Hopes for the emergence of a southerner as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have been rekindled as 11 northern governors elected on the platform of the ruling party and other political leaders from the region, yesterday resolved that the presidential ticket of the party should be zoned to the South.
President Muhammadu Buhari who met over dinner last night with all the 23 presidential aspirants of the party at the State House, Abuja, was said to have supported the decision of the APC northern governors to back a southern presidential aspirant.
He urged the presidential aspirants to hold consultations, build consensus and come up with formidable candidate before the party holds its primary election from June 6 to 8, 2022.
In line with the decision of the governors and other leaders, the Jigawa State Governor, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Badaru, has withdrawn from the presidential race, just as the party’s screening committee has recommended 13 presidential aspirants.
Badaru’s counterpart in Ebonyi State, Mr. Dave Umahi, has, however, denied stepping down from the race.
Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the ruling party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu has hinted that the party may punish a frontline presidential aspirant and National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, for his recent outburst against President Buhari.
However, in a swift response, the National Vice Chairman of the party, North-west, Dr. Salihu Lukman, said Adamu’s comment on the recent outburst of Tinubu did not represent the position of the party.
In a statement issued yesterday after a meeting of the northern APC governors and political leaders from the northern states, the leaders noted that they welcomed President Buhari’s invitation to them and other stakeholders to contribute to the emergence of a strong presidential candidate for the party.
The statement was signed by Governors Aminu Masari (Katsina); Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger); Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa); Babagana Zulum (Borno); Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna); Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe); Bello Matawalle (Zamfara); Simon Lalong (Plateau); Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano); Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) and former Governor of Sokoto State, Senator Aliyu Wamakko.
Kwara State Governor, Mr AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, who was not at the meeting, has also thrown his weight behind the decision of his northern colleagues, saying it was a perfect decision taken in the overall interest of the country.
“After careful deliberation, we wish to state our firm conviction that after eight years in the office of President Buhari, the presidential candidate of the APC for the 2023 elections should be one of our teeming members from the southern states of Nigeria.
“It is a question of honour for the APC, an obligation that is not in any way affected by the decisions taken by another political party. We affirm that upholding this principle is in the interest of building a stronger, more united and more progressive country.
“We, therefore, wish to strongly recommend to President Buhari that the search for a successor as the APC’s presidential candidate be limited to our compatriots from the southern states. We appeal to all aspirants from the northern states to withdraw in the national interest and allow only the aspirants from the south to proceed to the primaries.
“We are delighted by the decision of our esteemed colleague, His Excellency, Governor Abubakar Badaru to contribute to this patriotic quest by withdrawing his presidential aspiration,” the statement explained.
The northern governors argued that the ruling party has to ensure that the 2023 elections offer a nation-building moment, reaffirming that a democratic pathway to power exists for all who value cooperation and build national platforms.
“This moment calls for the most sober and inclusive approach to selecting our party’s candidate, and we call on all APC leaders to fulfil their responsibility in this regard,” the statement added.
APC May Punish Tinubu over Outburst against Buhari, Says Adamu
The National Chairman of the APC, Adamu has hinted that the party may punish a frontline presidential aspirant, Tinubu, for his recent outburst against President Buhari.
Addressing journalists in Abuja yesterday, Adamu described Tinubu’s utterances as insulting, unbecoming, and a mark of lack of respect for the president
Adamu stated categorically that the party would henceforth be on the lookout to punish Tinubu or any other aspirant that makes a similar statement as the event unfolds.
Tinubu had while addressing delegates in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, said he made Buhari president in 2015.
Though the former Lagos State governor had in a statement issued on Friday clarified that he has the utmost respect for President Buhari, the APC National Chairman insisted that what the presidential hopeful did was not an apology, but a retraction of his statement.
Adamu argued that Tinubu’s utterances did not wipe out the impression that his comments had created in people’s minds.
His words: “Within the last three days, the country, and the world of the social media have been undaunted by the report of one of our leaders, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State when he went for his campaign in Ogun –Abeokuta. In the course of his address, he went as far as to mention what happened between him and President Muhamadu Buhari.
“He went as far as to tell his audience how President Buhari went to him; even prostrating in tears, begging him to endorse him for the presidency. He claimed that Buhari went to him. The words in Yoruba… the interpretation was very insulting, very unbecoming of a person of that standing to do what he did to a sitting president produced by the votes of APC.
“It is amazing how a fellow APC person can make that kind of comment about the president. We take exception to this and this doesn’t show any appreciable level of respect for the office of Mr. President and the person of Mr. President.
“Therefore, we want to make it public that we are saddened about the audio and video in that reportage and we condemn it in the strongest terms. We do hope he will never say that kind of thing again – especially those of APC extraction to make that kind of unbecoming comments.
“Between yesterday and this morning, it was retracted but that effort is not adequate. It doesn’t wipe out the impression that event has left in our minds. This is our position. I, as chairman of the ruling party, have the duty to come out and stand by our government, to stand by our president,” Adamu explained.
Asked if punitive measures would be taken against Tinubu, the APC national chairman said: “I don’t want to take this together because they are mischief-laden. I don’t want to take the primary screening to answer this question because doing so is finding a way to justify, and give some reasons that may have caused what he did. For one thing, I know at the time this event took place the screening committee had not made the report to us at all.
“The question of punitive measures is yes and no! This morning we saw some traces of withdrawal statements. You see, these are statements that can emerge not with the intention of the actual actions. So yes, we can’t say we don’t see in the papers what was reported. It happened. What is out is out. It is not an apology, it is trying to retract. We will be on the watch for us to penalise any member of the party not just Bola Tinubu, anybody. We will watch events as they unfold,” Adamu added.
However, in a swift reaction, the National Vice Chairman of APC, North-west, Lukman has said that Adamu’s comment did not represent the position of the party.
In a telephone interview with journalists, Lukman said while Tinubu, as well as other members of the party had acknowledged that the statement was unfortunate, it could not be used against him until the appropriate organ of the party deliberates and takes a decision on it.
The party chieftain said Adamu’s position at the moment remained his personal opinion and did not represent the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
His words: “We all, including Asiwaju himself, acknowledged that it was unfortunate he made those statements and it is his right to express his frustration, it should be recognised as such.
“But nobody, no matter the position of the person, can use it against him unless the party follows the due process through the rightful organs of the party to discuss it.
“So, the opinion expressed by Abdullahi Adamu was his personal opinion and it is his right to present it to any organ of the party for consideration.
“But until that opinion is adopted by the organ of the party, it cannot be considered as the position of the party. It is not the position of APC, it is his personal opinion,” Lukman added.
In a related development, Adamu has stated categorically that statutory delegates are excluded from the special convention of the party, adding that the party has already served an appeal for the judgment given by a Federal High Court in Kano.
A Federal High Court in Kano had on Friday ruled that Section 84 of the Electoral Act did not prevent statutory delegates from voting.
Reacting to the judgment, Adamu noted: “Well, I am a lawyer, we have served notice of appeal and matter is in the court and as far as we are concerned, this convention is concerned, statutory delegates are excluded.”
APC Screening Panel Recommends 13 Aspirants
In a related development, the John Odigie-Oyegun panel that screened the party’s 23 presidential aspirants has recommended 13 aspirants to the party. The recommended aspirants include Governor Badaru of Kebbi State; Senator Godswill Akpabio; Mr Chibuike Amaechi; Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Mr Yahaya Bello; Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi; Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Senator Bola Tinubu; Mr Tein Jack-Rich; Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; Dr Christopher Onu and Ebonyi State Governor, Mr Dave Umahi.
The National Chairman of the party, Adamu, has however, clarified that no presidential aspirant has been disqualified.
“I want to say very clearly that no aspirant has been disqualified. Interestingly, President Muhamadu Buhari has invited them to the villa for dinner today (yesterday). He will be interacting with all of them today,” Adamu told journalists in Abuja.
Meanwhile, ahead of the party’s presidential primary, the Ondo State Governor, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has promised that the APC will have a hitch-free event on Monday.
Akeredolu said this in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Richard Olatunde in Akure.
The governor, who is the Chairman of, Sub-committee on Security and Compliance for the APC Special Convention and Presidential Primary Election, said that the party was ready for the election.
Buhari Urges Aspirants to Come up With Formidable Candidate
At last night’s meeting with all the 23 APC aspirants, President Buhari urged them to hold consultations, and come up with a formidable candidate before the party holds its primary election from June 6 to 8, 2022.
The president, according to a statement issued last night by his Media Adviser, Mr Femi Adesina, said the meeting was a continuation of the ongoing consultative process aimed at ensuring a smooth and strategic emergence of a standard-bearer, who will lead the APC to a resounding victory in the upcoming presidential polls.
The president added: “Our party, the APC, has won two successive presidential elections in 2015, first when we were in the opposition and 2019 when I sought re-election. Both processes were achieved through unity of purpose, strategic alignment, consultation, fairness, determination and effective leadership. In both instances, national and party interests were overriding factors in our deliberations and decision-making.
“The 2023 elections are fast approaching in a global, regional and national environment that is constantly changing and challenging. This demands that our party should become more aware of the changing environment, be responsive to the yearnings of our citizens, re-evaluate our strategy and strengthen our internal mechanism so that we would sustain the electoral successes.
“I am pleased to note that the party, recognising the significance of all these demands, has over time developed several democratically acceptable processes and policies, that promote consultation, internal cohesion and leadership to facilitate victories at the polls.”
The president recalled the consultation he had held with stakeholders “that would help the electoral fortunes of our party, beginning with the state governors. This is the second in the series and I still look forward to meeting with party stakeholders. “These steps are being taken to ensure that the unity and cohesion of the party are sustained and to provide direction.
“Amongst other things, I reminded the APC governors of the need for the party to proceed to the 2023 presidential elections with strength, unity of purpose and to present a flag bearer who will give Nigerians a sense of hope and confidence while ensuring victory for our party. I extend a similar reminder to all of you distinguished aspirants.”
President Buhari said he was aware that there is anxiety among party members about the outcome of the process.
“Given these circumstances, I charge you to recognise the importance of the stability and unity of the party, which cannot be overemphasised.
“Similarly, I wish to remind you that our choice of flag bearer must be formidable, appealing to the electorate across the board and should command such ability to unify the country and capacity to address our critical challenges.
“Ahead of the convention, the party machinery has screened and found all aspirants eminently qualified. Recognising this fact, the Screening Committee has, amongst others, recommended that consensus building through consultation, be intensified.
“Without prejudice to your qualifications, I urge all of you to hold consultations amongst yourselves and with the party, to build a consensus in a manner that would help the party reduce the number of aspirants, bring up a formidable candidate and scale down the anxiety of party members.”
The president assured that in the interest of the nation and the party, he would continue to provide effective leadership during the transition processes and ongoing consultations, “until we successfully choose the candidate that will fly the flag of our party for the presidential elections and make the party stronger. I seek your support in this all-important responsibility.”
Earlier, in his speech, the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu had promised that all stakeholders of the party would be reached in the consultation process.
Responding on behalf of the aspirants, former Governor of the old Abia State and immediate past Minister of Science, Technology and Innovations, Dr, Ogbonnaya Onu, Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, thanked the president for his leadership and guidance, pledging that they would hold the consultations as counselled “for the unity and strength of our party, the APC.”
Southern govs hail northern colleagues on zoning
Meanwhile, the Southern Nigeria Governors’ Forum has hailed their northern counterparts on the decision to zone the APC presidential ticket to the South.
In a statement issued last night, the Chairman of the forum and Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, said the southern governors did not expect anything short of the heart-warming decision from their northern colleagues whom he described as great patriots and reliable partners in the collaborative efforts geared towards the attainment of nationhood for the country.
“This is indeed another landmark achievement in our quest for understanding, rapprochement and continual engagements for mutual beneficence.
“We acknowledge this courageous stance for equity and moral rectitude. We applaud the zeal and determination of our brothers to engage realistically and honestly. We salute this uncommon resolve to confront issues militating against the march towards nationhood and ultimate greatness. By this gesture, we are convinced of the seriousness of our colleagues to join other patriots in ensuring that the ascendant march towards stability, progress and prosperity is not truncated by indiscretion,” the statement explained.
The southern governors lauded Jigawa Governor, Badaru, for his exemplary conduct, stressing that posterity will remember him for good.
“We thank the leadership of the Northern Governors’ Forum for the patriotic zest displayed at this crucial moment. We look forward to conducting a hitch-free convention which will culminate in the election of a suitable candidate who will hoist the flag of the party with a sense of mission,” the statement added.
Culled from THISDAY