primary election,” she complained
But, if the situation of the aspirants in the APC is only limited to post traumatic stress disorder, there would not have been concerns, heightened anxieties and apprehension about the next move by most of the victims of the presidential primary.
For the records, almost all the aspirants not only accepted the outcome of the primary, but also congratulated Asiwaju. But, despite celebrating his emergence through congratulatory messages, only few of them lived up to their promises to physically support him.
Perhaps, the messages from Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi could strengthen the reality and innermost feelings of some of the aspirants after the primary.
In a letter he addressed to Tinubu, Ameachi had promised to give him the needed support to ensure his victory in the 2023 presidential election.
He wrote: “Congratulations on your well-deserved victory at the APC presidential convention and extend my best wishes as you prepare for the 2023 presidential elections. I am confident that your victory will re-energize the progressive ideals of our great party APC, buttressed by your mission of a Common Sense Revolution which led to the defeat of PDP in the 2015 general elections.
“As you embark on this historic journey, I wish to assure you of my commitment to your success at the polls in 2023 and ultimately look forward to providing the necessary support to ensure that we develop a prosperous country for all Nigerians,” Amaechi had promised.
In a statement he also issued, Osinbajo had admitted that Tinubu had for many decades shown passion, patriotism, courage and determination in the cause of nation-building.
He confessed that, “his sterling contributions to our democracy and its progress stand him out. His wealth of experience will certainly be critical in our party’s continued efforts to attain a more secure and prosperous Nigeria.”
But, the unfolding events confirmed that the message of commendation from many of them were only archival materials for historical documentations. For instance, while some of them tacitly kept their game plan very close to their chest, others like the former Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, moved a step further by instituting legal action to pray for Tinubu’s outright disqualification.
In the suit filed through their lawyer, Okere Nnamdi, Nwajiuba alleged that the primary that produced Tinubu as the APC’s 2023 presidential candidate was tainted by corruption and widespread vote buying. He insisted that majority of the delegates were bought over with dollars.
Among other things, he had prayed the court to determine; “whether the APC is exempted from compliance with section 90(3) of the Electoral Act 2022, having presented the 3rd defendant (Tinubu) as its presidential candidate to the 6th defendant (INEC), and the 6th defendant accepted and published same, being the name of a person whose source of N100 million contribution fee for the nomination and expression of interest forms was not verified.”
Not done yet, he also wanted the court to determine; “whether the constitutional provision prescribing the academic qualification of candidates and prescribing minimum qualification of school certificate or its equivalent has been complied with by the 3rd defendant who, on oath, admitted that he does not possess such minimum qualification prescribed in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.”
And while the legal battle is still raging in the court, the same former Minister of Transportation, Amaechi, made a somersault and fired a salvo in his claims that the primary that produced Asiwaju was fraught with bribery and monetary inducement of the delegates.
He made the allegation at an event to mark the 60th birthday of the general overseer of Abundant Life Evangel Mission, Eugene Ogu, in Port Harcourt.
Claiming that some of the delegates that collected money to vote are regretting their decisions, Amaechi said; “God should save the ordinary Nigerian because they are the problem. Those who voted at the APC primary, who are they? They are the ordinary Nigerians. The small money they got solved their immediate problems.”
Another ferocious attack came from Osinbajo, who perhaps never looked back since signing off in a short speech during the events to formally thank his supporters and dissolve his campaign team.
He warned that they may have lost the battle but not the war, describing the clamour for a new Nigeria as a movement. “We went to the convention, and the results showed us clearly that we lost, but it is only a battle, it is not the war. There are battles ahead, but we will win the war for a new Nigeria. I have no doubt in my mind that we will win that war for a new Nigeria.”
Ever since then, the battle has truly continued till date, resulting, perhaps, in his exclusion from the comprehensive list of the APC Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) due to some flimsy reasons.
Curiously, if the trio and insignificant others still nursing the deep injury of the loss, were bold enough to disclose their reservations, others have decided to adopt golden silence ever since they lost out in the power game and struggle at the primary.
From former Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, former governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, former Zamfara State governor, Ahmad Sani Yarima, to governor Ben Ayade, among few others, it has been a period of sordid silence.
Although many of them abstained from making serious comments, even when they were included in the controversial campaign council list, there has been rumbling noise in their silence.
And apart from those that voluntarily stepped down for Asiwaju at the Eagle Square, Abuja primary ground, comprising Ajayi Boroffice, Dimeji Bankole, Ibikunle Amosun, John Kayode Fayemi, Uju Kennedy Ohanenye, and Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, it has been a palpable display of cold war and frosty relationship between others and the presidential candidate.
In fact, the misfortune befalling the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in the denial of senatorial ticket, has been attributed to the case of a witch that cried at night and a child dying in the morning.
It may not have any semblance, but in the perception of many political watchers, it may not be unconnected with perhaps, the riot act, the presidential candidate read against him in his acceptance speech, where he casually threatened to deal with him.
In short, an unconfirmed report has it that a particular presidential aspirant defrauded a whopping sum of N5 billion, even before the contest, has decided to nurse his painful financial injury silently rather than escalating his story or revenging publicly.
However, many critics have claimed that it is natural to harvest such mixed feelings after a keenly contested primary election at a big stage in the ruling party, but never in the history of the APC has the fallout of a presidential primary been crisis-ridden like this one.
In the 2015 presidential primary, all the aspirants had deployed all the materials and logistic support at their disposal to ensure that then presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, squarely rounded up the incumbent and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Goodluck Jonathan.
But, the situation is entirely different today. Four months after the presidential primary election, and few months into the main election, bitterness, rancour and hostilities have continued unabated to pervade the party and characterise the relationship between the aspirants and the candidate.
While some of the aspirants bluntly turned their backs against the presidential candidate and the party, vowing never to play any serious role that will smoothen and or facilitate victory for the party’s presidential candidate, others simply adopted a golden silence since the end of the primary.
“But, do you blame them? Asiwaju did not also help matters by failing to effectively reach out to many of them or sustain the initial efforts he made to pacify those he reached out to. Yes, he visited some aggrieved ones like Osinbajo and Amaechi immediately after the primary election, but what did he do more to integrate them into his fold, an APC chieftain argued in a chat with Daily Sun.
Reacting further, he claimed that; “accommodating some of them on the campaign council list is not just enough. How can he appoint Amaechi, for instance, who was twice the Director-General of Buhari campaign council into such inconsequential position? Same for Ogbonnaya Onu and few others he managed to include in the campaign list. I think Asiwaju may have concluded that they may not make any impact in the whole campaign and electioneering process.”
Worse still, the frosty relationship between the presidential flag bearer and the leadership of the party has constituted serious cog in building an affective bridge across the two gladiators.
Only last month, the national leadership, determined to mitigate the gulf from degenerating further and hunting the ruling party, initiated a reconciliation move to reach out to the aggrieved aspirants. But hardly has the peace move commenced than it collapsed.
In fact, the attempt to resuscitate the reconciliation peace mission, by listing it as one of the items in the agenda during the recent meeting involving the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), the leaderships of the party and the PCC, suffered a big blow as it was not discussed.
As it is now, the ruling party and its presidential candidate going into major campaign activities as a divided family is apparently a time bomb waiting to explode unless a more stringent and drastic measure is deployed to pacify the aggrieved presidential aspirants.
“Should the situation remain like this, it is our great party and the presidential candidate that will be the biggest casualties. And the earlier they sorted out this difference with dispatch, the better and brighter chances of our party making impact in next year’s presidential election,” another APC chieftain cautioned.
“I can confirm to you on good authority that many of the aspirants are already having divided loyalties and sympathy for the candidates of other parties and may secretly work against our party,” he warned.
However, pouring cold water on the insinuations and painting a picture of a cordial relationship between Asiwaju and the aggrieved aspirants, a member of Tinubu’s media team, told Daily Sun, in confidence that the presidential candidate has done all that he needed to do, especially in repeatedly reaching out to the aggrieved aspirants.
“He has done what he needs to do. He has reached out, talked to them and even visited virtually all of them at home. I don’t know if there is any of them he has not personally visited. You also know that some of them are in the campaign council and some of them have even donated their campaign offices to Asiwaju.
“But, there are lots of assumptions and needless controversies that some members of the media are creating. If for instance Amaechi is claiming that he got inconsequential position, having been two-time DG of Buhari campaign council, does he expect Asiwaju to still appoint him into the same position?
“Asiwaju is still reaching out to the aspirants both formally and informally through the back channel. He has done everything possible to assure the aggrieved aspirants that they are together and that he us ever willing to work with them. What else do they want him to do again,” he queried rhetorically.