Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi and erstwhile deputy national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, have emerged favourite candidates of two major blocs in contention for the office of national chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC.
Two other aspirants, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, who are also in contention, are being propped up as fall-back options by the two blocs that have been built around the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and northern governors in the party.
Odigie-Oyegun, who was earlier being promoted by Tinubu, Vanguard learnt, may have lost out in a recent realignment that has seen the Tinubu camp shift allegiance to Sam Jaja.
Ikimi, who is being backed by a number of former governors and some northern governors in the party, Vanguard learnt, has received the full endorsement of erstwhile governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who has noticeably become a rallying point for the anti-Tinubu forces in the party.
Zoning the slot
Vanguard gathered that following the determination of the interim national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, to step down at the convention due in two weeks, and the determination of those opposed to Tinubu to zone the office of the national chairman to the South-South/South-East, Tinubu had set his eyes on Odigie-Oyegun as the next national chairman of the party.
Odigie-Oyegun, a former governor of Edo State and Tinubu were arrowheads in the move to validate the 1993 presidential election won by Bashorun Moshood Abiola.
They were subsequently colleagues in the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO.
However, sources close to Tinubu disclosed that he recently changed his plans and opted for Sam Jaja, a candidate being pushed by governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi.
The move by Tinubu, Vanguard learnt, may have been a calculated one by the former Lagos State governor to regain his momentum in the party by dividing the ranks of the governors who had recently united to stop some proposals backed by Tinubu.
In working with Amaechi, the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, Tinubu, it was learnt, would hope to break the unity of the governors who had recently risen as a group to oppose proposals favoured by him.
Besides influencing the appointment of one of their own, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko, as chairman of the Convention Planning Committee, the governors also prevailed on the rezoning of the office of the national chairman to the South-South and the decision to host the national convention in Abuja.
Those backing Ikimi were last night hopeful that the Tinubu synergy with Amaechi would come to nothing.
“Tinubu is having problems with backing Ikimi because he believes Ikimi cannot be easily nudged,” one Ikimi supporter said yesterday.
The Amaechi factor
The move concerning Amaechi and Tinubu is despite parallel moves by associates of President Goodluck Jonathan to woo the Rivers State governor.
As part of the efforts in thawing the ice, the Federal Government last week released the Rivers State government-owned aircraft impounded by the Ministry of Aviation and gave permission for the authorities in Port Harcourt to import two armoured helicopters earlier procured to boost security in the state.
Efforts to get a reaction from the Rivers State governor and his aides were unsuccessful last night.