House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal is under pressure from supporters of former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, to shelve his ambition his presidential ambition.
Buhari is seen as the leading aspirant of the party and his supporters see the entry of fellow North-west man, Tambuwal, into the race as a possible upset that should not be allowed.
But Tambuwal’s declaration of interest in the presidential race has, obviously, upset the campaign strategies of the party’s other main aspirants.
Besides Buhari and Tambuwal, the other aspirants are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso and publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Sam Nda-Isaiah.
Sources said that Tambuwal had nursed the intention of running for the 2015 presidency from the beginning, but he was persuaded by some politicians from his state, Sokoto, to go for the governorship seat.
But while considering the governorship idea, another snag appeared: the incumbent governor, Aliyu Wammako, though Tambuwal’s close associate, already had a favourite whom he wanted to succeed him.
But the speaker, who joined APC from Peoples Democratic Party on October 28, would not want to go back to the House of Representatives because the speakership has been zoned to the South-east by the party, though it is yet to be formally announced.
Many believe that for him to quit the presidential race and go to the House, APC would have to rezone the speakership to North-west. In the alternative, Wammako would have to be persuaded to back Tambuwal for the governorship of Sokoto State next year.
The Speaker has however denied insinuations that he organised the purchase of the APC presidential nomination forms for himself by some of his colleagues.
Some APC members of the lower chamber had bought the presidential nomination forms for Tambuwal last week, signalling his jettisoning of his widely rumoured desire to seek the governorship of his native Sokoto State.
He told the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation monitored in Kano on Saturday morning that he had no part whatsoever in the decision to buy the form for him.
Tambuwal said, “I am under pressure to contest for presidency from my friends and well-wishers who bought the form for me and I will consult my people for their advice”, adding, “I have received the presidential nomination form of APC and I will go and consult people, stakeholders in my home state, Sokoto for their advice”.
Tambuwal also dismissed as misdirected the speculation that he was in the race to spoil the chances of Buhari, Atiku or any of the other aspirants. He said people from all walks of life had been encouraging him to run for the presidency since the last two years.
When asked if he would be ready to step down for any of the contestants, he said, “I am ready to step down for anyone who is more competent than me”.
He however said that he believes people had confidence in him that was why they asked him to contest the presidency, adding that, “Nigerians believe that they will get better if I become President because of their trust in me. I will not disappoint the trust reposed in me.”
The speaker also used the opportunity provided by the BBC interview to explain his movement to APC, and his defection to PDP a few years ago, maintaining that it was entirely in accordance with the wishes of his constituents adding that that was why he won his elections at those times.
Opinions have varied on Tambuwal’s political weight in the race for the APC presidential ticket. But there has been an obvious stir among the aspirants since he joined the race, despite efforts by other contenders to downplay the significance of his entry into the race.
For instance, Atiku Abubakar, one of the key contenders, has said that the speaker’s entry into the presidential race is a legitimate ambition that does not upset either the aspirants or the process for the selection of the party’s candidate.
Atiku spoke in Lagos at the weekend after a closed-door meeting with members of the Lagos State House of Assembly, led by Speaker Adeyemi Ikuforiji.
Atiku said Tambuwal’s aspiration was “legitimate as far as democracy is concerned,” adding, “I do not see any problem in the process of selecting or electing a presidential candidate for the party.”
The former vice president also met with other stakeholders of the party in the South-west as part of a nationwide campaign to woo delegates ahead of the APC presidential primary next month.
However, there are strong indications that the current round of meetings by Atiku may also be connected to Tambuwal’s declaration for the presidency.
One of the strategists working to realise the presidential ambition of Kwankwaso told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that Tambuwal was a political lightweight who had never tested electoral contest at the presidential level.
Similarly, a top member of the Buhari campaign organisation, Osita Okechukwu, while welcoming Tambuwal’s entry into the presidential race, however, said it will not affect the prime position occupied by the former Head of State.
Okechukwu said, “The entry of Hon. Aminu Tambuwal is a welcome development, the more the presidential aspirants or any aspirant to governor, senate, national or state assemblies the merrier. Our great party, the APC, will be the greatest beneficiary, as the mobilisation of the electorate will be wider, penetrating, and robust.
“Therefore, Tambuwal is highly welcome into the presidential race. This is why the constitution of our party was amended penultimate week, to accommodate in less than one hour, any person who joins APC.”
Okechukwu said he could not speak on Tambuwal’s chances. “All one knows is that his entry will neither diminished nor cut-off the celestial bond between General Mohammadu Buhari and the masses and the middle class of our dear country.
“The masses and middle class had renewed at every election GMB’s 12 million vote bank. Therefore, the contest at the end of the day is between President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Buhari,” he said.