The camp of former Lagos Governor, Bola Tinubu says Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and other hopefuls “know better” than to declare their intention to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari “as things stand”.
Apart from the Professor of Law, Ekiti Governor Kayode Fayemi and Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi are reportedly eyeing the presidency.
The race to the Aso Villa is expected to kick off fully after the national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Though the March 26 date has been confirmed, the ruling party is in seeming turmoil with Governors of Niger and Yobe, Sani Bello and Mai Buni laying claim to the chairmanship.
A source close to Tinubu’s associates stated that Osinbajo “will not declare now”.
“Tinubu has what I’ll describe as Right of First Refusal. I believe those interested in the seat but don’t want him to contest will first wait for his decision.
“The VP and co. cannot publicly announce their ambition for the presidency yet. Can they defeat Tinubu at the primary?
“For Osinbajo, I agree that he has some support in the North but one of the actions the power brokers are holding against him is the sack of Lawal Daura (former DSS DG) in 2018.
“The VP knows better than to jump the gun. Look at Aregbesola (ex-Osun Governor) who has finished himself politically. He uttered too many things that didn’t need to be said openly.
“You saw how Tinubu ensured the overwhelming defeat of the candidate Aregbe supported against (Governor) Oyetola at the primary.
“This man has a strong network nationwide. The endorsement he enjoys from several Northern leaders is real because of the impact on their political careers. It’s time for pay back.”
On why certain Tinubu’s protégés are refraining from announcing support for the APC leader, the source replied: “They cannot do so for now”.
He noted that appointed and elected government officials “usually hold back until the time is right. Only Lagos officials have come out which is understandable”.
Giving a hint of office holders likely to back Osinbajo, the source listed Fayemi, Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola, Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola, etc.
“In fairness to them, I don’t think they dislike Tinubu as being portrayed, he contributed to their prominence. These men and like minds just want a paradigm shift.
“They want a switch from Tinubu’s brand of politics but they can only achieve that if the man says he’s withdrawing from the contest.
“Tinubu won’t fight dirty, he will simply use the contacts built over the decades. Declaration by whoever looking forward to challenging won’t move him.”
The insider added that there’s nothing wrong if support groups are clamouring for Osinbajo since the Jagaban of Borgu will eventually “anoint somebody if he doesn’t run”.
He further dismissed speculations that Buhari might be referring to Amaechi or Fayemi when mentioned that his preferred candidate may be eliminated if he revealed the identity.
“Leave out Fayemi, he cannot face Tinubu. For Amaechi, he can’t even win if an election is held today in Rivers State. (Governor) Wike is solid.
“Amaechi was Speaker for 8 years, Governor for 8 years, Minister for about 7 years but what is his impact across the country outside these offices?
“He only remembers his family and people close to him. Someone who has a presidential ambition should have been reaching out long ago.
“Amaechi has held more offices than Tinubu but who is close to the strong men in Nigeria? Tinubu’s focus is the APC primary. Can Osinbajo, Amaechi or Fayemi beat him?
“Buhari won’t favour anybody, nor influence anything, nor distribute money. If 10 people tell him they want to vie for the ticket, Buhari will wish all of them good luck.”
In January, ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and former Borno Governor, Kashim Shettima endorsed Tinubu.
“We are not threatened by the mode of primaries. Being democrats, we prefer a method that involves all the card-carrying members.
“Our task is to develop a smart strategic plan that will deliver Tinubu as APC candidate and thereafter the landslide winner of the election”, Lawal said.
In his remark, Shettima recalled: “In 2015, some aspirants with a very huge war chest were itching to cling to the APC ticket.
“Like the Rock of Gibraltar, Asiwaju and his progressive team stood solidly behind the candidacy of Buhari”, the Senator added.