Ahead of the presidential primaries of the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the battle for their tickets has heightened with aspirants scrambling for the backing of governors.
APC controls 22 states across the six geo-political zones, making governors and their appointees essential targets for votes during the primaries.
On its part, the PDP controls 14 states with its governors expected to have considerable influence on delegates in their respective states.
All the aspirants have been neck-deep in dusk to dawn lobbying of delegates in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
But the battle in the APC is more intense in 17 strategic states with voting strength.
It was learnt that 14 non-APC states are being targeted mostly by weaker aspirants who still have stronger ones to compete with for votes.
Investigation revealed that six aspirants have so far collected nomination forms for the primaries.
They are the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State; Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi; Minister of Transportation, Mr Chubuike Rotimi Amaechi; a former Imo State Governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha; the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajuiba; and Uju Kennedy, a lawyer and the only female presidential aspirant so far.
The number may rise in the next few days with the expected declaration of Governor Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti State), a businessman, Mr Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim; and a former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
All the aspirants will seek votes from about 7,800 delegates although the final figures were being awaited from the national secretariat of APC.
As of press time, most of the aspirants had been involved in what a top source described as a “dusk to dawn” shuttles to interact with governors, godfathers, matchmakers and delegates.
Investigation, however, revealed that 17 states appear “knotty and strategic” for the aspirants.
These are states with APC governors – Kano, Katsina, Oyo, Borno, Lagos, Osun, Jigawa, Kaduna, Niger, Ogun, Kogi, Nasarawa, Imo, Kaduna, Kebbi, Plateau and Ondo.
It was learnt that the voting strength of these states has compelled many aspirants to chase and negotiate with their governors and influential APC leaders.
It was gathered that where some states were impenetrable for some aspirants, they resorted to a divide and rule tactics to split their delegates.
Findings confirmed that some desperate aspirants have initiated pre-primary agreements and alliance talks in case any of them could not go far in the indirect primaries.
A top source, who is in the know of the ongoing scheming, said: “Most of the aspirants are targeting the governors of most of the 17 states because they control the party structure at that level.
“These governors have become beautiful ‘brides’ of all the aspirants due to the numerical base of their state delegates.
“The truth is that some of these governors can guarantee 80 to 90 per cent of delegates for any presidential aspirant during the primaries. Some aspirants have been holding nocturnal negotiations with a few of the governors with ridiculous baits.
“Some of the governors are becoming interested in the horse-trading because of the likelihood of being picked as a Vice Presidential candidate of APC.”
Although most of the governors have been weighing options, it was learnt that the intrigues over presidential primaries have split the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) of the APC.
A reliable source added: “While a few PGF members have plunged themselves into the race, like Yahaya Bello and another Northcentral governor coordinating activities for one of the aspirants, most of them have been doing some permutations on 2023, especially those completing their second term in office next year.
“Since the botched attempt to sack the former Chairman of the Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of APC, Governor Mai Mala Buni, the PGF has not been the same. Also, the jostle for the presidential ticket of the party has widened the cracks.
“As it is, APC governors cannot speak with one voice on the presidential primary because some of them are either in the race or embedded. It has also been difficult to predict where they stand.”
One of the strategists of a presidential aspirant, who spoke on the position/support of the governors for his principal, said: “Dicey to say specifically how many because there are pledges but a good number still hedging bets, but several comfortable pledges in the bag. Let’s keep an eye…”
Apart from the governors, some aspirants, especially weak ones, have shifted attention to 14 non-APC states.
“Unfortunately, some strong aspirants have made inroads to these non-APC states. It is an interesting battle ahead,” an APC stalwart said.
In the PDP, the aspirants have intensified campaigns in 22 APC-controlled states for delegates. The states, termed “free-for-all” by a PDP chieftain are free from what he called “the pervading influence of governors.”
The aspirants have scheduled visits to these states beginning this week.
So far, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Bauch State Governor Bala Mohammed, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and ex-banker Mohammed Hayatudeen have been screened by a PDP committee headed by former Senate President David Mark.
Also screened are former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel, former Senate President Pius Ayim, publisher of Ovation magazine Dele Momodu and Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa.
The aspirants are also seriously eyeing block votes from Enugu, Abia, Bayelsa, Benue, Oyo, Edo, Adamawa, and Taraba states by dangling “juicy carrots” before the PDP governors.