The President, Muhammadu Buhari would this week meet with the aspirants with a view to reducing the number of presidential hopefuls and also ensuring that all of them pledge to accept the outcome of the primary as was done during the APC presidential primary in 2014.
All the presidential aspirants in the All Progressives Congress, except a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, are open to the idea of the candidate of the party emerging through consensus, Sunday PUNCH can confirm.
The consensus method will entail President Muhammadu Buhari, anointing one of the aspirants, while the others simply step down for him as was done during the March 26 national convention of the APC, which produced Senator Abdullahi Adamu as the chairman.
It was gathered that all the governors on the platform of the ruling party had also adopted the method at the state level.
However, based on the Electoral Act, any aspirant who agrees to step down must do so in writing. Anything short of this will make the consensus option impossible.
In a bid to force the consensus method, the APC had introduced a controversial section in its forms for aspirants to sign that they would step down. However, Sunday PUNCH learnt that this was rejected by the aspirants.
Some major aspirants have begun reaching out to the less popular ones with a view to making them to step down with promises that money used in purchasing forms will be refunded or promises of they will be given juicy appointments.
“The President will meet with the aspirants a few days to the primary with a view to ensuring that there is unity and harmony. He will also meet with the governors separately. The date is not fixed yet, but it should be this week if INEC doesn’t extend the deadline for the primary as we are all hoping,” said an APC chieftain who wished to remain anonymous.
“The President has a candidate. How to present the idea to the likes of Tinubu will be the challenge,” he added.
Buhari’s most senior spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, had said last week that the President indeed had a preferred candidate.
He stated, “In a previous interview when the President was asked whether he had a favourite candidate, he answered yes; but he will not mention him because mischief may happen to that person.
“That shows you that the President himself is interested in the process and he has a preferred candidate; but whether he will impose his candidate is what you cannot determine at the moment.”
When contacted on the telephone, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said he was not aware of any meeting the President would be having with the aspirants.
“I am not aware of any meeting as of now,” he said.
When Sunday PUNCH reached out to several aspirants, they said they were open to any form of primary adopted by the APC, including the consensus option.
The leader of the Progressives Lawyers for Osinbajo, Mr Kayode Ajulo, said the Vice-President was open to consensus. Ajulo said Osinbajo remained a party man and would accept whatever type of primary the party picks.
“We will not go against the wishes of the party. We will accept any form of primary,” Ajulo said.
A source close to a former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, stated that the aspirant would accept any form of primary.
“Senator Okorocha has said this publicly before. He will accept any form of primary,” the aide said.
The Deputy Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, who is also in the presidential race, told Sunday PUNCH that he was open to any form of primary adopted by the party.
“I am open to any form of primary adopted by the party,” he said.
Also, the immediate past Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, told one of our correspondents that he was open to any mode of primary. He, however, added that he was not sure if all the aspirants would embrace it.
On his preferred method of primary, he said, “Anyone the party chooses to go after. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you bring 7,800 delegates together and you tell them to embrace an indirect primary, Abuja will be turned into a dollar bazaar, because people will try to get as many voting powers with lots of resources.
“But I know that the NWC is working towards the best mode of primary that will avoid rancour, loss of lives and disintegration.”
The Media Director of the Governor Yahaya Bello Campaign Organisation, Yemi Kolapo, said the Kogi State governor was open to any method adopted by the APC, adding that she was sure that Bello would emerge victorious.
“Any form of primary will be acceptable to us. We will pick the ticket anyhow,” Kolapo told Sunday PUNCH.
Earlier, the Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, told Channels Television that he would only accept consensus if it was done in the spirit of fairness.
He said, “In a scenario where the party creates very classical elucidations of the basis and selection criteria that I find completely adequate, I will have no objection.
“If the basis for narrowing down to somebody is the consensus basis and I don’t happen to be the one, I need to understand the selection criteria to explain how they arrived at Mr ‘A’ and not ‘B’. If I feel that is a fair process, of course, I will yield to the supremacy of the party.
“I am a team player and I don’t have any qualms with that. But I must see that it is fair and transparent. I know that capacity will be one of the key factors in consideration.”
Also, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, is open to any form of primary. The spokesman for Lawan’s campaign organisation, Iyke Ekeoma, who spoke with Sunday PUNCH, noted that while the party had not said it would come up with a consensus candidate, his principal would likely not fight the APC over its decision if such were the case.
Ekeoma said, “The party has not said that it’s coming up with a consensus candidate. It’s all rumour. Be that as it may, Senator Lawan as a party member will not deter with anything the party comes up with. He won’t fight it any more than toeing the line of the party.”
But Tinubu has constantly stated that he wants an open contest. While meeting delegates from Taraba State on May 9, he said, “My chances of winning the ticket are incredibly high and I am very confident. I am sure I can and I will win it. I want democracy. I am voting for democracy. One man, one vote!”
Also, the founder of the Tinubu Support Group, Mr James Faleke, told Sunday PUNCH that consensus was unknown to the APC constitution and as such, the former Lagos State governor would prefer an open contest.
“We are open to a fair contest. There is no such thing as consensus in the APC constitution,” Faleke noted.
Also, the South-West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 said it would not accept any consensus, adding that it would be unfair to ask Tinubu to step down having toured the entire country seeking the support of delegates.
The National Secretary of SWAGA, Bosun Oladele, said, “No party adopts its presidential candidate by consensus except if he’s a serving President seeking a second term. In 2014, General Buhari emerged through indirect primaries. He defeated Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Governor Rochas Okorocha in a fair contest, and that is why no one defected after the primary.
“In 2019, Buhari was chosen as the consensus candidate because he was the serving President. It is different this time. Let us all go to the field.”
Similarly, Tinubu’s campaign spokesman, Bayo Onanuga, said, “President Buhari has so far not taken any position and we believe that he will allow the primary to be held without interference. He once said during an interview that he had a candidate in mind but he never told the world who the person is, but people are trying to read his body language to know his preferred person. Buhari is a soldier, he will never show who his candidate is, but I know he will allow the primary to go ahead without interference.
“We believe that he will do that. Tinubu has been Buhari’s ally and we don’t expect him to work against Bola Tinubu, without whom he wouldn’t have been President in 2015. We don’t expect Buhari to pay back Tinubu in a bad coin, because the South-West was very pivotal to Buhari winning in 2015. So, he knows what role Tinubu played. The decision is left to the delegates to pick Buhari’s successor.
“We are going for delegates’ election and they will choose their representative. You can only get a consensus candidate based on the popularity of that candidate. If they want to do a consensus arrangement, it must be Bola Tinubu.”
On the possibility of Tinubu defecting to another party if he fails to emerge as the APC presidential candidate, Onanuga stated, “Has he ever defected? He has never defected. He is one man who has stayed in one political party and never changed positions. He transformed the AD (Alliance for Democracy) to the AC (Action Congress) and to the ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria) and later teamed up with another party to form the APC.
“He has been in the same party since 1999 and hasn’t left his political structure. He is not a man who jumps from one party to the other.”
An aide to Amaechi also confirmed to Sunday PUNCH that the former minister was open to all forms of primaries.
“Amaechi is ready for any form of primary that the party picks. He is a party man,” he said.
We’ll reconcile aggrieved aspirants after primaries – APC
The National Working Committee of the APC said on Saturday there were plans to reconcile aggrieved aspirants after the presidential, governorship, senatorial and House of Representatives tickets are secured at the May 26 to 30 primaries.
A confident APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, assured stakeholders that no grieving aspirant would leave the party after the primaries.
Adamu, who was represented by his Special Assistant, Prof Abdullahi Yau, stated this at a virtual town hall meeting organised by the Ward-to-ward Diaspora Network in collaboration with the APC Ward-to-ward Ambassadors on “Intra-party democracy for the emergence of best candidates.”
He said, “Directly I want to tell you that after the primaries, none of the contestants or aspirants will leave the party. You can see that unlike the other parties extending weight, in our party all our aspirants are calm. Everybody is going left and right, trying to win votes for themselves.”
According to him, all aspirants will be listened to by a high-powered committee if they have genuine complaints after the party’s primaries.
Yau stated, “They will listen to you and provide for your needs. In this way, we can carry everybody along in the party.
“I can assure you that this is the most interesting part; the number of people who are contesting and we are going to give everybody a level playing ground where you can exercise your right as Nigerians to contest.
“And at the end of the exercise, just like what happened at the national convention, you will see that everybody will be satisfied with whoever emerges from the primaries.”
Yau added, “Unless you have a process that is not well coordinated, a process that is marred by irregularities, that’s when people will be aggrieved and will want to leave the party. If you’re allowed to exercise your right and you think there’s fairness in what’s going on in the party and you lose, I don’t think you will want to leave the party.
“I assure you that even if we are going to have such a scenario, where we are going to have aggrieved members after the primaries, the chairman and stakeholders of the party will ensure they reconcile everybody after the primaries.”
Presidential aspirants in last-minute deals with delegates
Meanwhile, Tinubu has promised to replicate in Nigeria the developmental strides he put in place in Lagos State while he was governor.
He made the pledge at the Oba of Benin’s palace when he paid him homage as part of his consultation visit to delegates ahead of the presidential primary of the APC.
Tinubu, who said he was at the palace to seek the Benin monarch’s endorsement and prayers for his presidential ambition, said Lagos State was in a bad shape when he became governor, adding that he made the state a mega city before he left.
In his response, the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, said the Benin throne is non-partisan, but interested in who becomes the President, hence it would pray for a good leadership.
Osinbajo, on his part, held a closed door meeting with top members of the APC in Katsina State on Saturday inside the Presidential Banquet Hall of the Government House.
Governor Aminu Masari led other APC leaders in the state to the meeting, which also had in attendance delegates to the forthcoming presidential primary in Abuja as well as members of the state House of Assembly.
Amaechi said he was more experienced than Osinbajo, Tinubu and other aspirants vying to clinch the party’s presidential ticket. He stated this in an interview with journalists shortly after an interactive session with APC delegates in Gombe on Saturday.
He said, “I am more experienced than all of them; I have been governor, minister and Speaker, all for two terms. I have been a director-general of President Buhari’s campaign. I have toured the country; I took the President to the 36 states of the federation.
“I took my time to understand what is going on.”
In Akwa Ibom State, APC delegates pledged to vote for Amaechi during the party’s presidential primary.
At a meeting with the delegates and leaders of the APC in Uyo, a former Minister of Petroleum, Donald Etiebet, who spoke on behalf of the delegates, said Akwa Ibom would deliver 100 per cent votes to Amaechi at the primary election.
Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said in Imo State on Friday that the nation must heal from past wounds, ensure inclusiveness and foster an administration that would give all citizens a sense of belonging.
According to a statement on Saturday by the Head of the Fayemi Campaign Organisation, Femi Ige, the governor said this during his visit to Imo State as part of consultation ahead of the forthcoming primaries of the APC.
The statement was titled, ‘Presidency: Imo delegates’ll look favourably to Fayemi, Uzodimma declares’.
In his remarks, the Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, described his Ekiti State counterpart as one of Nigeria’s finest brains and the best fit for the presidency.
Uzodimma declared that Imo State delegates would look favourably towards Fayemi in the forthcoming primary election.
Meanwhile, a Peoples Democratic Party presidential aspirant, Dr Bukola Saraki, met with delegates from Jigawa State on Saturday. He was received by the PDP Chairman in the state, Babandi Gumel. The aspirants also held a similar meeting with delegates from Enugu State led by the PDP Chairman, Augustine Nnamani, and later paid a courtesy visit to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi at the Government House, Enugu.
Similarly, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, on Saturday, said if elected President in 2023, his administration would partner the Ndigbo to industrialise Nigeria.
Tambuwal said the partnership would focus more on skill acquisition programmes to engage Nigerians, especially the youth, irrespective of ethnic and religious background in order to douse agitations and other criminal activities across the country.
He stated this when he addressed Anambra State PDP delegates in Awka.
Our primaries begin today – PDP
Meanwhile, the PDP has said the primaries to nominate candidates for elective positions in the 2023 general elections will commence as scheduled today (Sunday).
The National Organising Secretary of the party, Umar Bature, said in a statement on Saturday, “For the avoidance of doubt, the state Houses of Assembly primaries to elect our state House of Assembly candidates will hold on Sunday, May 22, 2022; the House of Representatives’ primaries to elect our House of Representatives candidates will also hold on Sunday, May 22, 2022; while the senatorial primary to elect our senatorial candidates will hold on Monday, May 23, 2022.
“The National Working Committee has approved that in the event of unforeseen logistic situations, activities of the senatorial primary may extend to Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
“The NWC further clarifies that by virtue of Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act, 2022, those qualified and eligible to vote as delegates in the forthcoming primaries and national convention of our great party are the three ad hoc delegates per ward, elected at the ward congresses; and one national delegate per local government, elected at the local government area congresses.”