President Muhammadu Buhari Saturday urged presidential aspirants of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to consult, build consensus and come up with a formidable candidate ahead of the party’s presidential primary.
Buhari, who stated this when he hosted the 23 presidential aspirants at the State House, Abuja, urged them to hold consultations and come up with a formidable candidate before the party holds its primary election between June 6 and 8, 2022.
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The president 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 poll.
“Ahead of the convention, the party machinery has screened and found all aspirants eminently qualified. Recognising this fact, the Screening Committee has, amongst other things, 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, with a view to building 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 was quoted in a statement by his media aide, Femi Adesina as saying.
He assured that in the interest of the country and the party, he would continue to provide effective leadership during the transition processes and ongoing consultations, “until we successfully make the choice on the candidate that will fly the flag of our party for the presidential election and make the party stronger. I seek your support in this all-important responsibility.”
Earlier, 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, a former governor of old Abia State and immediate past Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, 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 counseled “for the unity and strength of our party, the APC.”
Northern govs to Buhari: Pick your successor from South
Eleven northern governors have asked President Buhari to pick his successor from the southern part of the country.
The governors’ position came 24 hours after Daily Trust on Sunday reported how a clique in the presidency had succeeded in selling the candidature of Senate President Ahmad Lawan to the president.
There have been agitations in the polity about where the successor of President Buhari, who is completing his second term, should come from within southern governors, insisting that it is the turn of the South to govern the country.
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had elected former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from Adamawa as its flag-bearer for the general elections.
Buhari had on Tuesday met with the 22 governors of the APC and told them that he needed their support in choosing his successor. He said the choice of the party’s presidential candidate must be “someone who would give the Nigerian masses a sense of victory and confidence even before the elections.”
The northern governors, who are members of the APC, in a statement signed by all of them, urged all the aspirants for the presidential ticket of the party from the North to pull out of the race.
The governors are Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Abdullahi A. Sule (Nasarawa), Babagana Umara Zulum (Borno), Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai (Kaduna) and Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe).
Others are Bello M. Matawalle (Zamfara), Simon Bako Lalong (Plateau), Dr Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa) and a former governor of Sokoto State, Aliyu Wamakko.
The governors, who rose from an emergency meeting, said that after Buhari’s tenure, the southern part of the country should take over the mantle of leadership.
The statement reads, “After a careful deliberation, we wish to state our firm conviction that after eight years in office of President Muhammadu 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 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 northern states to withdraw in the national interest and allow only the aspirants from the South to proceed to the primary.
“The APC has a duty 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 fulfill their responsibility in this regard.”
Southern govs welcome development
Responding to the decision, the chairman of the Southern Governors Forum and Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, welcomed the decision of the northern governors, describing it as heart-warming.
“We did not expect anything short of this heart-warming decision from our colleagues, great patriots and reliable partners in the collaborative efforts towards the attainment of nationhood for our dear country. This is indeed another landmark achievement in our quest for understanding, rapprochement and continual engagement 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 march towards stability, progress and prosperity is not truncated by indiscretion.”
Badaru pulls out of race
Meanwhile, the governor of Jigawa State, Abubakar Badaru, has pulled out of the race.
With Badaru out of the race, the North has Senate President Lawan; Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello and former Zamfara State governor, Senator Ahmed Yarima, who are still in the race for the APC ticket.
On his part, the Ebonyi State governor and presidential aspirant on the platform of the party has said he would not fight Buhari’s anointed candidate for the 2023 poll.
He stated this when Lawan met with him on Saturday in Abuja. Umahi said Buhari was a good man, but added that he is being hurt by his enemies.
All the aspirants were in attendance at the dinner, which started at 9pm.
S/ West moves to present consensus candidate
Meanwhile, political leaders from the South West geopolitical are making frantic efforts to prevail on aspirants from the zone to present a common front ahead of tomorrow’s convention.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the promoters of the consensus move in the South West – former APC chairman Chief Bisi Akande and former Ogun State governor, Olusegun Osoba – have also reached out to prominent traditional rulers in the zone to prevail on some of the aspirants to consider stepping down.
A meeting convened by the promoters of the consensus was ongoing as at 1am this morning.
The duo of Akande and Osoba had earlier met with the aspirants in Lagos, where it was agreed that they should conduct their electioneering campaigns devoid of hostility, free of rancour and in an amicable manner.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum and Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, as well as former Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, senator representing Ondo North senatorial district, Robert Ajayi Boroffice and the Serving Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church, Nigeria, Pastor Tunde Bakare, are the presidential aspirants from the South West.
It was learnt that either Tinubu or Osinbajo, who are seen as the leading aspirants, will emerge as the consensus candidate if the leaders are able to push through the move.
We may sanction Tinubu, no statutory delegates for primary – Abdullahi Adamu
The national chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, has said the party may punish Tinubu over his comment “against” President Buhari.
Tinubu had few days ago said that if not because of him, Buhari wouldn’t have been president of the country.
Briefing newsmen at the APC headquarters on Saturday in Abuja, Adamu said, “We may punish him (Tinubu) for his utterances against the president.”
Adamu also said no presidential aspirant had been disqualified from contesting at the party’s presidential primary.
On the issue of delegates to the convention, Adamu said, “Well, I am a lawyer, we have served notice of appeal and the matter is in the court. And as far as we and this convention are concerned, statutory delegates are excluded.”
Meanwhile, the senior special assistant to President Buhari on special duties, Mallam Ya’u Darazo, has urged Nigerians, especially members of the APC, to ignore the malicious attempt by the opponents of Asiwaju Tinubu to misrepresent what he told party leaders and delegates in Abeokuta, Ogun State on Thursday.
Darazo, in a statement he signed in his personal capacity as a supporter of the presidential ambition of Tinubu, noted that the distortion of what the frontline presidential aspirant said was a dubious attempt to cause discord between him and President Buhari.
“I have a message for them (mischief makers). They have failed woefully. They should not take Nigerians for granted; Nigerians are wise enough. Let the mischief makers note that good and purposeful leadership is not on the same page with mischief. It is good that Nigerians know them early enough. It is very clear that their purpose of seeking leadership is not service-driven.”
By Ismail Mudashir, Muideen Olaniyi, Saawua Terzungwe (Abuja), Abiodun Alade (Lagos) & Bola Ojuola (Akure)