2003 Presidential things: …And the race starts

Tinubu visits Tanko Yakassai

By Richard Elesho

The Nigerian political scene is increasingly becoming charged per time, as the country approaches the 2023 general election year. All major political parties have been experiencing random movements and rumblings as aspirants intensify permutations and consultations on the polls.
At the States level, politicians who harbour ambitions for elective public offices are forming alliances with groups at the Federal, to promote their ambitions. Gradually the era of body language and hush tones are paving way for the reading of lips.
After a long spell of kit flyings and third-party manoeuvres on the next Presidential election, politicians are coming out in their true and full attires to sell their dreams. As to be expected, the movements are more noticeable in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
Incidentally, both parties are yet to make categorical statements on the zoning formulae for the poll. Before now, there was an unwritten understanding of the rotational Presidency between the North and South. Whichever way the matter is resolved, aspirants from all the zones are on the field junketing and bargaining for support. Let us look at the diary of the sturdy aspirants in the dominant parties:
In the APC, three names are making waves in varying proportions:
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu:
The Jagabam Borgu and national leader of the APC have left everyone guessing about his political future. Although his foot soldiers have been advertising it, Tinubu has maintained a dignified silence on his famed ambition to succeed President Muhammodu Buhari.
That was until Wednesday 24th November, when the former Governor of Lagos State visited elder-statemen Tanko Yakassai. According to the founding member of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Tinubu sought and got his support for his 2023 ambition.
Yakasai said, “He (Tinubu) just came to visit me but actually I have two of them (presidential aspirants) that I have earmarked right from the beginning and I made a vow that any one of them who came to ask for my support first is the person I would support. Tinubu is the first person.”
Yakassai further said that Tinubu did tell him about the Presidential ambition and as well sought his support during the election. Furthermore, Yakasai said interested aspirants must first scale the hurdles of primary elections in their various political parties “then we will begin to compare them.
The visit to Yakassai turned out to be the icing of the cake for Tinubu’s 2023 project. In the last few weeks, the Presidential hopeful has consulted with several APC stakeholders including Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Abia State Governor and Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.

Tinubu visits Orji Uzor Kalu

It was gathered that over 120 support groups, especially on social media platforms and an equally impressive turnout of traditional rulers and public office holders are promoting the presidential ambition of Tinubu.
Some of them are:Southwest Agenda for Asiwaju, SWAGA, 2023 group; Tinubu Support Group; Disciples of Jagaban; Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu – B.A.T National Forum; Tinubu for President 2023; Tinubu 2023 Support Group; Tinubu Solidarity Group; Northern Alliance for Tinubu 2023; Bola Ahmed Tinubu Group – USA; Tinubu Transformation Agenda 2023; I Love Tinubu; Tinubu Mandate Group; Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu Northerners; Tinubu Peoples Network; Vote Tinubu 2023 and Tinubu Grassroots Movement.
Governor Yahaya Bello:
He became the Chief Executive of a State at the impressionable age of 40. Many see his 2023 ambition as a charade. But his supporters think he is the man to beat for the APC ticket.
Bello’s posters for Aso Villa appeared less than three months into his second tenure. He has since moved the seat of Kogi government to Abuja to give him ample time to nurture his Presidential dream.
The early days of the Governor’s aspiration were characterised by hide and seek. He said Nigerians have been prevailing on him to run and rescue the country. Indeed several groups including Nollywood artists, footballers and youth associations have turned his presence into a political pilgrimage of sorts.

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State

One of his foot soldiers, Senator Smart Adeyemi on Monday confirmed Bello’s intention to run for president. He spoke in Abuja during the launching of the Global Alliance for Progressive Professionals, GAPP. Hear him:
“The Governor wants to run for the office of the President, and we are delighted that he is running because the younger generation believes in him. We are here to know what is required so we can move from here to other parts of the country for campaign.”
Bello targets the youth demography to help actualise his dream. During a book launch in the nation’s capital titled, “It’s Youth O’clock,’ Jamiu Asuku the Governor’s Chief of Staff, CoS and representative charged youths on political participation.
Prof Yemi Osinbajo:
The incumbent Vice President can at best be described as a reluctant aspirant. He has maintained sealed lips on the rumoured ambition. His main support group, the Progressive Consolidation Group has however remained on the move winning disciples into the 2023 project.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo SAN presides over the National Economic Council Meeting in the State House, Abuja recently. Photos; Tolani Alli

The group said Osinbajo’s focus on his current job, as well as his non-desperation, has increased his level of acceptance among supporters. Dr. Aliyu Kurfi, Coordinator of the group insists Osinbajo’s silence is not an indication that he is not running, but rather for acceptance to run.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, way back in May 2021, denied any presidential ambition. He said this through his spokesman Laolu Akande: “Prof. Osinbajo has not declared any interest whatsoever in the 2023 election, but he’s rather focused on working in his capacity as vice president in the current administration to address all the compelling issues in the country and concerns of Nigerians, including finding effective and lasting solutions to the security challenges.

“Therefore, we ask that people desist from such unhelpful permutations; while we all deal together with the challenges confronting us as Nigerians, and resolve them for the benefit of our people, peace and prosperity in the land,” he stated.

Also in October, Osinbajo denied insinuations and media reports/engagements that portend to pitch him against his former boss and chieftain of the All Peoples Congress (APC) ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
The Vice-President, through his political adviser, Babafemi Ojudu, washed his hands off a face-off between his supporter and Tinubu’s on a television programme and the attendant news story in a national newspaper.

According to Ojudu in a statement: “My attention has been drawn to a media engagement on Channels TV this morning and a front-page story of Daily Independent today.

“On the Channels TV Sunrise programme two persons supposedly representing Asiwaju Support Group and Osinbajo Support Group were pitched against each other.

“On the other hand, Daily Independent ran a headline thus:
2023 Presidency: Osinbajo On A Collision Course With Tinubu, Pushes To Succeed Buhari

“It is incumbent on me to state emphatically that neither the Vice President nor his office is aware of this or endorse this kind of a divisive engagement and news reports.

“Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo are members of same party. Osinbajo regards Tinubu as a respected leader of a political family to which he belongs and will therefore not for any reason endorse an endeavour that seeks to pitch them against each other.

“We are not unaware of some people who may want to foist a crack among our leaders. Such an attempt is abortive. Osinbajo and Tinubu’s relationship dates way back and it shall continue to wax strong.

“Let me, therefore, call on individuals and media houses engaged in this act to desist from doing so. The APC remains one single, indivisible party and Osinbajo remains a loyal member of the party who respects both the party structure as well as its leadership.

“Moreover, the INEC has not given a go-ahead yet for politicking towards 2023. As a law-abiding citizen, Osinbajo will not commence any action in this regard until INEC blows the whistle, and in any case, the VP has not indicated an interest in the 2023 elections

“While appreciating individuals who are clamouring for him to contest, we however want to plead that they should not draw him or allow themselves into an unnecessary and precipitous controversy.

“We welcome our great leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu back into the country. As a great democrat himself, he will certainly welcome politics without bitterness and divisiveness. We wish him good health, long life and prosperity.”
To show that there is no rift between him and Tinubu, Osinbajo paid the latter a visit as soon as he returned from his medical trip abroad.

Osinbajo visits Tinubu

The above notwithstanding, the Progressive Consolidation Group (PCG), a support group committed to working towards the emergence of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, as President come 2023, has, according to a report by The Punch, denied reports that Osinbajo had dumped his purported Presidential ambition.
This was contained in a statement signed by PCG, entitled, “2023: Job focus and non-desperation further reinforces supporters’ confidence in Osinbajo-Group,” signed by the Chairman of the PCG, Dr. Aliyu Kurfi, in Abuja.

He said, “Our dear Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), remains loyal to his boss, President Buhari, he is very focused on the job and he has never been known for desperate politicking.

“Specifically, it must be stated that an outrageous lie that the VP attended any meeting to renounce 2023 presidential ambition or bow to any politician for the same, remains an absolute falsehood; how can he renounce what he is even yet to accept or declare?

“The wishy-washy concocted reports about Prof. Osinbajo having any meeting with any individual or group about a purported withdrawal from the 2023 presidential race is about an illusory event which only happened in the fertile imagination of mischievous persons.”

The PDP has also witnessed notable consultations. Here are some of them.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar:
The former Vice President probably has the oldest surviving Presidential ambition, which dates back to the aborted Third Republic. He has been a regular feature in every Presidential contest since 2003. With the conclusion of his party’s national convention in October, Atiku has raised up the ante of his ambition.

Atiku Abubakar

Last week, one of his support structures, the Save Nigeria Group, led by media mogul Raymond Dokpesi stormed Nasarawa State to blow Atiku’s trumpet.
He told his audience: “Nigeria is facing a lot of challenges. We need a Nigerian that is experienced, mature, competent, tested and has all it takes to unify the country. This country needs to be restructured. It needs to be reorganised, and we need somebody who is going to look at Nigeria fairly and justly, and give the people new hope.” He said Atiku is the answer.
Also last week, a group the Northeast Business Community for Atiku offered to pay the nomination fees for the former Vice President. The offer was made when the group was inaugurated in Gombe, with the aspirant in attendance.
“I have received your calls seeking me to contest for president again; I really appreciate you all and your offer to buy the nomination form for me at whatever price it is pegged. I pray that our success would mean the best and good for Nigeria and Nigerians in general.”
Earlier, chairman of the group, Adamu Bappayo said, “We are not doing this for Atiku but for our region and our country and we are ready to pursue this cause to success.”
Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki
The former Senate President from Kwara State has increased consultations on his plan to seek the PDP Presidential ticket.

Senate President Bukola Saraki

The consultations yielded a big boost few days ago when PDP stakeholders in the Northcentral adopted him as their sole candidate for the poll. Prof. Yorwuese Hagher, a stakeholder and leader of the Movement for North Central Presidency told newsmen in Lafia that the zone was working towards the objective.

“Out of the country’s six geo-political zones, three have produced presidents – the Northwest, the Southwest and the South-South, the North-Central, the Northeast and the Southeast are yet to produce presidents.” Hagher explained while giving reasons for their endorsement.
The zonal approval was followed by similar endorsements by the FCT, Niger, Benue, Nasarawa chapters of the party, among others.
Anyim Pius Anyim:
The clamour for a Nigerian President of Southeast extraction received some flesh with the visit of former Senate President Anyim to two former military leaders Ibrahim Babamosi Babangida and Abdulsalam Abubakar at IBB’s hilltop villa in Minna. The former Secretary to Government of the Federation disclosed this in a social media message on Dec. 3rd.

Anyim visits Babangida

“Today, I was received in a private audience by two of our nation’s esteemed leaders and patriots. I met with former President Ibrahim Babangida and former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubarkar,” he wrote.
“I consulted with them on my intention to contest for the presidency of our beloved country. Both leaders are rich in vision and deep in grasp of our history. They were generous with their wise counsels.
“I am further emboldened in the conviction that I can make significant contributions in our collective quest to consolidate democracy, build a stronger and more united Nigeria. I feel very enriched and invigorated. Long live Nigeria.”
Anyim had on October 30, declared his intention to run for the presidency irrespective of how the PDP resolve the zoning issue.
Aside above notable aspirants, Presidential campaign posters of other people in the PDP have appeared across the country. They include Governors Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Bala Mohammed of Bauchi, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, and former Anambra Governor Peter Obi.
What is about to come is slowly taking shape. But only time can tell how far each of the gladiators can go.