Former Head of State and presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the 2011 general election, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), and National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Senator Bola Tinubu, a few days ago, may have held a private meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal.
But as the opposition coalition comprising CPC, ACN, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which is merging to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), sets its sights on 2015, President Goodluck Jonathan is also making moves to cover his flanks as the election approaches.
In this regard, THISDAY learnt that the president hosted some select Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors to a private dinner last night at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where it is believed that issues concerning the party was discussed.
However, it was gathered that the secret meeting, which might have taken place last week between the two leaders of the merging opposition parties and Tambuwal at a private residence in Abuja, is not unconnected to efforts by the opposition to woo the speaker to their party.
The meeting was deemed a strategic gambit by the opposition to get Tambuwal to defect from the ruling PDP on whose platform he was elected to the House of Representatives, to the yet-to-be registered APC as the opposition party’s possible presidential contender in 2015.
It was also learnt that the APC is already considering the zoning of political offices and might zone the presidency to the North-west, Tambuwal’s geopolitical zone.
THISDAY further gathered that the APC is mulling the idea of zoning either the vice-presidential ticket or senate presidency to the South-west zone.The interim agreement reached at the meeting was that if the senate presidency is zoned to the South-west, then the Office of the Vice-President would be zoned to the South-east.
According to an inside source within the coalition of opposition parties, the decision to allocate the senate presidency to the South-west was being done to pave the way for Tinubu to enter the senatorial contest in Lagos and bank on his past stint as a ranking senator to emerge as senate president.
Should this go according to script, sources said Tinubu’s wife, Oluremi, who is currently the senator representing Lagos Central, will be expected to give up her seat to enable her husband contest.
Though it was uncertain whether Tambuwal has committed to jettisoning the PDP for APC, sources said Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, was seriously considered as the speaker’s possible running mate, but the idea was discarded on the grounds that he is a Muslim.
“Given the current mood of the nation, the party cannot field a Muslim-Muslim ticket right now; otherwise, the pairing (Tambuwal-Fashola) would have been a marriage made in heaven. As a result, the vice-presidential slot has been reserved for the South-east for now,” explained the source.
THISDAY gathered that before the meeting with Tambuwal, APC had considered the former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nasir el-Rufai.
But the source said: “They were seen as too controversial and unmarketable in the north,” hence the need to look elsewhere.In a related development, the president last night hosted about 15 PDP governors to a private dinner, leaving out eight governors elected on the party’s platform. In all, the PDP has 23 governors.
Although it was not clear why the invitation was not extended to all PDP governors, one governor who spoke to THISDAY said: “There was no formal letter as usual; we were contacted to be the guest of the president to a private dinner by him personally.
“I cannot state categorically the other governors who were invited, but from the calls I made, only 15 were invited.”
On what they would discuss during dinner, the governor said: “Let me not put the cart before the horse, let us wait till the outcome of the meeting.”
The governor also revealed that the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) would be meeting on Wednesday to discuss issues affecting the forum. One of the issues that might be tabled is the forthcoming election of its chairman slated for next month.
Rivers State Governor and current chairman of the forum, Chibuike Amaechi, is seeking re-election, but the presidency is opposed to his re-election bid.
JD:The race to 2015 has started in earnest and one would naturally expect various strategic moves from all involved.I agree with this report that Tambuwal might be a better candidate to work with as opposed to the two loose canons of Ribadu and El Rufai. Remember politics and good governance is not totally about what is right and wrong.It also calls for flexibility and compromise .Tambuwal seems to have a more mature mien in the political terrain.Also it is near impossible to choose Fashola as accommodation has to be made for the South East.In the political terrain,the South West “has had its turn” with eight years of Obasanjo’s tenure.How Tinubu now fits into the equation is what sets me thinking. Wouldn’t it have been better for the main actors in the merger to take a back seat and lets have a fresh beginning? Wouldn’t Tinubu’s emergence lead to to others asking for their “spoils of war”?But as they say,24 hours in politics is like a year in the eyes of us “lesser mortals”.Its early days yet