Barely five days before the All Progressives Congress (APC) closes the sale of its expression of interest and nomination forms, three more aspirants have declared their intention to run for the presidential ticket of the party.
The rash of declarations has raised the fear of a game plan to compel the ruling party into throwing its presidential race open to aspirants from all sections of the country.
The new entrants into the race are a former National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole; the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; and the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi; erstwhile Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun.
Also, the Jigawa State Governor, Mohammed Badaru, obtained the APC presidential forms at the party’s national headquarters on 4th May 2022 in Abuja after announcing his decision to contest just the previous night to the day, in Dutse, his State Capital.
According to various sources, Senate President Ahmad Lawan has concluded arrangements to make his declaration this week, while the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu disclosed he would formally announce his interest in the same office on Friday, 6th May 2022.
Earlier on Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, a businessman, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, joined the rush and abruptly declared his bid.
The new entrants this week have taken the number of aspirants to about 23 who may participate in the APC presidential primary, which will be held between May 30 and June 1 in Abuja.
As of the evening of Wednesday being May 4, 2022, six of them had picked the APC presidential forms after paying N100 million each.
The aspirants who have grabbed the party’s presidential forms are: the National Leader of the party, Bola Tinubu; Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello; Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi; Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, and the Jigawa State Governor, Mohammed Badaru.
The sixth, a female aspirant, Uju Kennedy picked her forms after paying the sum of N30 million. It’s noteworthy that the party had said female aspirants would only pay for the expression of interest forms.
Other aspirants reportedly set to pick the forms include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha; Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade; a former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole; a former Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun; including other chieftains of the party such as Ihechukwu Chima, Usman Iwu, Mr Tein Jack-Rich and Adamu Garba II.
It’s worthy of note that five of the aspirants are from the Northern part of the country, while 18 are from the South. The entrance of the northern aspirants feeds speculation that the party is under pressure to throw its presidential primary open to all comers.
The APC was assumed to have zoned its presidential ticket to the South after it announced earlier this year that its northern and southern zones would swap the party offices they were holding at the National Convention of the party on March 26.
The arrangement led to the emergence of Sen. Abdullahi Adamu as the National Chairman of the party, the first person from the North to hold the office since the party was formed in 2014.
However, just penultimate week, Friday, 29th April 2022, Sen. Adamu made a u-turn, saying the party was yet to decide on zoning, a statement that drew criticisms from across the South.
Responding to the statement, the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu warned the party against throwing the race open or zoning the presidency to the North.
Based on reliable reports, the APC is expected to decide on the party’s zoning formula before the presidential primary.
A similar situation is going on in the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) where five of the 17 aspirants who had picked the party’s presidential forms are from the North.
Although the party set up a committee headed by the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom to advise it on the zoning issue, the sale of the forms to the Northern aspirants indicates that the primary race of the party has been thrown open to all the zones in the country.
From my observation, the APC is of the view that if the party zones the presidential ticket to the South, while the opposition PDP throws theirs open to all comers, it would give the latter an undue advantage over the former.
In other words, the ruling party wants to be extremely careful over the zoning issue, hence would want to take their time to decide on it. They have understood that the PDP would leverage on any mistake made by the party to ensure their (PDP’s) victory at the polls come 2023.
Whatever the case might be, I would advise the APC to consult widely before taking their final decision. But while they do so, they must understand that the party’s chairmanship position had already been given or zoned to the North, hence the need not to rob the South their rightful entitlement.