In the past 48hours, two aspirants from the north, Sani Yerima and Abubakar Bagudu have declared interest in the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Mr Yerima already picked the form of the party, after addressing his supporters at the Nicon Luxury hotel in Abuja. In addition, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan is believed to be consulting in a bid to join the race.
The new entrants from the north are generating concerns in the South because of the number of persons that have so far declared in the South.
As of Friday, only States in the south that have no aspirants are: Osun, Oyo and Bayelsa States.
For instance, Ogun State has four aspirants; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Governor Ibikunle Amosun, Pastor Tunde Bakare and former Speaker Dimeji Bankole.
In some states, there are two aspirants. In Ebonyi, Governor David Umahi and Minister for Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu.
Similarly, in Imo State, there is former Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha and Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajuiba.
Others in the race are Kayode Fayemi, the governor of Ekiti State, the Governor of Cross River, Prof. Ben Ayade, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Minister of Labour Chris Ngige, former Labour Leader, Adams Oshiomole, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, Sen Boroffice Ajayi, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and others.
During the week, the Governor of Ondo State and Chairman of Southern Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu had raised the alarm on the possibility of the ticket slipping from the grip of the South.
In a statement, he urged the party to zone the ticket to the south, in the name of justice, equity and fairness.
Governor Akeredolu warned: “It is expedient that we avoid self-inflicted crises before the general elections. It is the turn of the Southern part of the country to produce the next president. The party leadership should have no difficulty in making pronouncements on this very important issue, just as it has fixed various fees for the purchase of forms.”
While the leadership of the party is yet to heed the call by Akeredolu, politicians from the South are in full frenzy in picking up the N100 million form. In all, about 24 aspirants have either declared or bought the nomination form.
It is not just Akeredolu that is concerned. Edwin Clark, an elder statesman, while speaking with journalists in Abuja on Monday, described the buying of forms by southern politicians as “madness”.
He accused South-West and South-South aspirants in the race of playing a double game.
In reaction, the former Governor of Osun State, Bisi Akande and his colleague from Ogun State, Segun Osoba convened a meeting of the aspirants from the South-West in a bid to reduce the number of aspirants, which stands at 7 as of the time of filing this story.
The chances of changing the minds of the contestants may prove difficult because most of the aspirants have paid the N100 million nomination form and expression of interest.
“Unfortunately, the president has been giving nods to everyone, unfortunately for the party, this is not going to be like the national convention. Nobody can order anyone to step down,” a source in the camp of one of the aspirants said.
The southwest meeting did not achieve the intent of reducing the aspirants from the region.
Initially, it was only governor Yahaya Bello that was in the race from the North. For most of the aspirants, Bello appears not to pose a threat, because he is from the North Central.
“With Bello, we know that he is not going anywhere, but a candidate from the northwest is a threat, particularly with the indirect primary.
“In the South-West, delegates are divided, same in the South-East and South-South. A candidate from any of the core north could take the ticket at the primary,” the source said.
The ruling party already extended the time for the sale of the forms till the 12th of May, which means there is likelihood of having more aspirants, including some from the north.
Insiders within the party are concerned about the likelihood of the Peoples Democratic Party picking a northern candidate with a strong following and the resultant effect on the chances of the party.
It would be recalled that most aspirants from the north in the PDP have argued that the party must consider picking a candidate from the north, in order to defeat the APC.
There are persons within the APC who also have the same concern about picking a southern candidate against a northern candidate.
Rivalry in the south
Several aspirants from the South-East have frowned against the quest by candidates from the South-South and South-West. Orji Uzor Kalu, the former governor of Abia State, who is also in the race, in a letter, said if the party cannot zone their ticket to the South-East, then the contest should be thrown open.
“The reality is that the North is more advantageous to winning elections in this democratic setting. I am even shocked with the number of aspirants coming from the South-West and the South-South.
“It is embarrassing that these aspirants (APC and PDP) have no single respect and concern for the South East,” he said.
On Friday, David Umahi, the governor of Ebonyi State, in an interview on Channels TV, also slammed the candidates from the other two regions for not giving the South-East the opportunity in view of the fact that the region is yet to get the opportunity for a democratically elected president or vice.
With all these challenges in the South, the possibility of a northern candidate emerging seems likely.