The National Vice Chairman, Northwest of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Salihu Moh. Lukman has described the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the APC's presidential candidate as a product of an internal party contest.
Lukman, in a exclusive interview with Vanguard disclosed how the APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu announced Senate President Ahmad Lawan as the consensus presidential candidate and struggled to get the buy-in of the party leadership.
He said "schemers" who failed to produce neither none of the trio of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Central Bank of Nigeria CBN governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele and Senate President, Ahmad Lawan as consensus candidate of APC "have unleashed Mr. Emefiele's so-called cashless policy to damage the APC and the candidature of Asiwaju Tinubu".
According to him, by the time of the March 28, 2022 APC National Convention to elect national working Committee members, Presidential Aspirants had emerged, many of whom already had their preferred candidates for the position of National Chairman.
"Some of the Presidential Aspirants were able to expand their lobbies to some of the influential people around the President and perhaps succeeded to convince President Buhari to nominate Sen. Abdullahi Adamu for the position of National Chairman. And shortly after the election of Sen. Abdullahi Adamu as the National Chairman of the APC, negotiations for the emergence of a so-called consensus presidential candidate was activated", he said.
Lukman noted that the scheming around emergence of a so-called consensus candidate was ridiculously stretched beyond the APC to include people like former President Goodluck Jonathan and Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria.
"These were never members of the APC. But with the active collaboration of some influential people outside the APC such as Chief Nduka Ogbaigbena, publisher and owner of Thisday Newspaper and Arise Television, some sophisticated mobilization of so-called 'hundred eminent businessmen, political, media and civil society leaders, including 14 current governors, 13 former governors as well as three former senate presidents' commenced around April 2022.
"Gradually, this scheming shifted and was entrenched within APC. By May 2023, when the party began to sell its nomination forms to aspiring candidates, forms were purchased by some APC leaders for former President Goodluck Jonathan and Mr. Godwin Emefiele.
"Eventually, when these schemers couldn't succeed in popularizing both former President Jonathan and Mr. Emefiele as possible contenders to emerge as consensus Presidential candidates for APC, the Senate President, Sen. Ahmad Lawan was recruited and promoted.
"It is on record that Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, on the eve of the Convention that elected Asiwaju Tinubu as the Presidential candidate of the party, announced to NWC members that Sen. Ahmad Lawan was the consensus presidential candidate of the party. Members of the NWC together with Progressive Governors rose against that move and again thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari, the contest for the Presidential candidate of APC was thrown open and Asiwaju won with a wide margin.
"Part of the dummy that was promoted within the APC to attempt to popularize the choice of a Northerner, Sen. Ahmad Lawan as a consensus candidate was that since PDP had elected Alh. Atiku Abubakar, a Northerner as its Presidential Candidate, we needed to also elect a "Northerner so that we can win the votes of Northerners. This is completely inconsiderate of the popular agitation for power shift in the country. It is also insensitive of the potential instability that the choice of another Northerner emerging as President of the country could cause. Ahead of the APC National Convention, APC Governors from the North had already declared their opposition against a Northerner emerging as APC Presidential candidate", he stated.
He said Tinubu's personal quality given his track records both as a businessman, politician, and elected Governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007 and the fact that he has over the years proven himself as a fighter for democracy was a great asset to his emergence.
"This is one characteristic that has defined him and perhaps strengthened him to survive many personal attacks on his person and his integrity. The administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo investigated him on many of the issues that are being used to smear his name such drugs. Renowned radical lawyer and human rights activist, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi challenged his academic credentials unsuccessfully in courts. Many journalists and activists questioned his integrity but were not able to establish any proof.
"Asiwaju Tinubu's battles didn't start in 1999 when he became Governor of Lagos State. Although both Asiwaju Tinubu and Alh. Atiku Abubakar could make claims to being members of late Shehu Musa Yar'Adua's Popular Front and part of leaders of Social Democratic Party (SDP), which produced Chief M. K. O. Abiola as the 1993 Presidential Candidate, but Alh. Atiku vacated the political space for the military in 1993 when they annulled the election, which Chief Abiola won. On the other hand, Asiwaju Tinubu took the risk of joining the vanguard of the struggle against military rule. Both Mr. Peter Obi and Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso were never in the vanguard for the struggle against military rule.
"As a fighter, Asiwaju Tinubu would appear to be a person with unshaken confidence and capacity to defend himself. Unlike many Nigerian politicians with short term agenda of winning elections, Asiwaju would seem to be looking beyond elections, which may be responsible for why he was not in a hurry to put himself on the ballot since 2007 when he left office as a Governor of Lagos State. Arguably, he is about the only politician that has consistently invested in politicians without being a candidate. His contribution to the merger negotiations that produced the APC as a political party was significant. His passion and commitment to the growth of APC as a progressive party and development of Nigerian democracy is very clear.
"This has certainly earned him some strong opposition both within and outside APC. Both the PDP and all the other opposition parties including the Labour Party and NNPP know that Asiwaju Tinubu is the main Presidential candidate to beat.
"Of course, there are forces within the APC that are also not comfortable with the possibility that Asiwaju Tinubu will be the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Schemers who failed to produce neither Mr. Emefiele or former President Jonathan or Sen. Ahmad Lawan as consensus candidate of APC have unleashed Mr. Emefiele's so-called cashless policy to damage the APC and the candidature of Asiwaju Tinubu.
"But like they failed in the case of consensus presidential candidate, they are also failing in their intrigues to damage the APC and the candidature of Asiwaju Tinubu. Like Asiwaju Tinubu emerged as the Presidential candidate of APC despite their machinations, Asiwaju Tinubu will also become elected as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, God willing", Lukman declared.