Efforts by stakeholders in the All Progressives Congress, APC to forge a consensus between two of the major presidential aspirants in the party, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso have failed.
Both men in an apparent determination to slug it out have now formally scheduled dates to declare their aspirations.
Reflective of their efforts for political supremacy, the associates of both men were last night engaged in a war of words on who was better placed to win the presidential ticket of the party.
Buhari is to declare for the contest on Wednesday, October 15, while Governor Kwankwanso has himself scheduled his declaration for October 23, 2014.
Kwankwaso’s decision to go public with his bid, it was learnt, was sequel to the failed effort to forge a consensus deal between him and Buhari. Both men are presently, the two major aspirants from the Northwest geopolitical zone of the country.
The development has led to a serious division among APC supporters in the zone over who should fly the flag of the party in the coming election.
Buhari is mainly supported by the masses but Kwankwanso is believed to have the support of government officials and political office holders especially in Kano State.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Leadership Newspaper publisher, Sam Nda-Isaiah are the two other major contenders remaining in the north following yesterday’s formal declaration by Senator Bukola Saraki to withdraw himself from the contest. Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State is also known to be testing the waters for a possible bid.
While Kwamkwaso’s supporters are making a case for a young blood to take a shot at the presidency, Buhari’s followers advance political maturity, popularity and experience as factors that cannot be ignored.
Speaking yesterday on Kwakwanso’s plans for the presidential race, an associate and member of the Board of Trustees, BoT of the APC, Chief Olisameka Akamukali said that baring any unforeseen circumstances, that Kwankwanso would unveil his presidential campaign on October 23.
Akamukali, a former chairman of the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP in Delta State said that Governor Kwankwaso had consulted widely concerning his ambition even as he said that Buhari needed to give a younger person a chance to contest the presidency.
“Now in as much as we agree that Buhari is a man of integrity but you will also agree with me that age is not on his side,” he said.
His claim was immediately dismissed by a senior official of the party also sympathetic to the Buhari campaign who described Kwankwanso’s bid as a clownish act. He said that Buhari would defeat the Kano governor even in Kano.
“Yes, I know that Kwankwanso can get a huge pile of the government delegates from Kano but that is the much he can get. What of the other states or is he relying only on Kano?”
“Or have you forgotten in 2011 that Buhari defeated the former governor of Kano, Ibrahim Shekarau even in Kano? The Buhari campaign is a brand, watch out and see what we are going to do at the declaration on Wednesday,” the official said.
Continuing, the Buhari associate wondered why Kwankwanso mobilises his Kano based supporters anytime he goes out of the state, saying that on the contrary that Buhari has his supporters all over the country and does not need to carry supporters along to show his political viability.”
“You know the fact that he has control of one big state does not mean that he is popular outside the state,” the Buhari man said.
But asserting the viability of Kwankwanso over Buhari, Akamukali said:
“The issue of anointing candidates for elections has been rejected by the APC and that is why the party is insisting that there shall be transparent primaries. The fears of some of the aspirants may be due to the fact of their previous experience where they never faced competitive primaries to emerge as party candidate. That is why such people are pushing for consensus.
“The generality of the party is saying no, let us do things differently from what the PDP are doing. We must have a transparent primary. I can tell you that Kwakwanso has built a lot of bridges across the political divide. Remember, he came into the House of Representatives as a member of then Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1991 and became Deputy Speaker.”
According to Akamukali, one factor that gives Kwankwaso an edge over other aspirants was his firm control of APC structures in his state.
“One other factor that is considered additional strength to the Kano governor is that whereas he has solid home base support, his co-contestants, like Atiku and Buhari could not boast of being in control of the structures of the party in their home states.
“From the angle of qualification, the constitution is very clear on this, a man who has a doctorate in Engineering, academically is qualified, a man who has not been convicted by any competent court, a man whom the EFCC and other Federal Government anti graft agencies have investigated and nothing was found on him is eminently qualified to contest for the president of the country, “ he stated.