Right now, among many South-West politicians who are members of APC, there is palpable fear that the South-West is most likely going to lose out on the Presidential ticket if care is not taken. As it is, about 5 South West APC chieftains have come out to compete with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the leading aspirant. Many political watchers are of the opinion that the growing number of presidential aspirants from the South West in the APC is threatening the chances of the zone picking the ticket of the ruling party.
So far, the aspirants from the zone include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (Ogun), former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole (Ogun), Senator Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), National leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (Lagos) and the Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti).
Daily Trust, one of the leading newspapers in Nigeria, on Friday reported that the 5 South West aspirants are expected to battle other presidential aspirants from other zones for the party’s ticket at the primary slated for May 30/June 1. Quite worrisome was the comment of the APC National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu who came out last weekend to say the presidential ticket has not been zoned to the South. What this means, explained a party chieftain is that more aspirants are likely to join from other zones.
Although insiders say that the ruling party has not zoned its presidential ticket to any part of the country, but since President Muhammadu Buhari hails from North West, there are expectations that the Southern part of the country will pick the party ticket for the 2023 general elections.
While there are contenders from South-East and South-South for the APC’s presidential ticket, those from the South West do not appear ready to back out from the race.
Most of those that declared for the slot have continued with their consultations amid wrangling by their neighbours.
Sources said the aspirants’ confidence stems from the historic alliance between the defunct CPC and the ACN, two political parties that led to the formation of the ruling APC with the support of a section of PDP and APGA ahead of the 2015 general elections.
However, there are fears that Tinubu, Osinbajo, Fayemi, and Amosun, among others, have their supporters among the delegates from the zone and the implication is that at the end of the day, this might reduce the chances of the South West.
The South-East geopolitical zone has 7 aspirants including David Umahi (Ebonyi), Dr Chris Ngige (Anambra), Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba (Imo), Orji Uzo Kalu (Abia), Senator Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Ihechukwu Dallas Chima (Abia) and Usman Iwu (Imo).
So far, only 3 persons have indicated interest from the South-South, including Ben Ayade (Cross River), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) and Mr Tein Jack-Rich (Rivers).
The North Central has 2; Yahaya Bello (Kogi) and Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim (Kwara). The only person from the North East is Adamu Garba II (Adamawa).
No aspirant has indicated interest from the North West.
Going by the delegate structure, the South-West geopolitical zone has 1,568 delegates that would participate in the primaries.
They are part of the 7,800 delegates from the 6 geopolitical zones of the country.
In terms of numerical voters’ strength, the South West comes second after the North-West geopolitical zone, which has a total of 1,924 delegates.
At the National Convention, the 5 aspirants from the South West are expected to battle for delegates from their zone, even though very few of the delegates might likely vote for aspirants from other zones.
Political analysts say, in all of these, Tinubu and Osinbajo are the clear contenders from the area.
Though Gov. Fayemi has not come out to declare what he is to do in a few days’ time, because he has started consultations. Meanwhile, Amosun and Bankole are expected to reduce Osinbajo’s overwhelming votes in Ogun State.
Early permutations favoured Tinubu to win the majority of the votes from the South West.
They argue that Tinubu is expected to have bloc votes from Lagos and Osun states, as well as over 60% from Oyo State. He is also expected to get substantial votes from delegates from Ekiti and Ondo states.
Political watchers of happenings in the region said the serious aspirants are deploying Technology, Poll experts and the body language of community, religious and traditional leaders in shaping their expectations and strength in the race. Osinbajo, it was learnt is set to get bloc votes from Ogun delegates following his endorsement by Governor Dapo Abiodun and critical stakeholders from his state of origin.
He is expected to have a fair showing in Oyo State where delegates loyal to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Local Content, Senator Teslim Kolawole Folarin, are backing his ambition.
The Professor of Law, who is expected to struggle for delegate votes in Lagos, is expected not to do too poorly in Osun with the support of the camp loyal to Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola.
However, if Fayemi makes it to the primary, Ekiti delegates are expected to queue behind the governor, jeopardising Osinbajo’s chances in the state.
Analysts predict a split vote in Ondo State for Osinbajo and Tinubu, especially if Fayemi, a bosom friend of the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, fails to mount a serious challenge in the coming days.
Osinbajo and Tinubu are banking on support from the North, where no major aspirant has shown interest in picking the party’s ticket.
The Director-General of Tinubu Support Group Management Council, Abdulmumin Jibrin has said Tinubu will be the major beneficiary of many aspirants in the race.
“In APC, the only beneficiary of many aspirants contesting for the office of president is Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Please we want more and more aspirants to contest. The more aspirants in the race, the wider the victory margin for BAT,” he said.
Insiders say beyond scrambling for delegates in the South West, the aspirants must have to go poaching in the remaining 5 regions.
The North Central has 1,278 delegates, followed by the North East with 1, 212 delegates while the South East with 838 had the least delegates for the primary. Also, 53 delegates are going to come from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).