Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State and foremost leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the weekend made his towering influence to bear on the choice of candidates in Friday’s convention of the party.
His grip of the soul of the party came to fore at the weekend in Abuja during the maiden National Convention where he practically selected the entire executive and in so doing, arm-twisted other notable stakeholders including former military Head of State, General Mohammadu Buhari (rtd), former Vice President Atiku Abubarkar as well as the northern governors.
Few weeks to the historic convention, the media was busy publishing stories of how the APC governors were planning to hijack the party from the hands of the duo of Gen. Buhari and Tinubu but what transpired shortly before the convention and at the venue showed the supremacy of former governor of Lagos State.
Checks show that most of the key offices of the party went to the Tinubu’s camp.
The chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, the deputy chairman (North), Senator Lawal Shuaib, deputy chairman (South), Segun Oni, National secretary, Alhaji Tijjani Tumsa, Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the National Legal Adviser, Alhaji Muiz Banire are all from Tinubu’s camp.
Although both Tom Ikimi and Timpreye Sylva were tipped to be the leading candidate especially the latter who was reportedly enjoying the support of the governors.
But crisis set in when Tinubu made it clear that with Sylva’s ongoing trial by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), he would not support his candidacy.
Tinubu’s standpoint ran foul of the Northern Governors believe that the former Bayelsa governor will be the best option to checkmate President Jonathan’s political strength both in Bayelsa and the South-South.
According to an aide of one of the northern governors, “since the APC is already in the majority in Edo and Rivers states, it would have been politically expedient to also use Sylva to divide Jonathan’s expected votes in Bayelsa. His appointment as the chairman, the governors believe would have brought some parity of presence between the APC and PDP in the entire South-South.”
With the scheming out of Sylva, the road was cleared for Oyegun, who was not just a former Deputy National Chairman of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) but also its Vice Presidential candidate in the 2011 general election to emerge as the National Chairman of APC, though sponsored by the shrewd politician, Tinubu.
Ikimi on his part could not get the nod of Tinubu because of his independent- mindedness and received high-handedness especially his clash with Tinubu during the ACN days.
Tinubu camp had threatened to quit the APC if Ikimi emerged and one of the newly elected officers of the party even vowed to resign should Ikimi win.
“Let me tell you, Sylva is no more the problem but Ikimi is and should he win the election, I would not work under him’’, said a former ACN leader for the South-West.
There were some advertisements placed in a newspaper discrediting Ikimi. They recalled his days in the office as the former Minister of Foreign Affairs under the maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha. All these among other things forced him to quit the race.
As a result, Ikimi never showed up at the convention while Chief Sam Jaja, who was also touted as showing interest in the race, did not even purchase the nomination form as his leader, Governor Rotimi Amaechi too was consumed by high wire politics deployed by Asiwaju.
Party leaders had a night before the convention prevailed on Atiku, who was Ikimi’s major backer, to ask the ex-Foreign Minister to step down for Oyegun.
Ikimi’s humiliation at the convention in spite of generous contribution during the formation of the party is believed to be the reason it is being speculated that he will soon dump APC for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has been making overtures to him.
“He has made his intention known to some of his colleagues but for the insistence of Atiku and ex-governor Sheriff who are urging him to remain in APC and work for 2015 presidency,” said a former interim executive member.
Chief Ogbonnaya Onu who was the last ANPP chairman was discouraged from running by Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State because of his perceived presidential ambition.
It was intrigues and high wire political horse trading and back stabbing that delayed the zoning arrangement for the election till 48 hours to the convention.
Another victim of the intrigues was former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai who was reportedly eyeing the National Secretary. The zoning arrangement took the office to the North East in favour of the man who worked so hard as the interim National Secretary, Tumsah.
Alhaji Kazim Imam who had the support of some governors was forced out of the race. It was so difficult for him that it took former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, to announce his withdrawal from the race few minutes before the election began.
To compensate the North West for the loss of the Secretary, the Deputy Chairman North was given and it was unanimously given to another powerful force behind the APC in the zone, Senator Lawal Shuaib who was the National Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).