The emergence of a former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2023 general election was no doubt a well-fought victory.
The former governor defeated 13 other aspirants to clinch the ticket at the primary concluded on Wednesday in Abuja. He polled 1,271 votes to emerge winner while his closest rival, former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, got 316 votes. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came third with 253 votes. The Electoral Committee voided 13 votes after the exercise
Mr Tinubu was one of the 23 aspirants cleared to take part in the primary conducted in Abuja from June 7 to 8.
Before the voting process began, seven of the 23 aspirants withdrew from the contest and declared support for Mr Tinubu, while another one stepped down for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Furthermore, one aspirant stepped down but did not declare support for any of his co-contestants. As a result, only 14 of the 23 aspirants took part in the primary.
A total of 2,203 delegates accredited to vote were APC party members elected from the 774 local government areas in Nigeria.
Below are the real winners and losers of the primary election following the roles they played before and during the contest.
1. Bola Tinubu
Mr Tinubu cruised to victory with a landslide of 1,271 votes. While his emergence at the just concluded primary was his first attempt at the presidency, he expressed deep appreciation to all whose contributions in one way or the other made it happen.
An elated Mr Tinubu, who defeated his co-contestants with a wide margin, while delivering his acceptance speech, said he did not ‘expect to win the party’s presidential primary.
“I did not expect to win, I won. I must be intoxicated with victory,” he said.
Mr Tinubu also said he holds ‘no grudges’ against members of his party who worked against his candidature.
“The competition is now over. Those who did not support me, you have nothing to fear. I hold no grudges and grievances. Let us each agree to join hands in defeating PDP and beat back their retrogressive understanding of Nigeria,” he said.
Mr Tinubu faced stiff opposition from some of his former allies, including Mr Osinbajo, and some members of the ‘cabal,’ people believed to be close to President Muhammadu Buhari who wanted the president to endorse someone else as the consensus candidate.
Likewise, his victory suggests a major relief to some prominent members of the party who had stepped down to back his aspiration.
Also, it affirms the position of many members of the APC who believe Mr Tinubu is the most experienced among the contestants to face Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in next year’s general elections.
2. Northern APC governors
But for the insistence of governors of northern states controlled by the APC that the presidential power should shift to the south after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, the entire exercise may have gone a different direction. Also, Mr Tinubu may not have emerged victorious.
The governors on Saturday threw their weight behind the quest for a southern president. They eventually met with Mr Buhari to sell the idea to him. In the end, Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State withdrew from the race. But Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and former Governor Ahmed Sani of Zamfara State went ahead to run.
The APC has 14 northern governors. Just as the joint stance of 13 of them helped secure victory for Mr Tinubu, he could have lost the election if they had taken an opposite stance.
3. Kayode Fayemi
Mr Fayemi is considered a member of the broader Tinubu political family as the former Lagos governor played a prominent role in his governorship elections.
It did not, however, surprise many that Mr Fayemi decided to contest against his benefactor as the relationship between both men had deteriorated.
The stance of Mr Fayemi to contest against Mr Tinubu put him in the bad books of many of the latter’s supporters.
However, his decision to step down for his ‘leader’ just before the commencement of voting earned him the accolade of some of Mr Tinubu’s supporters. It is believed that the 48 delegates from Ekiti, most of whom would have voted for Mr Fayemi, ended up voting for Mr Tinubu.
Had Mr Fayemi not stepped down, it would not have been a surprise to see Mr Tinubu mobilise his resources (in the South-west) against Mr Fayemi’s anointed candidate in the June 18 governorship election in Ekiti.
4. Godswill Akpabio and others
Ex-Niger Delta minister and former governor of Akwa-Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, was the first among the seven aspirants who stepped down to support Mr Tinubu to victory at the poll.
He asked the 93 delegates from his state to support Mr Tinubu.
Mr Akpabio may, however, have simply played smart as he knew before stepping down that all the Akwa Ibom delegates would not be allowed to vote due to a court order stopping them from participating in the process.
Although he may have gotten zero votes at the convention, his decision to step down, and him being the first to do so among the cleared aspirants, put him in the good books of supporters of Mr Tinubu.
The kind gesture earned Mr Akpabio and other aspirants – Ajayi Boroffice, Uju Ken-Ohanenye, Mr Fayemi, Ibikunle Amosun and former House of Representatives Speaker Oladimeji Bankole – who backed down from the race, special recognition from Mr Tinubu.
Like Mr Akpabio, the other six aspirants who stepped down can also be considered winners of the convention.
Mr Tinubu may have roles for them if he eventually wins the presidential election.
Mr Akpabio will also be hoping that Mr Buhari reappoints him to head the Niger Delta ministry as the post is still vacant.