The emergence of a former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2023 general election was no doubt a well-fought victory.
The former governor defeated 13 other aspirants to clinch the ticket at the primary concluded on Wednesday in Abuja. He polled 1,271 votes to emerge winner while his closest rival, former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, got 316 votes. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came third with 253 votes. The Electoral Committee voided 13 votes after the exercise
Mr Tinubu was one of the 23 aspirants cleared to take part in the primary conducted in Abuja from June 7 to 8.
Before the voting process began, seven of the 23 aspirants withdrew from the contest and declared support for Mr Tinubu, while another one stepped down for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Furthermore, one aspirant stepped down but did not declare support for any of his co-contestants. As a result, only 14 of the 23 aspirants took part in the primary.
A total of 2,203 delegates accredited to vote were APC party members elected from the 774 local government areas in Nigeria.
Below are the real winners and losers of the primary election following the roles they played before and during the contest.
1. Bola Tinubu
Mr Tinubu cruised to victory with a landslide of 1,271 votes. While his emergence at the just concluded primary was his first attempt at the presidency, he expressed deep appreciation to all whose contributions in one way or the other made it happen.
An elated Mr Tinubu, who defeated his co-contestants with a wide margin, while delivering his acceptance speech, said he did not ‘expect to win the party’s presidential primary.
“I did not expect to win, I won. I must be intoxicated with victory,” he said.
Mr Tinubu also said he holds ‘no grudges’ against members of his party who worked against his candidature.
“The competition is now over. Those who did not support me, you have nothing to fear. I hold no grudges and grievances. Let us each agree to join hands in defeating PDP and beat back their retrogressive understanding of Nigeria,” he said.
Mr Tinubu faced stiff opposition from some of his former allies, including Mr Osinbajo, and some members of the ‘cabal,’ people believed to be close to President Muhammadu Buhari who wanted the president to endorse someone else as the consensus candidate.
Likewise, his victory suggests a major relief to some prominent members of the party who had stepped down to back his aspiration.
Also, it affirms the position of many members of the APC who believe Mr Tinubu is the most experienced among the contestants to face Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in next year’s general elections.
2. Northern APC governors
But for the insistence of governors of northern states controlled by the APC that the presidential power should shift to the south after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, the entire exercise may have gone a different direction. Also, Mr Tinubu may not have emerged victorious.
The governors on Saturday threw their weight behind the quest for a southern president. They eventually met with Mr Buhari to sell the idea to him. In the end, Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State withdrew from the race. But Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and former Governor Ahmed Sani of Zamfara State went ahead to run.
The APC has 14 northern governors. Just as the joint stance of 13 of them helped secure victory for Mr Tinubu, he could have lost the election if they had taken an opposite stance.
3. Kayode Fayemi
Mr Fayemi is considered a member of the broader Tinubu political family as the former Lagos governor played a prominent role in his governorship elections.
It did not, however, surprise many that Mr Fayemi decided to contest against his benefactor as the relationship between both men had deteriorated.
The stance of Mr Fayemi to contest against Mr Tinubu put him in the bad books of many of the latter’s supporters.
However, his decision to step down for his ‘leader’ just before the commencement of voting earned him the accolade of some of Mr Tinubu’s supporters. It is believed that the 48 delegates from Ekiti, most of whom would have voted for Mr Fayemi, ended up voting for Mr Tinubu.
Had Mr Fayemi not stepped down, it would not have been a surprise to see Mr Tinubu mobilise his resources (in the South-west) against Mr Fayemi’s anointed candidate in the June 18 governorship election in Ekiti.
4. Godswill Akpabio and others
Ex-Niger Delta minister and former governor of Akwa-Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, was the first among the seven aspirants who stepped down to support Mr Tinubu to victory at the poll.
He asked the 93 delegates from his state to support Mr Tinubu.
Mr Akpabio may, however, have simply played smart as he knew before stepping down that all the Akwa Ibom delegates would not be allowed to vote due to a court order stopping them from participating in the process.
Although he may have gotten zero votes at the convention, his decision to step down, and him being the first to do so among the cleared aspirants, put him in the good books of supporters of Mr Tinubu.
The kind gesture earned Mr Akpabio and other aspirants – Ajayi Boroffice, Uju Ken-Ohanenye, Mr Fayemi, Ibikunle Amosun and former House of Representatives Speaker Oladimeji Bankole – who backed down from the race, special recognition from Mr Tinubu.
Like Mr Akpabio, the other six aspirants who stepped down can also be considered winners of the convention.
Mr Tinubu may have roles for them if he eventually wins the presidential election.
Mr Akpabio will also be hoping that Mr Buhari reappoints him to head the Niger Delta ministry as the post is still vacant.
5. Chris Ngige
Mr Ngige, the current labour minister, will consider himself a very lucky (or smart) person.
He had declared his presidential ambition and secured his N100 million nomination form.
But after President Buhari directed ministers seeking elective positions to resign, he had a rethink. He withdrew from the presidential race and preferred to keep his ministerial seat.
That has turned out to be a smart move.
The former Anambra governor may have gotten some votes, from Anambra delegates, but would have lost the presidential primary, and likely his ministerial seat.
Arguably, the most important winner from the APC primary is the party itself.
Many analysts had predicted doom for a ruling party that has never gotten its house in order since it came into power in 2015. In fact, the party has had to postpone its convention several times to, among others, avert the worsening of its crises.
The crises in the APC are multi-faceted and multi-layered but the party appears to have temporarily put them aside with the outcome of the convention.
Mr Tinubu alluded to this in his victory speech when he said: “It appeared some weeks back that some newspapers and many people were ready to write the obituary of this party. We put together and pulled ourselves as a cat of nine lives.”
“Shame on them, our party is alive,” he said.
Of the 14 aspirants who gunned for the APC ticket, only six of the candidates managed to pull some significant votes from the delegates.
Ex-transport minister Rotimi Amaechi came second with 316 votes, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came a distant third with 235 votes while Senate President Ahmad Lawan came fourth with 152 votes.
Others are Kogi State governor Yahaya Bello (47), Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade (37), Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State (38) and former Zamfara governor, Ahmad Sani, who had four votes.
Four of the aspirants had zero votes.
But it was not only the aspirants that lost at the convention that were the losers, some of the real losers were not in the race.
1. Yahaya Bello of Kogi State
Mr Bello was the only governor of a northern state controlled by the APC that opposed the zoning of the party’s presidential ticket to the south.
The other 13 northern governors in the APC met and agreed to the zoning arrangement. Mr Bello, however, insisted on contesting and said he would win if the process was credible.
He also spent a lot of money on campaigns with his adverts donning billboards and appearing on prominent TV stations.
However, on the day of the primary, he could not even secure the votes of all the delegates from his state. Only 47 delegates voted for Mr Bello while Kogi has 63 delegates.
Despite his jubilation, after his vote was announced, Mr Bello’s campaign organisation described the primary as “a peaceful but highly compromised” one.
2. Ben Ayade of Cross River State
Mr Ayade was elected governor on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but decamped to the APC last year.
Mr Ayade was one of the aspirants who did not win the primary, but he is on this list mainly because he could not secure all the votes of delegates from his state.
After describing himself as a man with “the enthusiasm of a youth and the wisdom of a 60-year-old” while addressing the delegates on Tuesday night, the governor could only secure 37 votes. Cross River has a total of 54 accredited delegates. This implies that at least 17 delegates from the state did not vote for their governor.
3. Rochas Okorocha, the Imo senator
Mr Okorocha addressed delegates in three languages (English, Hausa and Igbo) while trying to convince them. It was not enough.
Despite being Imo State governor for two consecutive terms (2011 to 2019) and currently a serving senator, Mr Okorocha could not get any of the 81 delegates from the state to vote for him. In fact, he could not get any of the over 2,000 delegates at the convention to vote for him as he scored zero votes.
He is currently being prosecuted for allegedly stealing public funds while he was governor.
4. Rotimi Amaechi
Mr Amaechi was the first runner up in the primary and scored more votes than some other major contenders including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Senate President Ahmad Lawan.
However, Mr Amaechi’s loss is not limited to losing the primary.
He is one of the ministers who had to resign their position to seek the presidential ticket.
He was also one of the star ministers of the Buhari administration and spearheaded the government’s rail projects across the country. It is unclear whether he would be reappointed as transport minister by President Buhari. The position is still vacant.
However, Mr Amaechi’s greatest loss from the primary may turn out to be something different from the ministerial position.
As a minister and close ally to the president, Mr Amaechi has been able to largely stave off the formerly stiff challenge for the control of the APC in his home Rivers State.
His major challenger for the control of Rivers APC, Magnus Abe, is a key ally of Mr Tinubu and strongly supported the ex-Lagos governor’s candidacy.
Mr Amaechi has congratulated Mr Tinubu and pledged his “commitment to your success at the polls” but observers will wait to see whether that will dissuade Mr Tinubu, should he win the presidential election, from helping Mr Abe take control of the Rivers APC.
5. Ogbonnaya Onu
For a man whose performance as a minister can be, at best, considered lacklustre, many were surprised when Mr Onu resigned his position to contest the presidential election.
Mr Onu, a former governor of the old Abia State, had also sought a presidential ticket of a major party in 1999, at the outset of Nigeria’s current democratic dispensation.
He was appointed minister of science and technology by Mr Buhari and resigned following the president’s directive after he had paid the N100 million for the presidential form of the APC.
He appeared to have based his presidential ambition on the hope that the APC would zone its presidential ticket to the South-east and railed about that while addressing the APC delegates on Tuesday.
Mr Onu could not even secure 10 per cent of the 39 votes of the delegates from his home Ebonyi State. He had only one vote at the convention.
He would be hoping that President Buhari reappoints him to his still vacant position of science and technology minister.
6. Emeka Nwajiuba
Many Nigerians were surprised when Mr Nwajiuba resigned his ministerial position to pursue his presidential ambition.
As minister of state for education, Mr Nwajiuba was relatively unknown and his ministry was among the worst-rated by Nigerians with incessant strikes by workers in the country’s educational institutions.
So, when Mr Nwajiuba paid N100 million for the APC presidential form, many expressed surprise. Perhaps because of his conviction that he could win, he was also the first minister to resign his position and did so before President Buhari’s directive.
He was, however, conspicuously absent at the APC convention explaining later that he was disappointed that the presidential ticket was not zoned to the South-east.
Despite his absence at the convention, he secured one vote.
It is uncertain if he would be reappointed minister to fill his still vacant position.
7. Aso Rock Cabal
Some relatives and associates of Mr Buhari at the presidential villa who the media call the “cabal”, tried to convince the president to anoint the Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele and former President Goodluck Jonathan as the APC’s presidential candidate. Their efforts failed.
The president’s wife, Aisha Buhari, had also in the past blamed the cabal for the tense relationship between Mr Buhari and Mr Tinubu. She accused them of hijacking her husband’s government.
With Mr Tinubu’s victory, the cabal’s moves to determine the potential successor of the president have failed.
8. Ahmad Lawan
Ahmad Lawan could have been Nigeria’s Senate President in 2015 when the APC came into power. He had the backing of the party leadership, particularly that of Mr Tinubu.
But Mr Buhari’s inaction, or indifference, led to victory for Kwara Senator Bukola Saraki. The APC government never recovered from that action in the first term of the president as there were incessant squabbles between the Executive and the Legislature.
However, in 2019, Mr Saraki, who had defected to the PDP, lost his senatorial election. The APC leadership, again including Mr Tinubu, mobilised support for Mr Lawan against Ali Ndume, another APC senator. Mr Lawan eventually emerged as senate president.
Mr Lawan was initially thought to be one of the backers of Mr Tinubu for the presidential race. He was a late entrant into the presidential race and was touted as the ‘consensus candidate.
In his victory speech on Wednesday, Mr Tinubu showed his displeasure at Mr Lawan’s decision to contest against him, although in a light mood.
“I would have been a little upset because you compete with me but that is over now since you can easily leak your wounds,” the winner said.
9. Yemi Osinbajo
Despite being the only aspirant who received a standing ovation from Mr Buhari after delivering a top-notch and highly spirited address to the delegates on Tuesday night, Mr Osinbajo lost the presidential primary.
In his final speech to the delegates before voting, Mr Osinbajo made a heartwarming plea on why he should get the party’s ticket.
“We are a religious nation; we believe in the power of prayer. We all pray for a country that is peaceful and prosperous,.
“But God allows us by our votes to show him whether we mean the prayers we pray or not. You cannot wish this country well and vote for someone you do not believe in.
“So, our dear delegates, when you vote tonight, know that your vote carries the answer to your prayers for the future of our children, for the future of our country,” he said.
Mr Osinbajo came third in the contest behind Messrs Tinubu and Amaechi.
But Mr Osinbajo’s loss goes beyond losing at the primary.
By choosing to contest against Mr Tinubu, his political benefactor, many Nigerians consider Mr Osinbajo a betrayal.
It was Mr Tinubu who appointed Mr Osinbajo, then an academic, as a commissioner. He served as justice commissioner for the eight years Mr Tinubu was the governor of Lagos.
It was also Mr Tinubu who nominated Mr Osinbajo as the vice-presidential candidate of Mr Buhari in 2015. Messrs Tinubu and Osinbajo were close allies until the build-up to the current elections.
Mr Osinbajo will, therefore, have lost many friends and former political allies and supporters because of his decision.
The vice president has congratulated Mr Tinubu and called on all APC members to support the party’s candidate.
Also, Mr Tinubu has appealed for Mr Osinbajo’s support and those of other co-contestants for the party to achieve victory in the 2023 election.
While Mr Tinubu knew he had 22 challengers for the APC ticket, arguably the greatest threat to his ambition was not from any of his opponents but from the head of the party.
As the national chairman of the APC, many would have expected Abdullahi Adamu to be neutral in the primaries or pretend to be neutral. He was neither.
As part of his antics to prevent Mr Tinubu from clinching the presidential ticket, Mr Adamu made two controversial moves a few days before the convention.
First, he threatened that the party would punish Mr Tinubu for his statement that appeared critical of President Buhari. Then he told the party’s leadership that President Buhari had endorsed Mr Lawan as the consensus candidate. Both views were rejected by other members of the party’s executive, the NWC.
The presidency also denied that Mr Buhari endorsed Mr Lawan or any other presidential aspirant.
Despite Mr Adamu’s machinations, Mr Tinubu won the primaries.
Mr Adamu has since congratulated Mr Tinubu and pledged to work for his victory in the presidential election.
Mr Tinubu may not want to rock the boat until after the main presidential election next year, but very few people would be surprised if Mr Adamu is removed as party chairman after the election.
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