By Ochiaka Ugwu
Ahead of today’s presidential convention of the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), the five aspirants for the party’s presidential ticket were in the last minute lobby to persuade the delegates to vote for them in the primary.
Similarly, the convention committee of the party has ensured on a hitch free primary in a conducive and secure environment for the first presidential primary of the party scheduled to hold at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos.
A former governor of old Abia State and party’s screening committee chairman, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu had given all the five aspirants – Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), former Vice-President Atiku Abubabar, Governors Rabiu Kwankwaso, Rochas Okorocha and Sam Nda-Isaiah the clean bill of health to participate in the primary.
However, Peoples Daily gathered that as part of efforts to outsmart each other and win delegates’ support, the aspirants were in an intense lobby offering them money which ranges from N50, 000 to N200, 000 in exchange for their votes. Some of the aspirants who ferried delegates from their respective states have lodged them in luxury hotels keeping watch over them for fear of being hijacked by other contenders.
An inside source revealed that aspirants have dispatched their foot soldiers to the field in different hotels suspected to be hosting delegates soliciting for their support. It was reported that delegates from non-APC controlled states referred as swing states were target of these lobbyists given the fact of their vulnerability to be swayed at the slightest chance. They are said to be focused upon since most of them have no central figure that they tied their loyalty around.
But the ultimate question is who will these delegates elect to compete with the candidate of the ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) in an election that will make or mar the Nigerian nation. These presidential aspirants would test their popularities among the members of the party’s delegates today. I’m a real optimist but also at the same time an ardent realist. I believe these delegates have been presented with the opportunity of writing their names in gold by electing an aspirant of impeccable track record that will transform the nation in all facet of life.
But as the major opposition party in the country, the target of whoever wins the party ticket from Buhari to Nda-Isaiah is to give President Goodluck Jonathan a bloody nose in the 2015 presidential contest.
Although, political pundits have singled out Buhari and Atiku as the major contenders while agreeing that the trio of Okorocha, Kwankwaso and Nda-Isaiah may spring a surprise.
It was learnt that Buhari’s team had sent out agents to various parts of the city hunting for delegates to engage in last minute mop-up campaigns. The team mostly comprising the Daura born general’s old loyalists from the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (APC) were not only preaching the gospel of good governance but were ready to offer money to willing delegates since they don’t want to leave any stone unturned towards achieving Buhari’s presidency in 2015.
Pundits have jointly said before now that Buhari is the de facto candidate coming through consensual agreement, especially now that President Jonathan has almost locked down South-south and South-east. Buhari accordingly is the only person who can lock down North-west and North-east with his wide acceptability in the zone.
On his part, Atiku who is said to be the richest among the contestants was said have shown considerable dexterity, experience and tactics in his preparations for the presidential primary, is said to be offering mouth watering fees to delegates just for their support and even pledging to assist more after the convention.
The former Vice President have been advised by political observers not to be deceived by the much publicised make-up between him and some party big wigs, adding that most of them may as well be deceiving him and at the same time working for Buhari or any aspirant of their choice who made the merger popular.
Okorocha campaign organisation, who until recently had not engaged in a nationwide tour like other aspirants is not taking chances either as he has now increased the tempo of his campaign by offering delegates attractive incentives that was said to be tempting.
Another presidential aspirant and Kano State governor, Kwankwaso and his Kwankwasiyya group, has continued to mount heavy strategies towards getting most of the delegates on his side especially those from his North West zone which he is trying to use to gain some mileage over the other aspirants. He is said to have fully empowered his campaign agents who have been engaged in horse-trading to get delegates’ support ahead of the convention.
The Niger State-born newspaper publisher, Sam Nda-Isaiah, who is considered to be a greenhorn in the political arena is said to be relying mostly on the goodwill he has amongst the party leadership, including the governors and National Assembly members.
He is said to be banking on the assistance of ordinary Nigerians who form bulk of the delegates to push his ambition.
In the meantime, the APC Presidential Convention Committee headed by the former Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has put finishing touches to the arrangements for convention.
Also the National Publicity Secretary of the party and spokesman of the committee, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said everything is being done to make the event a highly successful and memorable one.
In a statement released to newsmen, the party said no fewer than 8,000 delegates drawn from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were expected to participate in the convention.
It could be remembered that after the screening of the aspirants, the party mandated the five of them to sign a binding agreement with its leadership not to decamp to another political party on account of failing to secure the party’s ticket during the primary. The extracts of the commitment signed by the aspirants read: “I hereby undertake to abide by the rules and regulations of the convention of the All Progressives Congress’ nomination guidelines, APC constitution, the Electoral Act and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I, on behalf of myself and my primary campaign organisation undertake to accept the outcome of the primaries and actively support whoever emerges as the winner and shall not decamp to any other political party or in any way obstruct the smooth execution of the presidential campaign. I further affirm that during the campaigns and later in government, I shall be guided strictly by the party manifesto in the event of my nomination, my campaign team will immediately be collapsed into the party campaign structure for a properly united and focused presidential campaign.”
But the greatest challenge facing the party is not about the aspirants agreeing to stick with the party irrespective of the outcome of the primaries rather getting the delegates to elect the most suitable and eligible candidate that would be accepted by all Nigerians irrespective of their religion and background. The belief among political pundits in the country is that the way and manner the party handles the presidential primaries will determine its success in 2015.