Ahead of Monday’s presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a clique around President Muhammadu Buhari has succeeded in selling the candidature of Senate President Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan to the president, Daily Trust Saturday has reliably gathered.
Barring any last-minute change, the president, who returned to the country on Friday from Madrid, Spain, where he attended the Nigerian-Spanish Business Forum, will present Lawan to the critical stakeholders of the party as his preferred candidate for the plum job.
Buhari had on Tuesday told governors who are members of the APC to support his candidate. He, however, did not mention who the person is. The president’s statement has raised dust in the ruling party.
Multiple sources told this paper that the clique, popularly known as the Villa Cabal, has secured the buy-in of the president for Lawan.
One of the sources, a former governor, said Lawan was being forced on the president by the cabal.
“Buhari’s nephew, Malam Mamman Daura, a former director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, and the national chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, have succeeded in ramming Lawan down the throat of the president,” he said.
He, however, said if the Senate president was forced on the party, it would be a recipe for disaster and implosion.
“Atiku Abubakar will be declared the president-elect by noon on the election day,” he said.
Recall that Atiku had last Saturday emerged as the flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2023 general elections.
Corroborating the former governor’s claims, an ally of the president expressed shock over the development, saying it would polarise the country.
“I just discussed the issue with one of the president’s aides. We should not allow this to happen. It is not good that after eight years, the president will be bringing another northerner as his successor. This is not good for us and the country.
“In 2007, Obasanjo brought a northerner when he was leaving because of the power-sharing formula between North and South. Anyone that is supporting the North to retain power beyond 2023 is an enemy of the country,” he said.
The promoters of Lawan’s candidature had reached out to Buhari’s nephew, Malam Mamman Daura and the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babagana Kingibe.
Daura, in July 2020, while featuring in a BBC Hausa Service interview, said there was no need for zoning the presidential ticket to any part of the country. His statement generated heated debate in the polity, with many construing it to be the position of the president, a claim that was punctured by the presidency.
After two postponements, the ruling party had fixed its presidential primary for June 6, 7 and 8.
Twenty-three aspirants were screened by the party’s screening committee headed by a former governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
The pendulum has been swinging towards the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmad Lawan and former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
Tinubu on the edge
Daily Trust Saturday gathered that the public outburst of Tinubu in Ogun State on Thursday was as a result of the feelers from the presidency that Buhari was backing a northern candidate.
Tinubu, at the Presidential Lodge in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, while addressing APC delegates, said, “If not for me that stood behind Buhari, he wouldn’t have become the president.”
But one of the leaders of the Tinubu’s camp said the former Lagos State governor would not defect from the APC no matter the outcome of the primary.
He said the national leader of the APC was not looking for anything from the president other than to allow a free, fair and transparent primary.
“Asiwaju is going to emerge as the APC flag-bearer. He was a fulcrum for the formation of the APC and has no intention to abandon the party to political contractors. He has a tremendous goodwill and empathy across the length and breadth of the country,” he said.
The Osinbajo option
Amid the intrigues to retain power in the North by edging out some contenders, credible sources told this newspaper that the thought of supporting Vice President Osinbajo was also gaining traction, with a view to resolving the impasse.
One of the sources said the presidency had received a security report stating that the polity would be charged should the party’s ticket be retained in the North.
“There is security report that the polity would be charged and the 2023 general elections obstructed if Asiwaju and some of the prominent aspirants are forced out of the race.
“The idea is that by the time Osinbajo is chosen, the South in general will have no reason to protest or do anything funny. Also, the decision will reduce religious and regional tension in the country, including a section of the North.
“So, if by the end of the day he wins, so be it, and if he loses, nobody will complain because the whole idea is to deny Tinubu the presidency,” the source said.
Another source said Tinubu’s outburst on Thursday was not unconnected with the fact that he was aware of this plan.
“It is obvious that he knows he is out of the calculation at present; that is why he started talking openly, not minding the implication. I know that while they are working hard to ensure that Lawan gets the ticket, they would support Osinbajo at the end of the day, even if he would be defeated. In fact, some of them wouldn’t mind if Atiku wins,” he said.