National leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, will throw his weight behind Muhammadu Buhari in the race for the party’s presidential ticket, TheCable understands.
Former governor of Kwara state, Bukola Saraki, will also support the former head of state in the indirect primary election scheduled for December 2, having shelved his own ambition.
Already, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State has pitched his tent with Buhari, as reported by TheCable recently.
Governor of Kano state, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, is under intense pressure to step down for Buhari.
Tinubu’s decision to back Buhari is a major boost to the ambition of the retired general, whose toughest opponent in the primary is expected to be former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar.
Under the current structure of the party, Tinubu and his associates are expected to have a majority of the delegates that will vote in the primary which will be held simultaneously in the 36 states and FCT.
With Tinubu, Saraki, Amaechi and former governor of Bayelsa, Timipre Sylva, pitching their tent with Buhari, the former head of state will head into the primary as the favourite as most south-west, north-west and south-south delegates are likely to vote for him.
However, Atiku is expected to garner a majority of delegate votes from the north-east and south-east, and a significant number from the north-central.
His battle-tested political machinery across the length and breadth of the country will contest every inch on the electoral field, TheCable analysts forecast, while his war chest will play a significant role in the final outcome.
Tinubu’s support for Buhari will come as a shock to many analysts who are of the opinion that Atiku was a more like-minded politician than Buhari, but the word in Tinubu’s camp is that Atiku is “too desperate” to become president, an ambition that has seen him change parties in almost every election year.
“What Nigeria needs now is leadership and Asiwaju (Tinubu) is convinced beyond reasonable doubt Buhari is the best bet to deliver it,” a senior member of APC, who also chairs a state chapter of the party, told TheCable.
While fears have been raised in Tinubu’s circle that Buhari may decide to make a point by probing him on getting to office, the former governor of Lagos state is said to have had assurances that he has nothing to fear.
“Buhari’s view is that it would be counterproductive to go after Tinubu. He said the most important thing now is for Nigeria to make progress, and this is a very urgent task,” an APC governor said, adding: “In any case, Tinubu has nothing to fear. All attempts to probe him have always ended up vindicating him.”
On the issue of who would be running mate to Buhari, the party official said Tinubu has shelved his ambition, confirming an early report by TheCable.
“The only elective post he could seek now is to be a senator. The wife is the senator representing Lagos central. If he decides to run, he can take her slot,” he said.
Asked about speculations on the ambition of the speaker of the house of representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the official said it was no longer “feasible” to back the lawmaker from Sokoto state.
“Governorship is a better bet for him. The calculations have changed. He too knows,” he said about Tambuwal, who is still a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Meanwhile, Buhari was in Lagos on Sunday to invite Governor Babatunde Fashola to his declaration slated for Wednesday.
Fashola welcomed him warmly, saying: “We feel honoured by your presence and God will honour you and his grace will continuously be sufficient for you in the undertaking that you are about to commit to.”
It remains to be seen if the governor and other top chieftains of APC will attend Buhari’s declaration at Eagle Square, Abuja, having been absent at Atiku’s declaration in September.