* Party chairmen, leaders compile ministerial list

A major political battle is appearing in the horizon for leading lights of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2023 presidential ticket, as both Northern and Southern elements move in different directions over zoning of party positions, Nigerian Tribune reports.

President Muhammadu Buhari will be ineligible for another term in 2023 if he scaled the judicial hurdles against his re-election victory early this year, but weighty voices in the Northern part of the country where he hails, are already pushing for his successor in four years, from the same zone.

The agitation for the retention of the Presidency in the North beyond 2023 has, however, been spiked, with the reported interest of the National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu in the same seat after the expiration of the Buhari presidency.

A close political associate of the Lagos strongman confirmed to Sunday Tribune at the weekend that he (Tinubu) was serious about seeking the presidency and “is not just flying a kite for possible negotiation as being assumed in many quarters.”

It was learnt that before the just-concluded presidential and parliamentary poll, Tinubu reportedly told his allies and associates developing cold feet about post-election Buhari presidency that the president must be supported and that whoever among them was acting to the contrary, should consider him [Tinubu] an enemy.

Many of them, according to Sunday Tribune findings, grudgingly toed the path of his instruction, with one of them disclosing that he knew the use-and-dump controversy would resume after the president must have secured a second and final term.

Tinubu was said to have been asked for a Plan B concerning his ambition should the president display unwillingness to back him all the way.

“He simply said we should wait,” the source told Sunday Tribune.

With the unfolding political scenario now, it was gathered that his allies would be seeking an answer to the question he parried the last time.

“When Oga [Tinubu] returns from France, the issue of Plan B, we will discuss again, because these people (Northerners) are serious and they have the numbers once a few people (names mentioned) are brought to their side down South,” the source stated.

Despite the alleged opposition of Buhari’s close allies to a Tinubu presidency, the party’s national leader is said to be committed to demonstrating his total loyalty to the president.

Apart from mobilising votes for him, Sunday Tribune can confirm that the Chief Wole Olanipekun-led legal team defending the president’s re-election at the Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja was composed by Tinubu.

Olanipekun, a senior advocate and long-standing ally of Tinubu, had opposed the current administration on some salient issues, and even taken up cases against it in recent time.

It was a surprise to many to see him emerge the lead counsel to the president.

Sunday Tribune gathered that nearly all the leading senior advocates on the case instituted against Buhari’s victory by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate and a former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, were in at the behest of Tinubu.

Incidentally, Buhari’s tribunal opponent, Atiku, it was learnt, had briefed a couple of the said senior advocates to handle his petition, but their affinity with Tinubu prevailed.

However, Sunday Tribune learnt that relationship between Buhari and Tinubu almost broke down completely during the colloquium marking the National Leader’s birthday recently in Abuja.

Contrary to the official reason given for the president’s absence despite being in town, an associate of Tinubu emphatically told Sunday Tribune that “the cabal stopped the president from coming. They didn’t know XYZ (names mentioned) understand Hausa language, with which they were telling the president not to attend the event. Our people were very angry and sought Oga’s permission to go all out against the cabal, but he stopped them.”

The source was, however, certain it would be a matter of time before things boil over between the two biggest players in the ruling party.

The stinger from Tinubu over the planned increase in Value Added Tax (VAT), which was delivered at the birthday colloquium, is said to be an appetiser of things to come.

“Those in PDP seeking to decamp to APC should stay back in their party. When we met with XYZ (name mentioned; a prominent senator from the South who could profit again from the crisis within the ruling party) somewhere recently (place mentioned), the same issue was taken up with him. 2023 belongs to PDP, because with the way things are going, APC leaders are going to cancel themselves out with all the intrigues going on. The party won’t survive post-Buhari presidency, though they are likely going to get what they are aiming at. They will use our people here to get it, at least one of them is already being tipped to run with XYZ (name of a governor in the North mentioned) as vice-presidential candidate,” Sunday Tribune was told.

One major political step from the president, which Tinubu’s allies are waiting to see the direction, is the appointment of ministers from the South-West states.

If the president side-steps their leader again as was the case in 2015, the source said, it would confirm to them that he has been used and dumped again, a development which Sunday Tribune was told would come with a lot of consequences.

It was learnt that the president is yet to demand any list from state chapters of the party as is the custom, but that a couple of state chapters are said to have the lists waiting for the president, who, days back, embarked on a private visit to the United Kingdom.

The expected coming appointment is already opening up old political cleavages and putting tendencies in the state chapters at one another’s throat.

In one of the South-West states, an outgoing governor is said to be a sole nominee on a list jointly signed by him and the elderly state party chairman, who is seen more as his lackey.

APC lost the gubernatorial election in the said state. But the party’s governorship candidate is believed to be heavily favoured by Tinubu’s camp, which is also said to have pencilled him in for a repeat contest in 2023.

As a minister, another gubernatorial run is expected to be a lot easier for him.

In another state, a former governor is also a sole nominee by the understanding of the party leaders, who deem any challenge by other chieftains as a sacrilege.

Sunday Tribune can, however, confirm the interest of others in the slot, with party chieftains outside of the said state said to be watching out for such interested parties in Abuja.

In Lagos State, there is a lot of whispering around the outgoing governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, as the likely ministerial nominee for the state.

A school of thought reasoned that his estranged godfather may not want to deepen the wound of denying him a second term as governor, by supporting the push for his movement to Abuja like his predecessor, Babatunde Fashola.

However, when the governor hosted the president last week, Tinubu was not only absent, many of his allies also shunned the event, a move believed to be a pay-back for the colloquium snub by Buhari.

Tinubu was abroad during the visit, but his followers, particularly in Lagos, Osun and Ogun states, shunned the event.

Osun State governor, Gboyega Oyetola and top political associates of Tinubu in Lagos known as the Mandate Group, stayed away, while Ambode played host to the president, supported by Governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo) and Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun).

Lagos governor-elect, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the incoming deputy governor, Femi Hamzat, however, side-stepped partisanship to welcome the president.

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