2019 General Election | Southwest APC to renegotiate presidency
The recent meeting of All Progressives Congress (APC) stakeholders at the Executive Chamber of Oyo State Governors’ office, Ibadan, was not only a political family reunion to evaluate achievements and reexamine prospects, it was actually programmed as a strategy meeting.
Convener of the gathering and Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, had in his address of welcome, explained that after more than two years of coming to power at the national level, it was vital for APC stakeholders, especially those from the Southwest geo-political zone “to reflect on the journey so far.”
But apart from doing what the national leadership could not do in the past 29 months, namely holding a national executive committee meeting, investigation by The Guardian showed that the Agodi meeting was ostensibly convoked by loyalist of former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in readiness for the 2019 Presidential race.
An influential member of the party, who attended the meeting, confided in The Guardian that the preponderance of opinion of Tinubu’s supporters all over the country was that he should contest the Presidency in 2019, pointing out that the meeting in Ibadan was meant to be a precursor to other such interactions.
He added that after series of discussions by Tinubu’s supporters across the geopolitical zones on the situation in APC, it was discovered that the merger arrangement, which he engineered to facilitate the defeat of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has tended to diminish his political stature.
“A lot of well known politicians have been inundating Asiwaju with phone calls seeking his opinion on the direction of APC government at the centre. If you notice, Jagaban has been mostly outside the country. He is as surprised as those querying him about what is happening, so he had to adopt scarce visibility to avoid certain talks.
“So, when a lot of small groups came up with the idea of making him contest the presidential election in 2019 as the best way to keep his political family together, it was approved upon,” the source added, stressing that they are being careful in the scheme, particularly when some leaders from the Southwest have shown aversion to the plan.
Confirming the plans to conscript Tinubu into the Presidential race, a member of APC who contested the governorship election in one of the Southeast states said that while Tinubu does not regret his actions both before and after the 2015 election, nobody close to him will deny the frustrations and indignities he has been subjected to.
The former governorship candidate disclosed that having the former Lagos State governor contest the presidency is seen as the best way to renegotiate any government that would be formed in 2019, lamenting that “as things stand now leadership is still lacking in the ruling party.”
“Some time ago, Governor (Nasir) El Rufa’i stated that if President Muhammadu Buhari would not seek reelection in 2019 that the President will suggest a person for the party to support. But El Rufa’i, forgot that the President was a product of many political families. So we are coming to a stage where it would be impossible for a single individual to dictate who becomes President in 2019.
He added: “Not only Tinubu, other aspirants are also preparing. The former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and a serving governor in the Northeast are some of the persons already known with presidential ambition in APC. But no one zone alone can produce the President.”
Another notable chieftain of APC told The Guardian that it is only political saprophytes that are associating President Buhari with second term ambition, remarking that even though the President has not done anything to affect the growth and stability of the party; if he decides to contest he would run alone.“He (Buhari) knows how he became President; he knows the clout of most of those asking him to run for a second term and the roles they played during the election in 2015. What the President should know is that he has injured a lot of people by avoiding them and that some of his ardent followers have created enmity among his support base,” the chieftain from the North declared.
Although Tinubu was expected at the Ibadan meeting, sources said he was advised at the last minute to keep off so as to allow for a feeling of camaraderie and not scare away some “political prodigals” from the gathering. However, Special Assistant to the former Lagos, Mr. Tunde Rahman, said whatever should be known about the meeting was disclosed by the APC former interim chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, who chaired the meeting, adding that Akande explained why Tinubu was absent.
Rahman refused to volunteer comments on the plans to drag his boss into the 2019 Presidential race as he dropped the call and failed to pick up subsequently.But reacting to prompting of a journalist who seemed privy to the real intent of the gathering, Chief Akande noted that as far as President Buhari has not informed the Southwest caucus of interest in a second term, that the field was open for any aspirant.
Akande added that the Southwest would support Buhari if he was ‘lucky to have the ticket,” explaining that APC leaders and those in government from Southwest were in Ibadan to review their resolutions at a similar meeting in January this year.All the serving governors and federal ministers, in the zone attended except the immediate past Lagos State governor and minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN). Others were former Ogun State governor Akinrogun Segun Osoba, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Alao Akala and Adeniyi Adebayo.
It would be recalled that Tinubu had last February, shortly after the inauguration of Rotimi Akeredolu as Ondo State governor, told journalists in Akure that being qualified for the presidency, that he could as well contest in 2019, but later modified the statement.
However, if the former Lagos governor ultimately contests the Presidency in 2019, it would serve as a rallying point for the Southwest to preserve its voting bloc, thereby making it hard for other aspirants to garner votes without his input.