Presidential race: APC changes date of primary as INEC extends deadline | Dailytrust

Presidential race: APC changes date of primary as INEC extends deadline

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has bowed to pressure from the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and shifted the June 3 deadline for the...

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has bowed to pressure from the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and shifted the June 3 deadline for the conclusion of primaries by six days.

Some of the 18 registered political parties reportedly told the electoral umpire that they wanted to sort out many things in order to get it right while fielding their candidates for the 2023 presidential election.

It was gathered that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was one of the parties that made case for extension of time.

The ruling party has now moved its primary to June 6, 7 and 8. The exercise was initially scheduled for May 29/30.

The extension of the deadline by INEC has given parties more time to fine-tune their processes and strategies for the emergence of their presidential candidate.

Despite the extension, it was learnt that the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would go ahead with its programmes. 

Daily Trust Saturday reports that the APC has neither constituted a screening committee nor screened its presidential aspirants a day to its scheduled presidential primary.   

It was gathered that the APC stakeholders were equally confused and undecided over zoning and the mode of primary to adopt for the nomination of its presidential flag-bearer.

The National Working Committee (NWC) of the party had postponed indefinitely, the screening slated for last Monday. 

 Party sources said the delegates were still in their states as there was no direction on the presidential primary. Key stakeholders, Daily Trust Saturday reports, are still in states conducting primaries for other positions. Today, the party senatorial primaries are ongoing in states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

A leader of the party said the screening could be done on the eve of the primary.

 “There is no cause for alarm. We are on course,” he said. This paper had on Friday exclusively reported that President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday asked the party leaders and governors of the party to ensure the presidential primary is free and fair.

 An ally of the president said that during his meeting with the governors, Buhari was silent on his preferred candidate.

With the new development, APC stakeholders say the party would re-strategise as negotiations and horse-trading continued, even as there is a likelihood of the party postponing its primaries.

Meanwhile, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Barrister Felix Morka, neither answered his call nor responded to a text message sent to him over the issue as of the time of filing this report last night.

 

 

The emergency meeting

At the meeting at INEC headquarters in Abuja, IPAC asked for a week extension between 3rd June to 9th for political parties to conclude the conduct of their presidential conventions and other primaries.

However, on Friday night, a few hours after the meeting, the commission agreed with the parties and shifted the deadline by six days.

The parties had earlier requested for a 30-60 days shift which the commission declined.  

INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, who issued a statement on the outcome of the meeting, however said that the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the conduct of the 2023 General Election released on Saturday 26th February 2022 remain intact. 

“Earlier, the political parties had requested for 37-60 days extension of the timeline for primaries and the nomination of candidates. The commission was emphatic that this request could not be granted because it would disrupt other scheduled activities on the Timetable. This position of the Commission has not changed.

“However, based on the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election, the parties have now pleaded with the commission to use the six-day period between 4th and 9th June to conclude outstanding primaries and prepare to upload the list of candidates and their affidavits on the INEC Candidates Nomination Portal.

“The commission did not schedule any specific activity during this period. The idea is to simply give parties time to compile the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates before uploading same to the INEC Candidates Nomination Portal from 10th-17th June 2022,” Okoye said.  

He said, “However, this request is granted in respect of outstanding primaries only without prejudice to those already concluded by political parties. The Commission will not monitor already concluded primaries.”  

But speaking on the matter, the Chairman Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Mallam Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, told Daily Trust that the development was worrisome, especially that Nigerians were developing confidence on the electoral body.

According to him, some powerful forces were trying to undermine the collective aspirations of Nigerians to have free, fair and credible primaries and also the general elections.

“This singular action of shifting the primary deadline is not good for the nation and the reputation of INEC itself,” he said.   

On her part, the Director, The Electoral Hub (TEH), Princess Hamman-Obels, told Daily Trust Saturday that six days’ window is okay but should not affect the overall timeline for 2023 elections.

Former INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, Wednesday, advised the INEC boss, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, not to give-in to the pressures from political parties to adjust the electoral timetable.

The former boss who stated this, in Abuja, during a one-way colloquium on: emerging issues that will shape the 2023 general election in Nigeria, said that one of the repercussions of bowing to the pressure of modifying the electoral timetable, would serve as a recipe to electoral disaster.

“If you change the time for primaries, it will affect everything. You will have to keep on adjusting and adjusting and you will lose trust and confidence and may affect the actual outcome of the election.”

9 contenders to watch in PDP, APC   

Amid the ongoing intrigues, the pendulum is swinging towards nine out of the 38 presidential aspirants as the two ruling APC and the PDP to elect their flag-bearers for the 2023 general elections.

For the PDP, delegates from across the country have arrived in Abuja ahead of the primary today at the Velodrome of the National Stadium.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that the event is expected to last for two days, even as hotels in the city centre of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have since been booked.  Security around the venue of the exercise has been beefed up.

The ruling party had announced that its primary would hold at the Eagle Square but it is not certain whether it will hold. 

PDP aspirants lobby delegates in hotels

The fate of the aspirants of both parties would be decided by 3,151 delegates selected across the country. A total of 811 will determine who flies the PDP ticket, while 2,340 will pick the APC presidential flag-bearer for the 2023 presidential election.  

Following the delay in signing the re-amended electoral act, statutory delegates, including the president, governors and local government chairmen, among others, are not going to be part of the elections.

After touring states, Daily Trust Saturday gathered that the aspirants, through their agents, are moving from one hotel to another to seal their deal with the delegates ahead of the primary.

A coordinator of one of the PDP aspirants told this paper that they had reached the final leg of their push.

“We have all returned to Abuja for the final push. We are moving across the hotels to ensure we seal our pact with the delegates. The visits to states were just to lay a foundation and familiarisation.  

“We have reached the main stage where we will extract commitment of the delegates ahead of the commencement of the election,” the zonal coordination of an aspirant said.  

A party leader said with the collapse of all moves to reduce the number of the aspirants, all the 14 aspirants would slug it out at the venue of the primary.

 “As it is now, they will all slug it out at the venue of the primary. This is the only way to go. And I think this is good for our party and the system,” he said.   

 

Atiku, Saraki, Wike, Tambuwal set for battle  

With the defection of the former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, the PDP now has 14 aspirants to battle for the ticket today.  

The PDP’s 14 contenders are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike (Rivers); former Senate President Bukola Saraki; Governor Bala Mohammed (Bauchi); former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Sokoto); veteran journalist and publisher, Dele Momodu and Diana Oliver Tariela, the only female aspirant.   

Others are Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa; Governor Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom); ex-banker, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen; former Governor Ayo Fayose, and Charles Chikwendu.   

Credible sources said there were efforts in many quarters to form alliances and compromises.  

However, feelers from the party stakeholders noted that the chances of Atiku, Saraki, Wike and Tambuwal clinching the ticket are brighter than the remaining nine.  

Atiku  

Atiku, who was the flag-bearer of the party in the 2019 election, is seen by many leaders of the PDP as the aspirant with the requisite war chest and connections to confront the ruling party and win the presidential election.

Atiku had few weeks ago said he had over 11million ready votes in his kitty to lead the PDP to victory in next year’s election if he emerged as its presidential candidate.  

He also asked the party’s leadership to grant him the right of first refusal for the 2023 ticket, citing his performance in the last election season.  

Also, the dilly-dallying in the APC, it was gathered, was because of the former vice president.  

Sources said handlers of the APC feared that should Atiku pick the PDP ticket, their chances of retaining power are slim, especially if their candidate emerges from the South.  

Though other pundits have dismissed the claim, the apparent suspense in the APC indicated an aura of ‘Let’s wait and see how it goes on the other side first.’  

A chieftain of the party from the North said the race for the PDP presidential ticket was essentially a two-man race.  

“It is obvious that the election is going to be a contest between Atiku and Wike. Between the two of them, however, Atiku has an upper hand. Other aspirants that are poised to pull surprises at the convention include Saraki and Tambuwal.  

“Some of the aspirants are likely to step down for Atiku at the venue of the primary. He is the candidate that can defeat the APC in the 2023 general elections,” he said.

Saraki  

He was a leading figure in the promotion of the collapsed consensus arrangement. Although the movement failed, his supporters see his nomination as a boost to his aspiration.  

Some stakeholders see him as a bridge between the young and old to pacify the young generation, especially if the ruling APC decides to present an older candidate.  

Some members of the NWC are also said to be working for the actualisation of the Saraki candidature as someone from the North Central if the zoning arrangement does not work out. 

Wike 

Wike played a key role in the sustenance of the party after it was defeated in the 2019 general elections. Party sources said that aside from footing the bills of the party, he saw to the constitution of a new NWC.  

He recently told members of the NWC that he worked for their emergence as leaders of the party and that it was time to pay him back.

He has a large war chest and some southern governors backing him, who are sure to sway delegates in their states in his favour.

Tambuwal 

The former Speaker of the House of Representatives is all out to actualise his ambition. He is one of the promoters of consensus, but the nomination of Saraki and Bala Mohammed by Professor Ango Abdullahi negatively affected him. He rejected the outcome.  

As chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Tambuwal is one of the influential governors of the party. His supporters say he is the aspirant that can defeat the ruling party.  

Osinbajo, Tinubu, Lawan, Amaechi, Onu contenders to watch in APC 

Twenty-eight aspirants picked the forms of the APC for the presidency. They are APC national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; former Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; a former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole; Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello; former governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun; Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi;  Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele and former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha.  

Others are Senate President Ahmad Lawan; Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi; Jigawa State governor, Abubakar Badaru; Pastor Tunde Bakare; Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade; former Senate President Ken Nnamani; former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu; Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; former governor of Zamfara State, Sani Yarima; former Minister of Information, Ikeobasi Mokelu and a female aspirant, Uju Ohanenye; Nicholas Felix; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; AFDB president, Akinwunmi Adesina and Tein Jack-Rich.

However, five of the 28 aspirants did not fill and return their forms, including Jonathan, Emefiele, Adesina, Ngige and Ayade at the time the exercise was closed. But yesterday, there was a report online that Jonathan had submitted the forms through the ‘backdoor’.  

Party stalwarts said the chances of Osinbajo, Tinubu, Lawan, Amaechi and Onu to clinch the ticket were bright.  

Osinbajo  

He was Commissioner for Justice and the Attorney-General of Lagos State throughout the eight-year reign of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. When the Muslim-Muslim ticket could not fly in 2015, he was picked as the running mate of President Buhari.  

He has toured the 36 states and the FCT, where he interacted with the delegates of the party ahead of the primary.  As Buhari’s deputy since 2015, his supporters say he has the blessings of the president to succeed him.  

Tinubu  

The former Lagos State governor played a key role in the formation of the APC and did the same in the emergence of President Buhari. To people around him, it is payback time. They said the president should assist Tinubu to actualise his lifelong ambition.    

Like the vice president, the national leader of the APC has interacted with the party’s delegates in states.  If the primary is conducted, his supporters believe he would have his way.  

The main challenge that may weigh down Tinubu’s aspiration is the issue of running mate. 

Amaechi 

Twice, he was the director-general of Buhari’s campaign organisation. The former governor of Rivers State has been to many states like other aspirants to woo delegates.  

One of the leaders in Amaechi’s campaign team told this paper that they believe the former Rivers State governor is the president’s candidate.  

Lawan  

He joined the race at a time there is speculation about a plot by some people around the president to retain power in the North beyond 2023.  The Senate president, who has been in the National Assembly since 1999, has, however, punctured this claim.  

While speaking in Katsina during his visit, he said, “I am running as a Nigerian presidential aspirant, not a northern aspirant.

 “I am not running as a northern aspirant because the impression created is that I am a northern aspirant or that northerners are saying they are not going to allow power to the South.  

“I come with all my qualifications for that office and people should judge me based on what I have to offer.”   

There are reports that if the PDP picks it candidate from the North, Lawan would be considered for the APC ticket.  

Onu  

He is the immediate past Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation. He resigned to contest for the presidency. He is seen as one of the South East leaders close to President Buhari. There were reports that he is being considered as the dark horse.  

‘It’s a point of no return’  

Commenting on the high profile politicking in the two leading parties, a research fellow in the United States, Aminu Abdullahi, said the PDP and APC ought to have done better in terms of their preparations.  

“The two parties thought that 2023 is still very far, and that is why they are racing against time now. In the US and other places, the coast tends to be clear far ahead of time on who is the likely president.

“In Nigeria, there is little synergy between elected officials and their political parties. There is serious suspicion, and that is why we are having some of these challenges of campaign and selection management. I hope we grow,” he said.

Court clears Jonathan for race 

A Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State has declared Jonathan eligible to contest the 2023 presidential election. 

The presiding judge, Justice Isa Dashen, made the declaration in the judgement that lasted for over two hours on Friday. 

Justice Dashen held that Jonathan was only elected into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria once in 2011 after he had completed the term of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua in 2010, “not on the basis of any election but by constitutional appointment.” 

He further declared as “spurious, baseless and unsubstantiated,” the plaintiff’s claim that Jonathan had been elected as president in two previous elections. 

He also ruled that Jonathan’s right to contest for the office of president again could not be denied by any retroactive law. 

Reacting to the judgement, counsel to the plaintiffs, led by Sigha Egbuwabi, said they would study the judgement and head to the appellate court. 

In an origination summons filed by some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), led by Andy Solomon and Idibiye Abraham, the plaintiffs had sought an order of the court stating that Jonathan is not affected by the fourth alteration to the constitution barring vice presidents who succeed their principals from serving more than one full term.  

In the suit, marked FHC/YNG/CS/86/2022, Jonathan, the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were listed as defendants.

 

Ismail Mudashir, Abbas Jimoh (Abuja) & Bassey Willie (Yenagoa)

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