SW APC Presidential aspirants: Analysis candidates’ of Strength and Weaknesses
By Adebo Alao
At the last count, no less than five Presidential aspirants from the South West have emerged. The contenders, The Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, former Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosu former House of Representative Speaker, Mr Dimeji Bankole, former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu are the frontliners. In this report, Adebo Alao looks at the strength and weaknesses of each of the aspirant ahead of the 2023 Presidential primary billed for Abuja.
Senator Ibikunle Amosun
He is former Governor of Ogun State. He had the rare privilege of spending eight years in power. He was in the same political party with President Mohammadu Buhari, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, (ANPP) before the merger with the Action Congress of Nigeria, (CAN) which metamorphosed into the APC. He is believed to enjoy the support of his allies in the old ANPP bloc in the APC. A section of the conservative North sees him as someone they can trust. They see him as someone without a strong root in the Yoruba South West hemisphere making him vulnerable to possible manipulation by vested interests. However, the lack of a strong South West regional or national network is a disadvantage for him at the homefront. It is unlikely he will secure sizeable votes across South West and the other five geo-political zones except the North West and some parts of the North East where he hopes to cling on old alliances linked to his membership of the defunct ANPP.
Even then, getting substantial votes in the North West and North East is not likely. Amosu is unknown politically beyond his native Ogun State cocoon, his capacity to stand on national podium for an exalted office like the President of Nigeria which requires strong and long established contacts across the country is extremely weak.
Within Yorubaland, his name lacks any monumental attachment other than just a former State Governor. He has neither charm nor charisma and completely not connected with any substantial cultural or social nexus at home and abroad. While the conservative North looks for a possible crony, they are also conscious of selling a candidate without a glowing national reputation or section admiration even in his own ancestral region.
Hon Dimeji Bankole
He was the former Speaker of the House of Representative. He established himself as a national figure during his tenure. His family tradition is connected with the conservative North, his father being a former leader in the defunct National Party of Nigeria, (NPN). He is younger, agile and charismatic. In the context of national electoral politics and networking, Bankole is a novice.
He counts on traditional ties of his family with the Conservative North. Bankole has been promised the ticket by a clique in the North that insists it is in a position to influence the power brokers in the North. Unless the Fulani North wishes to impose a complete novice, an unseeded person, who has no strong root at home placing him in a position that makes him acquiescent to the ruling class in the North, Bankole stands not chance at all. He has a poor understanding of the history of his people and even that of Nigeria. He lacks experience apart from jumping from the street corner to emerge as the speaker, courtesy of power brokers, he is also disconnected from the steam and sweat of the Yoruba Nation, a minus that nevertheless remains his source of strength in the face of those promoting him. In a fair election, Hon Dimeji Bankole should suffer a humiliating defeat.
Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu
He is the storming petrel of Nigerian politics, the Knight of political machination and scheming. His involvement in progressive politics began in 1992 when he emerged as a Senator under the Social Democratic Party, (SDP). He took part in the bitter struggle to remove military rule, the campaign for revalidation of the annulled June 12 election and the campaign for Yoruba and national identity in the midst of late General Sani Abacha onslaught. He is a man of immense courage. He was in the Peoples Democratic Movement, (PDM), one of the most vociferous political machines led by the late General Shehu Yar ‘Adua during which he established a strong political network across the country which is sustained until this day. He was Lagos State Governor during which he connected with the social and political forces in Yorubaland and across Nigeria. He is one of the richest among the aspirants. He is liberal and kind-hearted when it comes to dispensing favour. In the South West, he is one of the most dominant political forces with towering influence in every inch of the South West.
The established North does not want him not for anything but the fact that he is considered to be too strong and may be difficult for the Fulani North to push around. There are also moral questions being raised against him. His influence and strong character serve as an advantage to him but a disservice to the ruling clique who believe that his emergence and consequent influence will be too difficult to tame. He also has to contend with the rising opposition from his ancestral Yorubaland especially among those who traditionally provided the springboard for his emergence, the Pan Yoruba groups and the civil society, yet a section of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) are opposed to him in the South West.
There is a rising tide against him in the South West by people who believe he was tactless in forging alliance with the Fulani North without first defining the form and content.
As soon as President Mohammadu Buhari came to power in 2015, the ruling clique ensured Tinubu was paid back in the most vicious manner to the extent that not even one Minister was nominated by him. Over the years, he bore this burden of isolation with patience. There are fears in the North he may nurse revenge. Not a few see his Presidential ambition as a plea that has distanced him from his own Yoruba people. His faith is also a problem in a country where religious sensitivity has become so strikingly dangerous. If the President emerges from the South, it is expected that the candidate in the North will be a Muslim given the population and influence of Muslims in the region. It is unlikely that a Muslim-Muslim ticket will appeal to many Nigerians. Tinubu is a bulldozer. He is expected to make remarkable showing at the primary, but principalities and powers appear bent on cutting his wings.
Prof Yemi Osinbajo
He appears to be one of the luckiest of the aspirants. He has been in the government for close to eight years as Vice President.
He had built trust with the Presidency. He had built trust with a section of the North. Each time the President was away, Osinbajo held forte with a deep sense of decorum. He was not over ambitious and made no effort to rock the boat. There were speculations that he was nearly pushed out of the Presidency at a time, but he had survived the odds.
He appears to have carried the burden of leadership and conspiracy in the Presidency against hime with stoicism. There are many people in the North that think he should be rewarded for his demonstrated loyalty, there are also those who think he was bidding his time to reenergize himself to the shock of his Northern adversaries. He also, largely has not been linked to any proven case(s) of corruption or ineptitude and has had to survive mysterious plane crash twice.
However, his low points are noticeable. He has no political structure within and outside the APC to the extent that he cannot even claim to have a counselor even in his ward as an ally.
For eight years, in terms of political structure, he is arid and dry. He is like a man on a borrowed rope. He has not been able to build any strong network within the established party institution neither has his position made much impact in the lives of the ordinary man in the South West where he comes from. The cultural, social and political institutions in his homebase have no connectivity with him. While this is good news for the Northern ruling clique, it is a huge minus in the region he comes from with the prospect of candidates from his own region spearheading the campaign against him on the day of the primary election.
Osinbajo has been accused of Christian nepotism, but no one has been able to prove this, but it is expected that a section of the ruling clique would not want a President that tilts strongly into one faith eventhough that was exactly what the current regime at the highest echelon does. Many have countered that Osinbajo is liberal and that his personal history confirms this. Yet, in the South West, he is considered ‘foreign’ by the leading social movements while his position appears not to have elevated any group or noticeable individuals. Why the conditional money transfer was in his care, for some time, the project itself remains a fleeting wind to millions of people-more of figures on paper than real impact in the lives of millions of poor Nigerians.
There is no doubt that his only hope is not based on any existing structure, he has none, but on possible Presidential directive that he should be the APC candidate in the coming primary.On this stretch of possibility, he stands a good chance.
Dr Kayode Fayemi
He is the current second-term Governor of Ekiti State.
He is one of the youngest of all the South West aspirants. His presence on the political space in Nigeria began around 1980s as a student union activist. In 1992 he became a leading light within the pro-democracy movement where he proved himself as a dogged, reliable and unrelenting fighter.
The circumstances surrounding his retrieving his mandate in Ekiti after the 2007 Governorship election which he won but was robbed, has shot him into national limelight, given the mass and revolutionary movement he built in order to retrieve his mandate bringing Ekiti State into the limelight of global affairs and as a people of high principle.
Fayemi is also well known and the most respected of all the aspirants, including those in Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in the diplomatic circle, perhaps more than any of the candidates across the country. Before returning to Nigeria, he was a strategic development adviser to many European, Asian and African countries.
His second coming as the Governor of Ekiti State has seen his profile shot into the sky as the Chairman of the Governors’ Forum where he enjoys a lot of goodwill across inter-party and intra-party layers of power.
His intellectual power is as compelling as his political mien. He is a man of few words whose heart is full of tact and diplomacy, a quality necessary to be the leader of Africa’s most plural country.
This explains the reason why some APC Governors are canvassing for him by mobilising their own state delegates.
Within the international and regional circles, concerns about insecurity and terrorism and how the next President of Nigeria will be able to deal with the menace using the most profound tactics has shot the image of Fayemi up, even within the military and Nigeria’s established security institutions given his background in war and peace studies in one of the world’s most prestigious institutions and the enthusiasm of many great powers to work with him.
His presence on the political tuff has been without graft blemish while his moral outlook inspires millions of young and old Nigerians. In the established North and South, Fayemi is seen as a bridge between the old and the young, between the conservative and the progressive and also as a block builder among the various ethnic groups that have become fragmented in the past few years. It is thought that Nigeria at present faces the crisis of ethnic identity and terrorism, two double edged swords that Fayemi seems to possess the antidote given his background and personal involvement in rebuilding many war ravaged countries before coming back to Nigeria under the platform of International agencies including the United Nations. Over the years, he has been able to balance the tilt between radical agitation for the break up of the country and those insisting on a united country even if not necessarily with justice, by speaking out consistently on the need for a national consensus that will allay the fears and anxiety of each ethnic and social formations in the country.
The weakness is that Dr Fayemi, to a section of the ruling clique has a mind of his own and may not fit in into someone that can be manipulated. A section of the ruling class also think if he wins the Presidential candidate, he may create a complete radical break from the past in terms of new fiscal policies which has prompted some of them to worry about their own personal interests not necessarily about the interest of the people they claim to represent.
Irohinoodua is of the opinion that the South West topmost candidates, given the balance of interests and strength, are Dr Kayode Fayemi and Prof Yemi Osinbajo. This is not to preclude the possibility of a shocker since one certain fact is that the ruling Fulani clique may not appear to have openly agreed on which candidate to pick as at today, but the last joker is in their inner pocket.
This joker, if it turns out sour, may throw up a consensus candidate that may undermine democratic norms, spur national upheavals, deepen ethnic divisions and completely set the country backwards.
This will happen on two conditions: If the ruling Fulani clique insists on picking someone from the North as the APC Presidential candidate and secondly if the Fulani ruling clique imposes a Southern candidate at all costs, against popular expectations.