The dust trailing the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential primary seems not to have settled as key contenders who slugged it out with the party’s candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, are missing in the campaigns.
Daily Trust reports that seven months after the party’s primary was held and won by the former Lagos State governor, the body language of six of the 14 contenders, showed they were still nursing grudges.
The posture of the contenders, who are expected to contribute to the victory of the party in their respective states, is generating concerns among the party’s chieftains, it was gathered.
Tinubu polled 1,271 votes to defeat 13 other aspirants, including a former Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Senate president Ahmad Lawan, who scored 316, 235 and 152 votes, respectively.
The other contestants included; Ogbonnaya Onu (1 vote); Rochas Okorocha (zero); Dave Umahi (38 votes); Yahaya Bello (47 votes); Tein Jack-Rich (zero); Pastor Tunde Bakare (zero); Emeka Nwajiuba (1 vote); Ahmed Sani Yarima (4 votes); Prof. Ben Ayade (37 votes) and Ikeobasi Mokhelu (zero).
Daily Trust reports that Osinbajo, Amaechi, Onu, Okorocha, Bakare and Nwajiuba are yet to be seen participating in the campaign rallies of Tinubu, three months after the exercise commenced.
In August, a meeting convened by one of the presidential aspirants, Nicolas Felix, to bring all the contestants together flopped as they shunned it.
While Amaechi, Onu and Bakare, were included in the presidential campaign council of Tinubu, the names of Osinbajo, Okorocha and Nwajiuba were missing from the list.
However, despite their inclusion, Amaechi, Onu and Bakare are yet to be seen at any of the campaign rallies, 50 days before the presidential election.
Osinbajo has not attended any of Tinubu’s campaigns, Daily Trust observed. The development has sparked off suspicion that the two political bigwigs in the ruling party have not fully reconciled after the presidential primary.
The presidential candidate had on June 10 paid an unscheduled visit to the vice president at his Aguda House residence, Abuja, a few hours after Osinbajo congratulated him for the victory and promised to work with him to emerge victorious in the general elections.
The visit came after the notion that Tinubu had deliberately ignored the vice president despite standing up to greet him at the convention venue where the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, was said to have drawn his attention to it.
Subsequently, the name of the vice president was not included in the campaign list, but Festus Keyamo, spokesman of the campaign, said President Muhammadu Buhari requested that Osinbajo and Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, should not be part of the campaign council so they could focus on governance.
Osinbajo had, however, on December 21, 2022, visited Tinubu at his home in Abuja in the presence of his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, after widespread information that his absence from the campaign the presidential candidate is a result of a frosty relationship.
Reliable sources said the visit was not for any political purpose but a friendly one because of the duo’s longstanding relationship, adding that it was in response to an earlier visit by Tinubu to the vice president after the primaries.
When contacted on phone on the matter, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu (Vice President’s office), simply said: “No comment. I don’t know.”
Also, conspicuously missing is the former minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who came second during the presidential primary of the APC.
Although he was named as the special adviser on infrastructure in Tinubu’s campaign council, he has not been seen in any of the campaign rallies.
Twice the campaign DG of President Buhari in 2015 and 2019, the former governor of Rivers State, has been away from the public glare since he was defeated by Tinubu.
An aide to the former minister said his boss has not been treated fairly by Tinubu.
“It is an understatement to say he (Amaechi) is not happy. When Oshiomhole went to Port Harcourt, he asked the people to only support Tinubu and that for the other positions, they should support Wike. A similar thing was re-enacted when the Ebonyi governor visited the state,” he said.
A former Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, is also missing on the campaign trail.
Onu, a founding member of the APC, who also contested for the presidential ticket in June, declared at the Eagle Square venue of the convention that there was no justice in the party’s leadership selection.
He had been at the forefront of the advocacy for power rotation to the South East of Nigeria, which has not occupied the nation’s exalted office.
When contacted, one of Onu’s aides, said his principal has been doing what he is supposed to do behind the scenes as it is not compulsory to be seen openly all the time.
“During the 2015 and 2019 elections, you didn’t see him many times on the campaign trail, yet he was part of it and doing what he had to do.
“He is a man of integrity; he must not come out openly. He will not change irrespective of the injustice meted out to him and the South East,” he said.
Though Pastor Tunde Bakare was appointed as a member of the PCC, he has been indifferent about the campaign since it kicked off.
Sources close to him say Bakare, who has maintained that he is the 16th president of Nigeria, has not changed his position though it is still within the realm of wonder how that dream would be realised when he is not contesting.
It was learnt that Bakare also shunned a meeting of presidential aspirants which was later postponed in September 2022 and it didn’t later hold.
A source said Pastor Bakare, who got the invitation through one of his aides, felt slighted that a meeting was being called when issues arising from the convention had not been resolved.
“As it is, the pastor has not participated in the campaign and he has never at any time advised his congregation to vote for any candidate,” the source said.
But Bakare, in July, downplayed the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC, saying people should focus on nation-building.
A former minister of state for Education, Barrister Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, has also not been sighted at any of Tinubu’s campaign rallies since last year.
Nwajiuba, who got one vote during the APC primary, is believed to have filed two suits against the party’s flag bearer.
The suit filed before a Federal High Court in Abuja seeking to replace Tinubu as the presidential candidate of the APC because his nomination did not meet the requirements of Section 90(3) of the 2022 Electoral Act, was in December dismissed by the court for being statute barred having been filed outside the period of 14 days after the cause of action under Section 285(9) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999.
Similarly, another court earlier dismissed a suit by Nwajiuba through a non-governmental organisation, Incorporated Trustees of Rights for All International, seeking to disqualify Tinubu and the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, over allegation of breach of the Electoral Act, and primaries marred by corruption and massive vote buying.
The court held that the NGO lacked the locus standi to bring the action before it.
I’m still in APC – Okorocha
A former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, who polled zero votes during the primary, was not included in the campaign council of the party. The founding member of the APC, however, said he was doing all possible to ensure the party succeeds.
“I am doing the much I can; campaigns don’t start and end with rallies. There are other subtle ways of campaigning. But I am still with APC; I have not left APC,” he said.
On his reaction to his exclusion from the campaign council, Okorocha said “Mine is for the love of my nation and party; I don’t have to hold any position to campaign for APC or campaign for the party. Those things are immaterial.
“We understand that politics is local too. I will make a statement overall on this whole thing soon.”