Five days before the All Progressives Congress (APC) closes the sale of its expression of interest and nomination forms, three more aspirants on Wednesday declared their intention to run for the presidential ticket of the party.
The rash of declarations has raised the fear of a game plan to force the ruling party into throwing its presidential race open to aspirants from all sections of the country.
The new entrants into the race are a former National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole; the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi.
Also on Wednesday, the Jigawa State Governor, Muhammad Badaru, obtained the APC presidential forms at the party’s national headquarters in Abuja after announcing his decision the night before in Dutse, his state capital.
And according to various sources, Senate President Ahmad Lawan has concluded arrangements to make his declaration this week, while the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, said he will formally announce his interest in the same office on Friday.
Earlier on Tuesday, a businessman, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, also declared his bid.
The new entrants this week have taken the number of aspirants to 23 who may participate in the APC presidential primary, which will be held between May 30 and June 1 in Abuja.
As of Wednesday evening, six of them had picked the APC presidential forms after paying N100 million each.
They are the National Leader of the party, Bola Tinubu; Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello; Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi; Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, and Governor Badaru.
The sixth, a female aspirant, Uju Kennedy, picked her forms after paying the sum of N30 million. The party had said female aspirants will only pay for the expression of interest forms.
Other aspirants set to pick the forms include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; former Imo governor, Rochas Okorocha; Cross River governor, Ben Ayade; a former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole; a former Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, Ihechukwu Chima, Usman Iwu, Mr Tein Jack-Rich and Adamu Garba II.
Five of the aspirants are from the northern part of the country, while 18 are from the south.
The entrance of the northern aspirants feeds speculation that the party is under pressure to throw its presidential primary open to all comers.
The APC was assumed to have zoned its presidential ticket to the south after it announced earlier this year that its northern and southern zones would swap the party offices they were holding at the National Convention of the party on March 26.
The arrangement led to the emergence of Abdullahi Adamu as the National Chairman of the party, the first person from the North to hold the office since the party was formed in 2014.
However, on Friday, Mr Adamu said the party was yet to decide on zoning, a statement that drew criticism from across the South.
Responding to the statement, Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu warned the party against throwing the race open or zoning the presidency to the North.
A similar situation is going on in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party where five of the 17 aspirants who picked the party’s presidential forms are from the North.
Although the party set up a committee headed by Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom to advise it on the zoning issue, the sale of the forms to the northern aspirants is believed to have made an open primary a fait accompli for the party.
The APC is expected to decide on zoning before the primary.
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