12th May, 2022
By Samuel Abioye
With 2023 around the corner, the mad rush to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari has gathered momentum. Scores of aspirants have entered the presidential race. Within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), about 17 aspirants have obtained presidential forms to contest the sole ticket of the party. For the leading and ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), 28 aspirants obtained presidential forms to contest the party’s primaries.
The APC is still the leading political party and may likely win the 2023 presidency depending on who flies the banner of the party. With a large number of aspirants in the kitty, the race for the APC ticket is getting hotter.
Those who have purchased the APC’s presidential forms are: Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Asiwaju BOLA Ahmed Tinubu;the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajuiba; Lagos pastor, Tunde Bakare’ Governor Mohammed Badaru of Jigawa State; his Ebonyi State counterpart, Dave Umahi; Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State; ex-Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha; the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; Ms Unu Onaneye, the only female and Nicholas Felix.
Others include Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River; ex-Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; former Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State; ex-Speaker, Dimeji Bankole; and Senate President Ken Nnamani; Minister of Science and Technology, Onu; and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva; as well as former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Over the years, zoning of the presidency under a principle of rotation between North and South has been the most contentious issue in the Nigerian political space since the return of Democracy in 1999. This has always elicited tension between the South and the North.
As the 2023 presidency draws closer, the zoning issue has come into play again. With Buhari, completing his eight years tenure in 2023, the South is agitating that power should return to the zone. It again appears that in the bid to force the zoning arrangement to be respected, southern political players are coming out forcefully to stake a strong claim for the post. Most of those who obtained the APC presidential forms are from the Southern part of the country, with the hope that the party will zone the presidency to the South.
The basis of agitation for a southern candidate is hinged on the fact that if another northern candidate emerges president in 2023, the north would have held on to power for 16 years consecutively at the expiration of such tenures. The hope that the APC ticket will be zoned to the South was the reason many southern politicians purchased presidential forms.
It would, thus, look unwise and indiscreet if APC should give its ticket to one of the few Northern aspirants in the field while neglecting the multitude of Southern contestants who, among them, parade all the qualities required to occupy the post.
If the presidency was to be zoned to the South, finding the right man to lead the APC to the battlefront against the PDP becomes paramount. A look at the southern aspirants reveals that a large chunk of them were made by the APC National leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is one of the aspirants. The calculation is that the Vice President slot came from the Tinubu’s political dynasty, which Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is still enjoying right since 2015 and is also gunning to replace his boss in office. The influence of Tinubu and his style of leadership looms large and this will likely be a serious headache for the APC.
The whole nation and, indeed all lovers of Nigeria, agree that National Unity, more than any other factor, would rank highly among the imperatives the country cannot afford to toy with post-2023 election. Given the foregoing, which of the Southern aspirants currently angling for the job is the least catastrophic option for APC and Nigeria? Which of them can inspire national inter-regional trust, galvanise inclusiveness and navigate the potential time bomb of ethnic and regional distrust threatening to ambush the future of the country?
One aspirant that readily comes to mind among the large number of those gunning for the APC ticket is Senator Ibikunle Amosun, a former two-term governor of Ogun State. He is the only South West aspirant who is not a creation of the Tinubu School of Politics.
Born on 25 January, 1958 Amosun has a vast political experience that transcends the north and south. His vast experience has established him a key figure in the APC since 2015. In 2003, he was elected a Senator on the platform of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), at a time when the South West was still trapped in its regional politics of exclusiveness. On this evidence alone, one could say that of all the South West APC contestants on the field today, Amosun could be described as the first to embrace true Nigerianness that was devoid of opportunistic streak.
Amosun’s leadership qualities and outstanding achievements have earned him recognition nationally and internationally, some of these include: bagging the award awarded as the Best Security Conscious State Governor in West Africa by Security Watch Africa in Accra, Ghana in October 2012; Governor of the Year award for 2016 for his outstanding achievement in leadership and infrastructural development, among several laurels.
Apart from his political experience garnered over the years, Amosun is a chartered accountant with vast experience. He gained an Associate membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) in 1990. He became a fellow of the Institute in 1996. He also became an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (1998).
He, therefore, represents an important bridge between the business and political worlds. As an acclaimed talent groomer and discoverer, his liberal political leaning has facilitated the emergence of some brilliant government appointees at both state and federal levels from under his wings. His role in 2015 in breaking the logjam that threatened the emergence of the current Vice president has been well exposed and is uncontroverted by any of the dramatis persona. Ditto how he facilitated the emergence of a former minister of finance and another minister currently in office. Amosun is today, one of South West’s astute political groundbreakers with wide and strong network across the Northern part of the country. Yet, even as a power broker of immense stature, he has managed to remain largely behind the scene.
With his pedigree, Ibikunle Amosun seems to be the only one among the aspiring options that present the only near-perfect profile of a change agent that possesses the persona, contacts, network, vision, level-headedness, discipline and charisma that could help Nigeria navigate the post-Buhari challenges that stare the country in the face.
With the party’s presidential primary scheduled to hold May 31, 2022, Amosun’s vast experience will be on display. He is certainly a better choice for the APC that will command the respect of the North and the South. It is expected that the APC leadership and the delegates will see these qualities in him and hand over the presidential ticket to him for the good of APC.
-Samuel Abioye writes from Lagos