By Eric Elezuo
Presidential primaries of political parties the world over most times comes with a lot of tension and uncertainty as it marks the turning point to winning the major general election. This is because the primaries remain the location where one is either rejected or accepted by ‘his own’ people. As a result aspirants are involved in massive canvassing and lobbying of votes to sway party members or delegates to their sides.
However, as the presidential primaries of the Nigerian ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) draws very close, there is absolutely nothing to show that a major contest is on the way. A cross section of regular Nigerians who spoke to the Boss has said that as far as they were concerned, only President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed willingness to re-contest, and it seems no one is challenging his candidacy.
But President Buhari, who expressed his desire to re-contest just before jetting out of the country some time ago, even against popular will of most Nigerians, is not the only aspirant on the platform of the APC; there are quite a good number of others who has expressed their interest verbally. Their interest has not however, matched the ‘horrible’ nomination form fee pegged by the party as well the requisite national clout expected of a presidential aspirant.
It would be recalled that the APC has planned and executed charging its presidential aspirants a whopping N45 million for the expression of interest and nomination forms. This development has not gone down well with as many as wish to contest the APC presidential slot with Buhari. While Buhari’s form has been obtained and paid for by a shadowy group, Nigeria Consolidation Ambassador Network (NCAN), other aspirants have not received a worthy mention, even from the press, as the claim.
The group claimed it raised the money from contributions by its members across Nigeria.
On Tuesday at State House, Abuja, Mr Buhari who was away in China when the group bought the forms, formally accepted them.
Consequently three of the aspirants threatened to conduct a parallel National Convention to produce the candidate of the party if the APC does not scrap the “exorbitant” nomination fees.
In a statement they issued as ‘Coalition of 2019 Presidential Aspirants of the All Progressives Congress’, the aspirants urged President Muhammadu Buhari to reject the nomination form purchased for him by the group.
The statement was signed by three presidential aspirants, SKC Ogbonnia, Charles Udeogaranya and Mumakai Unagha.
“We demand that President Muhammadu Buhari should reject the N45 million nomination forms purchased for him by a group,” they stated.
They said accepting the form was a contravention of the law, which states that no individual or entity can donate more than one million naira to any candidate.
“It fundamentally contravenes Section 91 (9) of the Electoral Law,” the aspirants said in their statement.
In its reaction, the APC dismissed the aspirants’ agitation, saying since they have not purchased their forms, they cannot be seen as aspirants. The situation has reduced Buhari’s opponents to ‘feeble’ category.
Below is a brief on the APC aspirants:
Seen as the most vocal of the Buhari challengers, and with a hierarchy of intimidating credentials, Dr. Ogbonnia serves as the Chairman of First Texas Energy Corporation. He had served in other leadership positions at First Texas Energy, including Executive Vice President. He was previously an officer of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) and later at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Dr. Ogbonnia is also an adjunct professor and has taught leadership at many United States Universities and colleges. He received education from the following institutions: Emmanuel Anglican School, Ugbo, Awgu LGA, Enugu State; Corpus Christi College, Achi; Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas; Walden University, Minneapolis, Minnesota; University of London, United Kingdom.
Dr. Ogbonnia is an author and commentator in the topics of oil and gas, energy, leadership, and politics. His latest book is: The Effective Leadership Formula, featuring a new leadership theory. He is from the South East region of Nigeria, and may not get a chance given that the party has zoned the presidency to the North.
A former Lagos State Chairman of the defunct African Renaissance Party (ANN), not much is known of the aspirant apart from few national commentaries at inconsistent times. He believes seriously in his ability to pick the APC ticket at the expense of Buhari much as it has been very difficult for him and some others to cough out the expression of interest and nomination fees. He is of the opinion that Buhari has been abandoned by all and sundry, and as a result shifted attention to him. However, his South East origin has recorded a minus for him.
In a statement he issued some time, he said: “Respectfully Mr. President, how can the majority of Nigerians be with you when virtually all the Nigerian former Heads of State and power brokers have left you with their cult followers nation-wide, publicly?
“Members of our party at the National Assembly and their grassroots followers in their local constituencies recorded a historic avalanche of defection such as has never been witnessed before in the political history of this country against a ruling party even in the face of possible severe persecution. Was this defection as a result of my candidacy or yours?”
He had lamented the acute insecurity, unemployment and hunger bedevelling the nation as a good reason for the party to reject Buhari and give him the ticket.
Alhaji Mumakai Unagha, is a native of Delta State, and had in the political limelight since the second republic with the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
A lawyer by profession, Unagha claims to be ‘very passionate’ about Nigeria, saying that his vision is to transform Nigeria.
“We are not there yet, but we shall get there. President Muhammadu Buhari is currently laying foundation which I will build on if elected in 2019. Nigeria cannot be Nigeria without greatness and the greatness must start by proper navigation of the country’s economy. In order to realize this vision, Nigeria needs a great leader and I’m offering myself. I’m determined to leave a good legacy. I strongly believe we can move the country from where we are to where we can all live in peace regardless of our religion or ethnicity.
The aspirant says his desire to be president is an answer to the call of various groups including women organisations.
He stated: Given the opportunity, I will add value to the change agenda of our party, revive the down trodden economy of the nation. Similarly, I will start from where Mr. President will stop in 2019.”
“As a legal practitioner with vast experience both in governance, I shall nurture the political economy of the nation to an enviable condition that will be jealous by the international community. The oil and gas, aviation, transport, education as well as other sectors shall be effectively re-organised to meet the yearning of Nigerians.
On corruption, I shall re-design a new strategy on the war against corruption with optimal achievement. Greater attention shall be accorded to combat the Boko Haram insurgency ravaging the North East as well as the kidnapping that has taken over the country. On militancy in the Niger Delta, which has constituted threat to oil economy, more diplomatic measures shall be applied to bring the situation under control.
The APC, speaking through Malam Gidado Ibrahim, Buhari Campaign Organization Director of Communications and Strategy, has asked Nigerians to regard other of APC presidential aspirants by Dr SKC Ogbonnia, Chief Charles Udeogaranya and Alhaji Mumakai Unagha, saying that they are “anti-democratic elements in the country’s political space.”
From the look of things, it appears the ruling party has already berthed its ticket with Buhari as the sole candidate, and as such whatever other aspirants do is termed feeble ‘ranting’.