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‘Let the Delegates Decide’: Osinbajo, Tinubu, Fayemi, Amaechi, Umahi, Lawan Battle for APC Presidential Ticket

Ahead of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) special convention and presidential primary on Tuesday, in Abuja, stakeholders in the party, including the progressive governors, Monday, reduced the number of

Ahead of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) special convention and presidential primary on Tuesday, in Abuja, stakeholders in the party, including the progressive governors, Monday, reduced the number of aspirants jostling to fly the party’s flag to five in order to properly manage the voting exercise.

From the 23 cleared by the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun Screening Committee to contest the presidential primary, the top six in the race now are the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu; Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; former Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi; Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi and the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan.

However, not satisfied with the number still in the race, President Muhammadu Buhari, after meeting with governors of the party at a meeting, which started Monday night and dragged till the early hours of Tuesday, directed the governors to further reduce the names to two or three, so it would be a straight fight between those shortlisted to contest.

Although it’s nothing close to the United States Super Tuesday, when the greatest number of US states – about 14 of them – hold primary elections and caucuses, where approximately one-third of all delegates to the presidential nominating conventions could be won, Tuesday’s presidential primary of the ruling APC, is a coincidence, which unfortunately, has birthed more crises than the party leadership had envisaged.

Reports earlier Tuesday that the National Chairman of APC, Senator Abdulahi Adamu, had endorsed Lawan, unsettled the convention atmosphere, a development, which first precipitated a meeting of the northern governors of the party with President Buhari.

The president, who immediately issued an official statement to quell tension, however, made public his stand on the choice of a presidential candidate for the APC, saying he had no preference amongst the 23 presidential aspirants.

He also wrote a letter to the delegates partaking in Tuesday’s presidential primary election, and pleaded with them to exercise their rights without allowing any form of inducements or manipulations.

The APC governors had left a meeting at the party secretariat and headed to another one with the president, armed with five names from the southern presidential aspirants as part of their resolution, in addition to Lawan, a northern aspirant, who has refused to stand down, making the total number of those set for final showdown to six.

Going through the list, the president directed, albeit in form of advice, that they should prune down the list to two or three, preferably two so it would be a straight fight between the two at the convention today.

But seeing that the governors seemed uncomfortable with the advice, the president then said if they found it difficult to further prune down the list from the ones shared with him, then, they should let everyone go for an election.

The progressives governors are billed to meet again Tuesday morning to wrap up their consultations, take a decision and also issue a statement to that effect, after they might have pruned down the list to a manageable number.

Yet, an apparently angry Adamu, had avoided a meeting with the governors, where the issues were meant to be looked at collectively and a solution proffered.

Relatedly, Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu, has boasted that Adamu would present Lawan to the president on Tuesday as the consensus option, an idea the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, has also dismissed as at best, an opinion of the APC chairman.

But the camp of one of the presidential hopefuls and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in a statement by Babatunde Ogala and Kehinde Bamigbetan, on behalf of the Tinubu Presidential Campaign Organisation, has warned on the legal impossibility of a consensus and said the delegates must be allowed to determine the choice of the party for presidential candidate.

This is as a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, has announced his withdrawal from the presidential race in the light of the unsavoury developments, while a former National Secretary of the defunct Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Senator John Akpanudoedehe, has quit the party.

However, Adamu, apparently unhappy with the reports that exposed his underhand intrigues, on Monday, chased out all the journalists covering activities of the party from the secretariat.

But before his meeting with the governors late Monday night, Buhari, at a meeting with the Northern APC governors, State House, Abuja, stated emphatically that he had “no preferred candidate”.

He also stressed that he had “anointed no one,” and was determined to ensure that, “there shall be no imposition of any candidate on the party.”

According to a statement by his spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, Buhari said, the party was important and its members must be respected, and made to feel they were important, stressing that 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 the joy. Allow the delegates to decide. The party must participate; nobody will appoint anybody,” the president stated.

Earlier, in their addresses, Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State and Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State of the Progressive Governors Forum, said they had come to affirm the position of the Northern Governors that the party’s candidate in the presidential election shall come from the southern part of the country.

They apologised to the President for the leakage of their signed memorandum, which was not in support of any particular candidate and gave assurances to the president on their readiness to accept his leadership on the matter.

Also speaking with newsmen, Lalong reiterated the stand taken at the weekend by the APC Northern Governors that power must shift to the South in the presidential primary of the party.

He said the essence of the meeting with the president was to formally brief him about their stand on power shift and to get the backing of the party’s national leader.

His words: “We had a meeting this afternoon with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, our dear President Muhammadu Buhari and this meeting is also in line with part of the consultations that Mr. President had.

“Of course, Mr. President had a meeting with us governors and series of people, but at the APC Northern Governors’ Forum, we sat down, we reviewed a lot of things in this country and we discussed at length about the unity of this country, about the need for progress and the need for inclusiveness, and also the need for accommodation.

“We sat down in the last few days and 13 out of 14 governors agreed. We took a decision 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 Mr. President. 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.

“Our mission today is to reaffirm our position on that statement. We also apologised to him that that statement was made by all of us and we reaffirmed the position, but we apologised that the statement leaked before even our consultations with him.

“However, it is now in the message, not the messenger. So, Mr. President was very happy. He took our position and out of that discussion, Mr. President, as a believer in democratic process, believe that any candidate must emerge through a transparent process and the emphasis that Mr. President told us that for this election, for now, he has no anointed candidate and therefore directed that the Progressive Governors Forum meet with the National Working Committee of the party to agree and proffer further solutions and recommendations for his own succession.

“For emphasis, those of you who read it, I have a copy of what we wrote, which was already out of press, and I said we wrote it and we stand by it; that in the interest of unity, in the interests of peace, we recommended that and also justice, our recommendation is that the next President should come from the south.

“I told you that the President believes in democratic process, but even during democratic process, that are consultations, that are consensus, is also part of democratic process. Even our constitution provides for that; it says consensus and then election, either direct or indirect. So, what we’re doing is part of the build-up towards the election. What we’re also saying is recommendation as we think that will bring out a very peaceful process.”

Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, explained that his Kogi State counterpart, Yahaya Bello, who was also a presidential aspirant asked to be excused from the meeting with the president, because he did not believe in zoning presidency to the South.

He said: “We met before coming to meet with Mr. President, we met all of us, including the governor of Kogi State. As you can see, he’s not the only aspirant, the governor of Jigawa State is also an aspirant and he’s here with us and we met. But the governor of Kogi State chose to excuse himself from meeting with Mr. President, because he believes that he does not agree with our position.

“There are 14 APC governors out of the 19 Northern states. 13 of us are on one page on this subject and we all came to see the President, but the governor of Kogi State excused himself and it is within his democratic rights to excuse himself. But 12 out of 14 is a super majority. 13 out of 14 is an even bigger super majority and the 13 of us met with the President today.”

Responding to question as to if Bello was invited to the meeting, where the Northern APC governors took the decision, El-Rufai confirmed that invitation was duly extended to him but failed to make it to the meeting.

“He was invited to the meeting, he had a clash, he didn’t make it. Look, I have said this over and over. I don’t know why people assume that when you have 100 people, everyone must agree before a decision can be taken. That is the key to analysis paralysis.

“When the majority, or even a super majority, like 12 out of 14, takes a decision, everyone is bound. There is no time that everyone will agree to an issue. It’s part of human nature. But what is the majority view of Northern governors? We represent the majority, indeed a super majority. Also, in any case, his name is not on our list, we didn’t write his name. So even without writing his name, it shows that he was not part of it.”

The northern APC governors that attended the meeting with the President included Bagudu (Kebbi), Lalong (Plateau), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Abdulrasaq Abdulrahman (Kwara) and Babagana Zulum (Borno).

Others were Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Bello Matawale (Zamfara), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Yahaya Inuwa (Gombe), Abubakar Bello (Niger), and the Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni.

Buhari Writes Delegates, Urges Voting Without Inducement

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, wrote to all delegates taking part in picking a presidential standard-bearer for the All Progressives Congress (APC), and urged them to exercise their franchise in an atmosphere devoid of any form of inducement or manipulation.

In a message signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari, while welcoming the delegates, wrote that, “As I said when I met with the Progressives Governors Forum, last week, the outcome of this primary election should prove to the world the positive quality of the APC regarding democratic principles, culture as well as leadership.”

He added that the delegates should conduct themselves decently and in order, reiterating that the APC stood for positive change in the way of doing things, “and we must reflect this in all areas of our lives and conduct.”

President Buhari saluted all delegates, who had traveled from far and near, describing them as “the true pillars of the party, who have been our strength from formation, to our first electoral victory, the second in 2019, and to the third, by the grace of Almighty Allah, in 2023.”

He recalled what he told the National Advisory Council at State House on Sunday night, that, “We are marching towards a third straight victory since 2015, at the Presidential polls.”

To this end, he urged the delegates to vote wisely, and pick a person that would fly the banner of the party to a resounding victory next year, even as he wished all delegates a happy stay in the Federal Capital Territory, and safe trip when they travel back to their respective destinations.

Adamu Shuns Govs, Kalu Pushes for Lawan, Akeredolu Dismisses Idea

National Chairman of the APC, Abdulahi Adamu, on Monday, shunned a meeting with the governors of the party held at the national secretariat in Abuja.

This is as Senate Chief Whip, Orji Kalu, has expressed confidence that Adamu would present Lawan as the consensus candidate, while the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has dismissed the proposition by his party chairman.

The meeting scheduled between the governors and Adamu was to discuss the issue of alleged endorsement of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, as consensus candidate of the party.

The governors, who had initially agreed to brief the media on the outcome of the meeting with Adamu and other members of the National Working Committee (NEC) left after an hour as Adamu tactically stayed away.

Deputy National Chairman, North, Senator Abba Kyari, told journalists that the meeting was called in respect of today’s convention, but added that they had not taken a decision on consensus.

Asked about the outcome of the meeting, he said, “As you are aware, we have a national convention and that is in respect of what is going to happen.”

The governors, however, left the party secretariat for Adamu’s house located within the precinct of the Presidential Villa.

Governors, who attended the meeting were Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong; Governor of Nasarawa, Abdulahi Sule and Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, among others.

All members of the NWC were at the meeting except Adamu.

Meanwhile, Kalu, in a statement, on Monday, said Lawan was chosen after a thorough evaluation of all the presidential aspirants.

He stated: “Sen Abdulahi Adamu, has through a vigorous evaluation of all our able and qualified candidates, decided in the interest of our party and the future wellbeing of millions of Nigerians, who look to our party for continuous leadership, decided that Senator Ahmed Lawan, is the strongest and

most suitable candidate to be the flag bearer of our party in the upcoming Presidential election.

“The National Chairman and NWC of our party will present Senator Ahmed Lawan to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for his endorsement.”

But Akeredolu has said that Adamu was on a frolic of his own and that he decided to issue a statement, because the speculation about Lawan’s alleged endorsement was rife.

“My attention has just been drawn to the expensive joke purportedly enacted by the National Chairman of APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu. The speculation is rife that the Chairman took a flight of fancy and decided to make a pronouncement beyond his competence. He has, allegedly, made public his preferred choice as the candidate of the APC for the Office of the President in the next general election.

“This alleged pronouncement runs contrary to the position of the majority of northern governors in APC and their counterparts in the South. Our agreement is unanimous on this issue.

“The office of the President should be contested for by qualified persons from the Southern part of the country if the move to get a consensus candidate fails. There has been no shift from this settled issue.

“Let it be known that the Chairman or anyone, who holds a contrary opinion does so at a personal level. He is at best embarking on a frolic, which reasonable people will consider dangerous.”

Akeredolu said though his state was grieving, they have not forgotten that power must shift to the

south, adding that, “on this we stand.”

NWC Disowns Adamu, Insists Lawan Not Consensus Candidate

Members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Monday, drew a battle line with the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdulahi Adamu, over the purported endorsement of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan,as the consensus candidate, a few hours to the party’s presidential primary scheduled for today.

Adamu during the NWC held at the National Secretariat of the party yesterday in Abuja, had allegedly announced Lawan as being chosen as the consensus candidate of the party.

He informed the NWC members that the decision was reached following consultation with President Muhammadu Buhari, who had since denied endorsing Lawan.

Nevertheless, the plan by Adamu to seal the fate of other presidential aspirants hit a brick wall when other members of the NWC refused to ratify Lawan as the consensus candidate of the party, a few hours to the party’s convention.

Addressing journalists at the party secretariat after the NWC meeting, the National Organising Secretary, Mr. Suleiman Argungun, said the issue of consensus was never discussed at the meeting, not to talk of endorsing Lawan.

Argungu was in company with the National Vice Chairman, South-south, Chief Victor Giadom, National Vice Chairman, South-west, Isaacs Kekemeke, National Vice Chairman, North-West, and Dr. Salihu Lukman, among other NWC members.

Lukman had recently accused Adamu of blackmailing the NWC members with Buhari’s name to force decisions on them.

Argungun, therefore, stated that, “It is just an information that he (Adamu) gave us. It is not an issue that has to be deliberated by NWC. It is an information. All of us are entitled to our opinion. We are all democrats. This decision was never taken by the NWC.

“That is just an information, not an issue that was discussed by the NWC. Just recently, the northern governors had their meeting. We, as members of the NWC, are with the governors on what they have said.”

Tinubu: Consensus a Legal Impossibility, Let the Delegates Decide

The campaign organisation of a frontline presidential aspirant of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has said the best option for his party in choosing a presidential candidate was to allow the delegates decide, otherwise, consensus remained a legal impossibility.

He, therefore, insisted that any attempt for a consensus presidential candidate must be in line with Electoral Act, which he claimed was impossible to achieve.

Addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, Babatunde Ogala and Kehinde Bamigbetan, who spoke on behalf of the Tinubu Presidential Campaign Organisation.

Ogala said, “Asiwaju Bola Tinubu believes that if there would be any consensus that he is the consensus candidate, if not, let the delegates decide, who will become the presidential candidate of the APC.

“Bola Tinubu believes that he has 51 per cent of the delegates as he has the support of the delegates from Lagos, Kano, Katsina, Borno, Cross River Kwarasouth, Oyo and Plateau States.

“If there would be any consensus, it has to be Bola Tinubu and it must meet the dictates of what the Electoral Act said must be done. All the aspirants must sign to agree, but you know that it is impossible. So, the former governor says that the only option is by allowing the delegates to decide.”

Speaking too, Kehinde Bamigbetan described as fraudulent, sponsored newspaper advertisement of yesterday, which rated Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo as the candidate to beat, explaining that they were by no means near the reality on ground.

He said it was not possible for Lagos, Borno, Kano Kaduna and Katsina to vote against Tinubu, when the leadership of these states, had openly identified with Tinubu, stating that the sponsored advertisements were meant to divert attention.

Buttressing Ogala’s position, Bamigbetan said the report credited to Adamu that Lawan had been chosen as the consensus candidate was a pure indication of his hate for the north, saying Lawa was not nationally known to stand a chance to defeat the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

He noted that President Buhari had through one of his media aides, refuted the claims, as well as the APC NWC.

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