2015 Presidential Race Fallout: Tambuwal’s ambivalence alters APC’s game plan!

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When Speaker Tambuwal decamped to the APC recently, the electorate was told that the move was for him to contest the governorship in his home state of Sokoto. However issues at the moment show a change of gear, writes Ohia Israel

Speaker of the House of Reps, Hon Aminu Tambuwal last week picked his APC Presidential form of the party, to contest for the office of the President, a move that was unexpected.

Tambuwal, picked his nomination form for the APC Presidential primary, the nomination form which was picked by some members of the House of Representatives, saw the House members storming the APC Secretariat.

The members were at the party headquarters at around 5pm as they collected the form from the office of the National Organizing Secretary of the Party, Senator Osita Izunaso.

After picking the form, the members went straight to the Speaker’s residence where they presented the form to him. Media Adviser to the Speaker, Imam Imam, confirmed the information as he said that “some members of the House today purchased nomination form for the Speaker.”

He remarked: “Earlier today, some friends and political associates of the Speaker notified him that they have bought presidential nomination forms for him.” As it is, the game of intrigues and horse-trading has begun as there seems to be no end to it in the APC.

With this latest development, Tambuwal may have complicated the race for the likes of former military Head of State, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and the Publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Sam Nda-Isaiah.

Tambuwal, it was gathered, was motivated by the growing clamour within the power blocs in the APC for a game changer who could be presented to the Nigerian people, signaling a departure from the veterans and early starters in the presidential race.

Before this development, the duo of Buhari and Atiku had remained the frontrunners in the presidential race, while Kwankwaso and Nda-Isaiah were deemed the dark horses. But with Tambuwal throwing his hat into the ring, the niggling issue of who would end up with the presidential ticket of the APC may have changed significantly.

Tamabuwal’s entrance into the battle should not be seen as child’s play, as this medium gathered that the likes of former Lagos State Governor and a National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, may be favourably disposed to his emergence.

Although Buhari is still the frontrunner in the race despite Tambuwal’s entry, his major undoing, however remains his alleged religious extremism, even though this is a misconception that has gained currency over time. Owing to the perception of his alleged religious disposition, the Buhari candidacy could pose a serious challenge that might affect the chances of the main opposition party at the general election, hence the new thinking in the party that a presidential candidate other than Buhari be fielded.

This notwithstanding, Buhari is believed to still boast of unalloyed support within the APC hierarchy, especially amongst the governors. Some of those believed to be pushing for his candidacy include Governors Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State and Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State as well as former Kwara State Governor, Senator Bukola Saraki, among others believed to be funding his campaign.

Atiku, unlike Buhari, does not seem to have as much support among the governors but might be banking on his personal resources should a primary where delegates are allowed to vote take place as opposed to a consensus arrangement which is Buhari’s preference.

Whilst he does not carry the kind of religious baggage that seems the lot of Buhari, his candidacy does not also seem to catch the fancy of the top players in the APC hierarchy. Kwankwaso, on the other hand, is unmistakably the candidate of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is believed to share in the sentiments of the opposition party, even though he remains a nominal member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Kwankwaso’s support base in the APC is generally considered weak as far as the presidential primary is concerned, even though he is believed to command a cult-like following in his Kano State and possibly with one or two governors on his side.

Coming down to Nda-Isaiah, he is no doubt a lone-ranger, itching to cash in on the religious tag that the party has battled lately. According to observers, Nda-Isaiah is of the view that for the APC to upturn the religious tag that has been leveled against it, it would need a Christian candidate like him to face President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 general election.

It is against this backdrop that the Tambuwal option is being mooted by a few of the leaders in the APC. But for the Tambuwal candidacy to fly, it would have to be sold and accepted by a few of the camps within the APC, some of which are insisting that a governor must be on the ticket, either as the presidential candidate or as running mate.

But already, there are strong indications that if Tambuwal secures the push, it could get the backing of Tinubu and even Buhari, both of whom may not mind the change in the larger interest of the party. It was also gathered from sources that the proponents of Tambuwal for president came up with the decision to zero in on him because of the fear that the presidency could use the anti-graft agencies to scare the Northern governors with presidential ambition.

As gathered Associates of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who was last night rounding off his visits to south west leaders, were exuberant on receiving the news, saying Tambuwal’s entry would open the race and make room for Atiku to approach supporters who had been fixed on Buhari on account of Tinubu.

 

“This shows that Tinubu has altered his calculations on Buhari and it gives us room to pick up support where it had been blocked before,” an Atiku associate said yesterday, adding, “What do we do other than sit down and enjoy it?” Those who favour Tambuwal’s candidacy also argue that he possesses all the qualities of a good leader, who can take Nigeria to the next level, if given the opportunity.

 

Former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, had recently called on the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, to consider running for a higher office based on his outstanding performance in the running of the affairs of the lower chamber.

 

Babangida said Tambuwal’s performance and conduct in office had shown that he had the capacity “to sustain the labour of our heroes past. When leaders like Tambuwal delivered on their electoral promise, we advise them to try something higher. For Tambuwal, your guess is as good as mine. Well done,” Babangida said.

 

Meanwhile, a group that calls itself Concerned ACN Stakeholders in APC recently warned the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, to desist from supporting Aminu Tambuwal for the presidential ticket of the party, saying if Tinubu does not withdraw from the course of action, it would spell disaster for the party at the general elections.

 

In a letter copied to the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the group which said it learnt that Tinubu has been pushing for Tambuwal’s candidacy in the letter signed by one Tayo Agunbiade said it believes that out of all the presidential aspirants in the party, Buhari remains the only hope for defeating incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

Tinubu who controls the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) bloc within the party, is believed to have turned his back on General Muhammadu Buhari since the defection of Tambuwal to the APC.

 

The initial arrangement within the ACN bloc is that Buhari should be supported for the presidential ticket of the party due to the massive support he enjoys in the North while the ACN bloc should be allowed to produce the vice presidential candidate. It was gathered that since Tambuwal joined the APC, more of the party chieftains from the South West have expressed sentiments in favour of changing the calculation to support Tambuwal on grounds that re-presenting Buhari would not pose fresh challenges to the PDP.

 

The defunct ACN having supported the emergence of Tambuwal as Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011 is also believed to be more disposed towards supporting the speaker due to the cordial relationship between them.

“As you are aware, we have gone deep with the Buhari campaign and indeed agree with you that he is indeed a good candidate”, Concerned ACN Stakeholders in APC wrote.

 

“Our leader Sir, the recent development of your turning away from General Muhammadu Buhari and indeed all the other presidential candidates and promoting the candidature of Honourable Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, portends grave danger, not only to us, your loyalist and supporters, but indeed to our great party.

 

“The greatest beneficiary of this Tambuwal issue Sir will be President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP; may God forbid as we, your supporters, know that this is the last thing Asiwaju will wish for Nigeria,” the letter said.

 

The group alleged that Sokoto State governor, Aliyu Wammako, is behind Tambuwal’s bid for the presidential position in the party, “because he has a candidate other than Tambuwal for the governorship of Sokoto State.” The letter was also copied to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and all the presidential aspirants.

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