Their declarations yesterday, 11 January, have altered the selection dynamics for the ruling All Progressives Congress party.
Southeast APC aspirants have hitherto kept a low profile until yesterday’s declaration from both party chieftains.
Their counterparts from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have had no such inhibitions.
Similarly, APC southwest aspirants have been dancing on the stage, despite widely-held notions that the presidency will go southeast.
Kanu pushes qualifications
Senator Kalu, a former governor of Abia State, said he is “the most prepared” presidential aspirant in Nigeria.
What should be paramount to Nigerians, he said, is the mental and managerial capacity of each aspirant.
“For me, contesting the Presidency is not the issue. The issue is who is going to lead the country into an economic miracle, into a turnaround.”
“I’m capable health wise; I’m capable as a person; I’m capable in my pocket; I’m capable to face anybody,” he declared.
Umahi consults with Buhari
Similarly, Gov. Umahi said he will run on the themes of policy continuity and the creative capacity he has displayed as Governor of Ebonyi.
“I feel within me that the country is passing through a phase. And I believe strongly that the miracles that God helped us to do in Ebonyi State by the reason of all the successes we made in all the economic indices and all our programmes, that if given the opportunity, we can replicate it at the national level.”
Yesterday, he held a closed-door meeting with the President and emerged from it to announce that he will run.
On the meeting, he said Mr. Buhari advised him to “seek the support of the people.”
He told State House reporters that if elected, he will introduce a businesslike approach to governance.
This approach will enable him replicate at the national level similar progressive efforts he made to transform Ebonyi State.
He later appeared on network Television to explain why he went for a consultation with the President.
The idea, he said, is to continue to understand the policies and programmes of the President for continuity.
Umahi said his closeness to the President has given him an opportunity to “feel Buhari’s heartbeat for the nation.”
“I know what he desires for this country. I think I understand his programmes and his policies and his integrity.”
This knowledge will enable me to help the country, he said, “coupled with what we have done in Ebonyi State”
The southeast connection
Southeast aspirants are banking on a north-south zoning arrangement adopted by dominant parties since the dawn of this Republic.
Almost all the political parties since 1999 have followed a rotation principle in selecting candidates to fly their flags.
Thus, the Presidency is expected to go South in 2023, with Southeasterners claiming the right of first refusal.
Southern Nigeria is composed of three regions – Southeast, South-South and Southwest.
Southeast politicians point out that the Southwest (through Olusegun Obasanjo) and South-south (Goodluck Jonathan) have occupied the position.
Senator Kanu restated the point yesterday as he expressed reservations on the entry of Sen. Bola Tinubu into the race.
He doubted that the APC will give wings to the Tinubu presidential aspiration, judging from the rotation principle.
“(President) Obasanjo has been president for eight years. Osinbajo (also from the Southwest) is doing eight years as Vice President
“So, it is always good to think about what is reasonable and what will be more sellable,” he said.
The Senator however said he will not oppose Tinubu being the candidate if the party allows it.
“I’m not against Tinubu. If (the presidency) is zoned to his area and the party said he should go, well, the party is supreme.
“I’m only waiting for the party (position),” he said.
Kalu, Umahi join APC race from southeast