APC presidential primary: Aspirants, stakeholders in last throw of the dice

APC presidential primary: Aspirants, stakeholders in last throw of the dice. Three days to the decisive presidential primary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), all, including darts, warts and kitchen sink are being thrown in from all contending interests in the party.

Despite feeble voices of opposition to President Muhammadu Buhari’s plea to APC governors on Tuesday, indications have emerged that the President’s preferred candidate will emerge as the party’s standard-bearer at Monday’s special convention.

President Buhari had, shortly before leaving for a working visit to Spain, pleaded with the governors under the aegis of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) to join hands with him to throw up an acceptable candidate that would inspire hope and lead the party to victory in next year’s elections.

At the meeting, President Buhari charged them to be prepared to throw their weights behind his preferred candidate, reminding them that they also have been choosing their successors without interference.

The Guardian learned that the development did not go down well with the governors, especially given that they had plans to support one of theirs to emerge as the presidential candidate of the party.

Sources within the party disclosed that the plot by some influential aspirants to mobilise forces against the President was anticipated, which led to the drafting of some core-Buhari loyalists from the North into the race.

The source confided in The Guardian that Jigawa State governor, Abubakar Badaru’s late entry, as well as Senate President Ahmad Lawan’s spirited campaign to win the party’s ticket are part of the President’s strategy to make Southern aspirants “see reason and conduct themselves in the national interest.”

He said: “Make no mistake about this, President Buhari wants to protect his integrity. He knows that the right thing is for the President to shift to the South in 2023, but the way and manner Southern aspirants are going about their ambition has shown him that some people are out to make him look bad in the eyes of Nigerians and history. We from the North honour our words and therefore, the attempt to make the President go back on his promise is being resisted.”

The source, a former military officer, disclosed that after a planned presidential dinner with the aspirants this weekend, those who have respect for the President would announce their withdrawal.

“The Commander-in-Chief would explain to the aspirants why the stability and unity of this country is paramount and go ahead to give reasons behind his choice of the preferred candidate. Those who oppose the President will go to the field to earn their shame,” he stated.

The APC chieftain remarked that the 894 (336 plus 558) delegates from Northeast and Northwest are intact for President Buhari’s candidate, adding that the moment the President makes his choice known, a substantial number of delegates from Southeast and North Central would fall in line.

“Before going to the Eagle Square on Monday, South/South and Southwest would have seen the futility of continuing any opposition to the President’s stand.”

From the delegates tally released by APC, while Southwest, which has seven aspirants boasts of 411 electors, South/South with four aspirants has 359 delegates.

Dismissing the calls on the President not to adopt consensus in choosing the APC presidential standard-bearer, the source disclosed that “what President Buhari has in mind is a compromise candidate and nothing to do with consensus.”

The party’s National Vice Chairman (Northwest), Dr. Salihu Lukman, had in a petition criticised the President’s decision to anoint a successor, stressing that such a step will potentially mobilise Nigerians against APC and thereby rubbish him.

But countering Lukman’s statement, a member of the NWC who pleaded anonymity, said “Lukman was merely echoing his master’s voice.”

The NWC member from one of the Northeast states said the majority of the members are in support of President Buhari’s efforts to ensure that the APC presidential ticket does not end up in the hands of the highest bidder.

He stated: “We all hold the President in high esteem. He is the leader of the party and if anybody wants to dictate to the leader, maybe that person wants to show his rebellion and rebellion has a price. The job of the leader is to show direction and that is what the President wants to do for us to be seen to be fair, equitable and just.”

CHAIRMAN of the Southern Governors’ Forum and Ondo State governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), has charged the party to work hard to retain power by rotating the presidency to the South.

In a short message via his personal Facebook page, yesterday, the governor re-echoed the position of his colleagues in the South that power should shift to the region. “APC must work to retain power. We must rotate power to retain power! Rotate to the South. Shikena,” the message read.

It was gathered yesterday that at least nine Northern governors are urging their colleagues to support APC to pick its presidential candidate from the South.

Ahead of the party’s convention in Abuja, 23 aspirants have been screened to participate in the primary, 19 of whom are from across the three geopolitical zones in the South. But a push has intensified for the party to look towards North in its choice since the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party last Saturday picked former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its own candidate.

Following the president’s Tuesday meeting, the governors have met twice but could not agree on who to recommend to the President for consideration and whether the party should consider nominating a candidate from the North.

APC has 14 governors in the North and eight in the South. While there is a consensus among the Southern governors that their region should produce President Buhari’s successor, five of their colleagues in the North think only a Northern candidate can defeat Atiku.

However, nine Northern governors had argued that it is not in the interest of national cohesion and social justice for the Presidency to remain in the North in 2023. The nine governors rooting for a power shift are Babagana Zulum of Borno, Simeon Lalong of Plateau, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano.

Others are Aminu Masari of Katsina, Abubakar Bello of Niger, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara, Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara.

However, the nine governors do not agree on who the choice from the South should be because there are many contending aspirations, though a third meeting is expected to hold on or before Saturday, the source said.

During the first meeting, the governors were said to have deliberated on the idea of having a consensus candidate proposed by the President.

However, the source said during the second meeting, suggestions were given on who should be put forward as the APC consensus candidate before the regional division marred the second meeting.

Governors from the South who are contesting the presidency are Prof Ben Ayade of Cross River State; his Ekiti State counterpart, Dr Kayode Fayemi and Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi. From the North, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello and Jigawa State governor, Mohammed Badaru, are also in the race.

Asked about the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, the source said: “Most of the argument was centred on a governor succeeding President Buhari for now. Southern governors are talking about power rotation.”

MEANWHILE, another fresh detail emerged yesterday that there is a tendency for President Buhari may pick his Vice President, Osinbajo, as his successor and also support him to emerge as the party’s flag bearer.

According to a presidential aide who was speaking with confidence yesterday, a political team, which comprises some prominent Yoruba leaders has been set up to persuade Tinubu to step down for Osinbajo and also accept him as the party’s consensus candidate.

Going further, he disclosed that while the President was talking to the 22 APC governors a few days ago, all indications revealed he was speaking in support of his deputy but he did not specifically mention his name.

“It was after then that a team was set up to dialogue with Tinubu to accept Osinbajo as the party’s consensus candidate while the APC governors are beginning to rally behind the Vice President, who is believed to fit the President’s description of his successor.”

As of last night, several of the APC governors were seen in the Villa meeting with the VP and the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, in what sources say is a move likely to result in a consensus candidate for the ruling party.

When contacted, a member of the Asiwaju team said that for them, the consensus is not on the card yet, hence they are still consulting and reaching out to delegates. They were in Oyo and Ogun states yesterday.

IN what may seem an unforced error, a viral video yesterday showed the party’s national leader, Tinubu opening up on how he led the political struggle that produced President Buhari. Tinubu also categorically said he nominated Osinbajo as the President’s running mate and ‘made’ Dapo Abiodun governor of Ogun State.

He spoke at the presidential lodge in Abeokuta, the state capital, while addressing APC delegates. Tinubu was in the company of Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, his Kano counterpart, Umar Ganduje and former Borno State governor, Kasim Shettima.

The former Lagos governor said he made the revelations for the first time in Ogun, the home state of Osinbajo, one of his rivals for the APC ticket. He said Buhari had offered him a running mate ticket, but some blocs rose against him, fanning the ember of a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

He said when he was asked to submit three names for running mate, he pencilled down Yemi Cardoso, Wale Edun and Yemi Osinbajo, adding that he later settled for Osinbajo as running mate.

“You have not heard this from me before. This is the first place I am saying this,” Tinubu who addressed the delegates in Yoruba said.

Speaking on the President’s emergence, he said: “If not me that led the war front, President Buhari wouldn’t have emerged. He contested first, second and third times, but lost. He even said on television that he won’t contest again.

“But I went to his home in Katsina. I told him ‘you would contest and win, but you won’t joke with the matters of the Yoruba.’ Since he has emerged I have not been appointed Minister. I didn’t get a contract. This time, it’s Yoruba turn and in Yorubaland, it’s my tenure.”

Tinubu also said without God and him, Governor Abiodun would not have emerged in 2019. “Dapo that’s sitting down here, could he have become governor without me? We were at the stadium, they tore all his posters. Even the party flag, they didn’t want to hand it over to him, I was the one who brought it.

“If he wants to meet God at the right place, he must know that without God and me, he would not have become governor.”

In his remarks, Abiodun, who had earlier declared his support for Osinbajo’s candidature, refused to endorse Tinubu. He told Tinubu that delegates from the state would do “the right thing” at the convention.

Abiodun described Tinubu as a political warrior, serial winner and strategist.

FORMER governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, has been named the Director-General of the Ahmad Lawan Central Campaign Organisation. Lawan, who is also the Senate President, is one of the 23 screened presidential aspirants of the ruling party.

Kalu, who is also the Chief Whip of the Senate had shelved his ambition to contest for the presidential ticket on the excuse that it was not zoned to the Southeast, saying he would prefer to work with Lawan from the Northeast, a zone that has suffered a similar fate of marginalisation with Southeast.

At a meeting held in Abuja, yesterday, the chairmen of eight committees of the campaign organisation were unveiled. They include Finance and Budget, Auwal Lawan (chairman), Senator Sani Musa, (co-chairman); Strategy and Planning, Senator Ikechukwu Obiora (chairman), Senator Betty Apiafi (deputy chairman); Contact and Mobilisation, Senator Barau Jibrin (chairman), Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (deputy chairman).

Others are Media and Publicity, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (chairman), Femi Fani Kayode (deputy chairman); Security and Intelligence, Lawal Daura (chairman), Commodore Mohammed Barau (rtd) (deputy chairman); Transport and Logistics, Senator Bello Mandiya (chairman), Hillary Bisong (deputy chairman); Youth Groups, Prince Mustapha Audu (chairman) and Women Groups, Aisha Ismail (chairperson).

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