Spirited efforts to come up with a consensus presidential candidate ahead of today’s All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential primary collapsed last night, Daily Trust reports.
Our correspondents report that the presidency, the APC governors and the leadership of the ruling party are not on the same page even though marathon meetings were being held to mend fences so that their differences would not manifest at the Eagle Square.
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In the event they failed, Daily Trust gathered from reliable sources that all the presidential aspirants would be allowed to slug it out.
With the development, the 2,322 delegates selected from across the 774 local government areas of the country would now decide the fate of the 23 presidential aspirants at Eagle Square. Each LGA has three delegates.
In the last 72 hours, there have been moves by leaders of the party to come up with a consensus candidate.
The president had during his meeting with the aspirants on Saturday urged them to build consensus and come up with a formidable candidate.
Daily Trust reports that the president’s directive motivated meeting by various tendencies in the party amid tension and horse-trading.
The South West, South East and other groupings in the party met severally to come forth with a consensus to no avail.
While the regional leaders of the party have continued with their meetings, the president on his part, had met with governors and elders of the party with a view to coming up with a consensus candidate.
The president had so far held four meetings on the matter.
It was gathered that the president during his meeting with the National Advisory Council on Sunday, asked the critical stakeholders to come up with a consensus before the primary.
A source said following the president’s request, a 3-man committee comprising the party’s National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, the Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha was constituted.
“The committee could not do anything, hence the president’s statement that they should go to the poll,” he said.
However, another source said when the president gave the mandate to the advisory council, he was told that they could not carry out the assignment. They advised that the governors should be given the responsibility.
However, when the report filtered around that the national chairman has announced that Senate President Ahmad Lawan was the consensus candidate, the presidency countered the claim, further making the problem more complicated.
I’ve no anointed presidential candidate – Buhari
Following the collapse of the consensus efforts, President Buhari yesterday said he has “no preferred candidate” and has “anointed no one.”
The president spoke at a meeting with APC governors from the northern states held at the State House, Abuja.
His remarks came amid reports that Senator Adamu had told members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party that Senator Lawan was the consensus presidential candidate of the party.
Adamu had claimed that he made the announcement after meeting with President Buhari.
However, Buhari, who cleared all doubts about where he stood on the choice of a presidential candidate for the APC, expressed his determination to ensure that “There shall be no imposition of any candidate on the party.”
Sources said Senator Adamu must be working with a certain cabal in pushing for the candidature of Senator Lawan and that the buy-in of other critical stakeholders was not forthcoming.
The president said the party was important and its members must be respected and made to feel they were important.
Buhari, in a statement issued by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, said he had a clear mind about what he was doing and asked the APC governors to feel the same way.
“You were elected as I was. Have a clear mind as I have. God gave us the chance; we have no reason to complain. We must be ready to take pain as we take joy. Allow the delegates to decide. The party must participate, nobody will appoint anybody,” he said.
Daily Trust reports that this was a clear departure from Buhari’s posture when he first met with the APC governors a few days ago where he told them to allow him to choose his successor the way they were allowed a free hand to have a say in their states.
“In keeping with the established internal policies of the party and as we approach the convention in a few days, therefore, I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor, who would fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023,” the president told the governors on May 31, at a meeting, which was attended by the national chairman.
Northern govs apologise to Buhari, insist on power shift to South
Earlier in their addresses during their meeting with President Buhari yesterday, the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Governor Simon Bako Lalong and Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of the Progressive Governors Forum, said they had come to affirm their position that the party’s candidate in the presidential election shall come from the southern part of the country.
They apologised to the president for what they called “The leakage of their signed memorandum” which was not in support of any particular candidate in the South and gave assurances to the president on their readiness to accept his leadership on the matter.
While briefing State House reporters after the meeting, Governor Lalong said that they decided on the power shift in the interests of unity, justice and peace in the country.
He said the president agreed with their position and maintained that the presidential candidate must emerge through a transparent process.
He said President Buhari told them he did not have an anointed candidate for now and directed them to meet the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) to agree on the succession plan.
He disclosed that more suggestions would be presented to the president after the meeting of all APC governors scheduled for yesterday.
“We sat down in the last few days and 13 out of 14 governors agreed. We decided to go and advise Mr President. While we were on our way to advise Mr President, I think part of the discussions that we had leaked out to the press. Well, we still went ahead and we told him. Mr President, being a democrat, said no, he must listen to us, he would listen to us. And so, Mr President granted the opportunity today,” he said.
He said that consensus is part of the democratic process and their recommendation was meant to bring out a very peaceful process.
On the absence of the Governor of Kogi State at the meeting where the power shift decision was taken, Lalong said his colleague was not part of the agreement as his signature was not on the statement.
In his contribution, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State said it was the democratic right of the governor of Kogi State to excuse himself.
At the meeting with the president were El-Rufai, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno, Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Mohammed Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Mohammed Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), and Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq (Kwara).
NWC divided over Lawan
There is a sharp crack in the NWC of the party over the purported endorsement of Lawan.
Addressing a press conference on Monday evening at the APC headquarters in Abuja, the party’s National Organising Secretary, Sulaiman Argungu, who was flanked by other members of the NWC excluding Adamu, said there was nothing like consensus candidate.
Our correspondent reports that this contradicted the story that filtered earlier in the day, which quoted Senator Adamu as telling the NWC members that Senator Lawan was the consensus candidate of the ruling party.
Argungu, while acknowledging that the chairman only told them of the development as mere information said it was not deliberated upon.
He said the governors from the North and South have all agreed that there should be a power shift to the South, adding that the NWC cannot do otherwise.
Meanwhile, at the time of filing this report, the governors had met with members of the NWC at the party’s secretariat in Abuja but Senator Adamu was not part of the meeting.
However, there was no comment from any of the governors while leaving the venue and when approached by our correspondent, the Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Abubakar Kyari said there was no consensus yet.
It was gathered after the meeting at the party’s secretariat that the governors and party leaders would meet with the chairman at his house.
Also in a statement last night, the chairman of Southern Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, described the announcement of Senator Lawan as consensus candidate by Senator Adamu as “expensive joke.”
He said it was contrary to the position of APC northern governors and their counterpart in the South, adding that the national chairman was on a ‘flight of fancy’ when he made a pronouncement that was beyond his competence.
Aspirants reach out to delegates in hotels
Meanwhile, the frontline aspirants including Tinubu, Osinbajo, Amaechi, Fayemi and Lawan through their agents yesterday reached out to the delegates in their hotel rooms to seal the pact with them ahead of today’s election.
It was gathered that while delegates from states being governed by APC were provided accommodation by their state governments, those from non-APC states were given hotels by aspirants.
A lawmaker, who is a coordinator for one of the aspirants, said they have provided stipends to delegates for food.
“We have not started the main stuff but we have watered the ground,” he said.
Another source said the delegates were being reached through their governors.
“We are not going directly. You know we met almost all the delegates during our state tour. So, whatever we are doing now is through the governors. And in states where we don’t have governors, we are reaching out to them through their state leaders,” he said.
Meanwhile, a former President of the Senate and contender for the presidential ticket, Ken Nnamani has withdrawn from the race.
Nnamani who had picked his expression of interest and nomination forms for N100m to contest the party’s ticket at the primary slated for today told newsmen yesterday in Abuja, that he withdrew because the party had jettisoned zoning.
He also said that the primary had been monetised by some serving political office holders and party chieftains and did not allow him to market his profile.
By Ismail Mudashir, Muideen Olaniyi & Saawua Terzungwe